US Africa Command looks back on a busy 2019


During 2019, the US Military’s Africa Command (AFRICO) said it continued its work with African, international, and interagency partners to counter transnational threats and malign actors, strengthen security forces, and respond to crises in order to advance US interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity.

“Throughout 2019, AFRICOM’s core mission remained one of helping our partners to strengthen defence capabilities,” the command said.

In February, joint personnel and eight foreign liaison officers assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa participated in weapons familiarization at the Djibouti Range Complex, Arta, Djibouti. The weapons qualification exchange gave the foreign liaison officers an insight on the Beretta M9 pistol and stance techniques used by US military members.

In April, US Marines and Sailors with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.2, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, participated in Humanitarian Mine Action with members of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces at Unite de Secours et Sauvetage’s Base, Kenitra, Morocco. US Marines returned to Morocco to conduct similar training in December.

In August, Approximately 120 air force delegates from the US, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda came together for a week of knowledge sharing on personnel recovery topics for this iteration of African Partnership Flight Kenya 2019 held at Laikipia Air Base, Kenya.

“The African Partnership Flight is US Air Forces Africa’s premier security cooperation program with African partner nations intended to foster military collaboration and strong long-lasting relationships with and between African partner nations,” said US Air Force Maj. Erik Anker, US Air Forces Africa lead planner.

In October, US service members in Somalia conducted a Joint Tactical Casualty Combat Care information exchange and mass casualty exercise with neighbouring Ugandan African Union Mission in Somalia soldiers. The operation enhanced partner force interoperability and communication, and instilled enduring procedures for mass casualty events in the region.

Multi-National Exercises

In Fiscal year 2019 (Oct. 1, 2018 – Sept. 30, 2019), more than 6,700 participants from 44 African countries participated in AFRICOM sponsored, component led exercises. There were also 22 international organizations and 21 US government organizations that participated.

US Army Africa continued its Accord series of exercises in 2019. Both Justified Accord and Shared Accord focussed on enhancing the capacity and capability of participating personnel in peacekeeping operations. Shared Accord included a panel discussion about the importance of increasing women in peacekeeping.

US Naval Forces Europe and Africa held its annual Express series. These regionally focused exercises aim to build the capacity of African nations in the maritime domain. The series consisted of Phoenix Express, Cutlass Express 19 and 19.2, and Obangame Express. 2019’s Obangame Express included participation by the US Coast Guard cutter Thetis (WMEC 910). This was the first time a Coast Guard Cutter deployed to the AFRICOM area of responsibility since 2011.

African Lion 2019 marked the end of an era for the exercise as US Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa transitioned the responsibility as lead component to US Army Africa.

“For the past 16 years, US Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa has been planning and conducting African Lion alongside our Moroccan partners, with Tunisia joining the exercise three years ago,” said Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, the US Army Africa commanding general. “US Army Africa will be assuming responsibility for the planning and execution of the exercise next year [2020[, with the continued support of our Moroccan and Tunisian partners.”

The Special Operations Command Africa-hosted Flintlock 2019 took place in February. Approximately 2,000 service members from 30 African and western partner nations participated in the exercise at multiple locations in Burkina Faso with a key outstation in Mauritania. During Flintlock 2019, Chadian instructors taught Tactical Combat Casualty Care to Nigerien and Burkinabe Soldiers. This marked the first time in the history of Flintlock that African instructors taught other Africans.

“My biggest take away from several Flintlocks is the reality that African countries will benefit more if they are trained by Africans,” said Chadian Army Maj. Ahmat Ali Abramane, one of the instructors. “My hope is that at some point we can have 100 percent Africans training Africans and that will make Flintlock a bigger event.”

Exercise Upward Minuteman was held for the first time in 2019. Upward Minuteman is a US Africa Command exercise promoting the US National Guard’s State Partnership Program on the African Continent. It is currently planned as a five-year program involving US National Guard units from states and their African partner countries. More than 170 Soldiers and Airmen with National Guard units from North Carolina, Alabama, and New Jersey traveled to Botswana to partner with approximately 300 Botswana Defence Force service members during the exercise which included firefighters, military police, special forces, musicians, engineers, medical personnel, and military leadership. Botswana and the North Carolina National Guard have been partners since 2008.

“The exercise was designed to advance relationships between Botswana Defence Forces and the United States Forces, to foster trust and partner capacity, and exchange military best practices while maintaining critical skills,” said Maj. Gen. Innocent S. Phatshwane, the Botswana Defence Force Air Arm Commander, during the exercise’s closing ceremony. “This will enable our Defence Force to continue to play an increasingly important role in our nation through the lessons learned from this exercise.”

