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Summary

  • During a telephonic press briefing, U.S. Army Europe-Africa Generals discussed the recent U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Army Africa consolidation; the continued commitment of the U.S. army to  African allies; and the multinational African Lion training exercise scheduled in June 2021.

 

Click here to download or listen to the audio file.

Moderator:  Good afternoon, everyone, from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub.  I would like to welcome 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 General Christopher G. Cavoli, Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe and Africa, and Major General Andrew Rohling, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe-Africa.  General Cavoli and Major General Rohling will discuss the recent U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Army Africa consolidation, the continued commitment of the U.S. Army to our African allies, and the multinational African Lion training Exercise scheduled in June 2021.  They are joining us from Vicenza, Italy.

We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from General Cavoli and Major General Rohling, then we will turn to your questions.  We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the briefing.

If you would like to join the conversation on Twitter, please use the hashtag #AFHubPress and follow us on @AfricaMediaHub, @USArmyEURAF, and @SETAF_Africa.

As a reminder, today’s call is on the record, and with that I will turn it over to General Christopher Cavoli, Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe and Africa, for his opening remarks.

General Cavoli:  Thank you, Marissa.  Good afternoon, everybody.  Thank you for joining us today.  I am Chris Cavoli.  I’m the Commander of the U.S. Army Europe and now, since the beginning of October, I’m the Commander of U.S. Army Europe and Africa, which is the new name of our command.  I’m speaking to you today from the Southern European Task Force, Africa headquarters, which is in Vicenza, Italy.  And General Rohling, the Commander of SETAF, Southern European Task Force, and I are about to depart this afternoon for some key meetings with our close partners in Tunisia.  So we’re excited to have the opportunity to speak to you today.

You know what?  Inasmuch as we are in Italy right now, I think I should take a moment to express our deepest sympathies and our sympathies and condolences for the death of Ambassador Luca Attanasio in the Democratic Republic of the Congo yesterday and for also the death of the carabiniere security guard that the ambassador had with him.  So, to our Italian colleagues, we offer our deepest and most sincere condolences.

As I think most of you are aware, at the end of last year, November, the U.S. Army announced the consolidation of U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Army Africa into one four-star Army service component command.  This is a very exciting change for us because it will allow the U.S. Army to expand its focus and to enhance its commitment to both European and African security issues.  This consolidation is an example of how the U.S. Army is modernizing and how we’re posturing ourselves to be able to think regionally, and in this case across an entire hemisphere, rather than sort of artificially dividing up problem sets by our administrative boundaries.

But this is not just a consolidation of headquarters.  It’s also a consolidation of our capabilities across Europe and Africa.  European and African issues are inextricably linked, I think it’s very safe to say.  I know many of our allies here in Europe certainly agree with that.  The close geography and economic ties between the two continents means that regional security issues, left unchecked, quickly spread from one area to another.  So this consolidation enables greater synchronization of operations in Africa with our NATO allies here in Europe, many of whom have very important security concerns and security interests in Africa.  This gives me the opportunity as the Commander of a force based in Europe to coordinate closely with our European allies on their operations and activities and their investments in Africa.  So this is a – this is a very big advance, both north of the Mediterranean and south of the Mediterranean.

In addition, the consolidation enables certainly to shift forces dynamically and move forces from one theater to another, from one continent to another, which really improves significantly our regional contingency response times and it optimizes the command and control of all the U.S. land forces in this region.

The new combined headquarters is going to provide administrative backbone and strategic-level guidance for all land forces from the United States in both Europe and Africa, and this will enable us to use the Southern European Task Force, Africa, SETAF-AF, to spend every day focused on enhancing regional security and stability by working with our African, international, and interagency partners.  So from our headquarters in Wiesbaden, I will be able to provide strategic direction and resources, and from the headquarters here in Vicenza, Major General Andy Rohling will focus exclusively and solely on African issues for us.

SETAF will continue its direct support to U.S. Africa Command.  It will remain right here in Italy and it will retain its current strength of military and civilian personnel.  So essentially, rather than – rather than viewing this as an additional task for U.S. Army Europe, in fact it’s an opportunity for the U.S. Army Europe headquarters, with a four-star headquarters, to provide additional support and additional resourcing to the Southern European Task Force, which has always for the past 10 years been focused on Africa.  So I think it’s a win-win.

SETAF will be responsible for all Army operations and Army assets in Africa and in Italy as well, and we will also control the 173rd Airborne Brigade, a parachute brigade that’s always been located right here in Vicenza, Italy.  

With that I’ll hand the microphone over to Major General Andy Rohling, who will speak to you a little bit about the SETAF mission in Africa.  Andy?

Major General Rohling:  Sure.  Thank you, sir, and that you, Marissa, for moderating today.  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to discuss our new command structure and to answer some of your questions.  

So, to be clear, my command, the United States Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, remains focused on Africa every day.  That has not and it will not change with this consolidation.  This headquarters already knows the lay of the land in Africa, and it has built relationships that will ensure and serve our mutual goals.  We remain committed to working with our partners on the continent of Africa and welcome the ability to reach out to other U.S. Army commands in Europe to help support our mission and our exercises.  

With this consolidation, the Army can focus on exercises like African Lion, with a more seamless, efficient operation, where one four-star command is now [inaudible] forces within the theater.  When an emergency situation arises and the U.S. Army is asked to assist, we can look at and access assets already on this side of the world, both in Africa and in Europe, to decide how best to support the mission.  

The consolidation of our two commands is a win for Africa and a win for the United States Army.  I look forward to continuing my work with our partners in Africa and I look forward to answering your questions today.

Moderator:  Thank you, Major General Rohling and General Cavoli.  We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call.  For those asking questions, please state your name, affiliation, and limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing: the U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Army Africa consolidation, the continued commitment of the U.S. Army to African allies, and the 2021 African Lion training exercise.  

We have received some of your questions submitted in advance by email and journalists may continued to submit those questions in English on Twitter and via email to AFMediaHub@state.gov.  Please be considerate to other journalists on the call and make your questions as brief as possible.

To start us off, both of you mentioned African Lion and that it is a flagship multinational exercise in Africa.  What are the plans now and how have they been altered by COVID-19?

General Cavoli:  Let me take that first, Andy, and then hand it over to you for some detail.  So African Lion is U.S. Africa Command’s flagship exercise for the year.  It is really a focus of General Townsend, the AFRICOM Commander, because it’s going to give us the opportunity to work interoperability issues not just with key African partners but also with some of our European allies as well.  And it’s interesting because it will take place at about the same time as the U.S. Army Europe exercise DEFENDER 20, which is linked to a NATO exercise called Steadfast Defender, and it will be a great opportunity from my perspective to demonstrate our ability to conduct operations on two continents simultaneously.  So it’s a very exciting thing.

Andy, would you like to cover some of the detail?

Major General Rohling:  Yes, sir.  Thank you.  So as many of you know, African Lion ’20 was – we canceled African Lion ’20 last year because of the impact from COVID.  So this year, when we designed African Lion ’21, we specifically designed it to be flexible, to be able to adapt with where the world and each of the countries of Africa were in their fight against COVID, to be able to execute some form of an exercise, and then well down the road being able to do that.  And so this year we’ll conduct African Lion with about 10,000 troops and about 20,000 of our – 10,000 troops and about 20 of our partner nations.  We’re going to conduct it in three countries: the countries of Morocco, Senegal, and Tunisia.  And it’s a pretty scalable exercise.  So if between now and the execution in June we continue to have challenges with COVID, we’ll scale the exercise up or down to fit accordingly.  But in the end, we’re going to have a good training opportunity and it’ll be good for all the allies that are involved.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next we’ll go to some of our questions live.  We have a question from Sebastian Sprenger of Defense News.  Mr. Sprenger, please ask your question.

Question:  Thank you very much.  My question relates to a comment you made earlier, which is European and African issues are inextricably linked.  What do you – what would you like to see the Europeans do more in the African theater?  And real quick, what kinds of Chinese activity do you see in the theater at the moment that you consider to be problematic?  Thank you.

