MOGADISHU, Somalia – Newly-appointed Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) commander U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. David J. Furness and the CJTF-HOA Command Senior Enlisted Leader U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Benjamin J. Higginbotham joined the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Stephen Schwartz and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) commander U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser for a series of meetings regarding East African security here Saturday.
Having just assumed their leadership positions at CJTF-HOA the previous day, Furness and Higginbotham quickly began covering ground on critical security issues in East Africa.
“There is no question that Al-Shabaab has brought great turmoil and has committed extreme atrocities in East Africa, and particularly in Somalia,” said Furness. “But we are committed to working with partner nations to help Somalia stand strong against this violent extremist organization, and assist with the international and intergovernmental efforts to bring back security and stability to this very important region."
This visit to Mogadishu International Airport solidified a commitment to assist African regional partners strengthen their own security through the following measures: countering transnational threats, promoting regional stability through defense capabilities and protection of U.S. assets.
Their foundational forum took place with President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known by his nickname “Farmaajo,” and the Somali National Army Chief of Defense.
“This was a very productive visit,” stated Furness. “It was a chance to meet the country's leadership and reaffirm the strong ties we have with President Farmaajo and the great people of Somalia.”
Afterward, the U.S. leaders met with regional intelligence collection agencies and the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia Ambassador Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira, to discuss current events. This meeting comes little more than a week after the first U.S. Africa Command Chiefs of Defense (CHoD) conference held in Stuttgart, Germany, which had a focus on countering violent extremist organizations (VEOs.)
“The first and top priority of the AFRICOM Theater Campaign Plan is to neutralize Al-Shabaab and transition the African Union Mission to Somalia,” Furness said. “AMISOM has done yeoman's work to stabilize Somalia over the last 10 years, and they can be proud of their efforts.”
With AMISOM scheduled to withdraw forces over a 24-month period beginning in October 2018, President Farmajo is slated to present a new national security architecture at the London Summit in May. Furness expressed that he is hopeful the plan laying out Somalia’s armed forces structure will integrate well with U.S. efforts to train, advise and assist Somali security forces.
“With this close partnership, I think the government of Somalia will make a real difference in isolating Al-Shabaab, eradicating hardliners and reconciling those who are open to becoming productive members of society," said Furness.
According to a story posted on the U.S. AFRICOM website on April 21 about the African CHoD conference, Madeira was quoted as saying, “Peace and security in Somalia is the goal…We must strengthen the Somalia National Security Force.”
“Let’s resolve to remove Al-Shabaab from the remaining towns and villages,” said Madeira.
AFRICOM and its subcomponent CJTF-HOA assist African states in strengthening their defense capabilities and mitigate security threats more effectively. Primarily, this is achieved through military-to-military engagements, programs, exercises and operations coordinated with the Department of State and African partner nations.
The CJTF-HOA is a tenant unit on Camp Lemonnier – the only U.S. military base on the continent. The task force, operating since 2002, achieves its mission by building and reinforcing partnerships that contribute to the security and stability of East Africa.