Posts tagged ‘AFRICOM’

SHAKO: U.S. Coast Guard Turns 232; First Black Marine Corps 4-Star General Confirmed

Semper Paratus

Happy Birthday to the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle is berthed alongside USS Constitution (Old Iron Sides), the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, in Boston Harbor on July 29, 2022.  The Eagle is a three-masted sailing barque and the only active (operational) commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Samoluk)

The history of the Coast Guard goes back to the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, which was founded on August 4, 1790, as part of the Department of the Treasury, under then-Secretary Alexander Hamilton. The Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service, created in 1848 to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners and passengers, were merged to form the Coast Guard on January 28, 1915. In 1939 the Lighthouse Service, created in 1910, was also merged into the Coast Guard.

Since then, the Coast Guard has been handed many assignments including: Intercepting intruder aircraft over the National Capital Region, preserving marine wildlife, maritime search and rescue, enforcing maritime law in U.S. waters and intercepting smugglers of drugs and people.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Caitlyn Mason, assigned to the medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk, rescues a sea turtle caught in a fishing net in the Atlantic Ocean, on July 14, 2022.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jessica Fontenette)

In all the Coast Guard has eleven separate missions a lot of them are included in this brief video, which includes the Coast Guard’s marching tune, Semper Paratus, Always Prepared.

U.S. Coast Guardsmen seize a self-propelled, semi submersible craft (left) carrying narcotics off Central America’s Pacific Coast in 2009. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, the cadets, staff and family members marked the day with speeches, a proclamation from the governor of Connecticut, music and a birthday cake set up in front of Alexander Hamilton’s statue.

Rear Admiral William G. Kelly cuts the cake celebrating the Coast Guard’s 232nd birthday. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Auxiliarist David Lau.)

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First Black Marine Corps 4-Star General.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael E. Langley be appointed to the rank of general and will be promoted in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.  on Saturday (August 6).

Langley will be the first Black Marine appointed to the rank of four-star general. While the Marine Corps and several news outlets have said he will be the first black full general in the 246-year history of the Marines, it’s worth noting the rank did not exist in the Marine Corps, which is a part of the Navy Department, until Alexander Vandergrift was appointed a four star general in 1945. There have been more than 70 four-star generals in the Marine Corps since then, but all have been white men.

Langley was promoted to serve as the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in Stuttgart, Germany, and will command all U.S. military forces in Africa.  The continent is experiencing a rash of economic and security interests by Russia and China. Russia controls the private military company, Wagner Group, whose mercenaries operate in Libya and the Central African Republic.

Lt. General Michael E. Langley. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Langley was nominated for the post by President Joe Biden in June. The Senate unanimously confirmed the appointment on Monday (August 1). “It is a great honor to be the president’s nominee to lead U.S. AFRICOM,” Langley said at his July 21 nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I am grateful for the trust and confidence extended by him, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the commandant of the Marine Corps,” SEAPOWER reported.

Langley currently serves as the commander, Marine Forces Command; Marine Forces Northern Command; and commander for Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, according to the Marine Corps.  His previous general officer posts included commander for Marine Forces Europe and Africa; deputy commanding general for the Second Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) and commanding general for the 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

A native of Shreveport, Louisiana and graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1985 as an artillery officer. Langley has commanded Marines at every level from platoon to regiment, serving in Okinawa, Japan and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps said.

Langley will replace the outgoing commander AFRICOM, Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend. In late July, Townsend said the threat of violent extremism and strategic competition from China and Russia remain the greatest challenges to the combatant command, according to a Defense Department news release, Marine Corps Times reported.

“Some of the most lethal terrorists on the planet are now in Africa,” said Townsend, according to the release.

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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress, or parade, uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York in the photo.

 

 

August 4, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: China’s Growing Influence in Africa; Nigeria Wants AFRICOM HQ Relocated from Germany to Africa

China Worries AFRICOM Chief

The top U.S. military officer in Africa says he is concerned about China’s growing commercial and military influence there — including plans to locate a large naval port somewhere on the continent’s Atlantic coast.

West Coast of Africa (CIA World Fact Book)

In an interview with The Associated Press, U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend said Beijing is looking to establish a port capable of hosting submarines or aircraft carriers on Africa’s western coast. Townsend said the Peoples Republic of CFhina (PRC) has contacted countries stretching from Mauritania to Namibia, intent on establishing a naval facility. If realized, that prospect would enable China to base warships in its expanding Navy in the Atlantic as well as Pacific oceans, the AP reported.

“They’re looking for a place where they can rearm and repair warships. That becomes militarily useful in conflict,” said Townsend, who heads U.S. Africa Command. The People’s Liberation Army Navy opened a base on Africa’s East Coast in Djibouti in 2017. “Now they’re casting their gaze to the Atlantic coast and wanting to get such a base there,” the AFRICOM commander said.

The U.S. base in Djibouti – Camp Lemmonier, a former French Foreign Legion post – is America’s only permanent base on the African continent (See story below). The U.S. and PRC bases are only 12 kilometers (just under 7.5 miles) apart, near the strategic Horn of Africa that overlooks waterways (Red Sea, Gulf of Aden) that link Europe via the Suez Canal with the Indian Ocean and South Asia.

In written testimony submitted to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee April 20, Townsend noted the PRC has been investing heavily in Africa, pledging $60 billion in infrastructure and development — and increasing arms sales to African countries.

“Beijing’s activities in Africa are outpacing those of the United States and our allies as they seek resources and markets to feed economic growth in China and leverage economic tools to increase their global reach and influence. The People’s Republic of China has 52 embassies in Africa, three more than the U.S., and they continue to expand their base in Djibouti into a platform to project power across the continent and its waters—completing a large naval pier this year,” Townsend told the congressional panel.

U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, head of U.S. Africa Command, testifies before Congress in April 2021. (U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs photo)

“Beijing seeks to open additional bases, tying their commercial seaport investments in East, West and Southern Africa closely with involvement by Chinese military forces in order to further their geo-strategic interests,” he added.

Other U.S. commanders have raised similar alarms about PRC expansionist activities. Your 4GWAR editor has reported about China’s actions in the Western Hemisphere (U.S. Southern and Northern Commands) and the Indo-Pacific region, for the SEAPOWER website.

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Nigeria Wants AFRICOM HQ in Africa

Nigeria’s embattled president wants U.S. Africa Command to move its headquarters from Germany to the African continent, as armed violence and terrorist attacks continue in West Africa’s Sahel region.

From left to right: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and Nigerian Geoffrey Onyeama meet virtually April 27, 2021. (U.S. State Dept. screen capture)

In a virtual meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 27, Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari said the United States should consider moving its military headquarters for Africa, to help battle a series of recent clashes with armed rebels, as well as continued efforts to push back on militant Islamist groups like Boko Haram, The Hill website reported.

“Considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider re-locating AFRICOM headquarters… near the theatre of operation,” said Buhari, according a statement issued by the presidency, Reuters reported.

Nigerian security forces face multiple security challenges including school kidnappings by armed gangs in its northwest and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as well as the decade-long insurgency by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which also carries out attacks in neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad, the news agency noted. (See story below).

In the latest incident, at least seven police officers were killed in Nigeria’s oil-rich Rivers State on May 7. Gunmen opened fire on a checkpoint in the southern state, then drove to two police stations, killing officers and burning patrol cars, the BBC reported. Police killed two of the attackers but are searching for those who escaped. It was not clear who was behind the killings, but the region has seen a surge in separatist attacks on police, BBC noted.

Dissatisfaction with Buhari’s handling of the security threats has grown in recent weeks among civil society, political and religious groups. A former army general, Buhari was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019 on promises to subdue jihadist extremists, who have killed over 36,000 and displaced more than two million. But six years later, things are getting worse. Boko Haram is expanding its enclaves in Nigeria’s northwest, while banditry, kidnappings and communal violence is on the rise, the VoA site noted. Nigeria’s military said it will uphold the country’s democracy and warned against plots to overthrow Buhari.

West Africa’s Sahel region is in the grip of a security crisis as groups with ties to al Qaeda and Islamic State attack military forces and civilians, despite help from French and United Nations forces.

In Niger, unidentified gunmen killed 16 soldiers and wounded six others in an ambush in the country’s southwest, security sources told Reuters on May 2.  The attack on an army patrol occurred the day before in the Tahoua region of the West African country, near where raids killed 137 civilians in March. It is unclear who carried out the attack.

In Cameroon, Anglophone separatists entered a French-speaking village in the West region and killed four government soldiers. The military says the separatists took weapons and freed suspects from prison before returning to their hideouts in the English-speaking North-West region. Cameroon’s separatists have been fighting since 2017 to create an independent English-speaking state in the majority French-speaking country’s western regions, VoA reported.

The conflict has cost more than 3,000 lives and forced 550,000 people to flee to French-speaking regions of Cameroon or into neighboring Nigeria, according to the United Nations.

Buhari’s request Blinken was a reversal of previous President Umaru Yar’Adua’s opposition to AFRICOM command establishing a presence on African soil. In fact, when then-President George W. Bush created the U.S. military’s sixth geographic combatant command there was a pretty large outcry in Africa that this was just another imperialistic move by a Western power. Only one country – Liberia – offered to host AFRICOM’s headquarters, but U.S. officials decided to keep the headquarters in Stuttgart Germany.

The April 27 U.S.-Nigerian meeting came a week after one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, Idriss Déby, the president of Chad, died in clashes with rebel groups.

Deby had been with troops battling rebel groups based across the northern border in Libya at the time of his death, though the exact cause was not immediately clear, the New York Times reported.

The late Chadian president had long been considered an ally of the U.S. and France in the fight against Islamist extremists in the region, though rebel groups had repeatedly attempted to overthrow the government over his management of Chad’s oil wealth and crackdowns on political opponents.

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Unrest in Chad after President’s Death.

In the immediate aftermath of the death of Chad’s president, Idriss Déby, a transitional council of military officers named Déby’s son, Mahamat Kaka, interim president, Reuters reported. The council also announced that an election for the next president will be held in 18 months. Until then, the government and National Assembly have been dissolved, and the country is under a nationwide curfew, according to the New York Times.

However, opposition to the undemocratic power shift is growing. The African Union has called for an end to military rule in Chad. The African Union’s Peace and Security Council voiced “grave concern” about the military takeover which put 37-year-old General Mahamat Déby Itno in charge and saw parliament dissolved, the BBC reported.

Opposition parties have also condemned what they called a “dynastic coup”.

Meanwhile, Chad’s ruling military council are seeking support from its central African neighbors in fighting rebels who they say endanger a smooth return to civilian rule.A delegation sent to Cameroon told the neighboring state’s president that without peace, a transition to civilian rule will be impossible. Chad’s opposition says the military rulers should immediately step down if they genuinely want peace to be restored.

Abdelkerim Idriss Deby, deputy director of cabinet Abdelkerim, said Chad has been witnessing a series of protests and deadly rebel attacks that are threatening its unity since Deby died, according to VoA, He said Chad’s military council has sent him to all member states of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community to explain plans the military leaders have for a smooth transition to civilian rule. He said Chad needs the assistance of its neighbors for peace to return.

May 8, 2021 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Al Shabab Raid on US Base

Al Shabab Raid Fallout.

Earlier this month m embers of the al Shabab terrorist group attack a Kenyan military base near the Somalia border. Three Americans were killed and numerous U.S. aircraft and vehicles were damaged or destroyed. The fallout from this surprise — and costly — raid is still developing.

