US military’s Africa commander makes unannounced Mogadishu visit

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The U.S. commander for troops in Africa, Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, arrived in the Somali capital Wednesday on an unannounced visit for meetings with Somali leaders on how the multipronged efforts aimed at defeating militants in the country are progressing.

During the hours-long visit, Gen. Waldhauser, a veteran U.S. Marine who is leading the United States’ Africa Command (AFRICOM) has held behind-closed doors talks with the Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and top defense officials in which officials said focused on the war against militant groups in Somalia amid worries of the rise of attacks by IS-linked militants across the country, a development which adds concerns towards Somalia’s complex security challenges.

“The objective is to support the Somali government as it progresses towards delivering the future that the people of Somalia deserve.” — Gen. Waldhauser, said after talks with Somali officials.

His visit comes as the United States military stepped up airstrikes against the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab group in recent months. More than 40 airstrikes by unmanned US drones that killed more than 100 militants have been recorded in Somalia since last month.

Despite having had its support largely focused on the security sector for years, the U.S. says it now provides support to President Farmajo and his administration across the “3 Ds”:  development, diplomacy and defense and takes a whole-of-government approach to addressing security issues and broader challenges alongside Somalis, because the solutions in Somalia require efforts beyond just the military, under its new strategic framework.

“AFRICOM and the U.S. government support the Federal Government of Somalia, the people of Somalia, and the African Union and its mission to Somalia in their efforts to achieve sustained progress in governance, development and security,” said Waldhauser.

Gen. Waldhauser has also credited Somalia’s current administration for its efforts towards restoring peace and order into the long-chaotic horn of Africa nation.

“I’m proud of the strong relationship we have established with President Farmaajo and his government,” said Waldhauser, referring to the the Somali leader. “President Farmaajo and his administration have made measurable progress and it’s clear they are dedicated to reaching the goal of a safe, stable and prosperous Somalia.” He said.

The AFRICOM chief has also addressed questions surrounding deepening involvement in the Somali security sector by the US including the regular airstrikes across the country which is struggling to defeat the stubborn al-Shabab group that some argued were being carried out without consultations with the Somali authorities.

“It is imperative to understand that everything we do in Somalia is at the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and part of our military support to public diplomacy efforts of the State Department,” said Waldhauser. “AFRICOM and the Department of State are working as part of a substantial international security assistance effort in support of our Somali partners.”

Prior to his meeting with the Somali president, Gen. Waldhauser met with the new U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto. Mr. Yamamoto is one of the highest-level U.S. ambassadors on the African continent, in what the US referred as a ‘symbol of the significance the U.S. places on its relationships with the people and government of Somalia’.

The two interagency leaders discussed the progress the Somali government has achieved in terms of improving stability, strengthening democratic institutions, and delivering results.

“In the end,” said Waldhauser, “the objective is to support the Somali government as it progresses towards delivering the future that the people of Somalia deserve.”

 

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