US-Angola military ties deepen

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“So there is a game changer. We may say it’s significant and this is in the interest of both parties – Angola and the United States of America,” Angolan President João Lourenço said at last month’s US-Angola bilateral meeting in Washington, at the US Department of State.

In 2022, Angola and the IS took steps to deepen military co-operation and ties. Lourenço in remarks at the bilateral meeting at the White House-led, US-Africa Leaders’ Summit confirmed the improving relationship. Lourenço said: “Angola has showed positive signs we are interested in strengthening co-operation with the US, so do not doubt our good intentions with regard to these responsive steps if we are to look into the past of our relationship.” This should come as no surprise given several senior Biden defence and Department of State officials made multiple diplomatic visits to Angola over the last 12 months. Additionally, high-level engagements were held at the State department early in 2022.

He was responding to US Secretary of State’s welcome remarks. Anthony Blinken validated the strength of the relationship saying, “The US places great importance on the relationship with Angola, a relationship that has grown stronger and stronger, particularly under your leadership.”

“I understand Angola is looking to restructure its military. We look forward to partnering with you on this effort,” added US Department of Defence cabinet minister, Secretary Lloyd Austin III. He attended the Leaders’ Summit bilateral meeting, along with Blinken. defenceWeb verified the State Department transcript of the welcome remarks of the principals at the start of the bilateral, confirmed by spokesperson Ned Price. It confirms Blinken, Austin and Lourenço met on the margins of the Summit. Blinken and Austin restated recognition “for Angola’s role as a regional leader, including President Lourenço’s efforts to bring peace to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).”

A US-Angola security partnership was a part of discussions. Undoubtedly, months of building diplomatic and military-to-military engagements ahead of the December bilateral, were consequential steps in advancing, deepening and strengthening the partnership.

Before Angola’s 2022 presidential elections, the State Department’s Deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman—on May 5—was first to meet, not only with Lourenço, but with high-ranking officials within his government. As confirmed by State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, Sherman engaged with Lourenço with the goal of pursing “opportunities for expanded cooperation on regional security and co-operation among Atlantic nations on shared maritime challenges and opportunities in the Atlantic Basin,” as well as other issues.

Two weeks after Sherman’s May 2022 meeting, retired US Army General Stephen Townsend, then commander of US Africa Command, travelled to Luanda for a two-day visit to meet with Lourenço and senior government officials. Speaking about his visit, he said, “In Luanda, I found a willing partner.”

In Washington, the two countries held a strategic bilateral meeting before the month was out: Blinken and Angolan Foreign Minister Tete António led delegations at this bilateral. The meeting was conducted at the State Department’s Thomas Jefferson Room and Blinken lauded Angola: “I want to applaud the important reform agenda Angola is pursuing, political and economic, that’s having a real impact.” They also spoke about, “the role of Angola in Africa,” said Foreign Minister Tete António.

A month ahead of the White House-led, US-Africa Leaders’ Summit current AFRICOM Commander US. Marine Corps General Michael Langley travelled to Angola. General Joao Ernesto dos Santos, Minister of National Defence and Homeland Veterans and General Egidio de Sousa e Santos, Chief of General Staff met with Langley to discuss shared security interests and future areas of potential co-operation. Both were first-time visits for the AFRICOM commanders.

The diplomatic engagements and military-to-military meetings aimed at discussing areas where both countries share an interest, including talking strengthening people-to-people ties. Angola’s ministers who took part in these engagements includes, Minister of State Chief Francisco Furtadoc while the foreign minister was part of the Luanda meetings and addressing issues of regional and global security were discussed.

The collective explains—in part— the US foreign policy approach to Angola is to strengthen security ties and explains the origins in 2022 of reshaping relations between the two countries, which Angola acknowledges is a “game changer,” as Lourenço said.

 Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based foreign correspondent and media commentator with expertise on U.S. foreign policy and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe