AFRICOM boss tours West Africa, meets G5 Sahel leaders

The Commander of the US Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend, is undertaking this week his first multi-country regional visit to West Africa.

 

On Tuesday, General Stephen Townsend met in Ouagadougou with President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso and several other Burkinabe and allied military leaders.

Meetings focused on building a comprehensive understanding of US and partner nation activities in the Sahel, particularly in Burkina Faso. Within the last twelve months, there has been an increase in violent extremist attacks in the northern part of the country near the tri-border with Mali and Niger. It was important for the commander to gain an increased understanding and assessment of the situation, AFRICOM said in a press release Wednesday.

 

“We know the security challenges in Burkina Faso are significant and wide-ranging, but we are committed to helping them improve their capacity and security capabilities,” said Townsend. “It is important for the U.S. to continue to support the international effort taking place in Burkina Faso while containing the spread of terrorism.”

 

Townsend stressed that Burkina Faso’s security challenges require a broad political, economic, as well as military initiatives to bring about positive change. He emphasized the importance of joint exercises such as Flintlock.

Burkina Faso recently partnered with the Washington D.C. National Guard, making it the 14th state partnership in Africa, AFRICOM recalled.

 

On Monday, Townsend was in Bamako where he conferred with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and senior Malian military leaders on defense and security-related issues related to the complex and evolving threat in the Sahel.

The United States government’s assistance in Mali, both civilian and military, is designed to address the drivers of instability and extremism through partnerships to improve health, education, food security, and governance.

 

Townsend also met with leaders of the G5 Sahel Joint Task Force, comprising troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Mauritania.

 

This African-led organization is meant to respond to transnational security, humanitarian, and development challenges in the Sahel.

 

“The G5 Sahel force has a tough mission,” recognized Townsend, pledging US continued support and assistance to the Sahel force as well as to the Malian security forces and other partners in the region.

 

“It is important to contain the spread of terrorism in this region,” he insisted, adding, “Security in this region relies on an international effort to disrupt and neutralize terror networks. While we will continue to help Mali build and enhance their capabilities to prevent the spread of violence in the Sahel, ultimate success requires African-led operations and solutions.”

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