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News: Ethiopia hosts largest ever gathering of military leaders in Africa,top US general boasts US-Africa relations “built on trust”

Some 40 Land Forces Chiefs & Representatives from across the African continent are in attendance of the summit in Addis Abeba

Bileh Jelan

Addis Abeba, February 18/2020 – The 8th Edition of the African Land Forces Summit under the theme “Tomorrow’s Security Demands Today’s Leadership” kicked off at Sheraton Addis Hotel here in the capital. The summit is hosted by the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), co-hosted by the U.S. Army Africa (USARAF). It is being attended by, among other senior military personnel, General Adam Mohammed, Chief of Staff, ENDF, General Michael X. Garret, Commanding General, United States Army Forces Command, as well as David Renz, Deputy Chief Of Mission at the U.S Embassy in Addis Abeba. Some 40 Land Forces Chiefs & Representatives from across the African continent are also in attendance.

The summit comes as reports of possible downsizing of U.S. troops in Africa, a report the U.S. Army Africa Commander Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier Jr. countered saying, the U.S. was “not walking away. We are still engaged,” Maj. Gen. Cloutier told media on February 12. The U.S. was meeting with land force chiefs from several African countries, among others, to “talk about issues and let them know that the United States and the U.S. military is still committed to being great partners,” Military Times quoted him as saying.

The theme for this year’s summit “reflects our shared belief that leadership is an enduring responsibility among our military leaders,” Brig. Gen. Lapthe Flora, U.S. Army Africa deputy commander, said back in December 2019. “In order for our Soldiers and leaders to be successful, we must develop our leaders today. Our theme this year reflects that mindset, and we hope that the summit will empower our already strong leaders.”

The summit kicked off with an official opening by David Renz who emphasized on the importance of cooperation between Africa & the United States in all areas especially in Peace & Security. A welcoming remark was also given by Gen. Adam Mohammed followed. “Africa today is a region of significant strategic importance, superpowers are looking at increasing their presence in the continent. Major reasons being illicit trafficking & violent extremist organizations other major security problems,” General Adem said, adding, the need for cooperation in stabilizing areas of conflict in the continent as well as the importance for such a cooperation.

General Michael X. Garret gave a speech in which he described the relationship between U.S. Army and its partners on the continent as being “built on trust”. “These partnerships are important because we operate in a complex dynamic world where the security challenges we face are diverse & African nations contend with some of the most complex challenges in the world, [including] insurgencies, armed conflicts, illicit trafficking, piracy, organized crime & violent extremists organizations.” These threats have, according to him, “no boundaries; they cross borders, destabilize regions & require significant cooperation & strong partnership so our efforts to combat these challenges are effective.”

Earlier in the morning, Brigadier Gen. Tilahun Ashenafi of the ENDF & Gen. Roger L. Cloutier, gave a brief press conference where they answered question from local and international media.

“Military solution is not the only option for Africa but it is an important one,” said Maj. Gen Cloutier said, adding, “Ethiopia is an important partner to the United States in the mission of accomplishing a secure, stable & prosperous Africa which is an enduring American interest.”

According to Brigadier Gen. Tilahun Ashenafi most problems the African continent faces today are cross-border problems such as terrorism, but military solutions alone are not the only solutions to solve them. “We can’t solve all problems by military means, we need political solutions as well,” he said.

The summit, called by the US Army Africa as “the largest gathering of military leaders on the African continent ever”, is expected to last for four days discussing a range of security related issues in closed plenary sessions. These include 21st century challenges for military leaders, developing leaders through defense institutions & defense leadership in a multinational environment. AS

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