US pledges to support capacity-building initiatives - To counter terrorism in Africa
The United States says it will continue to partner civil society, law enforcement and judicial systems to support bilateral and regional capacity-building initiatives to counter threats of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa.
According to the US Ambassador to Ghana, Virginia E. Palmer, tackling the root causes of conflict, economic issues, inter and intra-communal schisms and weak institutions remained critical in securing the continent.
Speaking in Sogakope in the Volta Region last Tuesday, where the last leg of Operation Flintlock, the US-Africa Command's special operations exercise was held, Ms Palmer said improved security conditions could go to create the stability required to attract foreign investment and encourage economic growth.
“Through Flintlock and decades of military-to-military cooperation, we’ve demonstrated that our bilateral relationship is strong, productive and mutually beneficial,” she said.
The approach, she said, was to bring to bear the US government's diplomatic, development and security tools, in collaboration with its partners, for a more peaceful and prosperous region.
The joint exercise, hosted by Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire over the past two weeks, had 1,400 personnel drawn from the Navies of Ghana, Cape Verde, Nigeria, Morocco and Cote d’Ivoire being trained.
Flintlock is the largest multinational training exercise, with a new purpose to address the critical themes of counter-terrorism, counter-illicit trafficking, collective security and partnership among the US, Europe, the United Kingdom and Africa.
Spanning five sites, it conducts command-post exercises and field training exercises, with maritime crime detection and rescue exercises being the new additions to the training series under the programme.
During the exercise, the team staged a simulation, during which it rescued a supposed hostage from terrorists.
Ms Palmer pointed out that improving governance and respect for human rights, promoting the rule of law and accountability and providing services and economic opportunities for populations were all imperatives to security.
“We know security concerns cannot be fully addressed through military force, and our expectations are that the rights of people will be upheld,” she said.
Ghana, she said, had taken a very holistic approach, having security interventions layered down to human rights training for the police and the armed forces.
That, she said, saw the US Agency for International Development (USAID) supporting the government's effort to improve inclusive economic growth and social cohesion, particularly in the northern part of the country, committing $140 million a year into health, water and sanitation and educational programmes to help address the vulnerability in that part of the country.
She said during the Flintlock exercise, the partners, had worked together to build trust between at-risk communities through medical outreach events.
Mobile clinics, she said, were established in the Northern and the Volta regions, where some residents were provided with medical screening and basic health care.
"It’s this kind of work that builds trust and connection and can improve security,” Ms Palmer said.
She applauded President Akufo-Addo’s efforts to expand the work of the Accra Initiative, the regional approach needed for Coastal West Africa and the Sahel, keeping in mind that the complex problems in the region required African-led and sourced solutions.
In his remarks, the Commander of the US Special Operations Command Africa, Rear Admiral Jamie Sands, said he was delighted at the effort the participating forces put into the training programme.
“By the cooperation and networks built through this exercise, we are coming together to set the groundwork to solve the security challenges that pose threats across the region," he said.
Being the first Flintlock since 2020 and the COVID-19, the coordination and planning, he noted, had grown the exercise in many ways and commended the partners for participating in the training.
In his remarks, the Commandant of the Ghana Armed Forces and Staff College, Major General Irvine Nii Ayitey Aryeetey, said Ghana recognised the importance of the exercise in promoting interoperability and mutual understanding among the participating nations.
“This exercise is a testament to the importance of collaboration among nations in the face of the global security challenge,” he said.