WASHINGTON — The year ahead presents broad opportunities for U.S. Africa Command to contribute to stability in support of vital U.S. national interests in Africa, the organization’s commander said yesterday in a message to his staff.
In his “Commander’s Intent 2011” message, Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward noted the efforts African nations and regional organizations have made over the past year to address political and security challenges in Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan and Somalia.
He also recognized efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army — a violent sectarian religious and military group based in northern Uganda — and al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, an Algeria-based Sunni Muslim jihadist group.
“In the coming year, we will continue to support African leadership in addressing shared security challenges, take advantage of opportunities, deepen our strategic partnerships regionally as well as bilaterally and with the African Union,” Ward wrote.
Meanwhile, Africom will refine its focus in security cooperation efforts while ensuring its military readiness, he wrote.
In driving this effort, Ward said, the command will focus on four key approaches:
— Building on past successes and providing continuity in programs to ensure sustained progress toward regional and continental security goals that protect the United States and Africa’s security vision;
— Further strengthening the unity of efforts with other U.S. agencies and, as appropriate, the international community;
— Promoting regional cooperation through military-to-military engagements that strengthen regional capabilities; and
— Serving as good stewards of U.S. resources and applying “the right resources at the right place and right time to get the job done.”
Ward recognized African leaders’ security priorities, which include capable and accountable military forces; effective, legitimate professional security institutions; a collective ability to stand up to transnational threats; and increased participation in international peacekeeping.
“These goals reflect our emphasis on preventing conflict and enhancing regional stability to protect American lives and interests in Africa and in our homeland,” he said. And noting that African challenges and opportunities “are not –- and never will be -– purely military,” Ward welcomed more interagency and international participation in the region.
“We welcome efforts to better integrate U.S. government, diplomacy, development, defense and intelligence efforts and to better coordinate resources related to our national security,” he said.
Ward underscored the importance of regional cooperation, including support for the African Union and efforts to strengthen the African Standby Force and its subregional elements. African states committed to stand up this organization by the end of 2010, but have fallen behind on their timetable.
Meanwhile, Ward called on the members of his command, as good stewards of U.S. resources, to prioritize activities and seek ways to operate more efficiently as they carry out their mission.
Ward, who stood up Africom in 2007, noted during the summer that the command finally had “turned a corner” and was now being asked by African officials what more it could do –- not what its intentions were.
Ward credited the hard work that his staff -– the first-of-its-kind mix of Defense and State department members in a single command –- has conducted to deepen relationships with 53 African nations in its area of responsibility.
“Thank you for your service, and may 2011 be another tremendously successful year for us all,” he wrote.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)