U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) Office of Legal Counsel hosted the final multilateral meeting of the Command Advice, Investigations, and Coordination (CAIC) Legal Advisor Network on January 17.
The virtual conference series, developed in spring 2020, was held over a period of eleven weeks. It was attended by representatives from nine African nations, the United States, three European nations, and two international organizations. U.S. officials facilitated weekly discussions of topics central to the roles of command legal advisors during which participants discussed how their respective militaries addressed legal issues and shared insights for facing common challenges.
“The objectives of this program are to increase commanders' access to competent legal advice by building the capacity of military legal officers, to encourage the use of administrative investigations, such as commanders’ inquiries, to assess and improve operations, and to standardize the management of materials and detainees collected by military personnel in conflict zones to support civilian prosecutions of suspected terrorists,” said Gisela Westwater, Department of Justice resident legal advisor to U.S. Africa Command. “By leveraging these pre-existing partnerships, relationships are deepening between the U.S. Judge Advocates and African partner legal advisors with appropriate, agreed upon follow-on projects.”
According to Westwater, the comprehensive program is implemented through a series of multilateral and bilateral engagements, with National Guard units taking the lead on bilateral engagements where partnerships already exist.
Mark “Max” Maxwell, U.S. Africa Command deputy legal counsel considers CAIC a success. “These events had a synergy that helped enable militaries to understand international norms and best practices,” he said.
In addition to the multinational relationships that were built or strengthened by CAIC, personnel from the U.S. Departments of Defense, State, and Justice were able to develop new connections within the legal advisor network. These relationships will improve future coordination across the agencies. Additionally, information gathered during the conferences will be consolidated to create reference materials for both participants and planners to develop future programs.