HornofAfrica-Somalia_19881

The Horn of Africa

Here is some of what U.S. Africa Command, which oversees U.S. military activities across the continent (except for Egypt), had to say about it today (Thursday, January 23).

“U.S. Africa Command continues to investigate the January 5 attack on the Kenyan Defense Force Military Base in Manda Bay, Kenya, that killed U.S. Army Specialist Henry J. Mayfield, Jr., and two U.S. contractors, Bruce Triplett and Dustin Harrison.

“In the early morning hours of Jan. 5, al-Shabaab initiated mortar fire on the Kenyan Defense Force installation and Camp Simba, while simultaneously assaulting the airfield. U.S. forces are primarily located at Camp Simba, about one mile from the airfield. Shortly after the attack began, U.S. forces at Camp Simba quickly responded and actively counterattacked the enemy at the airfield.”

U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, Africa Command’s chief said “The attack at Manda Bay demonstrates that al-Shabaab remains a dangerous and capable enemy.” The general called Shabab “a menace to the people of East Africa and U.S. national interests there.” Townsend maintained Shabab’s goal is “eventually attacking the U.S. homeland.”

Since 2010, al-Shabab has killed hundreds of innocent people outside the borders of Somalia.

Marine Raiders.

The attack caught American and Kenyan forces by surprise, but Marine Raiders — the Special Operations unit of the Marine Corps — were in a base about a mile away and led the counter attack, according to Marine Corps Times.

Multiple sources within the Marine Raider community told Marine Corps Times that about a dozen Marines from 3rd Marine Raider Battalion, based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, led Kenyan commandos against the Islamic militants. The Marines engaged in an intense firefight with the al-Shabab militants, the sources said, ultimately pushing the Islamic fighters out of the military base.

“While numbers are still being verified, it is estimated that several dozen al-Shabaab fighters were repelled,” U.S. Africa Command said in a Thursday press release. “Because of the size of the Kenyan base, clearance and security operations continued for several more hours to ensure the entire base was secure.”

Chaos at First.

The New York Times first reported Wednesday (January 22) that Marine Raiders participated in the counterattack.

The Marines were located at Camp Simba, the Times reported ― roughly a mile from the airfield at Manda Bay where the attack took place. The Times initially reported that the Marines’ response was delayed due to their distance from the base, but on Thursday U.S. Africa Command said that the Marines’ response was “timely.”

The brazen assault at Manda Bay, a sleepy seaside base near the Somali border, was largely overshadowed by the crisis with Iran after the killing of that country’s most important general two days earlier, and is only now drawing closer scrutiny from Congress and Pentagon officials, the Times noted.

The storming of an airfield used by the American military so alarmed the Pentagon that it immediately sent about 100 troops from the 101st Airborne Division to establish security at the base. Army Green Berets from Germany also were shuttled to Djibouti, the Pentagon’s major hub in Africa, in case the entire base was in danger of being taken by al Shabab, an East African terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, according to the Times.

January 23, 2020 at 11:43 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: AFRICOM Logistics Hub; West African Violence;

AFRICOM-Ghana .

U.S. Africa Command plans to begin routing cargo flights through Accra, Ghana, as the hub of a new logistics network to ferry supplies and weapons to U.S. troops operating across the continent’s increasingly turbulent western region, reports Defense One.

Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn

Air Force C-17s may soon be making weekly supply hops to Ghana for U.S. troops in West Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ethan Morgan)

As part of a defense-cooperation agreement with Ghana reached in May, a weekly flight from AFRICOM’s home base in Germany to Accra will deliver cargo to be sent out on smaller planes and trucks to the approximately 1,800 American dispersed across nearly 20 locations in West Africa, according Defense One.

Brigadier General Leonard Kosinski, head of logistics at AFRICOM, says the operation will be like a bus route carrying arms, ammunition, food, and other supplies to special  forces troops. At first, the flights will be U.S. military cargo planes supporting American personnel. But after the first year, AFRICOM hopes that African contractors, European allies, and partner nations will plug into the network.

