to Boost Maritime Security
John J. Kruzel
crew aboard USS Fort McHenry is cruising port to port in
the Gulf of Guinea off Africa’s west coast,
training African volunteers to bolster regional security. Roughly halfway through
a seven-month mission, the Africa Partnership Station is a U.S.-led response
to requests by African nations for military-to-military
or civilian-military maritime training, said Navy Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller,
U.S. Africa Command’s deputy commander for military operations. AFRICOM
is set to become fully functional Oct. 1.
concept of the Africa Partnership Station emanates from requests
from the Africans themselves to be in a position where they
could in fact have established the situational awareness and
control over their maritime environment, which they recognized
they did not have,” the admiral said during an interview
at the Pentagon.
the members of the training team — which comprises U.S. Navy,
Coast Guard and interagency members, plus European allies —
are working to increase the professional capabilities and capacity
of their African counterparts.
very much interested in working with our African partners on
those security matters that are of most concern to them, and
how we can work more closely with them in response to their
desires, their needs that they themselves have identified,” he
said maritime threats to the African continent include piracy,
oil smuggling and human trafficking, among others. According
to a fact sheet published by Navy Office of Information, 62
piracy attacks were reported in African waters in 2006, illegal
oil bunkering in the Niger Delta is a $3 million-per-day industry,
and 60-percent of human trafficking occurs in Sub-Saharan Africa.
(these threats) themselves, the Africans have requested that
we provide this kind of assistance,” Moeller noted.
APS operators have trained more than 600 African sailors from
nine countries in various subjects, including leadership, logistics,
navigation, small boat handling, port security and martial
arts, according to the Navy fact sheet.
to military-to-military training, APS last month donated 15
pallets of food to AIDS patients and orphans in Cameroon. In
concert with partners in Ghana, the APS crew used USS Fort
McHenry’s landing craft to deliver materials to ports
at Tema and Sekondi.
The APS visit,
designed to support and strengthen regional capabilities in
West and Central Africa, is one in a series of activities aimed
at building comprehensive maritime security on the African
continent. APS is inspired by the belief that effective maritime
safety and security will contribute to development, economic
prosperity, and security ashore, Moeller said.
(African participants) essentially to police and have control
over (the maritime) environment leads directly and contributes
directly to assure the ability of those countries to develop
economically in a very stable way,” he said, “because
there’s a direct relationship between a secure maritime
environment and a secure and stable terrestrial environment.”
said that by responding to specific African requests for assistance,
and aligning itself with broad international and U.S. objectives,
APS’s charter reflects the overarching Africa Command
think the Africa Partnership Station precisely epitomizes the
kind of activities that AFRICOM will be doing with our African
partners in the future,” he said. “It is all about
building the capacity of our African partners to be able to
attend to their own security needs.”
Home to a
large section of the world’s population, Africa is a
continent of increasingly important strategic interests, Moeller
said. It also is the site of humanitarian need, with regard
to widespread instances of HIV, AIDS and malaria, and holds
natural resources that haven’t found their way to the
global market, he added.
Department currently divides responsibility for Africa among
three combatant commands: European Command, Pacific Command
and Central Command. AFRICOM is a three-pronged defense, diplomatic
and economic effort designed to enable U.S. government elements
to work in concert with African partners without bureaucratic
divisions created by the shared command structure.
said AFRICOM will begin to assume responsibilities from EUCOM
over the coming months. As Oct. 1 approaches, AFRICOM will
begin assuming PACOM and CENTCOM responsibilities.
the transition from three combatant commands to one is “a
work in progress.” Members of the commands involved have
held planning conferences over last several months to work
through the details of how missions, activities, programs and
exercises will be shifted into AFRICOM’s purview.
commands, AFRICOM will be staffed by a large number of State
Department and U.S. Agency for International Development members,
including a deputy commander of civilian-military operations.
Africa Command was conceived by President Bush and the Pentagon
as a way to maintain a sole focus on the interests of African
partners. The consolidation allows for more responsiveness
and effectiveness. Additionally, it recognizes the growing
strategic importance in “full spectrum” of strategic
rolling all that up into one command,” Moeller said, “part
of our focus was to think through how we could best support
other parts of the U.S. government agencies that conduct activities
with our African partners across the continent.”