Bringing Partners Together

Throughout the year, US Africa executed a variety of engagements and events that brought together key partners across the continent.

In February, the AFRICOM Office of Legal Counsel hosted the sixth iteration of the Accountability Colloquium – a specialized conference on military operations for African military commanders, chief of staff, and legal advisors throughout the continent in Lilongwe, Republic of Malawi. In September, AFRICOM brought together African military legal advisors from across the continent with US military legal advisors for the Africa Military Law Forum. This is the only event of its type that brings together legal advisors in Africa.

The Africa Malaria Task Force Key Leader Event, held in March in Kampala, Uganda, is part of the on-going effort to take on Africa’s top killer: Malaria. More than 60 personnel, including representatives from 18 African partner nations, NGOs, non-profit organizations, and the US government participated.

In April, senior military intelligence officials from East Africa, Europe, the US, Canada, and representatives from the African Union Mission to Somalia met during the annual East Africa Directors of Military Intelligence Conference. Similar conferences were held for North and West African and Lake Chad region military intelligence officials.

In late-July AFRICOM held the second annual Multilateral Logistics Leader Seminar in Conakry, Guinea. Conducted with the Defence Security Cooperation Agency, the week-long event brought together African partner nations and several US military commands to promote and support strategic level logistics leader development.

“Logistics is fundamental to everything we do,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Leonard Kosinski, AFRICOM director of logistics. “Whether it’s a natural disaster, working against violent organizations [or] in wartime or peacetime, we cannot succeed without logistics.”

The Ghana Armed Forces and US Africa Command co-hosted the 14th annual Senior Leader Communications Symposium and Technology Exposition, Africa Endeavor, Aug. 18-23, 2019 in Accra, Ghana. 2019 welcomed many “firsts” for Africa Endeavor including a Women’s Signal Forum and the first field study review of co-host, Ghana, successes in cybersecurity

Also in August, senior enlisted leaders from 27 African nations and the US gathered in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, for the third annual Africa Senior Enlisted Leader Conference. The ASELC provides a forum for African and US senior enlisted leaders to share experiences and find ways to collaborate regarding non-commissioned officer empowerment and development.

More than 40 African land force chiefs, or their representative, attended the seventh African Land Forces Summit in Gaborone, Botswana in June. ALFS is a week long seminar designed to bring together land force chiefs from nations across Africa to discuss and develop cooperative solutions and improve trans-regional security and stability. Compared to previous years, 2019’s iteration had the largest amount of African land force chiefs in attendance.

The ninth annual African Air Chiefs Symposium took place in Nairobi, Kenya in August. Air chiefs or their representative from 35 African air forces, along with senior leadership from US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa attended. The AACS is an annual forum for air chiefs across Africa and USAFE-AFAFRICA leaders to discuss continental defence issues and increased cooperation. The 2019 symposium marks the third year in a row it reached its highest attendance, growing by seven nations over 2018’s symposium.

Leadership Changes

Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend assumed command of US Africa Command from Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser during a change of command ceremony July 26. Townsend is the fifth commander of AFRICOM. Shortly after taking command, he made his first trip to Africa visiting Somalia Aug. 7. Since then, he has made trips to multiple countries in north, west, and east Africa with more trips planned for 2020.

In November, the command said farewell to Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ramon Colon-Lopez, who was the command senior enlisted leader. Colon-Lopez is now the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During his tenure at AFRICOM, Colon-Lopez enhanced the professional development of African enlisted forces by creating the Africa Enlisted Development Strategy, a low-to-no-cost, multi-year approach to enlisted development on the continent.


“In 2019, AFRICOM continued to assist our Somali and Libyan partners to help them degrade violent extremist organizations operating in their countries. In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, US forces conducted multiple airstrikes targeting al-Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia. In coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord, US Africa Command conducted four airstrikes in September targeting ISIS-Libya terrorists,” AFRICOM said.

On January 2, President Donald Trump authorized the deployment of the East Africa Response Force to Libreville, Gabon in support of potential unrest in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo after the delay of scheduled presidential elections there. Their mission was to be postured to support the security of the United States citizens, personnel, and diplomatic facilities in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo if needed. The EARF deployment was part of an AFRICOM- and DoS-coordinated response-planning process known as New Normal where planners across both agencies work together to ensure crisis response efforts are fully coordinated. The New Normal construct is composed of several areas of planning, security and whole-of-government communication, AFRICOM said.

