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US Military Plans Joint Exercise in West Africa


Senior military officers from the United States and officials of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have been meeting in Abuja, Nigeria to draw up details for a joint military exercise, called a multilateral command post exercise.

The goal of the command post exercise is to enhance the peacekeeping and intervention capacity of the standby military force in West Africa, one of the world's poorest and most unstable regions.

The United States is hoping to improve the operational efficiency and competence of the nations in West Africa so they can respond more quickly to situations that require military intervention.

One of the U.S. officials at the Abuja meeting, Scott Fisher, who is a political-military adviser at the State Department, provides an insight into the training program, scheduled for Accra, Ghana.

"It will involve a subordinate battalion responding to a force commander and his staff and they will be in receipt of a mandate, in this case from ECOWAS, that would say we have this sort of issue here and that will be the scenario and we provide you the military, the mandate from the political masters in West Africa to take this course of action," he said.

The U.S. military curently enjoys cooperation with a number of countries in West Africa, and Africa's growing oil industry, concentrated in West Africa's Gulf of Guinea, has also led to an increased U.S. military presence in the region.

Fisher says the U.S. intentions go beyond safeguarding its energy interests in the region.

"We understand in the United States, and I think everybody in Africa understands, that in the absence of security, you cannot get the other benefits that you seek: economic development, good governance and better health situation," he added. "All of that is dependent upon the security situation. So there is really a longer term issue that is not only focused on the Gulf of Guinea and energy. This is focused on how does West Africa become a partner in a different number of ways with the world community."

The Economic Community of West African States created a standby military force in 2004 to intervene in any situation that could threaten the security of the region. However, because of a lack of resources, the force is yet to become operational.

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