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  • Exercise Cutlass Express (CE) is one of three African regional “Express” series exercises sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet.

Listen to or download the audio file here .

Moderator:  Good morning and afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub.  I would like to welcome all of our participants dialing in from across the continent and thank all of you for joining this discussion.  Today, we are very pleased to be joined by Rear Admidral Jeffrey Spivey, Vice Commander of U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Director of the Maritime Partnership Program in Africa for U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa; and Captain Cannon Neslen, Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Forces Europe – Africa, Maritime Partnership Program, U.S. Navy Reserve Detachment 118.  Rear Adm. Spivey and Capt. Cannon Neslen will exercise – or discuss exercise Cutlass Express 2021, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, that took place last week and part of this week in the vicinity of Djibouti, Kenya, Madagascar, and Seychelles.

We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Rear Adm. Spivey and Capt. Cannon, then we will turn to your questions.  We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the briefing.

At any time during the briefing if you’d like to ask a question live, please indicate that by clicking on the “raise hand” button.  Alternatively, you can type your full question directly into the Q&A for me to read to our speakers.  Please include your name, media outlet, and location when doing so.  If you would like to join the conversation on Twitter, please use the hashtag #AFHubPress and follow us on Twitter @AfricaMediaHub.

As a reminder, today’s call is on the record, and with that, I will turn it over to Rear Adm. Jeffrey Spivey, Vice Commander of U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Director of the Maritime Partnership Program in Africa for U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa.  Over to you for your opening remarks.  

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Thank you very much.  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  I am grateful for this opportunity to highlight the combined efforts of the 15 East African and West Indian Ocean and European and North American nations participating in the 10th iteration of U.S. Africa Command combined exercise Cutlass Express 2021.  This exercise is the most significant maritime exercise held in East Africa and the Indian – Western Indian Ocean this year and is a building block for the international maritime exercise scheduled in 2022.  

I am Adm. Jeff Spivey.  I’m the Director of the Maritime Partnership Program for Naval Forces Europe and Africa and the Vice Commander for U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy.  I’m accompanied today by Capt. Cannon Neslen.  Capt. Neslen is the Cutlass Express exercise director and U.S. lead for theater security cooperation representing Naval Forces Africa; he’s in Mombasa today and he’ll comment in just a few moments.

Cutlass Express was established in 2011.  The exercise is part of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, which is an information-sharing network in East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean nations.  This agreement was updated in 2017 and that update is known as the Jeddah Amendment.  The purpose is to enable the blue economy and to broaden the scope of determining – deterring illicit trafficking at sea, human trafficking, and illegal wildlife trade.  

Cutlass Express represents a shared commitment by East Africa and West Indian Ocean nations which has grown in significance and importance for the maritime cooperation in the Western Indian Ocean and East Africa.  Our key purpose is to enhance the information exchange and regional information-sharing with our maritime partners and to improve our collective effectiveness at sea and address our primary challenges.  So our primary challenges include illegal and unreported fishing – I can’t emphasize this point enough.  It is one of the bedrocks to a funding source for illegal activity and other illicit factors at sea; counternarcotics – we know that the horrible, violent impact of counternarcotics impacts all nations, and certainly in East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean; port security; human trafficking, and the harm done by all of the illegal movement from human trafficking; illegal cargo; maritime interdiction; humanitarian and disaster relief; and search and rescue operations.  Those are a broad set of challenges that present to each of us in the maritimes.  So Naval Forces Africa is committed to the building partnerships across this region to help combat that and to deter it.

I would like to salute our host nation, Kenya, for their resilient partnership for maritime security and their warm hospitality toward all partners.  This is my second visit to Kenya this year.  The first was in February, where I had the privilege to welcome the United States ship Hershel “Woody” Williams to the Port of Mombasa, which was the first time a U.S. Navy vessel had been in Mombasa in over 10 years.  This is my second visit this year.  So during this visit, meetings were scheduled with 20 senior leaders from maritime nations that are partners with the U.S. and with our European friends to develop a better cohesive network of maritime security.  However, we quickly adapted to adhere to the ministry of health COVID protocols set forth in Kenya.  We take COVID protocols very seriously and support all vaccine efforts to protect the people of Kenya and all persons supporting the exercise from all nations.

So I arrived in Kenya from Seychelles earlier this week.  Seychelles has signed one of the first bilateral agreements with the U.S., with the Government of Seychelles.  The first U.S. Government bilateral maritime agreement in East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean is one of only five bilaterals with any African nation.  Those other five include Cabo Verde, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia.  This is the most comprehensive bilateral maritime agreement the U.S. Government has with any African state in this part of Africa.  It is designed to counter illegal activity, unreported and unregulated fishing, drugs, and weapons of mass destruction.  It’s an agreement between governments that empowers the military and the coast guard to partner for both law enforcement and safety on the high seas.

So the U.S. Navy and participating partner nations seek to develop and enable partnerships with each partner and to develop regional security and to collaborate and build maritime capacity throughout Africa.  Cutlass Express is one of three maritime exercises held in 2021.  I’ve been to all three.  The first was Obangame Express in the Gulf of Guinea earlier this year, followed by Phoenix Express in North Africa and the Mediterranean, and now Cutlass Express.  Even through COVID challenges, we are committed to our partnerships with each participating nation: Comoros, Djibouti, Kenya, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Georgia, India, the United Kingdom, and of course, partnered with each of them are the United States.  The information-sharing component is expanded to New Delhi, and we’re thankful for India’s participation and their sending of a ship.

I’d like to now give the floor to Capt. Neslen.  He’s the exercise director for Cutlass Express in Mombasa.  Capt. Neslen, you have the floor.

Capt. Neslen:  Good morning, everybody.  It is a pleasure to be with you all today, and thank you so much for this opportunity for us to speak and talk about the highlights of Cutlass Express 2021.  I am really excited to share what we’ve learned here this past week in our efforts to strengthen the maritime security and regional security and cooperation amongst all of our partner nations as well as our partners internationally.

We have accomplished a lot here these past two weeks.  There’s been a lot of things that have been going on and it’s been exciting, and we have loved seeing firsthand the continued development that has taken place with building these enduring relationships and capacity here in East Africa.  And most specifically, we have enjoyed seeing the improvement in the safety and security of the regional maritime environment.

Throughout this Cutlass Express 2021, we have witnessed firsthand the participating nations’ improvement in the maritime domain awareness, primarily through the use of the SeaVision web-based enabled tool that we can have an improved understanding and situational awareness of the maritime domain environment.  This has been critical as well to see that information being shared to all of the partner nations that are participating in the Djibouti Code of Conduct as well as in Cutlass Express 2021.  

Specifically this past week, we have observed and assessed eight partner nations and multinational partners in three locations execute numerous counter-illicit-trafficking scenarios on East African waters.  These scenarios have been really important and have focused on countering illicit arms and weapons.  We have also drawn upon the expertise of our United Kingdom, India, and Georgia partners, resulting in improved partnerships and integrated efforts in countering illicit trafficking.  

I have really cherished the relationships that we have built with all of the participating nations and would like to express sincere appreciation for their participation and allowing us to get to know them much better, to understand their host nation countries, their customs, their traditions.  That has been a real humbling experience for me to build these enduring relationships.

I would like to close and express my sincere appreciation to our partners here in Kenya for the most impressive hospitality that’s been provided to all of us here in Mombasa; as well, I would like to express appreciation to the other nations who have hosted our Cutlass Express 21 participants.  Thank you again to all for providing us this opportunity to discuss Cutlass Express 2021.  

Moderator:  Thank you, Rear Adm. Spivey and Capt. Neslen.  We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s briefing.  For those asking questions, please indicate if you would like to ask a question by clicking the “raise hand” button.  Alternatively, you can type the question directly into the Q&A tab.  Please type in your name, location, and affiliation along with your question.  We ask that you limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing: exercise Cutlass Express 2021.  And for those in our listening party or those listening in French, you may type your question as well in the Q&A and it will be translated for our speakers.

We do have some questions that were submitted in advance by email, and journalists may continue to submit questions in English on Twitter and via email to  Please be considerate to other journalists on the call and make your questions as brief as possible in the interest of time.

Our first question will go to one submitted to us from Mr. Eric Schmitt of the New York Times.  His question is:  “What signs of ISIS or al-Qaida maritime activity do you see in East African waters, and how big a threat or potential threat is that?”

