By Lt. Col. Chris WyattApril 13, 2010
GABORONE, Botswana - Deputy Assistance Secretary of Defense for Africa, Vicki Huddleston, visited government officials and the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) during her first visit to the country April 8, 2010.
Ambassador Huddleston, the senior most Department of Defense official to visit Botswana in the past few years, met with various officials during visits to Gaborone and Kasane.
Huddleston met first with the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ambassador Seretse, to discuss common areas of interest and potential areas of future cooperation. Huddleston then visited the Chief of the Botswana Defence Force, Lieutenant General Masire, at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks in Gaborone. Masire, who will retire in July, thanked Ambassador Huddleston for the U.S. military's long friendship and assistance in the development of the Botswana Defence Force since its founding in 1977.
Ambassador Huddleston's next stop was at the new Defence Command and Staff College (DCSC) in Gaborone. She met the Commandant, Brigadier General Goitseleene Morake, and his staff. At Morake's invitation, Huddleston served as a guest lecturer for the current class of 34 students. In her lecture, focused on U.S. defense policy in Africa, Huddleston highlighted U.S. defense interests in Africa, including transnational threats like terrorism, illicit trafficking and climate change, regional and ethnic issues and diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and diarrheal infections that undermine security and stability of states and entire regions.
The staff college, now in its third academic year, has quickly become a premier military institution and one of the finest staff colleges in Africa. Temporarily housed at a leased former primary school, the DCSC will move to a purpose-built facility at Glen Valley (15 kilometers north of Gaborone) in 2012. At Glen Valley the DCSC will train not only Batswana officers but will also begin taking foreign student officers from throughout Africa.
On the final day of her visit Huddleston visited the Chobe Sub Sector headquarters near Kasane, where the Botswana Defence Force provided an operations overview detailing BDF anti-poaching operations and support to civil authorities in the region. The visit also included a tour of the BDF camp, used to patrol for poachers and protect Botswana's diverse wildlife from predation. In Botswana, the protection of wildlife and the environment are considered to be in the interest of national security.
The final event hosted by the BDF was a boat trip up the Chobe River with a BDF engineer detachment based at Kasane. Members of the detachment transported Huddleston and her party along the Chobe River where she was able to see the variety and abundance of BDF-protected wildlife along the river banks.
A BDF official remarked that their hope is that Huddleston's trip to Botswana will prove useful to the long-established relationship between the BDF and the U.S. Department of Defense.