General Cavoli:  Let me take a stab at that first and then turn to Rohling.  This is General Cavoli speaking.  Our European allies and partners actually already are very active in Africa, and we find ourselves in support of their efforts.  Importantly, a great example of this is the French-led efforts in Mali, where we provide some ISR support and aerial refueling and transport and things like that.  And as you know, the United States is very eager to see our European allies lead in that fashion and we’re – and we’re likewise eager to support when that comes out.  So I think Africa is a good example of exactly the sort of thing that we are – that we are looking for.

This consolidation of our headquarters is going to provide us, in the land forces, the opportunity to provide better support and more agile support because I will be able to move forces around from one continent to the other.  So, in fact, we are – we have been coordinating very closely with our European allies on some of these questions.  In my first weeks of command at the new consolidated headquarters, I had consultations with my colleagues in Portugal, in Spain, in Italy.  I recently returned from a visit to Paris where we discussed operations, activities, and investments in Africa.  So I think it’s moving very much in the direction – in a direction that we like.

I’ll pass it to Andy for a second.  I’ll come back to your question on China in a moment.

Major General Rohling:  Thank you, sir.  And sir, if I could, actually I’ll start with China and then — 

General Cavoli:  Okay.

Major General Rohling:  — you can continue on.  Sebastian, thanks for your question.  Africa is an emerging front on global power competition, and China is looking to compete in Africa and they’re seizing opportunities across the continent.  Our strategic approach, the United States strategic approach, continues – is that of continuing to position the U.S. and our allies as the partners of choice in Africa.  We continue to provide a preferable alternative to partnering with an actor who may undermine the economic, political, and security institutions as well as increased instability across the continent of Africa.

So our competitive security edge lies primarily with the superiority of our equipment, of our training, of our education, and the other security assistance that we provide; and secondly, it’s our support to counterterrorist operations across the continent.

Sir, if you had anything else you wanted to —

General Cavoli:  No, no, that really covered it, Andy.  Thanks.

Moderator:  Thank you.  The next question, we go live to Ms. Anna Chibamu of Zambia, from New Zambia – New Zimbabwe, I’m sorry.  NewZimbabwe.com.  Ms. Chibamu, please ask your question.

Question:  Thank you so much.  My question is forecasts on the [inaudible] in Africa [inaudible] recently that most African countries [inaudible] killed innocent civilians each time and [inaudible] involved in such issues and they just die a natural death.  So I wanted to know is this consolidation of Europe and Africa going in any way to improve the way, like, [inaudible] governments are running the continent, especially in Africa?  Recently, [inaudible] Mozambique [inaudible] Angola, in the DRC the [inaudible] and many people are losing their lives.  How do you intend to improve on the situation in this region?  Thank you so much.

General Cavoli:  Hey, Marissa?  Thank you for your question, ma’am, very much.  Marissa, we’re just a little bit unclear on this end.  Could you restate the question for me and I can get at it?

Moderator:  Okay.  Anna, if you could just be clear and give us one line of the question, because it was a bit difficult to understand.  Just go to your exact question.  Thank you.

Question:  Okay.  I want to know: This consolidation of the two continents, Europe and Africa, by the U.S., how is this going to resolve the issues that [inaudible] in the region?

General Cavoli:  Okay, ma’am, I think I got it.  How does the – how does the consolidation of these headquarters, how is it going to assist with political developments on the continent?  Well, it’s obviously our goal always to contribute positively and constructively to any development or evolution anyplace, but, as a military headquarters, I have to say that we defer on that to the Department of State, that they have the lead through our country teams and our embassies in every nation to lead U.S. foreign policy there, and we’re in complete support of that.  I do think, though, it’s important to note that U.S. military cooperation is always conditioned upon respect for the rule of law and for human rights, and these are things that are enshrined in the laws that govern our military cooperation and fund our military cooperation.

So without avoiding your question, I would have to defer it to the Department of State, but also to state firmly that the U.S. military’s goals are to produce security in the context of good governance.  Thank you for the question.  It’s a super-important one from our perspective.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next we’ll go to a question that was submitted to us from Germany, from Die Rheinpfalz newspaper, from Ilja Tuchter.  The question is, “Could you please give an estimate as to how long the announced review of global threats and necessary troop levels might take?”

