Africom Assists Secu­ri­ty, Sta­bil­i­ty Efforts

By John J. Kruzel
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

WASHINGTON — The Africa Part­ner­ship Sta­tion, a U.S.-led response to requests by African nations for mar­itime train­ing, is now in its fifth deploy­ment as it expands its scope along the African coast­line, the com­man­der of U.S. Africa Com­mand said today.

While its ini­tial focus was on West African nations near the Gulf of Guinea, the pro­gram — which com­pris­es ships that serve as mobile train­ing cen­ters — has extend­ed its reach to the east­ern coast of a con­ti­nent plagued by prob­lems on both coasts, Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

“The Africa Part­ner­ship Sta­tion, which includes our Euro­pean and African part­ners as mem­bers of its staff, is now on its fifth deploy­ment and has expand­ed from its ini­tial focus on the Gulf of Guinea to oth­er African coastal nations,” Ward said in a progress update to Con­gress.

An esti­mat­ed 80 per­cent of Europe’s cocaine sup­ply tran­sits through West Africa. Much of it orig­i­nates in Latin Amer­i­ca before being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. In sub-Saha­ran Africa, rough­ly $1 bil­lion is lost annu­al­ly to ille­gal fish­ing.

Mean­while, both the west­ern and east­ern coasts con­tin­ue to be trou­bled by pira­cy – specif­i­cal­ly in Nige­ria and Soma­lia, which account­ed for near­ly 70 per­cent of the world­wide total in 2008, the most recent data avail­able on Africom’s Web site.

Vis­its by the Africa Part­ner­ship Sta­tion are designed to sup­port and strength­en region­al capa­bil­i­ties on the con­ti­nent and rep­re­sent one means for build­ing com­pre­hen­sive mar­itime secu­ri­ty in Africa. The pro­gram is inspired by the belief that mar­itime safe­ty and secu­ri­ty will con­tribute to devel­op­ment, eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty and secu­ri­ty ashore, defense offi­cials said.

Train­ing focus­es on a broad range of areas, includ­ing mar­itime law enforce­ment, search and res­cue capa­bil­i­ties, civ­il engi­neer­ing and logis­tics, and nav­i­ga­tion. Crew mem­bers also par­tic­i­pate in human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance efforts led by inter­a­gency and non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions focus­ing on health care, edu­ca­tion and oth­er projects..

The Africa Part­ner­ship Sta­tion is part of a list of ini­tia­tives car­ried out by Africom, the Defense Department’s newest uni­fied com­bat­ant com­mand, which over­sees secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions in the bulk of the African con­ti­nent.

Describ­ing oth­er com­po­nents of the U.S. mis­sion on the con­ti­nent, Ward said Africom per­son­nel are assist­ing African part­ners in build­ing their capac­i­ties to counter transna­tion­al threats from vio­lent extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions, to stem illic­it drug traf­fick­ing, to sup­port peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions and to pre­pare for nat­ur­al dis­as­ters.

“Sup­port­ing the devel­op­ment of pro­fes­sion­al and capa­ble mil­i­taries con­tributes to increased secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty in Africa, [and] allows African nations and region­al orga­ni­za­tions to pro­mote good gov­er­nance, expand devel­op­ment and pro­vide for their com­mon defense and bet­ter serve their peo­ple,” he said.

Ward said the Unit­ed States pro­motes its inter­ests by help­ing African states build capa­ble and pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­taries that respect human rights, adhere to the rule of law and more effec­tive­ly con­tribute to sta­bil­i­ty in Africa.

“We do what we do in Africom to pro­tect Amer­i­can lives and to pro­mote Amer­i­can inter­ests,” he said. “We do it by sup­port­ing secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty pro­grams in Africa and its island nations.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)