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Judith Snyderman - Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2010 - Supporting the work of African nations in creating African solutions for African challenges is the mission of the newest U.S. unified command, a senior official of the command said yesterday. Navy Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller, deputy for military operations at U.S. Africa Command, explained what the command does -- and what it does not do -- in a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable.
"We do not lead or create policy," Moeller said. "Our programs are designed to respond to what our African partners have asked us to do." African nations want to provide for their own security, he added, but they welcome help in building strong, effective and professional forces.
Operations such as the Africa Partnership Station and an African maritime law-enforcement program address crimes carried out at sea, such as illegal fishing and drug trafficking, Moeller said, noting that maritime problems have a negative effect across the entire continent and are especially vexing for West African nations.
One of the ways U.S. Africa Command assists is by bringing together experts at events designed to build the capacity of defense forces, the admiral said.
"We send small teams to dozens of countries and offer our perspective on military topics such as leadership, aircraft maintenance, the importance of an inspector-general program, loading equipment onto aircraft for deployment [and] the finer points of air traffic control," he explained. The list of subjects also includes port security and military law, he added.
Africom also organizes multinational exercises that allow participants to practice working together to solve regional security issues. Last year's communications exercise, called Africa Endeavor, was so successful that it will be repeated this year and the number of nations taking part will increase from 25 to 30, Moeller said. Another exercise, called Flintlock, focuses on North and West African nations. It kicks off next month with participation from European nations.
Sometimes, Moeller said, the command assists with civil projects such as digging wells or building schools that are routed through the U.S. Agency for International Development or accomplished in response to requests from U.S. embassies.
While many positive aspects of the command go unnoticed in the media, Moeller said, some recent articles have speculated erroneously that the U.S. military is involved inside Somalia.
"We don't plan, nor direct, nor coordinate military operations in Somalia" for the country's transitional federal government, he said. "We have not and will not be providing direct support for any potential military offensives" by Somali government forces.
Africom has acted in an advisory capacity and in a training role for nations that provide peacekeeping forces throughout Africa, such as Burundi and Uganda, the main contributors to the African Union Mission in Somalia, the admiral said, and the command also listens to the needs of regional economic and political groups such as the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union.
Africom also supports the work of U.S. Central Command in U.S. counter-piracy activities in the Gulf of Aden and off the east coast of Somalia, Moeller said. Overall, he added, the command shares expertise but doesn't proscribe how it should be applied.
"We are not imposing the U.S. way upon our partners, because it might not be the right way for them," he said.
Moeller said he envisions a time when the work of U.S. Africa Command contributes to the kind of sustained security and stability that allows economic development and better living conditions to flourish and to improve the lives of people across the continent.