U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), met with senior Djiboutian officials, including Chief of General Staff of the Djibouti Armed Forces Gen. Zakaria Cheikh Ibrahim, in order to discuss the growth and development of Djiboutian security forces on 21 March near Djibouti City.
“The U.S. is on the ground in Djibouti providing unique training and support to build partner capability,” said Waldhauser. “Other external actors are present, but they have different priorities than we do. Across the continent our African partners certainly recognize the consummate value of our security assistance programs, exercises, and engagements. They recognize the value-added, and they want more of what we can provide.”
While in Djibouti, Waldhauser observed the ongoing growth and development of the Rapid Intervention Battalion, which the U.S. is in the process of training and equipping at the request of Djibouti. The Rapid Intervention Battalion is an infantry battalion, based upon the Ranger model, which is developing certain specialty capabilities.
Formed around a small cadre of experienced Djiboutian officers and non-commissioned officers, Rapid Intervention Battalion recruits will continue to receive multidimensional skills training as the battalion evolves and grows in capability. Training provided by the U.S. includes, but is not limited to, light infantry tactics, mission planning, weapons training, first aid, land navigation, communication exercises, and additional advanced instruction.
“The daily, hands-on training that we are providing our Djiboutian partners is one example of how we strengthen the defense capabilities of our strategic partners,” said Waldhauser. “The U.S. is known for providing top-quality military training, as well as equipment, and both are true difference makers for our partners.”
AFRICOM’s commitment to growing the defense capabilities of its Djiboutian partners is not limited to land-based forces. In fact, AFRICOM supports the Djiboutian Navy by increasing its patrol capacity through logistics, maintenance, and seamanship training. This training will culminate with the delivery of two patrol craft. Moreover, in January and February AFRICOM sponsored and Djibouti hosted Exercise CUTLASS EXPRESS 2019, which improved combined maritime law enforcement capacity and promoted regional security in East Africa.
“As part of its campaign plan, AFRICOM is also committed to furthering mutually beneficial networks between the U.S. and willing partners. Strategically located in the Horn of Africa, Djibouti is a key U.S. partner on security, regional stability, and humanitarian efforts across the region. This partnership benefits countless Djiboutian citizens as the U.S. military presence in Djibouti affords our partners an implicit security guarantee, in addition to economic benefits,” AFRICOM said.
For example, the U.S. military’s direct and indirect payments total over $200 million annually, equivalent to around 10 percent of Djibouti’s Gross Domestic Product. The U.S. government is also Djibouti’s second largest employer, behind only the Government of Djibouti, including its port operations.
“We are and will remain partner-focused,” said Waldhauser. “Everything we do is at the request of the host nation. We don’t participate in practices that may compromise another nation’s sovereignty and our actions promote partner independence, not dependence, as other external actors may.”