U.S. Military Security Assistance in Liberia Progresses

Kenneth Fidler
U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs

MONROVIA, Liberia - Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), meets soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia during his visit to this West African nation October 25, 2010. Holmes is in Monrovia on a three-day visit to gain insight into the security assistance activities AFRICOM conducts with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). Visiting Liberia for the first time, he met with AFL soldiers and the U.S. military mentors who work to advise the AFL as it continues to build and maintain a professional military. AFRICOM began a five-year mentoring program in January 2010, led by its Marine component, Marine Forces Africa. About 50 mentors comprised of Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy service members serve up to one-year tours working with the AFL, a two-year-old force of about 2,000 soldiers. (US Africa Command photo by Kenneth Fidler)
MONROVIA, Liberia - Liberian Minister of National Defense Brownie J. Samukai Jr. welcomes Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), to Liberia on October 25, 2010. Holmes is in Monrovia on a three-day visit to gain insight into the security assistance activities AFRICOM conducts in this West Africa nation. Visiting Liberia for the first time, he met with soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and the U.S. military mentors who work to advise the AFL, a two-year-old force of about 2,000 soldiers. The U.S. has been the largest contributor supporting the AFL's continued progress to build and maintain a professional military since it was completely demobilized in 2005. (US Africa Command photo by Kenneth Fidler)
MONROVIA, Liberia - Officer Candidate Yonger Kesselly (left), a nurse in the Armed Forces of Liberia, explains how a malaria rapid detection test works to Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), October 25, 2010. Behind Kesselly is U.S. Air Force Dr. (Major) Alexander Bingcang, a U.S. military medical mentor to the AFL. Kesselly will become an AFL medical officer after she is promoted to second lieutenant. Holmes is in Monrovia on a three-day visit to gain insight into the security assistance activities AFRICOM conducts with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). Visiting Liberia for the first time, he met with AFL soldiers and the U.S. military mentors who work to advise the AFL. AFRICOM began a five-year mentoring program in January 2010, led by its Marine component, Marine Forces Africa. (US Africa Command photo by Kenneth Fidler)
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MONROVIA, Liberia, Oct 27, 2010 — The U.S. military's security cooperation efforts in Liberia reported progress October 25, 2010, to a U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) delegation led by Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, AFRICOM's deputy to the commander for civil-military activities.



Holmes is on a three-day visit to gain insight into the security force assistance activities AFRICOM conducts in this West Africa nation, which continues reconstruction efforts after 14 years of civil war that ended in 2003.



"Liberia is an extremely important partner for the United States. Liberia is on the cutting edge" of AFRICOM's role to support defense sector reform efforts with African partners, Holmes told Minister of National Defense Brownie J. Samukai, who welcomed the delegation to Liberia.



Samukai said he was "very pleased" with the activities the nations have shared, pointing out the continued progress of AFRICOM's two main programs with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).



In January 2010, U.S. Africa Command took lead for U.S. support to Liberia's defense sector reform initiatives as part of a larger U.S. government and international effort to transform all elements of the Liberian security sector.



AFRICOM's program, through its Marine Forces Africa (MARFORAF) component, is a five-year initiative focused on mentoring and advising the AFL as it continues to develop the ability to build and maintain a professional military, according to AFRICOM officials.



Liberia re-activated the Liberian Coast Guard (LCG) in February of this year, and the U.S. Coast Guard has assigned an officer as a full-time mentor. U.S. Navy and Liberian engineers have built a pier and a boat ramp, and U.S. Coast Guard mobile training teams have conducted sessions on basic proficiency skills and small boat handling. In addition, seven sailors have attended the U.S. Coast Guard's advanced training course in the United States.



Liberia has been working to rebuild after civil wars from 1989-2003 left the country devastated with no functioning public services, according to the UN. Under the 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the wars, Liberia completely disbanded its military. Its National Security Strategy signed in 2008 gives the AFL the mission to defend its territorial borders and assist in response to natural disasters.



The United States committed to helping Liberia rebuild. Through a $285 million Department of State program, it began in 2006 with the recruiting and vetting of an entirely new force of some 2,000 soldiers. The program also constructed or renovated training facilities at three bases. The AFL was officially re-established in 2007, and State Department trainers provided basic and unit training, with a focus on "train-the-trainer" until the program transitioned to AFRICOM this year.



Under the new mentoring program, nearly 50 U.S. military service members are assigned for up to one-year tours to advise and guide the AFL as it continues to mature into a professional force.



Holmes, visiting Liberia for the first time, met with AFL soldiers and the U.S. military mentors. AFL soldiers are successfully conducting their own training programs, said Marine Major Ryan Hansen, one of the senior mentors.



He said some of the AFL's accomplishments have included developing an annual training program, establishing a military legal center and conducting a five-week training program for legal staff, establishing equipment accountability procedures, and conducting an expert infantry badge course.



"They've got the individual soldier skills," Hansen said. "We are now looking at what it takes to build a sustainable military."



That is a shared focus. Samukai emphasized that the MOD is "committed" to maintaining the standard of recruiting and vetting new soldiers that was established in 2006, adhering to training and doctrine protocols, and developing plans to sustain the AFL.



Samukai added the MOD is nearing completion of a national defense strategy, which has been supported by advisors from the Defense Institutions Reform Initiative, a program run by the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense. That document will then drive the completion of the national military strategy.



"Our objective is to develop a small force for good," Samukai said.


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