The US Africa Command leader General Stephen Townsend completed his Horn of Africa trip on Tuesday, visiting both Somalia and Djibouti where Washington has strategic interests, especially in security and development sectors.
During the trip, Townsend presided over the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa [CJTF-HOA] change of command ceremony and engage with partners in the region. The US has soldiers stationed in Djibouti.
“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.”
But the focus of his trip was more in Somalia, a country struggling with instability, which is also yet to hold elections following an internal political dispute. The US has been on the frontline pushing for peace and stability in the region for as many months now.
In January, Washington withdrew all the troops serving in Somalia following an Executive Order by former President Donald Trump, a move which was criticized by both the opposition and government. There were close to 700 US Africa Command troops helping in the war against Al-Shabaab.
While visiting Kismayo, Townsend met with the president of the 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.