Africom looks back on a busy 2021 with SA visit one of the highlights


The visit to South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana by the chief of the US military’s Africa Command late last year was one of the Command’s highlights of 2021, along with Exercise African Lion, multiple ship visits by the USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams, and humanitarian assistance.

Countering terrorism across Africa was another important activity in 2021, Africa Command said in a statement recapping the year.

Africom emphasised that partnerships are what drives it and that “only together can we realise security goals vital for global interests and free trade.” With partners, Africom in 2021 “strengthened relationships in Africa through sustained and effective engagement to advance a shared vision for regional security, stability and prosperity in Africa.”

Last year, US Army General Stephen Townsend, Africom commander, conducted multiple trips to meet with leaders in 20 countries. In November he met with leaders in Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana during a three-country trip to the region.

Whilst in Pretoria, Townsend 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 at the time. “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.

Throughout the year, the naval component for US Africa Command, US Naval Forces Europe and Africa, coordinated dozens of port visits for the USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams and her crew including a circumnavigation of Africa to further maritime partnerships to counter illicit activity in the worlds’ seas. Port visits took in South Africa, Namibia, and Mozambique, amongst others.

In addition to hosting the African Air Chiefs Symposium, supporting expansive logistics efforts throughout Europe and Africa, and assisting in the development of partner-nation flying crews, US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa hosted the African Partner Outbreak Response Alliance conference to collaborate on skills to prevent, detect and respond to emerging infectious disease. During the tenth iteration of APORA, held in April, leaders from the US and 17 African countries discussed implementing rapid response teams to improve public health and deliver aid during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to supporting US Africa Command response forces, US Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa continued training alongside African partners, including a long-standing Humanitarian Mine Action program with the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, Africom said.

Personnel with Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) spent 2021 training alongside Djiboutian and French partners, supporting a wide array of US Africa Command activities, and hosting outreach events in local communities to implement Women, Peace & Security efforts and build relationships around CJTF-HOA’s headquarters at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

In 2021, US Army Southern European Task Force Africa executed African Lion, US Africa Command’s premier joint annual exercise held in Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal. In 2021, African Lion brought together more than 7 000 participants from nine nations and NATO.

In the maritime realm, forces from 15 East African, European, North America and West Indian Ocean nations participated in the annual Cutlass Express series aimed at maritime cooperation to improve law enforcement capacity and promote regional security in East Africa. Through additional exercises, such as Phoenix Express, and continued engagement year-round our combined efforts with international and African partners promote free trade in African waters, Africom said.

US Special Operations Command Africa participated in dozens of training events with partner militaries across Africa. Through Joint Combined Exchange Training in Mauritania, Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire, among others, SOCAF continued enhancing the readiness of US and partner forces while improving interoperability between nations.

Disrupting violent extremist organisations was also top of the Africom agenda for 2021, and activities to this effect included facilitating security training events.

In 2021 US Africa Command conducted nine airstrikes to disrupt and degrade al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, US Africa Command coordinated with US Embassies in Africa to provide humanitarian aid to partners also fighting the global pandemic. In addition to supplies for communities and healthcare workers, this support often came in the form of field hospitals to provide additional capacity to treat sick patients or serve as overflow for overburdened hospitals. The latest donation came when Algerian health officials accepted the donation of a negative-pressure isolation system specifically designed to treat patients with infectious diseases.

In a showcase of working with partner nations, multiple aircraft from the US, France, UK and Japan participated in a Bomber Task Force mission over Djiobuti in November. After flying more than 7 000 nautical miles to reach Djibouti, aircrews operating the US Air Force B-1B Lancers from the 9th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, worked with US and French joint terminal attack controllers to provide simulated close air support at Djibouti’s Grand Bara Range.

US Africa Command support to partners also comes in the form of donated equipment and training as part of the Foreign Military Sales programme that provides ‘total package support.’ This included the turnover of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft in Nigeria and C-130 support in Niger.

“US Africa Command also capitalizes on the strength of the State Partnership Programme, which facilitates cooperation among the US National Guard and African countries to build partnerships that enhance global security,” Africom said. In September, during one the engagements among the 15 state partnerships, an Indiana National Guard mobile training team conducted a two-week knowledge exchange course in Niger to bolster Forces Armees Nigeriennes vehicle mechanics maintaining Mamba armoured personnel carriers.