Countering violent extremist organizations, using best practices in Nigeria and West Africa, includes military leaders' collaboration.
At the recently concluded Africa Land Forces Summit (ALFS) 2023, Christopher Musa, a major general and Infantry Corps commander, Nigerian Armed Forces, summarized the significance of why it is important for Nigeria and African military leaders to come together and conference. "The whole domain approach, all original approach; that's why it's important for us to meet," said Mr Musa adding that, "We look at all the challenges we're facing and the best way" to approach them. The 'domain' Mr Musa referred to is the capability of an armed force to manoeuvre, gain access to a threat area, and succeed in both control and in the military's mission; to have superiority over the threat area.
While the activities of terrorist organizations in Nigeria - Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa - decreased by 15 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, according to data from the Global Terrorism Trends and Analysis Center (GTTAC), Nigeria still made up 8 per cent of the world's total fatalities from a terrorist incident, in 2020. Nigeria is not the only country with Boko Haram - Cameroon, Chad, and Niger face the challenges too - making it crucial for countries to meet and seek ways to best diminish threats.
Defence leaders attending the ALFS 23, heard from, and exchanged knowledge with, "renowned academics and non-governmental experts, as well as military members, throughout the week during five plenary sessions and five breakout sessions addressing a variety of topics," said the US Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) public affairs office.
High-ranking military chiefs from African countries and the United States gathered "to build relationships, exchange information on current topics of mutual interest and encourage cooperation in addressing challenges, from 8 to 12 May, in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire," confirmed the SETAF-AF's public affairs office. The ALFS 2023 was held at the Sôfitel Hotel in Abidjan.
Included on the conference agenda was a Plenary Session titled "Counter-Violent Extremist Organizations (VEO) Best Practices in Africa." The speakers leading this session were Lassina Diarra, researcher and consultant at the Centre for Strategies and Security for the Sahel Sahara, and Geoffrey Jackson, professor in the Department of Humanities at Mount Royal University.
During the ALFS 2023 - co-hosted by SETAF-AF along with the Armed Forces of Côte d'Ivoire - Mr Musa actively participated, posing important questions to the panel, including during a plenary session on the drivers of stability. Speakers on this panel were Jean-Jacques Konadjé, who is the chief of staff of the Grand Chancellery in Côte d'Ivoire, as well as Hany Nakhleh of the Regional Security and Armed Forces Delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
ALFS2023 was attended by 39 African army commanders, along with army commanders from Brazil, the US, and other European countries - in all, 46 countries attended.
SETAF-AF said, "The goal was to solidify relationships, exchange information on current topics of mutual interest and encourage cooperation in addressing challenges." This year's theme was 'Addressing security challenges through civil-military partnerships.'
"Once again, ALFS has demonstrated the power of partnership--between the United States and Africa, with our Allies and partners across the globe, throughout the different regions of this diverse continent, and between military and civilian leaders in and out of government," said Todd Wasmund, a major general and US commanding general of SETAF-AF.
The ALFS 2023 is supported by the US Army through SETAF-AF. In turn, SETAF-AF enables the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to strengthen partnerships, deepen engagement with, and support African militaries as they collaborate on ways to increase, improve, and respond to terrorism in Nigeria and West Africa.
In other security assistance provided to Nigeria, since US President Joseph Biden came into office, there has been a "historic $500 million U.S. foreign military sale[s] to Nigeria, which also included the delivery of 12 A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, precision munitions, and world-class training, including in air-to-ground integration to make airstrikes more accurate and thereby mitigate the risk of civilian harm," confirmed AFRICOM.
Earlier this month, high-ranking US Department of State officials along with US Department of Defense officials met with Nigeria's Air Force air vice marshal IG Lubo, who was "representing Nigeria's Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao, and other Nigerian partners to celebrate the completion of $38 million of improvements" to the Kainji Air Force Base. The base underwent construction of improvements vital for "the operation and maintenance of the A-29 Super Tucano wing, and associated munitions, stationed" said AFRICOM.
Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based foreign correspondent, and media commentator with expertise on U.S. foreign policy and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe