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Exercise Unified Focus 2017 kicks off in Cameroon

By Capt. Jason Welch June 14, 2017

DOUALA NAVAL BASE, Cameroon -- U.S. Army Africa and several partner nations inaugurated a new joint exercise, Unified Focus, at the Douala Naval Base, April 24. The purpose of the exercise was to gather the military partners of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) from around the Lake Chad Basin area, in order to practice joint planning and coordination through a series of scripted scenarios.

"Our focus this week is to bring the members of the Multinational Joint Task Force together with non-military organizations and discuss ways to counter the violence and instability caused by Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa in the Lake Chad Basin," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kenneth Moore, U.S. Army Africa deputy commander. "This year almost 100 participants from a total of 10 nations have gathered together."

Military participants came from Cameroon, Chad, Benin, Niger, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Italy, France, the U.K and the U.S. Nonmilitary participants included representatives from United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Center for Civilians in Conflict.

"This exercise is the culmination of a year's worth of work by a dedicated team including three multinational conferences in preparation for the final event," said U.S. Maj. Aaron Smith, from the U.S. Embassy Yaounde Office of Security Cooperation.

Throughout the week, participants, who were organized into multinational working groups, confronted a series of real-world scenarios in which the MNJTF would be asked to act. The scenarios involved instability and violence caused by Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa in the Lake Chad Basin. Participants worked together, bridging language and cultural barriers, to develop workable solutions that would allow smooth interoperability between the MNJTF, multinational military, and nongonvernmental organizations.

"It's a continuation of the dedication of U.S. Army Africa of USAFRICOM, our partner nations in the Lake Chad Basin, our European partners, as well as the nongovernmental organizations and their commitment to this cause," said Smith of the exercise.

Maj. Gen. Saly Mohamadou, Commander of the 2nd Military Region of Cameroon, agreed on the utility of the exercise for all parties involved. "Exercise Unified Focus is an AFRICOM exercise fully reinforcing and optimizing the coordination of national and regional efforts for the best results in the fight against terrorism," he said.

"We will look for ways to leverage the capabilities of the MNJTF to support partner militaries and nongovernmental organizations to contain Boko Haram and re-establish state authority in the areas affected in the Lake Chad Basin," said Moore.

While there are many participants from outside the Lake Chad Basin area, the nations of the MNJTF are the primary audience of the United Force 2017 exercise.

"The participation in this exercise of the delegations from Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and also from the MNJTF, demonstrates the determination of all the members of the Lake Chad Basin nations to fight against terrorism and all forms of violence," said Mohamadou. "It's this same synergy that drove the establishment of the MNJTF."

"Exercise Unified Focus is truly a culmination, a continuation, and also a beginning," Smith concluded. It's the beginning of the exercise Unified Focus series. It's a beginning of us working together on this specific problem set to take and help refine our collective interoperability, our ability to march forward as one against this menace that threatens our collective security."

"And we hope that in the years that follow this exercise will continue to grow and conform itself to the needs of the nations of the Lake Chad Basin," he said.

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