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American Forces Press Service

Horn of Africa General Describes 'Regional Approach to Stability'

By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2005 As stability and security increase in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorists will look for other places where they cannot only find sanctuary but also continue to operate, receive supplies and indoctrinate new recruits, the general in charge of coalition forces on the Horn of Africa said here today.

Marine Maj. Gen. Samuel T. Helland, Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa commander, spoke to Pentagon reporters from Camp Lemonier, Djibouti. The task force includes representatives from all branches of the U.S. military and staff officers from eight coalition countries. It oversees counterterrorism operations for U.S. Central Command in Sudan, Yemen, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and the Seychelles as part of the global war on terror.

“Terrorists thrive in chaos,” Helland said, “where there is no rule of law and where they can meld in with the population.” He said that by isolating those places and understanding who’s there, what they do and where they go, “then we can probably deny terrorists the safe haven they are seeking as they move throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibility.” He called the strategy “a regional approach to stability.”

Helland said the task force works with host nations to identify core competencies and to enhance stability through security training, maritime interdiction operations training, and civil-military operations. By educating the population and encouraging self-determination, he said, the task force’s goal is to “isolate the terrorist from his support, which is the population, … and maybe prevent him from moving into available safe havens.”

Together with Coalition Task Force 150, Helland said, the CJTF is stemming the flow of terrorist activity in the Horn of Africa.

“CTF 150 is on the seas in the Gulf of Aden,” he said, working to stem the flow of smuggling. “We work with them on a daily basis,” Helland said. “We share information. … We provide support when necessary. We protect their ships when they come into harbor, and we work with them across lines of communication.” As one example of success, Helland cited maritime interdiction. “Two years ago, we started out with no coast guard capability in Yemen,” the general said. “Since that time, we’ve been able to put two ships into Aden -- one a German ship, the other one, British. And the price of insurance in Aden itself has gone down three times – just because of the presence of the coast guard that we trained.”

Helland said the possibility always exists that al Qaeda may have been in the Horn of Africa “either visiting, trying to recruit, trying to proselytize, to spread their ideology, or gain support for their mission,” but he couldn’t place al Qaeda in the region definitively.

“With the increase in stability and security in Afghanistan and Iraq, Helland said al Qaeda has “to move around.” He pointed out that this worldwide network without boundaries uses surrogate terrorist organizations and local criminal elements who have the pipelines or the capability to move drugs, explosives, or weapons around the area.

Helland said the global war on terror will be “a long fight, a generational fight” and that the United States and its coalition partners must stay engaged, maintain a presence … and “keep building that trust, that confidence, and the credibility of those nations in the Horn of Africa, so we can continue to prosecute this war against terrorism.”

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