By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2014 – U.S. Africa Command will expeditiously deal with operations on the continent, and will continue growing partner nations’ military capabilities, Army Gen. David Rodriguez said today.
Rodriguez, who has led Africa Command since April, spoke with reporters during a Pentagon roundtable discussion. “While there are multiple challenges in Africa, I am optimistic about the future,” he said.
The general reiterated the command’s strategy and said he believes it is helping Africans promote peace and security. “Our basic premise is that it is Africans who are best able to address African challenges, and our strategy focuses on developing partner nations’ military forces through a wide variety of programs,” he said.
Across the continent, he said, a new generation of leaders with promise for the future is coming to the fore.
“We also recognize an increasing regional and international integration and a readiness by both African nations and African organizations – such as the African Union – to respond to crises in places like Libya, Somalia, Mali and now the Central African Republic,” Rodriguez said.
The command also seeks to maintain good military-to-military contacts on the continent and is working to strengthen multinational organizations, he noted.
The command stresses an interagency, “whole of government” approach, the general said. Africa Command works closely with the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and increasingly with multinational partners.
He acknowledged there are problems on the continent. Mali, South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic require regional and international attention, he said. “I strongly believe our cooperative approach … will make enduring change possible,” he said.
South Sudan is the current flashpoint on the continent, Rodriguez said, adding the U.S. government hopes the peace process in the world’s newest country will continue to work. On the ground, opposition forces loyal to South Sudan’s vice president continue to battle government forces loyal to the president. Africa Command had to act to protect U.S. citizens in the country, the general said, who have been evacuated.
The joint force acted quickly and appropriately, he said: The East African Response Force went into the area quickly, reinforced the embassy in Juba and brought people out. “The second effort was to go into Bor to get people out of there,” the general said.
The special operations task force came under fire and four Navy SEALs were wounded, Rodriquez said.
DOD aircraft later went in to the region and brought people out. “If you look at it, it was a great effort from the whole joint team,” he said.
In South Sudan, the process worked as it should, Rodriguez said. State Department officials recognized the situation and notified Africa Command personnel quickly. The command was able to move the forces quickly to the trouble spot and the team had the training needed to be effective.
The model of interagency partners working together at the command is working, Rodriguez said. This helps the combatant command make the linkages into the agencies.
The United Nations is very active and he said the United States continues to look at ways to support it. “We are continually evolving,” he said. “In the Central African Republic, the main (capabilities) continue to be … in airlift and movement. We’re starting to look at that at the behest of the U.N.”
The areas where nations need help are almost always the same, Rodriguez said: intelligence, mobility and logistical support. “We do a good job with very small teams … that help out a significant amount,” the general said.
He noted there is a small cell in Mali that helps the U.N. mission there, for example.
The African Union has requested Africa Command help move Rwandan peacekeepers into the Central African Republic, he said. “We are planning and coordinating those efforts with the Rwandans and the French right now,” he said.
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