U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command, traveled to Djibouti and Somalia to preside over the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) change of command ceremony and to engage with partners in the region, May 14-18.
“I came on this trip to East Africa for three reasons, first, to Djibouti to oversee the change of command of CJTF-Horn of Africa where Maj. Gen. Lapthe Flora passed responsibility to Maj. Gen. Bill Zana,” said Townsend. “Second, to visit with our troops in Somalia working with our Somali and AMISOM partners there and third to engage with Djiboutian and Somali leaders and partners from the international community. It has been an informative and productive visit.”
As the presiding officer for the CJTF-HOA change of command ceremony, Townsend recognized the achievements of outgoing Commanding General, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Lapthe Flora and welcomed the incoming Commanding General, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Zana.
“Under Maj. Gen. Flora’s leadership, CJTF-HOA, at the most important U.S. base in Africa, has promoted stability, responded to crises and protected U.S. interests across East Africa,” said Townsend.
While in East Africa Townsend conducted several key leader engagements with U.S., international and African partners.
While in Djibouti, Townsend met with Djiboutian leaders including Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation; M. Hassan Omar Mohamed, minister of defense; and Maj. Gen. Zakaria Chekh Ibrahim, chief of defense. Townsend also met with French Brig. Gen Stéphane Dupont, commander, French Forces in Djibouti; and members of the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, including Ambassador Jonathan G. Pratt. During these engagements, Townsend discussed collaboration with allies and partners to support security efforts in East Africa.
“Stability and security in East Africa benefits from partnership across the U.S. government and with a wide range of partners,” said Townsend. “That is why frequent engagement with our international and East Africa partners remains critical to security and success.”
Townsend and Pratt participated in the handover ceremony of a field hospital to the government of Djibouti in support to Djibouti’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is our priority goal to strengthen security for the United States, Djibouti, and the region to improve the access of every citizen to essential medical services,” said Pratt.
Townsend also traveled to Somalia, where he conducted several engagements with key leaders. While visiting Kismayo, Townsend met with the president of Jubaland government Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe to discuss counter terrorism cooperation.
Additionally, while in Somalia, Townsend met with the Minister of Defense, Hassan Hussein Hajji; Somali National Army’s Deputy Chief of Defense Forces, Brig. Gen, Abbas Amin Ali; and U.S. Embassy colleagues in Mogadishu, including Colleen Crenwelge, deputy chief of mission/chargé d’affaires, to discuss the security cooperation efforts and strengthen critical partner relations in the region.
Townsend also engaged with several ambassadors from the international community to discuss how multinational efforts and communication can continue to enhance security in the region.
“U.S. Africa Command works with our international partners to help Somalia face its numerous security challenges. It remains critical for Somalia’s leaders to resolve their ongoing political disagreements in order to refocus on their significant security threats,” said Townsend. “It is also critical that Al-Shabaab’s influence and ambitions remain in check. Al-Shabaab’s ability to threaten regional stability and to conduct external operations must be degraded.”
On the trip Townsend was accompanied by the Command Senior Enlisted Leader, Sgt. Maj. Richard Thresher. Thresher’s presence demonstrated the priority placed on developing the enlisted corps of partner forces. During the trip, Thresher and Townsend conducted various engagements and recognized troops in the region.
“Every time I have the opportunity to get to the continent to engage with our African and international partners it deepens our collective ability to work together in a meaningful way to enhance security, stability and interoperability in the region,” said Thresher.