US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander, US Africa Command, completed a four-day trip to Kenya and Djibouti in December to conduct strategic engagements with partner nation leadership, assess operations and security of US force locations, and demonstrate continued commitment to working with African partners, Africom said.
“While our force posture in the region is shifting, our mission and commitment is unchanged,” said Townsend. “We will continue to pressure violent extremist organizations and work alongside our partners to enhance security and stability in the region.”
In Kenya, Townsend met with President Uhuru Kenyatta and US Ambassador to Kenya, Kyle McCarter to strengthen the enduring partnership between the two nations and discuss the shared goal of improving security in East Africa.
“Kenya and East Africa are safer and more secure because of the deep and enduring US-Kenya security partnership. From military aid to counter-IED training to exchange programs with our experts, the United States is committed to helping Kenya defeat terrorism and the extremist ideologies that spread misinformation to undermine a free democracy,” said McCarter. “The productive conversations we’ve had during this visit have reaffirmed our joint commitment to continue our military cooperation and counterterrorism partnership.”
Following the visit with President Kenyatta, Townsend met with the Kenya Defence Secretary, Dr Monica Juma and the Chief of Defence General Robert Kibochi. During their engagements the military leaders discussed the collective resolve to enhance regional security; focusing on how the US and Kenyan militaries can continue to operate together and in support of each other and other East African nations to disrupt violent extremist organizations and foster regional stability.
Kenya has been a longstanding, and essential partner in the fight against al-Shabaab, Africom said.
“Al-Shabaab remains a threat to regional security. Kenya is a strong security partner and understands the need to contain al-Shabaab’s violence and ambition, and degrade their operations,” Townsend said. “Our Kenyan partners have demonstrated their bravery against al-Shabaab and a commitment to addressing mutual security concerns together.”
Townsend was accompanied by Sergeant Major Richard Thresher, command senior enlisted leader, US Africa Command. The trip provided an opportunity for Thresher to engage with Kenya Defence Force senior enlisted leadership, visit their enlisted academy and review the curriculum, in an effort to continue to strengthen the KDF’s enlisted corps.
“The US has always been known to use their NCO corps to its fullest abilities. They are trusted, they are given a lot of extra duties that are often associated with what officers would typically do,” said Thresher. “We’re sharing best practices with our African partners and helping to enhance their NCO corps to get the best out of their enlisted force as well.”
During the trip, Townsend also visited the forward operating site Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti and the cooperative security location at Manda Bay, Kenya. The visit to these two strategic locations allowed for an updated commander’s assessment of the operations, security and infrastructure, with a special focus on assessing security and force protection improvements. Specifically at Manda Bay, Townsend saw firsthand the additional security measures that have been put in place to enhance force protection and discussed the significance of East Africa regional security partnerships with senior Kenyan defence officials.
“Force protection and partnerships are two areas I always look to strengthen. We face a complex arena where global powers seek to compete and violent extremist organizations look to impede progress,” said Townsend. “The strength of our partnerships will determine the futures for millions of people and many countries, to include our own.”
Additionally, while at Manda Bay and Camp Lemonnier, Townsend recognized service members for their continued commitment to the mission and their cooperative efforts with partner forces.