VICENZA, Italy -- As stability in Africa becomes increasingly critical to global interests, it is imperative to U.S. Army Africa's missions on the continent that those at the helm have all the facts.

To ensure USARAF's leaders have the comprehensive information necessary to achieve long-term objectives in Africa, USARAF Commander Maj. Gen. Joseph P. Harrington hosted a senior leader strategy session at the Golden Lion conference center on Caserma Ederle here Jan. 31-Feb. 2.

SLSS attendees and presenters included Ambassador Alexander M. Laskaris, the AFRICOM deputy to the commander for civil-military engagement; leaders from USARAF, U.S. Africa Command and other U.S. and international military organizations; and representatives from the U.S. State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and other government and civilian organizations with missions in Africa.

The conference focused on expanding USARAF leaders' regional and sub-regional understanding of Africa's Lake Chad basin, which is composed of the nations of Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger; strengthening collaborative relationships with military and civilian subject matter experts; and developing cohesive short- and long-term goals for USARAF's involvement in the region.

To facilitate productive discussion, Harrington encouraged all participants to speak candidly about their knowledge of and experiences in the region.

"Some of you have spent your careers on a continent that is scarcely known to most Americans ... There is probably more expertise on Africa right here, right now, than there is in most other places. This is an eclectic group that knows quite a bit about Africa, and what we have to do is leverage that during the time that we're here," the general said.

Panel topics included understanding the Lake Chad basin operational environment and country dynamics, refining the land force institution building framework, identifying requirements and securing Defense Department resources for the way ahead.

In addition to broadening participants' knowledge of the Lake Chad basin, the conference offered civilian partners an opportunity to become better acquainted with USARAF's mission.

"It was good for me to be here to get a much better feel for (USARAF), and I think it allows me to do better engagement and work with (USARAF) on the land forces summit," said Monde Muyangwa, Africa Program director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

"General Harrington very kindly invited me to go and once again moderate the session, so just getting the opportunity to meet the larger (USARAF) team ... allows me to do a better job with and for (USARAF) when I engage at the land forces summit," she said.

While the forum generally focused on collaboration between USARAF and other U.S. entities, it might have also influenced future conversations with European allies.

"Besides the national dialogue between the different (U.S.) institutions, the reason Germany is here is because we would like to establish this kind of dialogue with our partners," said Lt. Col. Jan Steinel, sub-Saharan Africa deputy branch head at the German Ministry of Defence's strategy and operations directorate in Berlin.

"We know that our partners are doing a lot in the same region, in the same environment, facing the same challenges and I think this is just right at the beginning of this dialogue we would like to approach on the long term with our partners," he said.