However, the launch of this West Africa Logistics Network suggests that at least for now, AFRICOM is planning a consistent presence in the western reaches of the continent, writes Defense One senior national security correspondent Katie Bo Williams.

West Africa Attacks.

Attacks by violent extremist groups have been on the rise in West Africa. Ten U.N. peacekeepers from Chad were killed in a January 20 attack in northern Mali. An al-Qaeda-linked group —   Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — claimed responsibility for the attack which also wounded 25 Chadian troops when gunmen stormed the U.N. camp in Aguelhok.

Chad funeral MINUSMA

Tribute ceremony in N’Djamena for the 10 Chadian peacekeepers who were killed on 20 January in a terrorist attack in northern Mali. (United Nations mission in Mali photo)

The death toll from a February attack by gunmen in northwestern Nigeria has doubled to more than 130, Al Jazeera reported. The attack appeared to have been a deliberate plan to “wipe out certain communities,” Kaduna state Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai said,  without elaborating.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from Abuja, said the increase in death toll was “expected from the beginning” as 130 people had been marked as missing in the aftermath of the attack.

The attack took place the day before Nigeria was supposed to hold a presidential but electoral authorities delayed the vote by one week citing logistical challenges.

February 22, 2019 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 21, 2018)

One Man Light Show.

FRI FO 12-21-2018 One Man Light Show

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Corban Lundborg)

This seems like a good photo choice for the longest night of the year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere).

Here we see Air Force Technical Sergeant Chris Hibben swinging a chemical light stick during night vision training conducted at the Grand Bara Desert, Djibouti — which, it turns out, is in the Northern Hemisphere — on December 14, 2018.

Let’s see a Jedi do that with a light saber.

FYI, 4GWAR will have a photo essay on the Christmas season and the military around the world for Christmas Eve. Hope you’ll visit.

December 21, 2018 at 6:47 pm Leave a comment

DEFENSE/PEACEKEEPING: Big Week Coming

Two Big Conferences.

Calendar14GWAR was lying low last week after a busy conference season — Air & Space — Modern Day Marine — Military Reporters and Editors and one of the biggest, the Association of the U.S. Army.

But this week, we want to call your attention to two important conferences running almost simultaneously in the Washington D.C. area.

UNMANNED SYSTEMS DEFENSE

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) — the trade group of robotic and autonomous systems makers, researchers, developers and users — holds their annual meeting with the military, technology experts and the defense industry. Presentations and panel discussions will review the Pentagon’s programs for drones and robots that fly in the sky, roll or walk across the ground or swim in or under the sea. In fact, the gathering used to be called the program review but now it’s called Unmanned Systems Defense.

It runs for three days, starting Tuesday (October 27) at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Arlington (Pentagon City), Virginia. Each day is dedicated to a different battlespace: maritime, air and ground. Speakers will include program managers and officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — along with several congressmen and officials from Special Operations Command and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

For more information, click here.

ISOA SUMMIT

The companies and organizations that supply goods, servcies and technology to peacekeepers, relief groups, advisers and other non-governmental organizations are also meeting in the Washington area this week. The International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) is holding its 10th summit at the National Press Club starting Wednesday (October 28).

ISOA says it represents companies and organizations “whose work lays the foundation for long term stability and growth in the world’s most unstable places. We serve the implementing community, providing member services focused on contracting, partnerships, regulatory and legal developments, research initiatives, policy movement, and whatever else our members deem important.”

We last wrote about ISOA in 2013, when some ISOA members expressed interest in possible using drones to obtain intelligence about possible danger in remote locations, finding refugees who have fled violence or food shortages and where the greatest need for food is in vast regions with few roads.

