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We are executors of US Foreign Policy, says Chief of Mission Military

Jan 14, 2011, 12:57 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Lieutenant Colonel Matthew V. Sousa, United States Cavalry and Chief of Mission Military of United States African Command (AFRICOM) overseeing Senegal, Cape Verde, Gambia and Guinea Bissau has told audiences that AFRICOM are executors of United States foreign policy.

He  added that AFRICOM is a division of the US military responsible for maintaining professional military relationships with 53 African countries.

Lt Colonel Sousa, who was on a mission in the country, gave a lecture on Wednesday evening at the American Corner organised by the US Embassy in Banjul.

Sousa's lecture focused on the topic: What is AFRICOM? and the chief US diplomat in Banjul, Pamela White, was in attendance.

According to the visiting military chief of mission, who is stationed at US Embassy in Dakar, they always engage their counterparts through dialogue, adding that AFRICOM is part of the US Department of Defence.

"We support United States foreign policy, and our mandate is to help build the capacity and security capacity of partners in Africa," he stated.

"Many people do have a misconception towards AFRICOM; that we have bases in Africa, which is not the case. We don't have bases here in Africa, but we are here to train our brothers and sisters to be professional in the execution of their duties," Lt Colonel Sousa who spent more than two decades with the US military added.

He is of the belief that their mission in Africa is to promote the interest of the United States' government and what the U.S. government wants, adding that they also build the security of their partners.

Lt Colonel Sousa also said that Africans have many competent armies.

"The US will continue to help the Gambia armed forces in building their strength and capacity through capacity building and training. Engaging our partners through dialogue is of paramount importance," he declared.

He said they have been meeting security chiefs in The Gambia to see how best they could help the Gambia armed forces.

They are in Africa to promote US interests, which he noted include fighting piracy, terrorism and narco trafficking, among others.

Ask whether AFRICOM intervenes in African problems, Sousa said they do not intervene in local problems, adding, however, that they do defend the interest of the US, especially when it is threatened.

Lt Colonel Sousa said that there is terrorism in Africa, and that to combat it needs joint efforts and collaboration.

AFRICOM in Dakar do not intervene in the Casamance, but they help improve the livelihood of the people there through projects, he told his audience.

"We have a good relationship with the Gambia Armed Forces. The mission of AFRICOM is to help increase the capacity of our African partners to provide security for their people. The US department of Defence and AFRICOM execute US foreign policy, as directed by US President and the Department of State."

Lt Colonel Sousa said AFRICOM does not intervene militarily in political crises, and that U.S. foreign policy is to help African countries, including the four countries he is overseeing in West Africa.