U.S. Africa Command hosted senior commanders from 46 African militaries during a virtual Chiefs of Defense Conference Jan. 27, 2021.
“The purpose of this conference is to provide all of us a forum to hear from you and each other,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). “Your shared interest on mutual security challenges is invaluable. As we move forward together the shared understanding we build in this venue will help us to coordinate our actions better in the future, and make our shared security objectives more achievable.”
Townsend, joined by Sgt. Maj. Richard Thresher, command senior enlisted leader, and Ms. Barbara Hughes, USAID senior development advisor to AFRICOM, chaired the first CHOD conference in three years from Stuttgart, Germany.
The conference themes were combined operations and force professionalization, and included keynote addresses from Dr. Mo Ibrahim, chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and Gen. Charles Brown, chief of staff, U.S. Air Force.
The event began with a panel discussion led by senior officers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, and Seychelles, and the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF).
“We need to have a good collaboration with our neighbors,” said Gen. Célestin Mbala, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, discussing combined operations against violent extremist organizations, maritime threats and infectious diseases.
Col. Michael Rosette, chief, Seychelles People’s Defence Forces, noted “Information sharing and operational coordination at the multinational level has resulted in successful maritime operations in the region,” resulting in the decline of piracy in the waters surrounding the island nation.
“The only way to battle it is to collaborate regionally,” Rosette said.
“None of us can solve these problems by ourselves,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, commander, SOCAF. “We need to harness the wisdom that we all bring to the table in order come to a solution and start solving these wicked problems.”
Maj. Gen. Al Khair Abdallah Idris, director for strategic intelligence, Sudanese Armed Forces, commented on his country’s effort to combat trafficking of humans and drugs, and improvements in doing so by the exchange of intelligence with neighboring countries.
The second panel, to identify areas for collaboration around force professionalization and institution building, included presentations by senior officers from Botswana and Morocco, and the commander of U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa (MARFOREUR/AF).
“I see the professional military as selectively recruited, systematically trained, widely educated and well-disciplined force that is maintained both in peace and in war,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Michael Langley, commander, MARFOREUR/AF.
“Professionalism is a team effort.”