General Cavoli:  Gosh, I – I’d have to say I don’t know off the top of my head.  I believe it was publicly announced at 120 days, but I can’t say for sure.  But what I can say is that that review has been directed and that review has begun, and I’m sure that all relevant considerations and voices will be heard, and I look forward to a good conclusion on it.

What I can say for sure is that whatever the U.S. decides will be a reflection of our continued commitment to the NATO alliance and to the security of Europe and the globe.  So I’m sorry I don’t have more details on that for you, but I think that helps a little bit.

Moderator:  Thank you.  We had a lot of questions come in on counterterrorism and what’s going on in Africa, so rather than sort of go through all of those questions, if you could just give us a general comment on the threats in Africa and what the new command is doing to fight against terrorism on the continent.

General Cavoli:  Okay, sure.  So our activities on the African continent are directed by U.S. Army Africa Command, which derives its forces authority from the Secretary of Defense and the executive authority of the United States, and those activities are varied.  For the most part, the Army in Africa, so the Southern European Task Force tasks, are really – come into two categories.  One is support to those conducting counterterrorist operations, and the other is capacity-building with our partners in Africa.  And for a couple of details on that, I think I should – I should pass this to Andy, to General Rohling, who can tell you a little bit about each of those categories.

Major General Rohling:  Thank you, sir.  And so right, Marissa, as General Cavoli pointed out, capacity-building or theater security cooperation is the majority of our activities that we do, and I’ll give you some of those examples.  We conduct counter-IED training for countries across the continent.  We provide logistics training, engineer training, medical training, and mission-command training to our partners.  I’ll give you an example of our medical training.  Last – the year before COVID restrictions, we had conducted a medical readiness exercise where we had conducted over 600 surgeries alone in the year – that’s FY ’18 to ’19 – and we have six more of those medical exercises planned this year, and they make a significant impact across all of Africa.  And as well as we have what really has been a game-changer for us on the African continent, which is our Security Force Assistance Brigade and elements.  Currently, we have Security Force Assistance elements in Djibouti, we have them in Tunisia, and we’re making reconnaissance in other countries across Africa. 

General Cavoli:  Andy, why don’t you describe what the Security Force Assistance Brigade —

Major General Rohling:  Sure.  So the Security Force Assistance Brigade has kind of changed out with what we were calling the regionally aligned forces for the United States Army, and the purpose is to build an organization capable of training our partners and training with our partners to increase their capacity.  And so those Security Force Assistance Teams are broken into small groups of between 10 and 20.  They’re focused, the majority, around logistics, fire support, mission command and maintenance, and in cooperation with the country teams we look for what capacity is best designed and ready for that country and then we bring one of those teams over to conduct training with that country.  And it’s been quite effective and we’re really excited to see this capability grow across Africa.

General Cavoli:  And I should point out from the European perspective, we have another Security Force Assistance Brigade that this Spring will be dedicated to the European theater and will be working to perform some of the same – the same types of capacity-building in Europe.  So we’re very excited about that.  It’s a pretty innovative new formation that the U.S. Army has come up with as part of its modernization program, and I think it will have some really significant strategic results for us.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next we’ll go live to Joyce Karam of The National newspaper.  Joyce, please ask your question.

Question:  Yes, hi, good morning from Washington, D.C. and thanks for doing this.  I actually wanted to ask you, General – you did say you’re going to Tunisia, if you can tell us more about that trip and who you’ll be meeting there and military interests and such.  And I know AFRICOM was just in Sudan.  How is that cooperation going with the new transitional authority there?  Will we see any new [inaudible] naval base perhaps in Sudan?  Thank you.

General Cavoli:  Thank you, ma’am.  I’ll start with a couple of framing comments and then turn it over to General Rohling.  But before I do that, on your second question about Sudan, I’m sorry, I haven’t spoken with General Townsend or his team since their visit.   So I would be – I would be an imperfect messenger on what transpired there, so I’ll defer to him on that if you don’t mind.

