STUTTGART, Germany, June 11, 2012 â€“ After a year of significant change sweeping the African continent â€“ a wave of democratic movements, the emergence of South Sudan as the worldâ€™s newest nation and an increase in violent extremism, among them â€“ U.S. Africa Command is using the new defense strategic guidance to shape its engagement in the theater.
â€œIn line with the new strategic guidance, weâ€™ve prioritized our efforts, focusing on the greatest threats to America, Americans and American interests,â€ Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, Africom commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.
Hamâ€™s strategy, encapsulated in an eight-page command strategy document published in September, is based on four top priorities:
- Countering terrorism and violent extremist organizations;
- Countering piracy and illicit trafficking;
- Partnering to strengthen defense capabilities; and
- Preparing for and responding to crises.
All support two guiding principles, Ham explained during an interview with American Forces Press Service at his headquarters here: that a safe, secure and stable Africa is in the United Statesâ€™ national interests, and that Africans are best suited to address African security challenges.
No Africom effort gets higher billing than its initiatives aimed at eliminating terrorist safe havens and support for terrorist organizations intent on attacking the United States and its citizens, allies and interests abroad.
â€œCountering the threats posed by al-Qaida affiliates in East and Northwest Africa remains my No. 1 priority,â€ Ham said.
But for security to take hold in Africa for the long-term, Ham also recognizes the importance of strengthening African partnersâ€™ defense capabilities so they can address their own security challenges. He noted ongoing efforts to increase capacity in peacekeeping, maritime security, disaster response and other key areas. The general noted the value of this investment, from â€œtrain-the-trainerâ€ sessions conducted at the tactical level to leader development programs that will have positive long-term strategic implications.
â€œWe are planting seeds, if you will, and allowing those to develop and grow,â€ he said, noting that itâ€™s all being done with no permanently assigned forces and limited forces on the ground.
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