U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command met with several Tunisian military leaders aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) aircraft carrier, March 25, to discuss joint efforts to enhance Tunisia’s maritime security.
Townsend met with Tunisian Ministry of Defense Chief of Cabinet, Abdelhak Khemiri; Tunisian Navy Chief of Staff, Rear Adm. Adel Jehane; and Tunisian Air Force Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Hajem. Several others from U.S. Africa Command joined Townsend, including Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, U.S. Africa Command's intelligence director; Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Thresher, U.S. Africa Command's senior enlisted leader. Also attending the meeting were Vice Adm. Eugene Black, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet and deputy commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa; Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, commander, Carrier Strike Group 2; and Gregory LoGerfo, deputy chief of mission, U.S. Embassy in Tunisia.
"The United States and Tunisia have a long and strong partnership—particularly in the military sphere. We also share concerns for security in the region,” said Townsend at the conclusion of the meeting.
“Today’s meeting led by General Townsend is symbolic of the strong and enduring partnership between the United States and Tunisia which dates back to the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1797,” said LoGerfo. “We remain committed to advancing our shared defense cooperation goals to strengthen regional security by combatting terrorism and safeguarding Tunisian sovereignty through enhanced maritime security.”
The delegations discussed the strong relationship with Tunisia as a key partner and a critical ally on NATO’s southern flank.
“As allies, we work together to enhance Tunisia's security—and thus the region’s security. Today we’re focused on maritime domain awareness and maritime security concerns,” said Townsend.
“Our visit to the USS Dwight Eisenhower reflects the high level of partnership and mutual cooperation with the US Navy,” said Jehane. “The Tunisian Navy is committed to accomplishing its assigned mission of countering threats against our national interests at sea or coming from the sea and to actively participate in the international maritime community effort to make the Mediterranean Sea safe and peaceful, and therefore ensuring freedom of navigation,” he added.
Townsend highlighted the importance of joint training and exercises to increase collective responsiveness and the ability of the two countries’ militaries to operate together.
"By training together we increase our interoperability with international partners while maintaining a high state of readiness to address mutual security challenges and goals."
Tunisia is a major non-NATO ally, and serves as host or major contributor to U.S. Africa Command exercises such as African Lion and Phoenix Express. Tunisia will serve as a satellite location for African Lion in June 2021. African Lion is a joint, all-domain, multi-national exercise designed to counter malign activity and increase interoperability between U.S., African, and international partners to defend the theater from adversary military aggression.
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is in the area conducting flight operations to support maritime security in international waters alongside our allies and partners.