With regard to Tunisia, we’re very excited.  Tunisia is an extremely important partner of the United States, as you know, and it is an extremely important focus country for the U.S. Army – U.S. AFRICOM, therefore for the U.S. Army in Africa.  We’re going to meet with the chief of the Tunisian land forces, General El Ghoul, and we are going to become acquainted with his operations, his modernization investments programs.  We’re also going to spend some time at some of the schools that we work on with them as well as their special forces command, and we’re going to spend a little bit of time visiting our Security Force Assistance Brigade, which works with a variety of different levels of command of the Tunisian army.  So it should be a – it should be a great trip.  For General Rohling perhaps it will be a revisit, but for me it will also be the first time I’ve visited Tunisia, so I very much look forward to seeing (a) that beautiful country, but (b) to tying in with such a critical security partner on the African continent.

Andy, you want to fill —

Major General Rohling:  Sir, as you kind of touched on at the beginning, Tunisia is of course a strong partner in counterterrorism efforts, and it’s one of our major non-NATO allies in the region.  It’s a pivotal player in the issues that confront the broader Middle East and North African region today.  So also, as you mentioned with the Security Force Assistance Brigade, it is our largest Security Force Assistance Brigade effort in Africa right now, they’ve been there now for several months and in fact it’s also our flagship Security Force Assistance Brigade effort because they’re – they are starting and conducting training that we just haven’t been able to do so far.  So a little bit of learning going on there, and we’re hoping to get the lessons learned and with the great partnership we have right now with the Tunisian army, with them.  And lastly, on a very – on a military and an American standpoint, we’re going to lay a wreath at the American cemetery there as well to pay our respects for our fallen soldiers from World War II, so I’m really looking forward to that event as well.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next question, we’ll go live to Ashley Roque of Janes.  Ashley, please ask your question.

Question:  Yes, hi.  I hope you get there well.  Just two follow-up questions, one on the global force posture review.  Have there been any impacts or changes as you go forward with the consolidation, maybe things that had been put on hold?  And then on African Lion, could you sort of walk us through if you’re going to be using the SFABs to help sort of lay the groundwork for this exercise?  I know in the Indo-Pacific, with the SFABs you talked about using these troops to help make it ready for the exercise.  So could you sort of walk us through that?  Thanks.

General Cavoli:  Thank you very much for the question, ma’am.  Yeah, on the first posture review, obviously the Office of the Secretary of Defense has put some things out publicly about that and I should let those statements speak for themselves and refer you to DOD for more specifics on that.  As you might imagine, things like this tend to evolve fairly quickly and at any given point it’s probably – it’s probably best just to go straight to the source.  So I apologize for passing you off to DOD on that one, but I think that’s the best way for you to get the closest ground-troop information on the status of the force posture review.

On the question of the SFABs and African Lion, yeah, that’s right in our wheelhouse and I appreciate the fact that you’re drawing on the experience in the Pacific, where our first SFABs got to work – well, the first ones outside of Afghanistan.  I think there’s some very good lessons that we can pull from the SFABs’ activities in the Pacific, but there are limits to it as well because each theater is different.  The way we employ the SFABs in Europe is going to be different from the way they were employed in the Pacific, and in Africa I’m sure it will be different again.

Andy, do you want to pick up on that and talk about the SFABs for a minute?

Major General Rohling:  Yes, sir.  Thank you.  So first, just to reiterate, we – the Army loves acronyms.  We call it the SFAB for Security Force Assistance Brigade, but in each country it’s really a Security Force Assistance Team, so a small element of our soldiers that are deployed in each one of those countries goes to conduct training with our allies.  And in the case of Tunisia, for example, Tunisia, where we’re heading tomorrow, one of the things we’re going to talk with them about is exactly how our Security Force Assistance Team there is contributing into African Lion, which is in Tunisia very significantly.  They’re setting the framework right now in their joint operations center and in their artillery schools and their MI school.  And so they will be the conduit for the majority of African Lion ’21 activity in Tunisia through our SFAT out of Tunis.  And so it’s a huge role for us, and so with that, I think that’s it on that one.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Now we will go back live to our questions to Nick Turse.  Mr. Turse, please mention the name of your outlet and ask your question.  

Question:  Thank you.  This is Nick Turse from VICE World News.  I wanted to thank both of you for taking the time to speak with us today.  This piggybacks off the earlier question about counterterrorism.  I’m interested to get from each of you your assessment of the state of violent extremist organizations on the African continent over the last few years, especially in places like the Sahel and Somalia.  Are terrorist groups in these hotspots typically then contained or, in your view, is violence on the rise?  Thank you.

