Stuttgart, Germany — U.S. Africa Command hosted seven coalition liaison officers (CLOs) assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) in Djibouti for a two-day visit to the command's headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, August 1-2, 2012.
The CLOs' visit, which is the third of its kind since the inception of the command, aimed to build relationships and enabled the officers to become more acquainted with the AFRICOM mission.
The multinational cooperation office of AFRICOM's J-5 (Strategy, Plans, and Programs) directorate hosted the liaison officers. The countries represented included Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, France, Romania, Japan, and South Korea.
"The success of prior visits in 2009 and 2011 indicated we should continue this program on an annual basis," said Eric Wills, AFRICOM's J-5. "Additionally, Headquarters AFRICOM does not have resident (liaison officers) LNOs from African countries, so we try to find every opportunity to engage with Africans as well as other non-NATO partners."
The officers are from countries representing some of the key partners of the U.S. in Africa, and they support the United States' counter-piracy effort in Africa.
During the visit, the CLOs attended various events and meetings, including a welcome by Major General Charles Hooper, U.S. Africa Command's J-5 director, and they met the commander of AFRICOM, General Carter F. Ham. They also attended a command brief highlighting the command's structure, mission and engagement efforts in Africa, and security cooperation.
According to Wills, the headquarters' staff used this opportunity to display the value they place on their partner nations.
General Hooper spent over an hour engaging the CLOs in dialogue during two sessions, and General Ham personally requested an office call with them.
"Despite originally scheduled for 25 minutes, he (Ham) spent an hour with them, fielding their questions and asking his own," Wills said.
The visiting officers also briefed AFRICOM staff members about their duties at CJTF-HOA. They are the link between AFRICOM and their nation's ministries of defense. "They funnel information between their MODs (Ministries of Defense) and U.S. AFRICOM," Wills said. "With many cultural differences between our nations, they also provide context and translation to requests and information."
The first-day briefs incorporated a roundtable discussion session, which allowed the visitors and command staff to reflect on the overall strategy and activities of AFRICOM.
"These officers are returning to CJTF-HOA with a big-picture understanding of how decisions are made at HQ AFRICOM and 'visuals' of who made them and where they are made," Wills said. "We trust they'd return better equipped to answer requests for information (RFIs) from HOA regarding their nation, and to carry forward their national RFIs to HOA/AFRICOM."
One officer from Uganda said he understood from the meetings with the command's general officers that security problems of this era are a global issue.
"They are not one man's job, responsibility or solution," said Lieutenant Colonel Gafabusha Okei Rukogota, a Ugandan Army J5 planning officer. "The United States can't solve them alone; neither can Uganda, nor Africa. It has to be a global coalition, working in concert against the bad boys. This is because the 'bad boys' have joined forces together, and they are operating as a global enemy of humanity, so the international community has got to react in concert and in tandem as a united flank against these forces of evil."
The roundtable and panel discussion, moderated by Lieutenant Colonel William Wyatt, the senior African Foreign Area Officer, allowed more interaction and facilitated two-way discussions among the CJTF-HOA CLOs.
"One of the lessons learned from this was listening," Wills said. "The moderated, panel-audience format showed the CLOs that AFRICOM wanted to hear from them."
An ongoing discussion ensued between the Egyptian and Ugandan officers about the training of national troops in Somalia following the hopeful exit of al-Shabaab forces and the restoration of a national government. Following the discussion, it was deduced that Africans are hopeful for stability and want solutions to terrorist activities within their borders and within their continent, according to Wills.
The CLOs and other U.S. defense components provide support to regional organizations to help foster cooperation, enhance collective peace-keeping, improve humanitarian assistance and support civil-military operations along with U.S. service members at CJTF-HOA.
"The coalition officers are assigned full-time to a U.S. command -- CJTF-HOA, and they are more operationally focused," said Brad Sellers, AFRICOM Multinational Cooperation Center. "We bring these CLOs to AFRICOM to better inform them of their higher command's mission and capabilities, and to give them some strategic insight to AFRICOM's wider strategic viewpoint. This will help them become more effective in their work at HOA, and they will take this improved understanding of AFRICOM back home with them, when their tour with U.S. forces is complete."
Rukogota said the two-day visit was fruitful because it gave them a better understanding of AFRICOM's mission, the commander's intent and the United States' interest in Africa.
"The United States' intent is not to deploy forces (to fight wars) in Africa," Rukogota stressed. "The intent is not to do the job which Africans can do or are obligated to do themselves in their regions. What the United States is doing is empowering the African countries' efforts more, so that they can have the capacity to solve their own problems."