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What is the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa?

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U.S. service members with the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa have spent the past few weeks helping victims of Cyclone Idai, a devastating storm that slammed into Mozambique and Zimbabwe in March.

A man throws a box to another man.
Task Toss
Service members assigned to Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa and a member of the U.S. Agency for International Development build pallets of humanitarian aid to later be transported on a C-130J Hercules in Maputo, Mozambique, April 4, 2019. The task force is leading the Defense Department’s Cyclone Idai relief efforts in support of USAID’s disaster assistance response team. The task force is helping meet requirements identified by USAID assessment teams and humanitarian organizations working in the region by providing logistics support and manpower to USAID at the request of Mozambique’s government.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Thomas Grimes
VIRIN: 190404-F-RP963-0639C

Most Americans don't know a whole lot about the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa — CJTF HOA, for short — or our relationship with the countries it involves, but the region in which it operates is vital to U.S. interests.

Not sure why? Here are some details that might help explain it.

It’s Part of AFRICOM

CJTF HOA falls under the jurisdiction of U.S. Africa Command, one of the Defense Department's 10 unified combatant commands. Africom's core mission is to help African nations, the African Union and regional security organizations prevent and mitigate conflicts, neutralize threats and strengthen their own defense capabilities.

CJTF HOA is headquartered at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, which is the only enduring U.S. military presence in Africa.

Why is This Important to the U.S.?

Much of the Horn of Africa is still working toward stability. It's also close to the Middle East. If we're able to help those countries strengthen their own defenses, they're better able to address their own security threats, and that can help reduce threats to U.S. interests.

So the CJTF HOA mission is pretty simple — it's to prevent violent extremist organizations in East Africa from threatening America's homeland, its citizens and its interests, as well as building the defense capabilities and capacity of its partner nations.

A boy watches as a veterinarian checks one of three goats in a barren field.
Veterinarian Mission
Army Maj. Gary Brown, M.D., a senior veterinarian, administers antiparasitic medication during a veterinarian assistance mission outside of Dikhil, Djibouti, March 28, 2017. The mission is intended to enhance the capabilities of local animal health workers, ensure animal herd well-being and strengthen agricultural and economic stability while fostering positive relationships.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Christian Jadot
VIRIN: 170404-Z-BT533-0077C

What Countries Make Up the Horn of Africa?

Essentially, the "Horn" is East Africa.

The CJTF HOA area of operations includes the countries of Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan and the islands of the Seychelles. But its area of interest also includes Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mozambique and Yemen.

Who Does the Task Force Work With?

The task force works with partner nations, coalition forces and interagency and intergovernmental organizations to make the mission a unified effort.

A Coast Guard member touches the shoulder of a Comorian soldier.
Sailor Training
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sam Allen, center, provides visit, board and search and seizure training to sailors from the Comorian navy during exercise Cutlass Express 2019 in Djibouti, Feb. 2, 2019. Cutlass Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness and information sharing practices to increase capabilities between the U.S., East African and Western Indian Ocean nations to counter illicit maritime activity.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan U. Kledzik
VIRIN: 190202-N-UY653-180C

What Do They Do?

The task force does a range of things, including security force assistance, execution of military engagements, providing force protection and providing military support to regional organizations that are working to counter violent extremist operations. Those efforts help ensure that there's freedom of movement throughout the region and, of course, protection of U.S. interests. Our troops that are part of the task force also provide humanitarian aid, crisis response and contingency operations for all U.S. personnel in the region.

So what does that mean in layman's terms? That CJTF HOA conducts training exercises and acts as an advisor to the region's nations.

One example is Cutlass Express, an annual exercise that bolsters maritime security by training regional forces on techniques and tactics that counter piracy, illegal fishing and other threats. Another is Alligator Dagger, an opportunity for Marines and sailors to work with alliance forces on training that keeps them ready for missions on land, air and sea.  

Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa is a large part of the Africom mission, so expect to hear more about it in the future!

A soldier looks down at a gun he and a foreign soldier are both holding as other soldiers watch.
Land Forces
Army Brig. Gen. Kenneth H. Moore receives a demonstration on the weapons of the Malawi Defense Force near the Malawi Armed Forces College, Salima, Malawi, during the final planning event for the Africa Land Forces Summit 2017, March 28, 2017. ALFS is an annual, weeklong seminar bringing together land force chiefs from across Africa for candid dialog to discuss and develop cooperative solutions to regional and transregional challenges and threats.
Photo By: Army Capt. Jason Welch
VIRIN: 170328-A-XI247-013C
A soldier shakes hands with an aid worker.
Humanitarian Help
A Kenyan soldier shakes hands with an aid worker after delivering bags of food in Beira, Mozambique, March 26, 2019. Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa is helping to meet requirements identified by U.S. Agency for International Development assessment teams and humanitarian organizations working in the region by providing logistics support and manpower to USAID at the request of the Mozambique’s government.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben
VIRIN: 190326-F-PS957-0646C

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