Africom commander visits Somalia


US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander, US Africa Command, completed a multi-day engagement in Somalia and a visit to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), operating off the coast of Somalia, between 16 and 18 January.

While in Somalia, Townsend met with US Ambassador to Somalia Don Yamamoto and key military leaders from the Somali Armed Forces, including Minister of Defence, Hassan Hussein Haji, and Somali Chief of Defence Forces Brigadier General Odawa Yusuf Raage, to discuss continued security cooperation between the US and Somali partners as well as joint efforts to counter the al Qaeda aligned terrorist group al-Shabaab.

The visit comes roughly a month after US Africa Command stood up Joint Task Force-Quartz, the organization responsible for the repositioning of US forces in East Africa.

Throughout the visit, Townsend stressed US Africa Command’s commitment to Somalia and continued efforts to combat the threat al-Shabaab represents for the US, Somalia, and Africa.

“Al-Shabaab is a brutal enemy and a dangerous threat to America and Africa,” Townsend said. “We continue to work closely with our partners to degrade al-Shabaab’s ability to conduct operations and spread violence. America’s and Africa’s security depends on it.”

The engagements highlighted the United States broad continued support to partnership in the region, Africa Command said in a statement.

Townsend also met with African Union Mission in Somalia Commander, Lieutenant General Diomede Ndegeya from Burundi and other leaders to recognize the importance of their peacekeeping missions for Somalia and throughout East Africa. Townsend also stressed the importance of international solutions and the need for continued pressure on the al-Shabaab network in various forms.

“We continually adjust and adapt our efforts to disrupt al-Shabaab and place pressure on its network,” Townsend said. “Our continued success is dependent on sustained engagement and international partnerships. We have a shared enemy in al-Shabaab.”

During his visit to Somalia, Townsend flew to the USS Makin Island (LHD 8). The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit have operated off the coast of Somalia since 21 December as part of the Joint Forces Maritime Component Command for Joint Task Force – Quartz.

While aboard the Makin Island, Townsend recognized the Sailors and embarked Marines for their part in the operation.

“The Amphibious Ready Group and embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit force represent a compatible integrated Navy and Marine Corps team, capable of swiftly inserting sustainable combat forces and gaining access to critical areas anywhere in the world,” Africa Command said.

“Along with other capabilities, the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit provided fixed-wing close air support from the Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II and rotary-wing close air support from AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters. These capabilities ensure increased pressure has been maintained and continues to be applied on al-Shabaab.”