By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
This weekend, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is visiting Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa leaders in Djibouti, a small African nation that hosts Camp Lemonnier, the only enduring U.S. military presence in Africa.
Most Americans don’t hear a whole lot about our relationship with the countries involved in the task force, or the task force itself. But the region in which Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA, for short) operates is vital to U.S. interests.
Not sure why? Here’s a little info about the task force.
It’s Part of AFRICOM
CJTF-HOA falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Africa Command, the newest of the nine DoD combatant commands. AFRICOM’s core mission is to help African nations, the African Union and regional security organizations prevent and mitigate conflicts, neutralize threats and strengthen their own defense capabilities.
Why Is This Important to the US?
Much of the Horn of Africa is still working toward stability. It’s also close to the Middle East. If we’re able to help those countries strengthen their own defenses, they’re better able to address their own security threats. That can help reduce threats to U.S. interests.
So the CJTF-HOA mission is pretty simple — it’s to prevent violent extremist organizations in East Africa from threatening America’s homeland, its citizens and its interests, as well as building the defense capabilities and capacity of its partner nations.
Who Does the Task Force Work With?
The task force works with partner nations, coalition forces and interagency/intergovernmental organizations to make the mission a unified effort.
What Do They Do?
The task force does a range of things, including security force assistance, execution of military engagements, providing force protection and providing military support to regional organizations that are working to counter violent extremist operations. Those efforts help ensure that there’s freedom of movement throughout the region and, of course, protection of U.S. interests. Our troops that are part of the task force also provide humanitarian assistance, crisis response and contingency operations for all U.S. personnel in the region.
So what does that mean in layman’s terms? That the CJTF-HOA conducts training exercises and acts as an advisor to the region’s nations.
One example is Cutlass Express, an annual exercise that bolsters maritime security by training regional forces on techniques and tactics that counter piracy, illegal fishing and other threats. Another is the recently completed Alligator Dagger, an opportunity for Marines and sailors to work with alliance forces on training that keeps them ready for missions on land, air and sea.
Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa is a large part of the AFRICOM mission, so expect to hear more about it in the future!
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