The Africa Partnership Station (APS) arrived Nov. 5 in Dakar, the first port of its seven-month deployment, aboard the Amphibious Dock Landing Ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43).AFRICOM advertises itself as being something different:
APS is an international effort aiming to enhance regional and maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa. APS includes African, European and American Sailors all on the same staff, working towards a common goal, partnership in maritime safety and security, and is bringing an international team of expert trainers in a variety of military capacities, and a handful of civilian fields such as fisheries management.
While the Navy has conducted training during routine deployments in West Africa for years, the size and focus of the APS mission is new and different.
"This [APS] is much more than you have ever brought here before," said Jean Baptiste Faye, Chief of Operations for the Senegalese Navy, during meetings with Capt. John Nowell, commodore for APS. "Before, it was always a few members of one visiting ship, offering a little training. This time, you're coming with ship riders, with more training, and it is much more elaborate."
With APS, training is conducted as requested by the partner countries. In Senegal, that means traditional military training, such as engineering and small boat handling, plus a handful of specialty areas.
"APS is deployed in Dakar to carry out military training, and civilian events in the field of the environment, [including] National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). We also have organized a meeting with Africa Center of Strategy Securities. This is not only military, but this mission has a larger view about the continent," said Lt. Cmdr. Bertrand Daniel, a French Navy officer and member of the APS planning team.
But APS is more than training. APS will conduct large Community Relation projects in each of the countries visited.
"We have a couple of community relation projects set up, one with an elementary school in town where we are taking 25 Sailors to finish painting the interior.
Second, is an orphanage that needs some concrete construction about two hours away, where a crew of 20 Sailors, Seabees and Beach Master personnel will be working," said Lt. Paul Wigginton, chaplain for Fort McHenry and the APS community relations coordinator.
APS 2007 is a U.S. Naval Forces Europe-led initiative, executed by a multi-national staff aboard Fort McHenry and High Speed Vessel 2 Swift.
Commander Task Group 60.4 and training teams from various U.S. and European military commands, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations are embarked on board Fort McHenry to enhance cooperative partnerships with regional maritime services in West and Central Africa and the Gulf of Guinea on a seven-month deployment.
Designers of U.S. Africa Command clearly understand the relationships between security, development, diplomacy and prosperity in Africa. As a result, U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, reflects a much more integrated staff structure, one that includes significant management and staff representation by Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other U.S. government agencies involved in Africa. The command will also seek to incorporate partner nations and humanitarian organizations, from Africa and elsewhere, to work alongside the U.S. staff on common approaches to shared interests.The African Partnership Station is a low footprint tool:
AFRICOM is a headquarters staff whose mission entails coordinating the kind of support that will enable African governments and existing regional organizations, such as the African Standby Force, to have greater capacity to provide security and respond in times of need.
The creation of AFRICOM does not mean the U.S. military will take a leading role in African security matters, nor will it establish large U.S. troop bases. Rather, AFRICOM is a headquarters staff whose mission entails coordinating the kind of support that will enable African governments and existing regional organizations, such as the African Standby Force, to have greater capacity to provide security and respond in times of need. AFRICOM will build on the many African-U.S. security cooperation activities already underway, yet be able to better coordinate DOD support with other U.S. government departments and agencies to make those activities even more effective.
Naval Forces Europe is focused on taking action to address maritime insecurity in Africa. To learn about these complex issues and build consensus for action, the U.S. Navy led a series of workshops and seminars on the topic of maritime safety and security, bringing together representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGO), public and private sectors. Based on trends in trade, shipping, criminal activity, and level of interest among African partners, the initial area of focus was the Gulf of Guinea. The U.S. Navy was invited to deliver a presentation at the Seapower for Africa Symposium in Abuja, Nigeria in May 2006 on the theme of “Cooperation and Development for the Enhancement of Africa’s Maritime Capabilities.” This event concluded with a series of resolutions, to include: “There is a need to set up a permanent structure at the continental level to manage maritime related issues”; “Each country should set up a new maritime structure to work with the continental body”; “Each country should urgently adopt a network based approach to maritime security information in order to improve Maritime Domain Awareness”; “African Navies should embark on regular sub-regionally coordinated operational training for maritime operators.” These discussions culminated in a November 2006 conference in Cotonou, Benin where ministers representing all eleven Gulf of Guinea nations agreed to a communiqué and action plan to, in their words, “commit to address maritime governance at the national, sub-regional and regional levels.”The key words seem to be "invited," "partnership," "multinational," "collaboration."
As dialogue expanded at these forums, so did U.S. Navy presence in West and Central Africa, increasing from just a few weeks in 2004 to continuous presence this year, and the addition of several small deployments to East Africa. Initial deployments of ships, aircraft, and liaison teams on the ground in each region served to inform us and our African partners of the scope of the unique challenges we face together. Whether in a conference room or at sea, transparency, rigorous analysis, a view to the long term, and a spirit of partnership defined the CNE approach. The net result of these efforts was a clear message from our African partners that they wanted our help to develop the capacity to provide for their own maritime safety and security. Specifically, our African partners have asked for assistance in developing:
• Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA, or a clear picture of maritime traffic)
• maritime professionals
• maritime infrastructure
• maritime enforcement capability
• legal and regulatory regimes
• mechanisms for improved sub-regional cooperation
• public awareness of the impact of maritime insecurity
The next major effort that will employ the full range of these partnerships is the deployment of USS FORT MCHENRY (a large amphibious ship) and HSV SWIFT (a smaller “High Speed Vessel”) to the Gulf of Guinea for seven months beginning in November 2007. This is part of the U.S. Navy “Global Fleet Station” initiative designed to provide a platform with the capacity and persistent presence to support sustained, focused training and collaboration on a regional scale. USS FORT MCHENRY and HSV SWIFT will remain on station in the Gulf of Guinea region and make repeated visits to multiple nations in concert with other U.S. Navy and partner assets. Current plans include visits to Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, and Sao Tome & Principe, while engagement opportunities with several other African nations are also being explored. We are calling this new concept of engagement the Africa Partnership Station.