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Well, I’ll take that one.  Thank you.  Violent extremism from any source undermines operations at sea and, more importantly, undermines all of our nations.  Our effort is to build the cooperation and the networking and the information-sharing to tell the people that there is a better path, to prevent the activities from happening, and identify a better course forward and to defend where we need to defend.  This is an important component of all of our collective interests.   

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next we’ll go live to Pearl Matibe.  Pearl, please ask your question.

Question:  Thank you so much for doing this.  I really appreciate it.  Africa is so important in the global maritime domain, so thank you for taking the time to answer questions I have about what the U.S. is doing navigating the African maritime and security theaters.  

My question is for Capt. Neslen.  I’ll reserve my other question later, if there is additional time.  As the lead planner for Cutlass Express, how far in advance do you start planning and what might that entail?  In your response, could you include how a country might confirm participation?  Is it by invitation only or does a country become a part – or how does a country become a participant?  I ask because a country like South Africa might not be in East Africa but is called upon to help counterterrorism in places like northern Mozambique.  Have you ever invited South Africa?  What is the status of any invitation that you may have given, given their regional importance?  And at any time have you reached out to South Africa, and what is keeping them from participating?  Thank you, Captain.

Capt. Neslen:  Thank you so much for the question here.  Let me touch on the several points of your question here.  For Cutlass Express 2021, those planning efforts have been ongoing for – in a COVID environment, over the last 12 to 18 months.  So we have held numerous planning sessions, most of those which were actually held virtually.  And so we put the majority of the exercise together here over the last 12 months virtually with encouraging the participation from all of those partners who accepted invitations to participate.  

The first time that we were able to come together was last month in Mombasa, where we were able to meet all the participating nations in person.  And so there was a very accelerated path to put any final details together here to ensure smooth execution of Cutlass Express here this past week.

For those participants who will participate, those invitations have been passed out to various countries.  Those go through the U.S. embassies as well as those are initiated from U.S. Naval Forces Africa, and we are always looking at the ability to improve and to strengthen those partnerships with our partner nations.  And so any nations that desire to participate in future Cutlass Express series exercises, we would encourage that collaboration and we will work through the U.S. embassy and Naval Forces Africa to work through those invitations, and those invitations will be passed to those partner-nation countries.  

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next we’ll go to another question sent in to us, since there was a bit of talk about Mozambique in the previous journalists’ questions.  This question is from Mr. Eugenio Camara of Canal de Mozambique, in Mozambique.  The question is:  “What is your comment on SADC’s response to the Cabo Delgado war?”

Rear Adm. Spivey:  All right, I’ll take that one.  The Southern African Development Community has come to a conclusion that they need to establish a standby force for the express purpose of countering activities in northern Mozambique.  We’ll leave all the details in support of this with our AFRICOM chain of command and their public affairs, but that is where we understand it and we encourage and support African nations in their response.   

Moderator:  Thank you.  Just a reminder to our journalists, if you would like to ask a question live, please press the “raise hand” button or, alternatively, you can submit your question in the Q&A.  Our next question goes to Mary Wambui of Nation Media Group out of Kenya:  “Cases of human (adult and child) trafficking seem to be on the rise in Kenya as more people are searching for better economic opportunities abroad, especially in Saudi Arabia; they get duped into fraudulent activities.  How is the Indian Ocean aiding this, and if so, what measures will Cutlass Express 2021 prioritize to curb this menace?” 

Rear Adm. Spivey:  I’ll take that first and then I’ll hand it over to Capt. Neslen.  Human trafficking is a major concern.  One of the roots of human trafficking is other elements of forced labor and other points – parts of crime on the high seas that force people into or mislead them into situations of work opportunities.  We want to see the blue economy strong in Kenya and strong across East Africa so that jobs are available and opportunities exist in Kenya.  We are working very hard to do our information-sharing to have our participating nations continue to share their information, to share intelligence, to help work together on the – at sea to help interdict this human trafficking.  

Human trafficking can come in many forms.  It comes via the air, but on the sea it can come in the form of not necessarily a ship full of persons, but usually embedded in other illegal activity.  So we’re very committed and sensitive to the fact that people are taken advantage of in this area, and that is the principal reason we are seeking – one of the principal reasons we seek to improve our information-sharing and communication among all East African nations and those in the Western Indian Ocean, and this continues on up into Saudi Arabia and other places.  And Capt. Neslen can make any comments on this for specific training.

Capt. Neslen:  Great.  Thank you, Admiral, for the response on that.  The things that I would like to emphasize there is this exercise has been very notable with the information-sharing and the coordination that we have had in place with India, with the international fusion center in the Indian Ocean region.  That has been a critical component here with that information-sharing, and would like to express sincere appreciation for the – for India for their notable efforts in helping us with the information-sharing.  

What we have observed here in Cutlass Express 2021 is that notable coordination and communication – for example, here in Mombasa, in our joint operations center, we have been interacting with the Kenya port authority and the various departments with the KPA, and one of those scenarios, we’ve run numerous scenarios here with human trafficking.  And so with those scenarios that we’ve been able to observe and assess firsthand, we have noticed improved response times and much improved information-sharing from Kenya to other partner nations in how we can ensure that regional cooperation amongst all the partners to curb and to prevent human trafficking here in East Africa.  

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next we’ll go to questions in our Q&A.  This one is from Gabe Joselow.  He is from NBC News, based in London.  The question is:  “Are there indications that China is expanding its naval presence or ambitions in East Africa?  Is this a concern for the U.S. and its partners?”

Rear Adm. Spivey:  I’ll take that one.  We seek a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China that respects the sovereignty of all nations and the rule of law and international norms and fair economic trade practices, including fair economic lending, fair economic activity in that country.  So China is a regional – and a powerful regional – actor.  We respect them and we seek to help them work in those areas.  

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next we have a question from our listening party at U.S. Embassy Djibouti.  The question is:  “Can you explain the objectives for the exercise, and how does Djibouti benefit from participating?”  And this question is from Souber Hassan from La Nation in Djibouti.  

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Great.  Capt. Neslen, would you like to take that one?

Capt. Neslen:  Yes.  Thank you.  So when I think about the objectives of this exercise here, it’s very important to understand is we’re focusing on some key principles here as we share best practices and we assess the information-sharing.  So the things that we’re focusing on here in Cutlass Express 2021 is, first, the maritime domain awareness:  Are all the partner nations having a good situational awareness of what things are going on in their waters or outside their territorial waters?  The other things there is that we’re focusing on that counter-illicit maritime activity.  And so when you think about Djibouti, we have a very robust training schedule that has been executed in Djibouti, and some of those have focused on visit, board, search, and seizure operations where we have been able to utilize our international partners in training, the Djiboutians and the Somalians in the waters off of Djibouti.  And we have noticed there just an increased proficiency there with those boarding teams, and most notably is that information-sharing from the Djibouti MOC down to the regional cooperation operations center in the Seychelles.  

So those specific objectives, we have noticed a great improvement and an increased proficiency amongst those partner nations, most notably with Djibouti.  

Moderator:  Excellent.  We’ll just stay in Djibouti, another question coming from our listening party there, from Hidaya Mohamed from Radio Television Djibouti.  Her question is:  “We live in a changing world and health crisis that – and a health crisis that challenges nations to meet this crisis.  Have you encountered any difficulties in moving forward with the exercise during a global pandemic?”

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Well, I’ll take that one.  The U.S. has sent about 120 personnel in support of Cutlass Express throughout all operations areas.  Everyone’s been fully vaccinated.  We are doing all that we can do to keep the social distance, in terms of mask compliance, and even more important, we are working with the host nation to follow their directives with respect to their directives for remaining in place, for all these other type of activities.  

In Kenya we had a momentary pause where we have a pause in Kenya where the ministry of health issued a directive to help keep people in Kenya safe, and we’ve honored and respected that.  We had a meeting scheduled for 20 senior leaders from across the region to come to Kenya to discuss how we can better employ maritime coordination, how we can better meet the needs of each individual nation, how we can better work together.  But we were able to turn that off following the minister of health’s direction.  And we were able to not only just turn it off, but to respond and to reengage at an appropriate time or through virtual means.  

