Pentagon disputes coverage of Africa presence
The U.S. State Department terminated foreign assistance to the government of Mali on April 10. The Department of Defense's Defense Security Cooperation Agency received a memorandum from the State Department dated 19 April notifying the DoD of the coup designation and the termination of all military assistance programs. Upon receiving this notification from State Department, we began arranging the departure of personnel and equipment from Mali. All U.S. military personnel who were in Mali supporting military-to-military engagement activities have since departed Mali. Only those Department of Defense personnel regularly assigned to the Embassy (such as the Defense Attache or U.S. Marine Corps guards) remain.
Also, the introduction to the story states it was recently "revealed" that three U.S. soldiers were killed in an accident in Mali in April and that "This is how we know that U.S. special operations forces were operating in chaotic, previously democratic Mali." The fact is we issued a press release a day after the soldiers were killed, and the Associated Press, Xinhua, and AFP ran stories on the incident. It must be noted that the activities of U.S. military forces in Mali have been very public. We have published stories, fact sheets, and photos on our website, and Malian, U.S. and international reporters have covered these activities for some years.
"Additionally, U.S. Special Operations Forces are engaged in missions against the Lord's Resistance Army": While our forces live and work closely with African security forces, our focus is on enabling their ability to better conduct command and control, planning and coordination. Special Operations Forces are not directly involved in the African-led operation to remove the threat of the LRA. The mission for U.S. forces in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan is to advise and assist local forces to better enable them to conduct their operations. As a matter of fact, in April 2012, we organized a four-day press event in Uganda and CAR, providing 18 local and international journalists' access to cover the African-led counter-LRA mission. This visit resulted in extensive worldwide coverage of the story, which clearly articulated our advise and assist mission.
"And that's still just a part of the story": Yes, we've trained Ugandan, Burundian, and Djiboutian troops supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). As part of the C-LRA media trip mentioned above, we also brought the media to visit the AMISOM train-up efforts -- all taking place at a Uganda People's Defense Force base outside Kampala, Uganda. This visit also resulted in extensive worldwide media coverage. We've also trained Senegalese and Rwandan troops supporting the UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), as well as peacekeepers from nearly a dozen other African countries. We apply the resources that we do have to help countries willing to contribute to multinational efforts like AMISOM or UNAMID so that they can continue their operations. Our engagement in this realm is in support of a State Department-led peacekeeping training program, which has trained more than 200,000 African peacekeepers from 25 African nations over the years. Recently we've seen positive results in Mogadishu, not only as a result of the U.S. support, but more importantly, because of the brave men and women of the AMISOM troop-contributing nations.
Like every Geographic Combatant Command, we have an exercise program with nations within our area of responsibility. We currently have 14 major bilateral and multilateral exercises that have been conducted or are planned for 2012 and as many in 2013. As you probably know, many security issues in Africa are best addressed multilaterally. Exercises are a critical engagement opportunity that not only allow for improvements to interoperability, but also foster greater regional cooperation and integration.
We also conduct some type of military training or military-to-military engagement or activity with nearly every country on the African continent. This is part of our effort to enable African nations to increase their defense capabilities. These activities are requested by the host nation and cleared by the U.S. embassies. Many are well covered by local press and highlighted on our website.