APS is the beneficiary of experience gained during previous U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and European Navy deployments and will include several new innovations. Its unique attributes include:
• Self-sufficient. APS requires no bases and minimal footprint ashore. The ships will provide the necessary support services and cargo capacity, serving as a floating continuing education and training facility.
• Multinational. A multinational staff is responsible for APS planning and execution. Five European partners are contributing staff members or training teams, and invitations have been sent to multiple African nations. The U.S. intends to participate in future deployments of this type by European partner nations.
• Tailored and flexible training schedule. APS education and training will encompass a full spectrum of topics germane to the creation of effective maritime forces and a maritime safety and security regime. The APS agenda is not limited to Navy-related training alone. From leadership to seamanship, and from personnel to port security, APS events will be tailored to the unique needs of each African nation that have been developed from an analysis and prioritization of needs in consultation with African partners. At the same time, the training regimen will be flexible enough to accommodate changes during the deployment. APS will sail a training circuit, making repeated visits to each nation and taking aboard ship riders for at sea training. Sailors and experts will train side-by-side, sharing best practices, exchanging ideas, and forming relationships to improve maritime safety and security over the long term.
• U.S. Joint/Interagency Participation. The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Agency for International Development have been integral contributors to APS planning and will participate throughout its execution. A U.S. Coast Guard Officer is part of the command staff. Additionally, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration will sail with APS to advance several key projects.
• Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). In addition to core maritime activities, APS will support several humanitarian and environmental assistance projects in the region, as it offers an ideal transport and logistics base. An effort was made to encourage broad NGO participation. Several NGOs have signed on to sail with APS, and coordination continues with others.
• Transparent, collaborative working environment. While exact ship schedule information is classified for force protection reasons, all other information about APS is unclassified and will be shared via an unclassified website. Journalists will be invited to embark the ship and observe training activities. This entire effort is aimed at building trust and sustaining partnerships among African, European, and U.S. partners at the national, sub-regional, and regional levels. Indeed, APS and maritime partnerships in general float on trust.
At least one Associated Press reporter seems to have missed the boat on this story of international cooperation and tossed in more than a little anti-American bias. Judging by his article of mistaken fact and selective understanding, it appears the leftist knives are out for the idea of the new command. The author of the piece finds "skepticism" in Africa, citing Libya, Nigeria and South Africa as holding "deep reservations."
Libya? Gee, who'd have thunk it?
And Nigeria? Their deep reservations apparently end with:
...even critics like Nigeria welcome the continuation of the U.S. training programs.Of course, my own skepticism meter pegged when he identified USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43) as a "cruiser." Minimal research on the web by the reporter (or his editors) would have found McHenry's Wikipedia entry identifying it as an amphibious "Dock Landing Ship":
USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43) is a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship of the United States Navy.An LSD class ship is not the same as a cruiser. Though both are warships, their roles vary significantly. See here and here.
If you get simple facts wrong, it's hard to trust what follows.
Especially gems like:
Kurt Shillinger, an analyst at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said the Pentagon has failed to allay concerns of Africans who see ``this as a Trojan horse through which the U.S. will pursue and defend its key interests in Africa.''I guess all those countries that have invited the APS to visit (identified as "Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, and Sao Tome & Principe") have set their "unallayed" concerns aside...
Couple that with a misleading use of statistics:
The U.S. naval presence in the Gulf of Guinea - measured by ``ship days'' - has increased more than 50 percent since last year, said Lt. Brian Badura, a spokesman for the 6th Fleet in Naples, Italy, which commands American warships in these waters. From just a handful of days in 2004, the Navy expects to have a daily presence over the next year.If two "ship days" were the 2006 norm, 3 "ship days" would be a 50% increase. And, the announced mission of the APS is to be a "daily" presence. Is there some hidden surprise there?
In a not unexpected bit of reporting, we hear (third hand, of course) from some anonymous State Department types, crouching over their rice bowls, worried about being tainted:
Analysts said there has been criticism of the command within the U.S. government itself, notably from State Department officials.I guess that either that unnamed AID jackasses missed the memo inviting the DOS to play-
Shillinger said some officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development worry their humanitarian programs could be ``stigmatized'' by direct links with the military...
The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Agency for International Development have been integral contributors to APS planning and will participate throughout its execution.Or said jackasses got overruled and are now sulking in the corner, speaking on "background" to a buddy at the South African IIA, which, incidentally, has received grant money from U.S. contributors, such as the Ford Foundation.
I guess some forms of aid are "purer" than others...
Other than that, nice objective piece.