Among the speakers ISOA members will hear from at the two-day event: the former head of U.S. Africa Command, General Carter Ham (ret.); Ambassador Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS and the Islamic State); the former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), rerired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Program Support), Gary Motsek.

October 25, 2015 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Africa Command Tackling Violent Extremists and Other Challenges

Making Progress, but …

U.S. Marines from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa are training Tanzanian park rangers in infantry skills such as patrolling, offensive tactics, land navigation and mounted operations to aid in countering illicit trafficking.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucas J. Hopkins)

U.S. Marines from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa are training Tanzanian park rangers in infantry skills such as patrolling, offensive tactics, land navigation and mounted operations to aid in countering illicit trafficking.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucas J. Hopkins)

Africa’s security environment remains “dynamic and uncertain” with numerous countries through out the continent plagued by crime, corruption, as well as political and economic unrest, says the head of U.S. Africa Command.

Testifying today (March 26) before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army General David Rodriguez, AFRICOM’s commander, said the command has expanded collaboration with allies and partners to address the “growing threat in Libya, Mali and Nigeria” including “an increasingly cohesive network of al Qaeda affiliates a growing Islamic State (ISIL) … presence and Boko Haram.”

Rodriguez said al-Shabaab remains the primary security threat to U.S. interests in East Africa “despite progress by regional partners in liberating parts of southern and central Somalia from the group’s control.”  And in North and West Africa, Libyan and Nigerian insecurity “increasingly threaten U.S. interests. In spite of multinational security efforts, terrorist and criminal networks are gaining strength and interoperability,” he said.

Of five immediate priorities, the top two are countering violent extremism and enhancing stability in East Africa and in North and West Africa.

Rodriguez noted that AFRICOM’s engagement with partner nations has increased between Fiscal year 2013 and 2014.  “In Fiscal Year 2014, we conducted 68 operations, 11 major joint exercises, and 595 security cooperation activities,” he told the Senate hearing. By comparison, AFRICOM conducted “55 operations, 10 major joint exercises, and 481 security cooperation activities in Fiscal Year 2013.” But requirements are expanding faster than resources are increasing, he added.

More on this hearing later this weekend.

March 26, 2015 at 11:39 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ebola Roundup

Ebola Death Toll Rises.

U.S. Navy Lt. Andrea McCoy tests patient RNA samples for the Ebola virus at a Naval Medical Research Center mobile laboratory on Bushrod Island, Liberia. (U.S. Army Africa photo by Navy Chief Petty Officer Jerrold Diederich )

U.S. Navy Lt. Andrea McCoy tests patient RNA samples for the Ebola virus at a Naval Medical Research Center mobile laboratory on Bushrod Island, Liberia.
(U.S. Army Africa photo by Navy Chief Petty Officer Jerrold Diederich )

The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has risen to nearly 3,900, including Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with the deadly disease on U.S. soil.

Duncan, 42, who caught the deadly virus in his native Liberia, died Wednesday (October 8), 10 days after he was admitted to a Texas hospital. His death and reports that Texas hospital workers fumbled his diagnosis has sparked controversy and raised questions about how safe the United States is from foreign epidemics in the era of jet travel and globalization.

According to the World Health Organization , the total number of confirmed, probable, and suspected cases in the epidemic of Ebola virus disease (EVD) reported up to the end of October 5, is 8,033 with 3879 deaths.

Countries affected are Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and the United States. A confirmed case of EVD has been reported in Spain, but because the case was confirmed this week — information on that case will be included in the next Ebola Response Roadmap update, the United Nations health agency said.

“The situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone continues to deteriorate, with widespread and persistent transmission of Ebola,” the WHO said, adding that reports of a fall in the number of new cases in Liberia over the past three weeks “is unlikely to be genuine.” The WHO report said that report “reflects a deterioration in the ability of overwhelmed responders to record accurate epidemiological data.”

“There is no evidence that the EVD epidemic in West Africa is being brought under control, though there is evidence of a decline in incidence in the districts of Lofa in Liberia, and Kailahun and Kenema in Sierra Leone,” the WHO said.

