Achieving a stable and secure East Africa with states fully capable of organizing, training and equipping their own forces will be difficult yet achievable in our lifetime, according to experts from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.
Dr. Raymond Gilpin, ACSS academic dean, compared today’s security force assistance and diplomacy efforts to a time nearly 50 years ago when the U.S. was preparing for its first manned mission to the moon. “It is something that is urgent, something that is difficult, but something we can do,” he said.
To help members of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa better understand the region, its history and its challenges, representatives from the ACSS shared their expertise and in-depth research on issues impacting East Africa during a workshop Mar. 1-3, at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
The ACSS is a Department of Defense organization dedicated to supporting U.S. foreign and security policies by strengthening the strategic capacities of African states to identity and resolve security challenges. The organization thereby promotes civil-military cooperation and the safeguarding of human rights.
More than 70 members of the CJTF-HOA staff attended the seminars, led by six representatives from the U.S., Europe and Africa. The speakers were selected by the ACSS to discuss topics including violent extremism, peace and security architecture, and security challenges in specific countries for which they are subject matter experts.
“Our intent is to support the command in its desire to focus on recent empirical research, and practical political and security challenges in this area of responsibility from both a scholarly and academic perspective,” Gilpin said. “We show how we can take the analysis being done by others and ourselves and help inform the command in the way it does its business.”
“They provide a level of instruction, discussion and facilitation that gives us insights and knowledge to better our people and to get our people to think more critically about Africa and its issues,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mike Gawlas, CJTF-HOA exercise and training planner and workshop coordinator.
Many of the men and women assigned to CJTF-HOA are expected to become experts on specific subjects, but it is a constant challenge maintaining a high degree of expertise in African issues within the command due to the high turnover rate associated with deployment rotations. The workshop offered a new perspective from individuals who have dedicated their careers to understanding Africa.
“Most of us come here with limited background knowledge of Africa,” Gawlas said. “During turnover we learn about issues on the surface, but we may not completely understand why the issue is there or how it evolved. We brought in these experts to get the next level of analysis and understanding, enabling our workforce to think harder and smarter along the lines of our mission.”
Equipping staff members with greater context and understanding about Arica will help leaders make more informed decisions when determining how to achieve a desired effect or accomplish a line of effort.
“We are not saying do something different; we are saying do something differently,” Gilpin said. “When we bring and moderate conversations like this, hopefully we are expanding the horizons to help influence decision making.”
According to several participants, the seminar not only stimulated intellectual and informed conversations during the event, but around camp as well.
“I think this reenergized the people here,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Brandon Bierlein, CJTF-HOA attorney. “It has given us a renewed sense of purpose and understanding of why we are here. It has forced people to understand our role is more complex and will require more work, more thought and more planning. From what I’ve seen, our people are up to that challenge.”