By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES,
STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. Africa Command wants to better coordinate the battle against Islamic extremists in Somalia by adding liaison officers from participating African nations to its headquarters here.
“We could add them here or we could go there or both,” said AFRICOM’s Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who is hosting some 40 African defense chiefs for two days of talks in Stuttgart. “The purpose is to get a better picture of what is going on.”
AFRICOM also wants to establish closer links with the task force countering extremists in Africa’s Lake Chad region, where the Nigerian-based Boko Haram group poses a threat to several countries.
“One of the ways we can improve our common operating picture is to have liaisons here in Stuttgart,” Waldhauser told the defense chiefs.
The two-day meeting is the first such gathering of African defense chiefs since AFRICOM was founded 10 years ago. It comes as military officials confront a mix of threats that arc from the volatile Horn of Africa in the east to lawless deserts in the vast Sahel.
During the past couple of years, concerns about violent extremism have prompted AFRICOM to assume a more lethal role in some parts of Africa such as Libya and Somalia, where the command conducts periodic airstrikes on militants.
An air campaign last year in Libya to help local forces root Islamic State group fighters out of the coastal city of Sirte was largely a success, Waldhauser said.
“In the north, by working with allies and the forces aligned with the (Libyan) Government of National Accord, we have degraded the ISIS threat significantly,” Waldhauser said at the start of discussions.
Still, Waldhauser said, his command remains focused on taking a “longer view” on security matters in Africa, seeking out indirect military solutions as it coordinates with indigenous forces across the continent.