It’s not the same as being in person and being able to talk and being able to talk about the 20 things that are important to build a relationship, and that’s really the reason the U.S. with our partners are here.  We want to bring people with respect to the vaccine – the vaccinated – we want to facilitate the communication for all amongst leadership, and then facilitate the training for all the maritime partners to get what – we say the word “get after” but to address these illegal activities in the maritime that have a major impact on the people that live in each of these countries.  

So let me comment one thing on what Capt. Neslen mentioned on the assembly and the construct of the training.  We – he and I both keep talking about information-sharing as the central part of the communication channel.  One of our additional channels is that we’ve asked our partners in the U.S., the U.S. Coast Guard, to bring six teams to train us – train us all, really – in law enforcement and in holding onto contraband, the chain of custody for evidence, and being able to have a legal finish as opposed to a violent finish.  The legal finish is very important, and it is one of the things that made the Djibouti Code of Conduct successful in the early stage against anti-piracy, was our ability to identify the pirates, to identify a place to hold them in a humane way, to prosecute, and to have them be returned to their host nation.  And it’s never perfect, but it was a deterrent that has mitigated and limited piracy and illegal activities in this part of Africa and the Western Indian Ocean.  

We feel like that’s a very important step, so our Coast Guard presence is a big part of our construct and our sensitivity to the pandemic is also an effort to keep the relations built, constructive, and growing, while at the same time understanding the restrictions with the host nation and the precautions from our medical experts.  

So these are our efforts, there are our focuses to continue to build in these areas and to continue to build across all of Africa in our participation.  So, thank you, Ms. Scott.  

Moderator:  Thank you.  The next question will go to Madagascar.  The question is from Mr. Vonona of Radio Oasis:  “Hello, I would like to have more information about Madagascar’s participation in the Cutlass Express military exercise.”  And he adds, “What could this bring to the protection of the Malagasy coast?”

Rear Adm. Spivey:  The Madagascar team has an important component.  They’re a little bit inland, but they’re an important part of our information-sharing network.  We intend to continue to build in the Western Indian Ocean our capacities and our partnerships.  Our next exercise is just six to eight months away, so we are leaving this exercise from our relationship-building and development posture, and we are transitioning into our planning for the following exercise in early calendar year 2022.  That will be a broader scope and Madagascar will certainly be a part of that and a vital member of that.  So thank you for that question.

Moderator:  Okay, we have time for a couple more questions.  This one is coming from Mozambique, from Milton Maluleque from Deutsche Welle-Africa, the Portuguese-language service:  “Mozambique is receiving troops from SADC.  Some will be engaged in fighting terrorism and others are coming to train the Mozambican forces.  With a new U.S. ambassador who knows very well terrorism, is this a sign of U.S. wanting to be involved directly in curbing the terrorism in Mozambique?”

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Curbing terrorism is in all of our interests, and all of our interests for every participating nation.  AFRICOM has a unique perspective and position on this that I will leave to AFRICOM, but the answer that I believe is appropriate is that we’re all committed to safe operations at sea; we’re all committed to eliminating violent extremism to the degree that we possibly can because we know the negative effects that it has on a society, and we’re interested in facilitating Mozambique’s safe and success [sic] growth in the blue economy.

Moderator:  Thank you.  We’ll take one more question from our questions, and this is regarding the Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct that you mentioned at the top of your remarks:  “How did partnership nations exhibit this code of conduct during the exercise?”

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Let me first ask Capt. Neslen if there were specific serials, and then I’ll follow up with that.

Capt. Neslen:  Yeah.  So, Admiral, the – we had just – the emphasis here on the Djibouti Code of Conduct and Jeddah Amendment was just the information-sharing and the coordination between the partner nations.  And so we’re able to assess that through all of the different scenarios, but there wasn’t a specific of how we’re doing; it’s a more expansive how are we coordinating and communicating between all the partner nations as part of the Jeddah Amendment and the Djibouti Code of Conduct.

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Thank you.  Let me say that the Jeddah Amendment is an expansion for us in the blue economy, and the blue economy means our economic prowess at sea.  And we want the – let me go back and talk about two things.  What we want is an interdependent relationship among all nations and not an independent relationship or a codependent relationship.  So that interdependency is a sophisticated way of being partners and cooperating so that we can eliminate the illicit activity or minimize it so that we can have a stronger economy and so that the resources of Africa can stay in Africa to support the people of Africa.  We’re well aware that Africa as a continent, the population will grow immensely in the next 25 years.  We want the resources that are in Africa to remain part of Africa and to create those interdependent over independent or codependent – not that anybody is codependent, let me clarify that – but that interdependent, positive relationship.

