Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, U.S. Africa Command's deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, traveled to the West African country of The Gambia on March 24, 2011 to meet with government officials in order to gain a deeper understanding of the issues facing that country as an important strategic partner to the United States.
While in Banjul, Holmes, along with U.S. Ambassador to The Gambia, Pamela White, visited a hospital where the not-for-profit organization, MercyShips, performs surgical reconstructions on mainly young children who were born with cleft palates and cleft lips. The project is co-sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State. The young patients are attended to by an all-volunteer medical team who perform approximately two surgeries per day.
After the tour of the hospital, Holmes and White met with the Permanent Secretary for Defense for The Gambia, Harry Sambou, at the State House to discuss security issues and how U.S. Africa Command can support military-to-military engagement. Of primary importance to the government of The Gambia are drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, and other transnational crimes in West Africa.
Following the meeting with Sambou, Holmes and White went to the Ministry of Defense where Holmes was honored by a ceremony with marching troops and then met with Lieutenant General Masaneh Kinteh. During the conversation, Holmes commended The Gambia for hosting the upcoming planning conference for U.S. AFRICOM's annual communications exercise, Africa Endeavor, which was scheduled for April 11 –May 6, 2011.
Holmes told journalists that the United States "is extremely pleased with The Gambia government's position on zero tolerance for narcotics trafficking and the president's strong stance and statements against terrorism." He added, "We are also appreciative of The Gambia government's decision in increasing its' troops in Darfur from one company to a battalion."