WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 24, 2007) - A proactive stance in Africa will help enhance stability and deter terrorist activity in the future, the deputy commander of U.S. European Command said here Thursday.
By harnessing security, humanitarian and diplomatic elements, Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward said, EUCOM is working with international partners to enhance the continent's commerce, education and overall success.
"The United States is using a focused approach in what we do to help them stabilize, socially and politically," he said, "so we can have a situation that doesn't foster bad things, but a situation that causes the people there to be satisfied and provide them with a horizon of hope for the future."
Ward, who recently attended the Trans-Sahara Partnership Chiefs of Defense Conference, said Africa's leaders are grateful for outside assistance in helping to improve the economy and establish solid governance of the continent, but that the United States can't do it alone.
"If we were independent, we wouldn't be as effective," he said. "The key is reaching out to other international partners to ensure collective results and aiming for the best objective."
The Defense Department has helped meet these objectives by training and equipping peacekeepers for the State Department's Global Peace Operations Initiative. Through the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, U.S. servicemembers provide training, equipment and logistical capability to meet United Nations peace operations standards.
Ward said U.S. troops are, in essence, being diplomats as they work side by side with Africans to drill wells, build schools and provide other humanitarian assistance.
"The functions of Navy Seabees and Army engineers help increase the capability of these nations by providing an example and also following up on it," Ward said. "The services our men and women are providing are critical."
DoD also is playing an increasingly proactive role through Operation Enduring Freedom Trans-Sahara while working with the State Department in a counterterrorism partnership. This groundbreaking program seeks to leverage the capabilities of those U.S. government agencies involved in building security on the Africa continent, with an emphasis on counterterrorism in North Africa.
By implementing reforms, the partnership hopes to help nations become more self-reliant in security and more stable in governance.
U.S. special operations forces are helping to train partners on how to conduct these operations. "We are watching it evolve in a positive way," Ward said. "It does matter, and it is making a difference."
EUCOM's Maritime Domain Awareness program helps to protect natural resources and achieve long-term security and stability in the Gulf of Guinea. The focus of this initiative is to prevent the region's political, economic, and social issues from becoming regional stability problems requiring international involvement.
This is increasingly important, Ward said. The military can serve as a structure to work together in more effective ways to create stability.
The general said the United States has a great opportunity in Africa today to make a small investment, economically and socially, that will provide stability and will preclude spending major resources down the road.
"The ones doing that work are the nation's young servicemembers," he said. "They are doing it day in and day out, and are doing a great job. They know they are helping bring stability and peace to these nations."
(Carmen L. Gleason writes for the American Forces Press Service.)