By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2013 – Five years since it was established as the Defense Department’s newest geographic combatant command, U.S. Africa Command continues to build the partnerships that promote regional capability and a coordinated focus on the African continent, Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, Africom’s commander, said yesterday.
Partnerships -- multinational and interagency -- are the centerpiece of everything Africom does, Rodriguez told reporters during an online news conference held along with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Since its inception, Africom has had a senior Foreign Service officer serving as the commander’s deputy for civil-military engagements. In addition, several interagency partners are represented at Africom’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.
This promotes close collaboration with the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other federal agencies as well as U.S. embassies across the continent that Rodriguez said ensures a coordinated U.S. government approach to African opportunities and challenges.
“Every team has a leader, and in countries where we operate that leader is the U.S. ambassador,” he told reporters.
In addition, Africom partners with nongovernmental organizations across the region, the African Union and other regional organizations, and most importantly, the African nations themselves, Rodriguez said.
For example, working through the State Department and African Union, the command sends trainers and advisors to support the African Contingency Operations Training and Assist Mission that prepares African peacekeeping forces for missions on the continent.
“We have a great relationship with the African Union,” Rodriguez said. “We continue to work with the AU and with regional economic councils and all the partner nations that contribute to peacekeeping operations, to advise and assist them and help them build their defense capabilities.”
The goal, Rodriguez explained, is to strengthen the capabilities of individual African states and regional organizations so they ultimately can provide their own security.
“Our strategy is to develop partners’ security capacity, strengthen relationships and enhance regional cooperation,” Rodriguez said. “We conduct all our military activities in close coordination with our African partners and partners in the U.S. government.”
The strategy is bearing fruit, he reported.
“Today, regional partners are making significant progress in addressing security challenges on the continent,” Rodriguez said. He cited their progress in countering violent extremist organizations, cracking down on illicit trafficking, promoting maritime security and strengthening their defense institutions.
Rodriguez said he hopes to continue building on this progress.
“Africa Command will continue to look for opportunities to better coordinate our strategy with multinational and interagency partners,” he said. “We will align our resources and our strategy and do our very best to ensure we are applying our efforts where they are most effective and most needed.”
In doing so, Rodriguez said, the command will keep “partnership” as the driving force behind its efforts.
“We are committed to being effective members of the team that includes the whole of U.S. government,” he said. “With shared interests and shared values, we will go forward, together, with our African partners.”