General Cavoli:  Yeah, thanks for the question.  Obviously, the – obviously, the first impression one can get is of a continuing level of violence and activity by extremist organizations there.  There’s also very active operations to counter those extremist organizations, and obviously, those two things interact and sometimes it is our operations, in fact, that call attention to what’s going on.  Here I would call attention to the efforts, again, of the French in the Sahel and offer my condolences to my good friend Thierry Burkhard, the chief of the French army, for the loss of a number of French soldiers earlier this year in a couple of different instances.  

But we continue to work hard in a multilateral sense and with the local African security forces against all of the counter – against all of the violent extremist organizations that we’re aware of, both in East Africa and in West Africa.  And so it’s an ongoing concern.  It’s an ongoing focus of not just the United States, but of coalitions of nations working together down in Africa with our African partners to strengthen governance, to strengthen the security forces, and to assist in their own struggle against extremism which does in some cases threaten stability of our partners.  

And is there anything you want to add?

Major General Rohling:  Yes, sir.  You covered much, but Nick, you’re 100 percent right.  The violent extremist organizations such as al-Shabaab and Boko Haram and others remain a threat.  They’re a brutal, capable enemy, as they’ve planned and conduced numerous violent attacks on African citizens, U.S. military service members, international military forces, and as General Cavoli mentioned earlier in his comments, civilians such as the Ambassador Attanasio from Italy – yesterday he was very unfortunately killed along with his carabiniere security officer.  But the United States is committed to working with our African partners to counter and contain violent extremist organizations, and we’ll continue to do so over the course of time.  

Moderator:  And the next question goes to Kyle Rempfer of Army Times.  Mr. Rempfer, ask your question.

Question:  Hi, thanks for doing this.  I was wondering, the one-year anniversary of the Manda Bay attack last month, and I was wondering if you guys could go into any of the changes that have been born as a result of that, any sort of, like, force protection measures that have increased or changed where soldiers are based around the African continent.  And then also on top of that, I was wondering if as part of the merger between Army Africa and Army Europe, has there been any more medevac capabilities for, like, emergency assets that are now available to soldiers on the African continent?

General Cavoli:  Hey, thanks, Kyle.  This is General Cavoli.  I’ll respond to the second question first and then pass the first question to General Rohling.  So U.S. Africa Command is continuously evaluating the force posture on the African continent and has a very active risk assessment and risk mitigation process, which is to say, yeah, the question of medevac is one of the things we study routinely and frequently.  And the way we posture for it is a reflection of the studied process and the activities we’re conducting at any given time.  

For example, when we conduct African Lion, we’ll have a large group, something around 10,000 soldiers from a variety of countries there.  Clearly, we’ll posture medevac forward during that period to cover that.  So based on not just what activities we are doing, but also the size of the activities and the remoteness of them, and so I hope that got at your question a little bit without going into too many specifics about precise locations of our forces, which of course is [inaudible].

Andy?

Major General Rohling:  Thanks for the question, Kyle.  It’s good to talk to you again after our earlier conversation last year.  Kyle, on the specific findings of Manda Bay, I’m going to have to ask you to refer to AFRICOM and the Department of Defense’s [inaudible] on their timeline, but it’s safe to say that the protection of our U.S. personnel and our partners is paramount and we’re continuingly – we continually assess the risks and change our posture to counter those threats.  And so without specific tactics, techniques, and procedures, we have increased force protections and we have looked at each individual base where every single American soldier is located at and made sure that we have the right equipment and the right response to protect them.

Moderator:  Thank you.  The next question is from – one that came from Cote d’Ivoire, from Agence Ecofin, from Mr. Borgia Kobri.  The question is, “Will the strengthening of the Russian military presence in Africa – specifically Libya, CAR, Sudan, and with a base in Port Sudan – have an influence on the plans of the American Army in Africa?  If so, can we have some details?”  Over.

