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US Navy Effort in Africa Could Expand to Other Services

  • Al Pessin

The deputy commander of U.S. naval forces in Africa says he hopes to expand the Navy's Africa Partnership Station program to involve other U.S. military services.

Admiral Harry Harris says as the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Air Force components for Africa Command become more structured, he hopes they will join the Navy's effort to help build the military capacities of African nations. The admiral told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday most of the current Africa Partnership Station effort is focused on African naval capabilities, although he said U.S. and partner-nation Navy personnel do some training and construction on land.

He says adding the Army, Marines and Air Force troops would expand the training program, but not change its basic philosophy.

"We want to help African nations help themselves solve African problems," said Admiral Harris. "And we don't go in unless we're invited, and we go in with a spirit of full collaboration and partnering with African nations, as well as other countries."

Admiral Harris notes that about 20 countries have participated in the Africa Partnership Station program since it began in 2007, including several European countries and Brazil, as well as about 10 African countries. This year, the program will involve efforts in East, West and Southern Africa, but the admiral says there is so far no plan to expand to Northern Africa.

The Navy program trains African forces in such skills as search and rescue, hostile ship boarding, small boat operations and ship maintenance. This year's West Africa program will include a Nigerian Naval officer as its deputy commander.

Admiral Harris is new to his post, but he says Africa Command is finding much more receptiveness among African nations than it did when it was formed two years ago, and many nations were suspicious of its intentions.

"We are not building bases in Africa," he said. "We're not doing those things that the naysayers suggested that we would. Quite the opposite, I believe we're living up to our promise of being a true partner."

Admiral Harris says his forces are also concerned about drug trafficking through Africa. He says cartels in Latin America are moving some of their drugs across the Atlantic to Africa and then north to Europe. The admiral says the partnership program, as well as a separate effort to improve African law enforcement capability, could help combat that.