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Published:August 15th, 2007 10:31 EST
Lessons From Horn of Africa to Apply in Africa Command

Lessons From Horn of Africa to Apply in Africa Command

By SOP newswire

DJIBOUTI, Aug. 15, 2007 – As the war on terrorism moves forward, the lessons of U.S. operations in the Horn of Africa will resonate around the Defense Department and the government, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace visited with soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen serving in Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. He also met with commanders and senior enlisted personnel and participated in a town hall meeting along with Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman.

Pace told the servicemembers that what they are doing in the Horn of Africa will be a model as the U.S. military sets up Africa Command.

The command relies not so much on military muscle -- although that is part of the equation -- but on military expertise, said Navy Rear Adm. James M. Hart, commander of Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.

U.S. Central Command established the joint task force in 2002, as coalition forces had driven the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and al Qaeda terrorists once sheltered in the Central Asian country were looking for a place to hide. The JTF was set up to kill or capture al Qaeda members who sought refuge in the Horn of Africa. Its area of operation includes Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Seychelles and Djibouti and the adjacent waters.

Al Qaeda did not flood into the region, although there were individual infiltrations, officials said. But the potential of the region harboring a terrorist haven remained. The Horn of Africa is one of the poorest regions on Earth. Periodic droughts have killed thousands, and there are millions of refugees and internally displaced people, according to the United Nations.

The Horn of Africa has any number of actual and potential hotspots: Somalia; Darfur, in eastern Sudan; and the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Drought and desertification complicate a desperate situation for millions.

Most people in the northern part of the Horn of Africa are Muslim, while the south has a Christian majority. However, there are enclaves of both religions and others in both areas.

Desperate people are a magnet to extremist factions and terrorists. Some of the governments of the region have no control over vast areas of their countries, while others have only tenuous control.

Borders throughout the region are a remnant of colonial control. Nineteenth century British, French and German officials drew borders for their convenience and took no account of tribal or ethnic boundaries.

All of this history makes for a complicated situation for Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, and it has been forced to adapt, Hart said. It morphed from a Defense Department organization focused on using force to an interagency and combined group that uses all elements of national power to combat extremist influence.

Today, the command has a mantra of the “three D’s” -- defense, diplomacy and development. Signs touting the philosophy hang throughout Camp Lemonier, the former French air force base that houses the command’s headquarters. Each of the D’s highlights a contribution from a different U.S. federal agency: Defense, of course, is the responsibility of the Department of Defense. Diplomacy highlights the contributions of the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development handles development.

The command helps partner nations in the Horn of Africa so they do not become the next Afghanistan or Iraq.

It is a new way of fighting a war, U.S. officials said. The enemy feeds on misery, despair and confusion, and Joint Task Force Horn of Africa is working to change conditions that foster these problems.

The command works with partner countries in the region via military-to-military contacts and civil-military operations. All operations are supported by national and local leaders of the various countries.

Drilling wells, building schools and medical facilities, and providing medical care are all aspects of operations in the region. Training local military forces is also part of that. The U.S. military has helped train the Ethiopian army and Yemeni special operations forces and helped build a Djiboutian coast guard. All of this training has an emphasis on civilian control of the military and human rights.

Diplomatically, the command works closely with the U.S. embassies and country teams. The command has a three-man country coordinating team in each embassy that shares information between the command and the embassy. The diplomatic aspect of the command involves coalition allies, too. The British are the largest ally working with the command, but the Italians, Koreans, French and many other nationalities participate in operations in the region.

For all its successes, the command is just a modest investment of U.S. resources, with about 1,800 servicemembers and civilians. This includes force protection, engineers, trainers and soldiers from Company D, 294th Infantry, of the Guam National Guard. A different company from the battalion has deployed to the region in rotations since the joint task force stood up. The joint task force also has extensive civil affairs expertise, Seabees and medical personnel.

These assets will become part of U.S. Africa Command when it stands up Oct. 1, and the lessons learned in this command will be applied to the new combatant command, officials said.

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service