Stuttgart — Students of the George C. Marshall Center's Program in Advanced Security Studies (PASS) visited U.S. Africa Command November 5, 2012, to learn more about the command's mission and objectives and to hear first-hand about its role in combating security issues in Africa.
PASS is a 10-week graduate-level course that focuses on security policy, defense affairs and international relations. The students, 12 African military officials and two civilians, were all visiting the command for the first time.
During the visit, the students had an opportunity to meet U.S. AFRICOM Commander General Carter F. Ham.
The general addressed their questions about the security issues facing Africa today and AFRICOM's partnership efforts to help fight the spread of terrorism.
In his reply to a question by Senegalese Major Yaya Mobodji about the potential spread of narcotics from Guinea Bissau to Senegal, Ham highlighted some of the command's efforts in the region.
"We are working with the U.S and international law enforcement agencies and with our own U.S. drug enforcement agencies to help counter the flow of drugs," Ham said. "We are working with the Senegalese Navy and with other navies and coast guards in the region to try to interdict the movement of illegal narcotics in and around Guinea Bissau and to interrupt the flow of financing."
In a briefing by Ambassador Helen La Lime, director of Outreach, the students learned about the evolution of the command, and the whole-of-government approach.
Ambassador La Lime said the command's approach is about communicating with the African government and doing what Africans think is best for Africa. According to her, the interagency presence is a vital part of this approach.
"We are here to provide certain perspectives to make sure that what goes on here is consistent with the interest of your (African) government," Ambassador La Lime said to the visitors. "While the role of the military is important, maybe even crucial in many cases, for the long-term prosperity, development of the continent, it's only one piece of the puzzle, and it is a non-decisive piece."
After the briefings and a lunch meeting with AFRICOM desk officers who represent each of their countries, the visitors said they will be returning home with a better understanding of the command.
Major Raafat Elsayed from Egypt described the visit as fruitful because they all had an understanding of the goals of the command and some of the most important issues to AFRICOM. "For example, General Ham told us about three important topics on what is going on in Somalia, Libya and Mali, and he made us aware of other important issues in Africa today," Elsayed said. "This program at the Marshall Center is very useful because it makes us aware of the current happenings all over the world."
He added that he would apply all the knowledge gained from the program in his country.
Apart from applying the knowledge, Ham urged them to maintain and take advantage of the connections that they have established.
"The threats that we face are never faced by one country alone," Ham said. "The threats are transnational, international, regional and sometimes global, so it takes all of us working together to try to address these threats and challenges. Programs such as this at the Marshall Center are intended to do just thattâ? to cause us each to look at problems not only from our own perspectives or from our own national background and experience, but try to understand these security challenges from the perspectives of others. I think that is the great value."