“Partner nations experienced real-world success in 2019. The Cabo Verde Judicial Police seized 9.5 metric tons of cocaine on Jan. 31 making it the largest cocaine seizure ever in Africa. AFRICOM has partnered with the Judicial Police since 2011 through procurement of equipment and training provided by the US Coast Guard, Drug Enforcement Agency, Navy Criminal Investigation Service and Customs and Border Patrol.”

In addition, the Cabo Verde Judicial Police and the Cabo Verde Coast Guard made a joint at-sea interdiction of 2.25 metric tons of cocaine several hundred kilometres from the island nation in August, marking the first at-sea interdiction for Cabo Verdean authorities. AFRICOM has partnered with the Cabo Verde Coast Guard since AFRICOM was formed in 2008. AFRICOM helped build the Cabo Verdean Maritime Operations Centre and communication network needed for command and control of the Cabo Verdean vessel that did the visit, boarding, and search, and seizure operation leading to the bust. In addition, the Cabo Verde Coast Guard is an annual participant in Obangame Express and they have been a long-time partner for the Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP), which is a US Naval Forces Europe and Africa facilitated initiative that aims to enhance the maritime law enforcement capabilities of African partners in order to improve the security of the maritime domain.

“Last year’s [2018’s] increase in cocaine interdictions in Cabo Verde can be linked to AFRICOM’s sustained efforts over the past ten years to build the capacity of West African partner nation counter-drug units,” said US Coast Guard Capt. Michael Schoonover, division chief for counter narcotics and transnational threats at AFRICOM. “Improvements in regional information sharing between US, European, and West African partner nations has also greatly improved interdiction of criminals engaged in all forms of illicit trafficking.”

For the first in the West Indian Ocean, the US Coast Guard and the Seychelles Coast Guard conducted a combined maritime law enforcement subject matter expert exchange as part of Operation Junction Rain Sept. 9-27. OJR the real-world operational portion of AMLEP. “The expansion of OJR and AMLEP to the east coast of Africa is an important step for African partners in establishing a secure maritime environment necessary for local economies to flourish, and is essential to the overall quality of life for a country’s citizens,” AFRICOM said.

“In support of our partner forces and international efforts to counter violent extremist organizations in the region, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations began in November out of Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger. This effort is in partnership with the Nigerien Government and reflects the commitment and desires of African partners as well as common interests for stability and security in the region.”

State Partnership Programme

In February, Burkina Faso became 14th African nation to join the Department of Defence’s State Partnership Program, following a formal signing ceremony with the District of Columbia National Guard and the National Armed Forces of Burkina Faso. In December, the Nebraska National Guard and Rwanda formalized their partnership during a signing ceremony in Kigali, Rwanda making them the 15th state partnership between the US and African nations, and 77th overall. The State Partnership Program pairs a state’s national guard and a partner country and is a key US security cooperation tool that facilitates cooperation across all aspects of international civil-military affairs and encourages people-to-people ties at the state level, in addition to supporting theatre campaign plans by building relationships that enhance global security, understanding and cooperation.

In fiscal year 2019, the National Guard conducted more than 200 State Partnership Program events in support of US Africa Command’s security cooperation objectives, involving more than 3,400 partner-nation personnel.

Humanitarian Assistance

In March, Cyclone Idai carved a path of destruction through Mozambique. At the direction of the Secretary of Defence, AFRICOM responded to US Agency for International Development’s requests for support and assistance in the flooded region. Within days of the cyclone’s landfall, nearly 100 US service members from Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, the lead organization for US Africa Command’s efforts, deployed to Mozambique to support the US Government’s relief efforts. At the outset of the operation, the US contingency response force assessed airfields and facilitated deliveries to enable international relief supplies to get into the hands of those in need. Military personnel flew more than 120 C-12, C-17, and C-130 sorties delivering 800-plus metric tons of relief that included food, shelter and medical supplies and the transport of disaster experts and workers to impacted areas to conduct assessments.

In fiscal year 2019, AFRICOM funded the construction of 27 new schools across 15 countries.

“These schools provide access to education in communities that have been identified by the host nation as areas in dire need of essential services,” said US Army Maj. Jason Didomenico, AFRICOM humanitarian assistance program manager. “This helps combat instability drivers, such as lack of education that may contribute to recruitment efforts by violent extremist organizations.”

Way Forward

Events, exercises, conferences, and engagements are already in the planning stages for 2020 including African Lion and Africa Land Forces Summit. “As a new decade begins, AFRICOM remains committed to strengthening the defence capabilities of African partners to ensure that the United States and our closest allies remain the partners of choice in Africa,” the command said.