Decontamination workers treat patients coming out of the hot zone. U.S. Africa Command is supporting the effort by providing command and control, logistics, training and engineering assets to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations.  (U.S. Army Africa photo by Commander Peter Niles)

Decontamination workers treat patients coming out of the hot zone. U.S. Africa Command is supporting the effort by providing command and control, logistics, training and engineering assets to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations.
(U.S. Army Africa photo by Commander Peter Niles)

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is preparing to send as many as 4,000 troops to Ebola-ravaged Liberia to build new Ebola treatment units and manage the logistics of medical supplies, food, fuel and other commodities starting to pour into Liberia from donor nations and organizations.

The head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) told a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday (October 7) that the U.S. military mission to Liberia may take up to a year, according to Military Times.

Pentagon officials emphasize that troops will not provide medical care or have direct contact with Ebola patients. The military mission is to support civilian health care efforts through construction of new facilities, providing logistics support and training locals in prevention methods, Military Times reported.

Army General David Rodriguez, the AFRICOM commander said a headquarters for the joint force command, United Assistance in Monrovia, Liberia, has been created to provide regional coordination of U.S. military support to the U.S. and international relief efforts. Two  additional mobile medical labs were put into operation last week, to increase the capacity for rapidly diagnosing Ebola. And the command is establishing a training facility for Liberian health care support workers, enabling them to safely provide direct medical care to patients, Rodriguez said.

“As we deploy America’s sons and daughters to support this comprehensive effort, we will do everything in our power to address and mitigate the potential risk to our service members, civilian employees, contractors, and their families,” he general told reporters, according to a Defense Department transcript. “Preventing the spread of Ebola is the core task of this effort. This is a key requirement in everything that we do in this operation, and this applies both to our support efforts and the protection of our own people,” Rodriguez added.

U.S. Navy combat engineers known as Seabees survey the site for an Ebola treatment unit in Liberia. (U.S. Army Africa photo by Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery T. Stitzel)

U.S. Navy combat engineers known as Seabees survey the site for an Ebola treatment unit in Liberia.
(U.S. Army Africa photo by Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery T. Stitzel)

In other developments, a special Marine expeditionary unit based in Spain is deploying to Liberia, joining other U.S. troops in support of efforts to contain the spread of Ebola. Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Admiral John Kirby said Wednesday (October 8) that 100 personnel from the Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa are deploying from Moron, Spain, to Dakar, Senegal. They will then move to Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city.

Navy construction engineers have been in Liberia since late September, clearing the ground for the first Ebola hospital.  A team of 15 Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 traveled to Monrovia September 23, to provide engineering support including: conducting site surveys for projects such as hospitals, supply storage and training facilities for healthcare workers fighting the Ebola outbreak, according to AFRICOM’s Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

October 9, 2014 at 1:39 am Leave a comment

TERRORISM: Latest on Abduction of Nigerian Schoolgirls

 Nigerian Abductions

Parents of some of the kidnapped girls mourn their losses. (Voice of America photo via Wikipedia)

Parents of some of the kidnapped girls weep and pray.
(Voice of America photo via Wikipedia)

The United States, Britain, France, Canada and China are among the countries pledging to assist Nigerian authorities locate and rescue hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by the violent Islamist group, Boko Haram.

According to the Voice of America, a military spokesman said almost a dozen staff officers were already in Nigeria and would form the core of the U.S. team to aid in finding the nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said the team is “moving as quickly as possible.” About 10 more members from U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) will join the team within days.

The team will be based at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, and will help with communications, logistics and intelligence, VOA reported.

President Barack Obama directed the formation of an interagency coordination and assessment cell after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted a U.S. offer of assistance, the colonel told reporters Wednesday (May 7).

Eight more Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted Sunday (May 4) in the turbulent northeast part of the country and the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram – which has admitted kidnapping hundreds of other girls last month — is suspected to be behind the latest attack, Reuters reported this week.

