The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) sponsored a symposium on counter illicit trafficking for select Djiboutian officials at the Kempinski Hotel, in Djibouti City, Djibouti, Oct. 15-18, 2012.
The symposium, coordinated by Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa and DTRA members, was held to raise awareness about counter illicit trafficking (CIT) threats and to build a community of security professionals from the Djiboutian government, CJTF-HOA and the U.S., who will work together to prevent and reduce illicit trafficking through land and maritime security.
"We are trying to raise awareness about CIT risks and threats and come up with ideas, recommendations and simple practices to integrate both land and maritime security to develop a comprehensive border security for the government of Djibouti," said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Veronica Cowher, Defense Threat Reduction Agency regional security engagement program coordinator.
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Eugene Haase, CJTF-HOA deputy commander, opened the symposium with his remarks regarding the importance of coming together to discuss CIT.
"Countering these types of activities takes a collected effort," Haase said. "It's the military. It's the police force. It's the educators in the country. It's the judicial side of the country, and it's not just several countries that solve this problem. It's all of the countries within areas that come together to support each other to shut this kind of activity down."
The symposium was designed to present CIT concepts in lecture, followed by smaller break-out groups to apply and discuss the topics. According to Cowher, the small groups allowed for open communication where people could voice their own ideas and participate in small exercises.
Some of the briefings covered topics such as mechanics of illicit trafficking, maritime smuggling and security challenges of under-governed territory. The briefings were of particular interest to the HOA staff who attended the symposium.
"Some civilians and service members from the HOA staff also attended various briefings," said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Nathaniel Hathaway, CJTF-HOA strategy and plans officer. "They were there not only to learn about illicit trafficking, but to build relationships with our host [and] partner nation. The goal of this is to bring Djiboutians together from different pieces of their government and show that it takes a 'whole government' approach and a lot of commitment to counter illicit trafficking."
According to Cowher, everyone attending the symposium had different levels and backgrounds in the area and this symposium was a good opportunity to meet, discuss challenges, become friends and plan future arrangements.
"This is my program's first engagement in Africa, and we are delighted to be here and raise awareness about the issue," Cowher said. "We very much would like to partner with this country and CJTF-HOA on future engagements."