General Cavoli:  Thank you very much for the question.  Yeah, it’s a good one.  I think the first thing I should say is that the actions and the operations and the activities and the investments of the U.S. Army in Africa are about the United States’ interests and are about our common interests with our African security partners.  So in many ways, this is about us and Africa.  This is – this is not – this is not about somebody else.  

With regards to the Russians specifically, the Russians are using their diplomatic, economic, and in some cases military means to expand their access and influence.  And I think that the United States offers Africa more.  We offer a different model.  We offer stability.  We offer counter-violent extremist organization activity.  And we offer the promise of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, which is what the United States has always stood for and that’s what we bring to our partners in Africa.  

And I think I’ll leave it at that.  This is really about us and our African partners, and we need to have credibility with them in order to compete successfully. 

Moderator:  Thank you. 

General Cavoli:  Thank you for the question.  

Moderator:  Next question sent in from Eric Schmitt of The New York Times: “Please assess the current ISIS and al-Qaida threat in the Maghreb and Sahel, and how an exercise like African Lion helps partner nations confront that threat.”

Major General Rohling:  Well, thank you.  Yeah, African Lion – again, as we talked earlier, and our largest flagship exercise on the African continent in June of this year.  It stresses the interoperability.  It stresses multi-domain operations.  It’s stressing combined joint force and the dynamic forces in – dynamic force employment, global mobility and cross-COCOM activities.  All of these will help us to increase the capabilities of our partners in counterterrorism efforts and then – and help them be pivotal players that confront the issues across Africa today.  

Moderator:  Thank you.  We have a couple of minutes left.  We’ll go to the live line.  Let’s go to Abrahim Mahshie of The Washington Examiner.  Mr. Mahshie, please ask your question. 

Question:  Yeah, thank you so much.  Glad to talk to you again, General Rohling.  So I want to follow up on something you said about how this consolidation is bringing us closer to European and NATO allies and ask a specific question.  How does that allow you to leverage European and NATO resources to confront extremist groups in a more efficient way than previously?  And then a quick follow on the troop drawdown out of Somalia.  How are you still able to train elite groups like the Danab Brigade and confront terrorists – al-Shabab terrorists directly without actual troops in the country.  Thank you.

General Cavoli:  Thanks for the question.  So in terms of how our relationships with our European partners and allies help us in Africa, I think it’s pretty simple.  Typically the relationship with our European armies – with the European armies is my responsibility as the commander of U.S. Army Europe.  So I have these natural relationships with the leaders of all those armies.  We have partnerships with them.  We conduct exercises with them, interoperability exercises.  Plus, there was a time when our partnership sort of didn’t include what they were doing in Africa.  Now it does, and we discussed that.  

And the very first thing that happens, of course, is we have better visibility over what we and they are doing in Africa and we can deconflict where we’re redundant.  We can see where the gaps are and fill in.  And most importantly, we can design complementary activities together.  A great example of how this works is a new initiative, the PAWA, which it – well, partnerships – Partner Armies in West Africa Coordination Center, which the French are standing up in Senegal this year.  I was talking with the chief of the French Army about this just the other day.  They’re setting up this center where we will coordinate – willing nations will come in and coordinate our security assistance activities and make sure that we’re as efficient and as effective as possible.  So that’s just one small example of how we can – how we can do things like this.  

Another example would be to take a large exercise, like we spoke about African Lion several times.  So in African Lion, for the first time this year, the Italian Multinational Division South which is headquartered in Florence is going to participate at the command-and-control headquarters with us down in Africa.  So the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Wolters, had elaborated a new defense – deterrence and defense of the alliance concept which includes Strategic Direction South.  Strategic Direction South is the Mediterranean and southwards, which is part of our 360-degree security concept.  Strategic Direction South is the focus of the Southern European Task Force.  So not only is the Southern European Task Force for Africa focused on Africa, it is also in a U.S. Army contribution to NATO efforts in Strategic Direction South.  

So there are just a ton of different ways that this all comes together.  I guess I could go on and on, but that wouldn’t be appropriate.  Thanks for the question.  Andy, do you want add a — 

Major General Rohling:  Yes, sir.  Thank you.

General Cavoli:  Yeah.