It happened at a village in Borno state, where their earlier mass abduction took place. That attack has prompted demonstrations in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital … a massive protest on Twitter … and calls for U.S. and British military assistance to help find the girls.

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama joined the international Facebook and Twitter campaign to spur the return of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. (White House photo)

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama joined the international Facebook and Twitter campaign to spur the return of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls.
(White House photo)

In addition to the U.S., Britain has promised to provide satellite imagery, France said it will send security agents and Canada offered surveillance equipment and personnel to run it. China became the latest nation to offer help on Thursday, VOA said.

Breaking a three-week silence, Abubaka Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, which wants to restore a very conservative version of Islamic law to the majority Muslim region of Nigeria, threatened to sell the girls his followers seized April 14 at their school in Borno state, Al Jazeera and other news outlets reported.

There has been a great deal of confusion about how many girls were taken, how many were still being held and what the Nigerian government was doing to find them and punish the kidnappers.

Government and school officials first claimed most of the girls had escaped or were returned, But complaints by parents led officials to concede more than 200 – as many as 279 – girls were still being held in a remote, densely-forested area on the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

Nigeria map (CIA World factbook)

the Nigeria map
(CIA World factbook)

UNICEF told the New York Times that the second kidnapping in the village of Chibok involved at least eight girls who were seized from their homes to prevent them from attending school. The girls taken Sunday were between the ages of 12 and 15.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and recently determined the continent’s largest economy has been rocked in recent months by increasingly violent attacks from Boko Haram. 

Bomb attacks in April and again last week in Abuja, the capital, killed a total of 94 people.  In February, 29 male college students in Yobe province were killed in an attack blamed on Boko Haram. And between 100 (the government’s figures) and 300 people (local residents’ count) were killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen in another northeast Nigerian town on a busy market day Monday, the BBC reported.

The school abduction has embarrassed oil-rich Nigeria, which is hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja this week. Jonathan, who has faced angry protests over the lack of progress in finding the girls, requested help Sunday from the U.S. and other nations.

The Los Angeles Times reported in March, that U.S. troops were helping the Nigerian army establish a special operations command to defeat Boko Haram. U.S. and French air forces fly unarmed Reaper surveillance drones over northern Nigeria, from Niamey in neighboring Niger, to collect intelligence, the L.A. Times noted. The U.S. also has stepped up efforts in North Africa and East Africa against al Qaeda-linked extremist groups.

 

 

May 9, 2014 at 12:00 am 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (March 7, 2014) UPDATE

Modern Face of War

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist)

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist)

UPDATES with additional information and links

The camera that took this photo was using a night vision lens, just like the night vision goggles worn by these combat air traffic controllers, a little known speciality (outside the military community) in the U.S. Air Force and Special Operations Forces. They are the first to arrive at hazardous landing areas (either because of enemy action or damage from natural disaster) to set up aircraft landing or parachute drop zones. Combat controllers are FAA certified air traffic controllers who provide the link between the air and ground forces in direct action, special reconnaissance, humanitarian assistance and foreign internal defense operations.

This Combat Controller Team is from the 720th Special Tactics Group, based at Hurlburt Field, Florida. In this photo they are relaying wind speed and aircraft direction to a C-130 H3 cargo plane during night operations on an airfield in northeastern Niger, late last month (Feb. 28) during Joint Exercise Flintlock 2014. Troops from Canada, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom — as well as 6 north and west African nations participated in Niger this year.

Flintlock is an annual, African-led, military exercise focused on security, counter-terrorism and military humanitarian support to outlying areas. Each year a different government in west Africa plays host to the exercise, which includes U.S. forces and troops from other non-African countries. To see an Africa Command slide show of the wide variety of Flintlock 2014 activities, click here.

 

March 7, 2014 at 9:27 am Leave a comment

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