US has an enduring commitment to Africa – Africom chief

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United States Marine Corps General Michael Langley, head of the US military’s Africa Command, has affirmed the United States’ enduring commitment to Africa and this can be seen in recent interactions with defence chiefs from African countries, as well as defence engagements.

Speaking at the beginning of March, Langley, who started his tenure in August 2022, said, “African nations are shaping our present, and they will shape our future.” He added, “in Africa, we are facing enduring challenges, such as countering the spread of violent extremist organizations. Other challenges have become more urgent, such as improving our collective maritime capacity to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.”

He emphasized that through Africom’s military exercises like Africa Lion, the joint combatant command he oversees is doing what African leaders have asked for, which is for the US to help with “collective training skillsets or high-end training skillsets across multiple domains in the security realm.”

On steps he has taken so far, he shared an overview of his travel over the last six months. “Since I took command, I have had the opportunity to visit a number of African countries. My first travels took me to Djibouti and Somalia and Kenya, and I listened and sat down with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his vision, especially the stabilization of Somalia.” He has also visited the Maghreb countries of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.

“But then also we’re focused on the west, because I saw the west and I characterized what was going on in the west with the violent extremist organizations of a number of affiliates, to include JNIM and ISIS factions and AQIM, and Boko Haram is still resident as well,” he explained.

“I went to Niger and I sat down with their leadership there and also went into Chad as well, and listened. I was on a listening tour in what I call my campaign of learning, because I wanted to know about the internal dynamics and what were the pressures and what were the challenges but also look at their view of what the long-term opportunities were that we can collectively work together to achieve those viable end states.”

On the South Africa’s military exercises with China and Russia, he said, “anecdotally, looking at what was skillsets that were practiced down in Mosi II, just from a distance and looking at what objectives they had, I think they were more power projection, they were more — they were more tactical formations and maritime targeting and all the type of activities that would allude to aerial denial, aerial defence, or even offensive-type manoeuvres. That’s just what I see from the outside.”

“Maybe it had some other objectives that will address what African nations need in maritime awareness. I don’t know. Maybe they did. But just from the outside looking in, I think we have a very strong value proposition in the exercises, especially maritime exercises, that we do with our African partners. So yes, we’re not asking these countries to choose, but I know that we have a value proposition that I think outweighs some of those aforementioned competitors.”

Last month Langley attended the 2023 African Chiefs of Defence Conference (CHoD) in which 43 countries participated. The CHoD provides a strategic forum for African Chiefs of Defence and the command an opportunity to strengthen relationships and to improve awareness of key security concerns, trends and to discuss collective solutions. It provides a forum for integrated engagements between Senior African partners and Africom senior leaders, service component staff, country teams, and interagency partners. The three-day event (28 February to 2 March) was held in Rome.

Although General Langley is based at Africom in Stuttgart, Germany, he was speaking from Rome when he responded to defenceWeb.

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