Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara (OEF-TS)
On 20 April 2012, 3 members of the US Army and 3 civilians were killed in what was reported as a vehicle accident in Mali. The US military members were in Mali as part of an on-going engagement prior to the unrest that occurred in Mali on 21 March 2012. The US Army's Criminal Investigation Command was leading the investigation into the accident, but did not suspect foul play. The 3 soldiers were part of the 91st Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), part of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), and the Intelligence and Security Command. The reason why 3 Moroccan women were also in the car was not identified, but the soldiers were said to be traveling for personal reasons, not official US business.
Operation Enduring Freedom Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) is the US Government's third priority counterterrorism effort and supports the Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership mission by forming relationships of peace, security, and cooperation among all Trans Sahara Nations. OEF-TS activities foster collaboration and communication among participating countries. Furthermore, OEF-TS strengthens counterterrorism and border security, promotes democratic governance, reinforces bilateral military ties, and enhances development and institution building. US Africa Command (AFRICOM), through OEF-TS, provides training, equipment, assistance and advice to partner nation armed forces. This increases their capacity and capability to deny safe haven to terrorists and ultimately defeat violent extremist organizations in the region.
OEF-TS is the Department of Defense support to the Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) program, which focuses on overall security rather than solely on Counter Terrorism. The partnership comprises the United States and 10 African countries: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia. TSCTP is the State-led interagency initiative to assist traditionally moderate Muslim governments and populations in the Trans-Sahara region to combat the spread of extremist ideology and terrorism in the region. The initiative is an integrated, multi-year approach that draws resources and expertise from multiple agencies in the US Government, including the Department of State, the Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense.
OEF-TS extends previous efforts to train and equip company-sized partner nation forces to help deter the flow of illicit arms, goods, and people, and to preclude terrorists from establishing sanctuaries. Under the program, training, equipment and specific units are focused on counter terrorism. In addition, U.S. forces provide mentorship focused on leadership and responsibility. Through OEF-TS, AFRICOM trains, equips, assists and advises partner nations through activities including, but not limited to: Military information sharing; communications systems interoperability; joint, combined, and multinational exercises enhancing cooperation; countering extremist ideology; sustaining regional operations; building upon mutual military professionalism and accountability; airlift and logistical support; and ground and aviation training and maintenance support. AFRICOM engages OEF-TS nations and support TSCTP through a variety of activities, such as: Joint Planning Assistance Teams (JPAT); Mobile Training Teams (MTT); Civil-Military Support Elements (CMSE); Military Information Support Teams (MIST); Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET); Foreign Military Financing, Foreign Military Sales, and International Military Education and Training; Senior Leader Engagement to gain perspective and build regional cooperation; and Counter-Terrorism Train and Equip (CTTE).
As a top priority, increasing multinational partner support for TSCTP to enhance and promote African regional coalitions, such as the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). AFRICOM actively engages other countries and organizations and invite them to become a part of OEF-TS.
OEF-TS was initially started as the US military component of the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative (TSCTI). US European Command (EUCOM) executed OEF-TS through a series of military-to-military engagements and exercises designed to strengthen the ability of regional governments to police the large expanses of remote terrain in the Trans-Sahara region.
EUCOM directed Special Operations Command, Europe (SOCEUR) to develop and maintain a flexible, enduring Global War on Terrorism Coalition, as well as regional, operationally-focused partnerships to support specific Global War on Terrorism operations. In addition, SOCEUR was to develop an operational reach that enabled the ability to detect, exploit, deter, seize, defeat, or destroy targets throughout the area of responsibility. SOCEUR will accomplish this through two lines of operation. The first was the unconventional warfare line of operation (the main effort), an indirect approach to achieving the strategic goal by conducting a broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations of longer duration, predominantly conducted through, with, or by indigenous and/or surrogate forces. The second was the deliberate engagement line of operation, a direct approach to achieving the strategic goal primarily through the time sensitive planning and targeting process to conduct short-duration strikes against terrorist targets or networks, crisis response to humanitarian disasters, or NEOs to protect US citizens and interests.
Key task for the main effort included: Enabling other countries to effectively combat terrorists in their region; improving partner nation capabilities to support Global War on Terrorism-related coalition operations; denying safe havens to terrorists in the EUCOM area of responsibility; and assuring access throughout the area of responsibility for basing and logistics to support operations. The supporting effort also included a number of key tasks, such as: Finding Al-Qaeda and other terrorists, their networks, and potential safe havens; capturing or killing known terrorists in the EUCOM area of responsibility; and neutralizing known terrorist networks operating in the EUCOM area of responsibility.
By arranging operations sequentially beginning with Trans-Sahara Africa as the main effort, SOCEUR would sequence cycles to drive the terrorist threat south and east, away from the continent of Europe, displacing terrorist networks from their indigenous habitat while isolating terrorist operations in the Arabian Gulf Region from expanding westward into the EUCOM area of responsibility.
The elimination of trans-national terrorist organizations and a progressive elimination of conditions conducive to terrorist infrastructure and activities was a major focus. Trans-national terrorists would be forced to coordinate new lines of operation through the denial of existing havens, lines of communication, sources of support, and the pacification of terrorist sympathies within the region exposing themselves to detection and exploitation. This would also help partner nations exercise sovereignty over previously undergoverned spaces with minimal outside support. SOCEUR transferred responsibility for existing safe havens to allies while refocusing on emerging threat regions.
SOCEUR forces would be concentrated by applying pressure on the 5 geographical leverage points over time, which would expand the spheres of influence of US partner nations, enhancing regional sovereignty. This expansion would consequently force terror networks to develop new methods of operation in less contested areas.
The expanding spheres of influence of US regional partners would allow the reduction of the US forces footprint while maintaining US presence and commitment and expanding US influence in the EUCOM area of responsibility. By developing extrinsic partner relationships with regional, intrinsic partners early in this process, EUCOM would be positioned to continue influencing training, advice, and assistance as US special operations forces pursued retreating terror networks through subsequent focus areas.
Some of the governments in the Pan-Sahel region embraced counterterrorism as a means of suppressing legitimate dissent and Islamic groups. Chad's leaders asserted that the trans-national networks of anti-Western Islamic extremists feared by America were not their main problem. Rather, they cited foreign-backed rebels as their main terrorist threat. They believe that Sudan and other countries were supporting a group of about 4,000 anti-government rebels near Chad's eastern border with Darfur.
In 2007, the US created a unified command for Africa, US Africa Command (AFRICOM), splitting responsibility for the continent from EUCOM. As a result, the responsibility for the OEF-TS became the responsibility of AFRICOM. The operation was still conducted in support of the TSCTI, the name of which was also subsequently changed to the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP).
AFRICOM subsequently worked on programs that expanded military-to-military cooperation between the US and partner nations by ensuring there was adequate resources available to train, advise, and assist regional units with the hope of promoting better regional cooperation, communications, and intelligence sharing. AFRICOM conducted train and equip missions to build company-level units that were capable of providing sustained border security. Also, AFRICOM facilitated partner national staff information training and mentorship programs, conducted JPAT and MIST trainings, and held JCET events in all 9 OEF-TS countries. To build regional cooperation, an annual regional counterterrorism exercise involved all countries, as well as mentors and observers from European partners. As of May 2010, OEF-TS was building an information sharing portal and standing up regional communications infrastructure to improve connectivity between partner countries.
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