WASHINGTON, March 13, 2018 — The U.S. military is working with its African partners to strengthen security and counter violent extremist organizations and other threats to the continent, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said at on Capitol Hill today.
AFRICOM’s area of responsibility covers 53 countries with complex and varied issues, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“The U.S. interests in Africa are reflected in our mission statement,” he said. “AFRICOM, with partners, strengthens security forces, counters transnational threats and conducts crisis response in order to advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability and prosperity in Africa.”
He pointed out the mission statement deliberately highlights the importance of working with partners. “Very few, if any, of the challenges on the African continent can be resolved through the use of exclusive military force,” he told the Senate panel.
The command, he noted, provides training, advice and assistance to the G5 Sahel countries -- an institutional framework for coordination of regional cooperation in development policies and security matters in central Africa -- and the multinational joint task force to help contain violent extremists and secure borders.
“While African nations have enormous potential, they are often challenged by instability and exploitation stemming from the disruption caused by violent extremist organizations,” the general said. “These VEO groups take advantage of vast ungoverned spaces and recruit from populations lacking economic opportunities.”
Honoring Fallen Service Members, Partners
Waldhauser said he has completed the review of an investigation surrounding the deaths of four U.S. Army soldiers in an ambush last year in Niger. He said he forwarded the report to the secretary of defense through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Once the secretary completes his review and after the families have been briefed, I intend to provide a comprehensive and detailed account of the investigation to you as soon as practicable,” he said.
Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright were conducting a train, advise and assist mission with Nigerien forces Oct. 4 when they came under attack by a group linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during an Oct. 23 news conference at the Pentagon.
Waldhauser honored the fallen soldiers as well as a Navy special warfare operator, Kyle Milliken, who was killed May 5, 2017, during an operation against the al-Shabab terrorist group in a remote area west of Mogadishu, Somalia.
In addition, the general paid tribute to the many African forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight against extremists and in pursuit of security.
“We honor their commitment, service and dedication to duty,” he said. “I offer my sincere condolences to the families of our fallen U.S. comrades and those of our African partners.”
AFRICOM is ‘Postured and Ready’
AFRICOM remains “postured and ready” to respond to contingencies and protect U.S. personnel and facilities on the continent, Waldhauser said.
He explained the command is updating its strategy and theater campaign plan to reflect the guidance provided by the secretary of defense, in accordance with the National Defense Strategy.
He discussed operations on the continent, including contributions to international efforts to help Somalia implement its recently designed national security architecture.
“Al-Shabab remains a threat to Somalia and the region, as demonstrated by their October 2017 bombing in Mogadishu that killed over 500 people,” he said. “The challenges facing the federal government of Somalia are enormous.”
Somalia’s government continues to slowly make progress, he said, but there is a “long way to go before they are prepared to secure their own territory.”
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)