Africom chief concludes southern African visit


US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander, US Africa Command, has wrapped up a multi-country trip to the Southern Africa region, where he visited civilian and military leaders in Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana.

The first stop of the trip, which began on 17 November, was in Maputo, Mozambique, where Townsend and US Ambassador to Mozambique Dennis Hearne met with Minister of Defence Cristóvão Chume, and Chief of General Staff Admiral Joaquim Mangrasse.

Earlier this year, US forces conducted two Joint Combined Exchange Training programmes between US Special Operations Forces and Mozambican Commandos and Fuzileiros. The command has also facilitated tactical combat casualty care and combat lifesaver training courses for the armed forces.

“We have a meaningful partnership with Mozambique and our conversations sharpened our focus on our mutual security concerns,” Townsend said. “Our training and other engagements, such as the Joint Combined Exchange Training that happened this spring, demonstrate our partnership. We look forward to finding ways to strengthen our relationship with Mozambique in the future.”

Following his stop in Mozambique, Townsend travelled to Pretoria, South Africa where he met with Lieutenant General Lindile Yam, Chief of Staff of the South African National Defence Force, and Major General Mzikayise Tyhalisi, General Officer Commanding, South African Army Support Division.

“South Africa is a key partner of US Africa Command and a regional leader whose contributions to regional security advance our mutual interests for a stable, secure and prosperous Africa,” Townsend said. “I am excited about upcoming opportunities to deepen this partnership.”

Townsend’s trip follows other recent, high-level US military engagements including a port call by the Expeditionary Sea Base, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) in Cape Town in September.

Townsend’s final stop on the trip, which concluded on 23 November, was to Botswana where he met with several high-level members of the government including Dr Lemogang Kwape, Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo, commander of the Botswana Defence Forces, and other senior military members to advance the partnership between Botswana and the US and to discuss opportunities to increase multilateral training and military-to-military engagements, Africom said.

“The Botswanan Defence Force is an excellent example of a military with a strong, professional non-commissioned officer corps,” said US Marine Corps Sergeant Major Richard Thresher, senior enlisted leader, US Africa Command, who accompanied Townsend on the trip. “Their emphasis on a robust educational programme throughout the career of an enlisted soldier is commendable. I look forward to continuing the strong relationship forged through the African Enlisted Development Strategy.”

Due primarily to the global pandemic, this was Townsend’s first trip to Southern Africa since taking command.

“It’s been an honour to meet with my counterparts from Mozambique, South Africa, and Botswana” Townsend said. “Our conversations have strengthened our relationships and laid a stronger foundation for expanded military interaction in the future.”