By Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Redente
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Public Affairs
NAIROBI, Kenya – Delegation chiefs participating in the Africa Endeavor 2008 Initial Planning Conference were briefed by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Systems deputy director on the roles and responsibilities of the task force, Dec. 6.
With more than 20 African nations in attendance to the conference, CJTF-HOA used the opportunity to explain their mission, which was presented by Navy Cmdr. Bernadette M. Semple, CJTF-HOA Command, Control, Communications and Computers Systems deputy director.
"It's very rare to get the level of leadership of the five regions of the African continent in one room," said Semple. "It was a great opportunity to tell our story of the three D's – defense, diplomacy and development, and the four P's – prevent, promote, protect and prevail. For African nations to hear our story directly is crucial, and by working and finding solutions together, I believe, will be the impetus for preventing future conflicts. One thing we all agree on is that we cannot have stability or economic prosperity without security and peace."
CJTF-HOA is the only United States task force with a physical presence dedicated to promoting peace and stability on the continent of Africa.
"We understand the challenges of operating in austere environments," said Semple. "Africa is a vast continent of 53 sovereign nation states with often large distances. This 'tyranny of distance' between these nation states and channels of communication are either underdeveloped or inadequate."
There are a number of factors, which preclude Africa from being interoperable, such as proliferation of natural borders, varying telecommunication regulations, high operational and maintenance costs, insufficient bandwidth and poor infrastructure.
"C3 Information Systems supporting the African Union coalition forces must have the capability to rapidly adapt to changing demands in, most times, austere conditions," said Semple. "At CJTF-HOA we understand this, and we are lending our expertise and working toward possible solutions to improve interoperability among African nations and organizations."
Due to the location of the conference and ability to work with Africa Command, CJTF-HOA was able to partner with AFRICOM, Europe Command and the many other organizations involved in AE.
"AFRICOM's strategic communications strategy entails informing African nations about the missions and functions of its organizations on the African continent," said Army Lt. Col. Kevin W. Warthon, AFRICOM Systems Directorate Africa Engagement AE exercise director. "CJTF-HOA will become part of AFRICOMs Theater Counter-Terrorism Campaign, thereby providing a regional counter-terrorism focus in East Africa and Yemen. It exercises command and control of counter-terrorism operations for this area.
"As we develop communications standards and procedures, it's critical that our African partners understand the full intent of our collective efforts, bringing about a more effective and impacting end result – a more stable and secure African continent," Warthon said.
CJTF-HOA was able to support the conference by providing and sharing expertise, experience and knowledge to African C3.
"We're bringing together leading communications experts from across the African continent, Europe and the United States to partner in creating and providing communications standards and procedures in support of the African Union and their standby forces," said Warthon. "This partnership through AE is designed to bring reliable, efficient, protected and interoperable communications to the continent in such a fashion that integrates military, government and civilian components."
AFRICOM's commitment to the AU is in line with the U.S. government's strategic vision to partner with Africa to make it a more stable, secure and democratic continent.
"AE will allow us to apply our core technology for social, economic and environmental benefits while at the same time building military capacity and stimulating good governance," said Warthon. "AE has already made a dramatic impact on the Africa nations and organizations over the past three years by driving initiatives that have inspired change. Providing African militaries with C3IS standards and procedures will not only improve basic information sharing and collaboration, but equally important, will be a foundation for fostering stronger relationships with partner nations and organizations with a common goal of assisting Africa in achieving economic growth and development."
AE 2008 will be an end result of Initial Planning Conference and the two other planning conferences. Nigerian army Brig. Gen. John Sabo Kwabe, Defense Headquarters Electronic Warfare deputy director represented his country, which will host the 2008 exercise.
The Nigerian representative said that the conference has not only been an eye-opening experience, but has taught those involved that while there may be conflicts between nations, better relationships can still be formed through forums like this one.
"Being here we have talked and gotten to know each other on a personal level," said Kwabe. "It's a great endeavor to develop a peaceful relationship with other countries and have a peaceful continent with fellow African brothers.
"This is another forum to cement the countries of Africa," Kwabe said. "Seeing them come together and interact goes a long way to further reduce conflicts in the future."