Task Force Leaders' Visit Reinforces Independent Somali Defense Force
MOGADISHU, Somalia --
The commander of Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa and his command senior enlisted leader joined U.S. Africa Command's commander and the U.S. ambassador to Somalia here April 29 for a series of meetings regarding East African security.
Africom Commander Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser and Ambassador Stephen M. Schwartz were joined by Marine Corps Brig. Gen. David J. Furness and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Benjamin J. Higginbotham, who had 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-Shabab has brought great turmoil and has committed extreme atrocities in East Africa, and particularly in Somalia," Furness said. "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."
The 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, officials said. The foundational forum took place with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known by his nickname, "Farmajo," and the Somali army's chief of defense.
"This was a very productive visit," Furness said. "It was a chance to meet the country's leadership and reaffirm the strong ties we have with President Farmajo and the great people of Somalia."
Afterward, the U.S. military leaders, Schwartz and his assembly met for briefings with regional intelligence collection agencies and the special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Ambassador Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira, to discussing current events. The meeting took place little more than a week after Africom's first chiefs of defense conference held in Stuttgart, Germany, which had a focus on countering violent extremist organizations.
"The first and top priority of the Africom theater campaign plan is to neutralize Al-Shab 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."
New Security Architecture
With AMISOM scheduled to withdraw forces over a 24-month period beginning in October 2018, Farmajo is slated to present a new national security architecture at the organization's summit in London later this month. Furness said he hopes 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-Shabab, eradicating hardliners and reconciling those who are open to becoming productive members of society," he said.
Africom and CJTF-HOA assist African states in strengthening their defense capabilities and mitigating security threats more effectively, officials said. Primarily, they added, this is achieved through military-to-military engagements, programs, exercises and operations coordinated with the State Department African partner nations.
CJTF-HOA is a tenant unit on Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, the only U.S. military base on the continent. The task force, operating since 2002, builds and reinforces partnerships that contribute to East Africa's security and stability.