In 2021, U.S. Africa Command, with partners, strengthened relationships in Africa through sustained and effective engagement to advance a shared vision for regional security, stability and prosperity in Africa. We realize this vision through a whole-of-government, partner-centric lens to build partner capacity, disrupt violent extremists, and respond to crises.
Partnerships, based on shared values, drive everything U.S. Africa Command does. Through consistent engagement, we strengthen our partnerships and assure our allies. Only together can we realize security goals vital for global interests and free trade.
In 2021, U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command, conducted multiple trips to meet with leaders in 20 countries to advance strategic partnerships. Joined by members of his staff including U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Richard Thresher, command senior enlisted leader, and Ambassador Andrew Young, deputy to the commander for civil-military engagement, Townsend’s visits built on security cooperation efforts underway and set the stage for future engagement.
In November, Townsend met with leaders in Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana during a three-country trip to the region. At each location, Thresher engaged with partner-nation enlisted leaders and U.S. Embassy personnel to advance the Africa Enlisted Development Strategy and to find new ways to help develop and refine enlisted academic centers.
Throughout the year, the naval component for U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, coordinated dozens of port visits for the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams and her crew including a circumnavigation of Africa during the summer and fall to further maritime partnerships to counter illicit activity in the worlds’ seas.
In addition to hosting the African Air Chiefs Symposium, supporting expansive logistics efforts throughout Europe and Africa, and assisting in the development of partner-nation flying crews, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa hosted the African Partner Outbreak Response Alliance conference to collaborate on the essential skills to prevent, detect and respond to emerging infectious disease. During the tenth iteration of APORA, held in April, leaders from the U.S. and 17 African countries discussed implementing rapid response teams to improve public health and deliver aid during the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to supporting U.S. Africa Command response forces, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa continued training alongside our African partners, including a long-standing Humanitarian Mine Action program with Royal Moroccan Armed Forces.
Personnel with Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa spent 2021 training alongside Djiboutian and French partners, supporting a wide array of U.S. Africa Command activities, and hosting outreach events in local communities to implement Women, Peace & Security efforts and build relationships around CJTF-HOA’s headquarters at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
In 2021, U.S. Army Southern European Task Force Africa executed African Lion, U.S. Africa Command’s premier joint annual exercise held in Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal. Additionally the task force supported crisis-response training events, planned additional multinational exercises, and trained and engaged with a multitude of partners in Africa.
Through this integrated effort, U.S. Africa Command remains well positioned to continue supporting our partners in Africa.
Our activities to counter violent extremist organizations in Africa include facilitating training events that directly support and prepare our partners in the fight against VEOs, and working with interagency partners to curtail the root causes of instability that allow VEOs to carry out their deadly agendas.
In 2021, African Lion brought together more than 7,000 participants from nine nations and NATO to strengthen collective efforts toward enhancing security and stability throughout the region.
“This exercise is all about readiness. Readiness of our partners, and readiness of our forces,” Townsend said in a news release announcing the beginning of the exercise June 7. “It brings together various ideas, experiences, and capabilities – ultimately making us stronger partners and a more capable multi-national force.”
U.S. Special Operations Command Africa participated in dozens of training events with partner militaries across Africa. Through Joint Combined Exchange Training in Mauritania, Morocco and Côte d'Ivoire, among others, SOCAF continued enhancing the readiness of U.S. and partner forces while improving interoperability between nations.
In the maritime realm, forces from 15 East African, European, North America and West Indian Ocean nations participated in the annual Cutlass Express series aimed at maritime cooperation to improve law enforcement capacity and promote regional security in East Africa. Through additional exercises, such as Phoenix Express, and continued engagement year-round our combined efforts with international and African partners promote free trade in African waters.
In 2021 U.S. Africa Command conducted 9 airstrikes, each in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, to disrupt and degrade al-Shabaab in Somalia and assist our partners to secure their own territory and neutralize the terror threat.
Safeguarding U.S. personnel and property, to remain positioned and ready to respond to emerging issues in Africa, is a top priority. Interagency coordination, effective response forces, and posture are keys to success.
U.S. Africa Command flexed its crises response capabilities in November through the Warfighter Recovery Network, which conducted a multi-day rescue of a U.K. civilian mariner at sea. The mission of rescuing injured personnel in the U.S. Africa Command area of operations is exceptionally complex due to the geographically wide distribution of forces – however, the network proved its capability by executing the rescue using multiple aircraft and partner facilities.
U.S. Africa Command also regularly exercises the ability of response forces to move long distances on short notice. One test occurred in March, when command forces stationed in Djibouti conducted an operational and logistics assessment in Mali. During the exercise, troops moved more than 2,900 miles across Africa.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Africa Command has coordinated with U.S. Embassies in Africa to provide humanitarian aid to our partners also fighting the global pandemic. In addition to supplies for communities and healthcare workers, this support often came in the form of state-of-the-art field hospitals to provide additional capacity to treat sick patients or serve as overflow for overburdened hospitals. The latest donation came this fall, when the Algerian health officials accepted the donation of the negative-pressure isolation system specifically designed to treat patients with infectious diseases.
We coordinate our activities with allies and partners to maintain a joint, multinational and interagency presence that works to achieve our shared objectives. Allies and partners are critical to realizing our vision of a stable, secure and prosperous Africa while enabling contingency operations, maintaining superiority over competitors, monitoring and disrupting violent extremist organizations, and protecting U.S. interests.
One approach to realize this priority is through the Women, Peace and Security initiative, which provides a venue to engage with local communities to prevent, mitigate and resolve conflict by increasing women’s participation in security and peacekeeping. Through these engagements, including a WPS event held in Djibouti to facilitate participation of women within the security sector, we leverage the contributions and perspectives of both men and women to establish professional standards, build relationships, and gain local insight and knowledge.
U.S. Africa Command’s African Enlisted Development Strategy aims to standardize existing African professional military education institutions that can train not only their own nation’s forces but also those of neighboring countries and create or improve regional centers of excellence.
In October Master Sgt. Muhammed Lazaar became the first Moroccan Armed Forces non-commissioned officer to attend the Swiss International NCO course, which focused on NCO development and leadership training in a multinational environment.
“I would like to stress the friendship relations born from this interaction – enabling, enhancing and deepening bilateral and multilateral cooperation between nations,” Lazaar said.
Further showing U.S. Africa Command’s commitment and ability to coordinate with partner nations to ensure regional stability, multiple aircraft from the U.S., France, U.K. and Japan participated in a Bomber Task Force mission over Djiobuti in November. After flying more than 7,000 nautical miles to reach Djibouti, aircrews operating the U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers from the 9th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, worked with U.S. and French joint terminal attack controllers to provide simulated close air support at Djibouti’s Grand Bara Range.
U.S. Africa Command support to partners also comes in the form of donated equipment and training as part of the Foreign Military Sales program that provides ‘total package support.’ This philosophy, which included the turnover of A-29 Super Tucano in Nigeria and C-130 support in Niger to enhance those countries’ ability to counter violent extremist organizations, ensures operators and maintainers have the equipment and knowledge to utilize the aircraft as part of a long-term strategy.
U.S. Africa Command also capitalizes on the strength of the State Partnership Program, which facilitates cooperation among the U.S. National Guard and African countries to build partnerships that enhance global security. In September, during one of many engagements among the 15 state partnerships, an Indiana National Guard mobile training team conducted a two-week knowledge exchange In Niger to bolster Forces Armees Nigeriennes vehicle mechanics maintaining the MAMBA Armored Personnel Carrier.