So that’s what we mean by the blue economy.  And we’re here to build the maritime capability to help secure what happens on land and the peace and security of those that live on land, which is most of us.  Thank you.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Let’s take our last live question from Pearl Matibe.  Pearl, you may ask your question.

Question:  Thank you so much for doing this.  My question is regarding I saw that on the Fiscal 2022 budget for this year, for – under security cooperation, it doesn’t sound like a lot of money.  It looked like there’s almost about $78,000, round about that number that seems to be budgeted for security cooperation, which I think Cutlass falls under.  So can you provide a clear explanation of how this is funded?  I know that the U.S. is the sponsor, but beyond DOD I know, perhaps, that Sixth Fleet, NATO – to what extent are they facilitating or helping?  How is this funded?  Do you have enough resources?  And to the American people, how does the United States, how do you explain resources that you are spending in Africa?  Thanks.

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Well, in terms of resources, Africa Command – this is one of their three premier exercises for Africa.  So they’re very committed to funding that, though the appropriations that come from Africa Command are submitted up through the Pentagon and those in the – our funding chain, in Capitol Hill and other places, are fully aware that we support and facilitate security in Africa.  We’re completely confident that we will be able to continue this pathway.  We’re completely confident that we’re joined by the United Nations for their contributions.  We’re joined by other intergovernmental agencies.  And one of the most important partners in all of these in facilitating is the Department of State.

So we have a partnership across many levels of government that are very interested in the peace, security in Africa, and the American people are certainly behind peace and security.  Thank you. 

Moderator:  Thank you.  We have a couple of questions in our Q&A.  Our participants are quite active today.  This is from Georges Stanislas Ouapure Zeze.  He is from Le Tambourin; it’s a newspaper in the Central African Republic.  “I was able to observe that the action of the United States concerns only the coastal countries of East Africa.  My question is this:  Are there similar actions or exercises planned for other coastal countries in other regions of Africa?  What about landlocked countries such as the Central African Republic, which countries that go – countries that go through crisis and which could count on direct bilateral partnership with the U.S.?”

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Well, the bilateral partnerships are always part of the collective region.  Let me say that, first of all, there are 38 of the 54 countries that do have a coast, but – and we are doing a Navy exercise.  However, Rwanda is participating and they are observers, so the landlocked is not a criteria; the willingness and partnership is a criteria and we would certainly seek to develop that.  So nobody is excluded.  We will love to continue to have participation for both bilateral and, equally importantly, multilateral agreements.  But thank you, sir, for that question.

Moderator:  Okay, I think we’re going to take our last question from our – maybe last two from the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti.  “In terms of sharing, not just information, the African partners also need equipment.  How can the U.S. help African partners with needed equipment – for example, new ships and other maritime equipment – to be more efficient and face the challenges of the seas?”  That question is coming from Awo Abdi of Radio Television Djibouti and correspondent for Al Jazeera.

Rear Adm. Spivey:  The U.S. Navy, Sixth Fleet, and AFRICOM works in partnership with the Department of State to provide different sources.  All of our foreign military sales are approved through a series of steps in both the Department of Defense and the Department of State and with the approval over on Capitol Hill.  So the Department of State works with what we call Title 22; the Department of Defense works with what we call foreign military sales.  One of the things that we want to consider is that the highest-possible tech solution is not always the best solution, and we need to look at other ways to communicate and share information, which we’re doing.  There’s another program for excess defense articles that come from different portions, and we – this process is vetted by Department of State, by the Department of Defense, and vetted on Capitol Hill.  So we’re well aware of it and we do all that we can to make sure the countries can not only have equipment but also have the training and then the support to sustain a piece of equipment’s operation.  So we are committed to that posture.  Thank you.

Moderator:  Thank you.  It looks like we lost Capt. Neslen.  We’ll see if he’s able to get back on to give us some closing remarks.  But one question from the Comoros, Mr. Ahmed Bacar from ORTN and RFT in the Comoros:  “What strategies have been put in place to protect the Comoros from regional terrorism?”

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Comoros is a very important Western Indian Ocean nation right in the heart of what’s going on today.  We look for the relationships both bilaterally and multilaterally in the region between Comoros and their neighbors.  That’s the strength of having the opportunity to participate in these senior leadership seminars to build those relationships.  

In terms of terrorism on the high seas, we – remember, the bilateral agreement with Seychelles is a building block.  We’re very happy to have started in that path.  Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar all contribute to that area.  So that’s one of the reasons we’re very interested in this information-sharing, because we know that together we’re stronger, that when you have a partner and a neighbor, that your partners can provide a lot of help and assistance, and we know that when the tyranny of distance gets in the way of other assets being available, readily available.  

So one thing I’d like to add to that is we’d like to – over the course of time these are the things we would talk about in those senior leadership seminars, is the Hershel “Woody” Williams.  The Hershel “Woody” Williams is one of the – is probably – is the third-largest deck in the U.S. Navy.  It is dedicated to operations and to partnership building in Africa.  It frequently circumnavigates around Africa, and we would love to bring that both into Madagascar, Mauritius, Comoros, and to support all of our partners in this region.  I’m making no promises about that right now, but I am saying that that is part of the committed posture of the U.S.  We’re all interested in preventing any type of stronghold or any type of engagement with the VEO activity in Comoros.  Thanks, Ms. Scott.

Moderator:  Thank you.  And our final question is out of Madagascar, from Mr. Gary Ranaivoson of The Express of Madagascar.  His question reads:  “Is this exercise (Cutlass Express) a way of strengthening the military influence of the United States in the region and to compete with other forces, such as France’s French Armed Forces in the Southern Zone of the Indian Ocean?”

Rear Adm. Spivey:  That’s a great question.  We don’t compete with the French because they’re part of NATO and we’re part of NATO.  So we want to augment each other where we have the opportunity to do so.  So if we can use or they can use our availability or we can ask for assistance from them, that’s the kind of partnership example we seek.  That’s the kind of partnership example we like to offer.  And we are a believer in the French capability and that group is there under the French direction, France’s direction, not necessarily excluded or competitive with this exercise, but that’s their national interest there.  

So we are definitely part of NATO and support NATO, and we’d like to keep building that, so to be part of it.  Thank you. 

Moderator:  Perfect.  And we’ll go to some final remarks.  Capt. Neslen, do you have any final words?  And then we’ll follow that with Rear Adm. Spivey’s final remarks.  

Capt. Neslen:  Yes.  Thank you all for this great opportunity to talk about Cutlass Express 2021.  We have learned a lot here.  I know it’s been with a very dynamic and changing COVID-19 environment.  So we have been compliant with everything, all the health and safety protocols.  So we have learned a lot here even amidst the pandemic, and we look forward to the coordination, that information-sharing, as we get ready for Cutlass Express 2022, which is about six months from now.  So thank you all for providing us this opportunity to talk about Cutlass Express 2021.  I’ll turn it over to Rear Adm. Spivey.  

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Thank you, Captain.  Thank you for being in Mombasa.  We hope to see you soon.  And I’d like to thank everyone on the call.  I thank all the journalists and writers from around the region.  This has been a tremendous opportunity to address you and to answer your questions to the best of our ability, and a great opportunity to have Ms. Scott facilitate for the Department of State.  

So Cutlass Express is a building block for our relationship development, and we want to continue to build that going forward.  We will continue to expand that to a network of nations that seeks to eliminate illegal and unreported fishing, anti-piracy, illicit activities at sea, and to respect human life in every regard and commerce and the blue economy.  So thank you for this opportunity.

Moderator:  That concludes today’s call.  I want to thank Rear Adm. Jeffrey Spivey, Vice Commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Director of the Maritime Partnership Program in Africa for U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, and Capt. Cannon Neslen, Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Forces Europe – Africa, Maritime Partnership Program, and U.S. Navy Reserve Detachment 118, for joining us, and thank all of our callers for participating.  If you have any questions about today’s call, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at  Thank you.

Rear Adm. Spivey:  Thank you, Ms. Scott.  I appreciate you moderating.


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U.S. Department of State

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