Major General Rohling:  Abrahim, again, great – it’s great to talk to you again.  I think we talked Somalia last time we talked, so a continuation of that conversation.  So I think it’s important first of all to – as you pointed out, is we repositioned in Somalia but we did not withdraw from Somalia, but our repositioning from Somalia does not change our commitment to maintaining the pressure on the violent extremists and those that support them in that region.  

So our task and our commitment remains the same.  Part of the commitment is to train in bilateral engagement with the partner forces, and as you pointed out, the Danab specifically.  And that Danab remains the most well-trained and capable force in Somalia based on their brave soldiers and their commitment to their country.  And so an example of how we’ll get back and – or we’ll continue to train with them is what AFRICOM did about two weeks ago when they went back to Somalia and trained them on the – in the – about the 30th of January after we’d repositioned our forces.  

So we look forward to our continued engagement with our Somalia partners and the Danab members, and we’re looking for their abilities to increase and enhance the regional security.  

Moderator:  Okay.  One last question which I think will interest all of our participants is from Mr. Nagayo Taniguchi from News Socra out of Belgium.  And his question is, “Could you explain relations between your command and Africa Command, AFRICOM, in terms of missions and organization?  And in this context, what kind of role, if any, does Djibouti play for your command?”  So I think with a lot of people – because if you refer something to Africa Command or refer it to the Department of Defense, people get a bit confused because it’s all sort of the – under the umbrella of the U.S. military.  Could you explain the context?  Over.

General Cavoli:  Marissa, thank you very much.  Yes.  I apologize if we have been speaking in self-referential code.  So the way the United States military is organized, we have the armed services: the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, headquartered back in the United States.  And those forces produce – they generate the force.  So the U.S. Army generates the U.S. Army, organizes, trains, and equips the U.S. Army.  Then, for operations, we divide sort of the globe into geographical areas of responsibility.

And U.S. Africa Command is responsible for military operations, activities, and investments in Africa.  It is a joint command which means it contains all of the different forces.  There are Army guys, there are Navy guys, there are Air Force, there are Marines, Special Operations forces all inside the command.  U.S. Army Europe and Africa commands the Army portion.  So there is also – I have a counterpart who commands U.S. Navy Europe and Africa, Admiral Burke.  There is another general, General Harrigian, who commands U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa.  And I am the U.S. Army Europe and Africa Commander.  So I am responsible for land operations, activities, and investments in Africa for General Townsend, who is the Joint Commander of all forces there.  

It’s – Africa Command especially is interesting because when it was founded about a decade ago, it was founded with a very significant interagency component inside it.  In fact, one of the deputy commanders of U.S. Army Africa is a State Department ambassador, and he’s not a political advisor or a consultant; he’s the deputy to General Townsend.  So in addition to having service components – Army, Air Force, Navy, et cetera – we also have a very significant interagency, especially State Department, component so that we can perform in a sort of whole-of-government approach to security issues associated with Africa.  

So one more time, I am for General Wolters in USEUCOM, the Army component commander, so I command the Army in Europe.  And then for General Townsend, I am the Army component commander, so I command the Army forces in Africa.  And there is somebody else who commands the Air Force.  There’s somebody else who commands the Navy.  I hope that was helpful. 

Moderator:  I definitely think that that helps a lot of our participants to better understand the organization of the commands.  Look, I really want to thank you all for your time here and want to ask if you have any final words or remarks?

General Cavoli:  No, just thank you very much for this opportunity.  Thank you all for taking the time to dial in and to listen for a little bit.  I appreciate your questions and your keen interest in what we’re up to.  We’re very excited about the merger.  We’re very excited about the increased U.S. Army focus and commitment to Africa, and we’re very much looking forward to develop relationships with my colleagues across the African continent and just as I have developed those relationships in Europe over the last several years.  

So this is a very exciting time for us, and I really appreciate the enthusiasm and the interest everybody has displayed in having this discussion today.  So, Marissa, thank you very much and thank you for collecting this group of interested journalists together, and we look forward to talking to you again.

Moderator:  That concludes today’s call.  I want to thank General Christopher Cavoli, Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe and Africa, and Major General Andrew Rohling, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe-Africa 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 AFMediaHub@state.gov.  Thank you. 

 

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U.S. Department of State

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