Japanese leadership express interest in enhancing strategic partnership with U.S. forces in Horn of Africa

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kenneth Kim, commander of the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion, Mattydale, New York, greets Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Col. Masatoshi Tanso during a key leadership engagement at Japan Self-Defense Force Base, Djibouti, Nov. 21, 2018. Japanese and U.S. leadership met to discuss ways to build relationships across the Combined Joint Operations Area. (U.S. Army Photo by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey) Japanese leadership express interest in enhancing strategic partnership with U.S. forces in Horn of Africa U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kenneth Kim, commander of the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion, Mattydale, New York, greets Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Col. Masatoshi Tanso during a key leadership engagement at Japan Self-Defense Force Base, Djibouti, Nov. 21, 2018. Japanese and U.S. leadership met to discuss ways to build relationships across the Combined Joint Operations Area. (U.S. Army Photo by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey)

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti – Japanese and U.S. leadership met in Djibouti to discuss ways to build relationships across the Combined Joint Operations Area Nov. 20-21. 

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force has been increasing its capacity building operations in East Africa in an effort to help enhance development of security and regional stability with African partners and the U.S. 

“One country can’t do it all,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Jerry M. Cline, Command Surgeon for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). “Our Air Quality Control Cooperation initiative is a great example – The Government of Japan provided 40 garbage trucks, the Italians shared lessons with the Djiboutian Gendarmerie on how to better enforce Djiboutian environmental laws, the European Union provided $12 million to improve the La Duda Dump, and the U.S. provided an incinerator.” 

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Col. Akira Miyazaki, director of International Security Cooperation and Policy Division and Programs Department, agreed and was interested in learning how his division could leverage CJTF-HOA’s experience in building strategic partnership through subject matter expert exchanges in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations. 

“Japan cannot conduct war-centric training,” Miyazaki told U.S. Navy Capt. Thomas S. Wall, Chief of Staff CJTF-HOA, during his visit to the headquarters. “This is the final period of the three-year-plan to provide Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations to the Djibouti Armed Forces. I’m hoping to gain a better understanding of how the U.S. provides emergency and humanitarian assistance to improve the activities we provide to the Djibouti Armed Forces.” 

In a fiscal 2017 supplementary budget, the Japanese government earmarked about 4.5 billion yen ($40.6 million) to expand capacity building operations and hopes to use the support provided by the JGSDF to strengthen its ties with African and Southeast Asian nations.

While Japanese and U.S. leadership expressed the possibility of future collaboration, the partnership has already proven to be a successful one – in the decrease of piracy in Northeast Africa, added Miyazaki. 

Since 2011, the first year a Japanese Self-Defense Force contingent of 180 troops occupied a 30-acre site in Djibouti, next to Camp Lemonnier, there were nearly 237 incidents involving suspected pirates; however, thanks to an international response, the figure decreased to nine cases in 2017. 

While senior leaders met at Camp Lemonnier, staff from CJTF-HOA’s 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion and the Japanese Capacity Building Commander conducted a key leader engagement at Japan Self-Defense Force Base. 

“Japan is changing its focus from peacekeeping operations to more capacity building,” said Lt. Col. Masatoshi Tanso, Enforcement Support of Disaster Response Capabilities Delegation Leader. “We have been training the Djibouti Army Forces how to operate engineering machinery since January 2017 in support of enhancement of Disaster Response Capabilities and Humanitarian Support and Disaster Relief based on the agreement between the Defense Ministry of Djibouti and Japan.” 

While the training has been successful, Tanso asked for insight on how the civil affairs professionals conduct subject matter expert exchanges to help his engineers develop their next phase of training. During the conversation, the teams realized they face many of the same challenges from language barriers to funding for projects. 

However, Maj. Shinsuke Takada, the foreign liaison officer with Japan Ground Self-Defense Force at CJTF-HOA, reiterated that by working together each partner can achieve their collective objects. 

Heads nodded around the room in agreement. 

“The CJTF-HOA mission is to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and forge partnerships between participating nations,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Kim, commander of the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion, an Army Reserve unit from Mattydale, New York. “The ability to work together in a dynamic environment directly strengthens security throughout East Africa.”

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