1 photo: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
STUTTGART, Germany - Djibouti's chief of defense met with U.S. Africa Command’s top general and his staff December 13, 2010 at the command's headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Major General Fathi Ahmed Houssein and General William "Kip" Ward discussed joint security cooperation activities and potential areas of further cooperation to enhance peace and security in East Africa and throughout the continent during the general's one-day visit. Djibouti hosts approximately 3,000 U.S. and allied personnel at Camp Lemonnier, which is the only major U.S. military facility in Africa, though small teams of U.S. personnel work across the continent on short-term assignments. The main military organization at Camp Lemonnier is the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). A component of U.S. AFRICOM, CJTF-HOA sends teams throughout the East Africa region to build partner nation capacity to promote regional security and stability, prevent conflict and protect U.S. and coalition interests. In the country and region, U.S. troops work with African military organizations and civilian communities to bring clean water, schools, medical facilities and other services to the people. They conduct numerous medical, dental and veterinary civic action projects along with community service projects, delivery of humanitarian assistance supplies and disaster response – all aimed at fostering stability. Projects are closely coordinated with U.S. Embassies and with host governments. Fathi said a significant advantage of Djibouti's partnership with the United States is a common desire to work together. "We share a strategic interest with the United States in specific terms in providing stability for the Horn of Africa," said Fathi through a translator. "Since the creation of AFRICOM, we feel there is somebody who is watching over us, a single person within the United States military who is watching over Africa and Djibouti specifically." Horn of Africa Challenges Djibouti is located in the Horn of Africa and, at about the size of New Jersey, is significantly smaller than its border countries of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. And after decades of wars and conflicts in these countries, including Djibouti’s own civil war from 1991 to 1994, and finding itself affected by global issues such as piracy and terrorism, Fathi said the country's leadership today is focused on stability and security. "Djibouti is a small point surrounded by a turbulent volcano," Fathi said. “Specifically, the geopolitical context in Africa in general and in the Horn of Africa in particular has never been as troubled.” The nation is working with larger countries, such as the United States, to build military capacity, to in turn increase stability for the area. Djibouti seeks to play a stabilizing role in the frequently tense regional politics of the Horn of Africa, according to the U.S. Embassy's Country Background Notes. With a population of about half a million people, a large percents of Djiboutians are etnic Somalis, and Djibouti in 2008-'09 hosted UN-sponsored Somali reconciliation talks (the “Djibouti Process”), and provided military training for TFG troops in late 2009. Djibouti became Ethiopia's sole link to the sea when fighting broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998. Djibouti also supports the African Union peacekeeping operation for Somalia (AMISOM). Security Cooperation During Fathi's visit to Stuttgart, the two partners discussed continued security cooperation programs. The U.S. government and government of Djibouti work together on various programs, in include: Regional Maritime Awareness Capability, a surveillance program that uses an automatic identification system, ground-based radar and sensors to enhance awareness of maritime traffic. Support to Djiboutian armed forces in the Eastern African Standby Brigade (EASBRIG) field training exercise, aimed to assess the readiness and capability of EASBRIG, a component of the African Union's Africa Standby Force, to quickly deploy to conduct peace support operations. International Military Education and Training, a program that invites foreign military officers to attend military schools in the United States, and provides funding for trainers to provide specific, localized training in African countries. Counter Terrorism Fellowship Program, which provides funding to educate and train experts and government officials involved in combating terrorism. Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, designed to improve African militaries’ capabilities by providing selected training and equipment required to execute multinational peace support operations. Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program, that implements the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programs by supporting HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care, strategic information, human capacity development, and program and policy development in host militaries and civilian communities. U.S. Africa Command supports the program by establishing HIV/AIDS prevention programs to reduce the spread of the disease among military personnel in African nations. Additionally, U.S. Africa Command’s Theater Security Cooperation is specifically designed to initiate activities to strengthen the capacities of African militaries. Activities include military-to-military engagements, as well as other events involving U.S. government agencies -- including Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. AMISOM U.S. AFRICOM is exploring other ways to increase support in building partner capacity in the Horn of Africa through the U.S. Defense Department’s 1206 program and the U.S. State Department’s Partnership Regional East African Counter-Terrorism program, according to command officials. Although the Djiboutian general and U.S. Africa Command officials have met numerous times, Fathi said this visit to the headquarters again proves the particular importance the command demonstrates in strengthening the cooperation between the United States and Djiboutian military. “I’d like to take this occasion to sincerely thank you for all that you have done for us and to assure, once more, our commitment to strengthened military cooperation,” Fathi said to Ward. Fathi also expressed his wishes for happiness and prosperity to the U.S. Africa Command staff and their families during the holidays.