U.S., African Armies Begin Operations in Gabon
By Fidelis Iyebote

September 29, 2009

Troops of the U.S. Africa Command have begun a military communications exercise in Gabon with armies from 30 African nations participating.

AFRICOM'S Africa Endeavor program seeks to improve communications between African armies by establishing a network linking their command and control structures to better prepare for joint operations.

The exercise in Gabon runs through October 8 and involves nearly 30 African militaries along with delegations from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.

It is the third annual training exercise and field test of communications systems following earlier Africa Endeavor programs in South Africa and Nigeria.

Admiral Herve Namboundouani leads the organizing committee for this year's exercise.

Admiral Namboundouani says each nation has different equipment, so it is important to be able to work together and communicate with other forces in peacekeeping missions.

The Africa Endeavor program is meant to act as a catalyst for a coordinated response to African security challenges as the African Union develops standard practices and procedures for its Standby Force.

U.S. officials say information sharing is critical to improving cooperation in joint peacekeeping interventions and humanitarian assistance missions both inside and outside Africa.

The creation of AFRICOM during the Bush Administration was viewed with suspicion by some African governments wary of U.S. military bases in Africa in the thick of the fight against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The U.S. Africa Command took charge of an existing base in Djibouti as well as Defense Department personnel at embassies and diplomatic missions. But it has not opened any new bases and has kept its headquarters in Germany.

AFRICOM is responsible for U.S. military relations with all African nations except Egypt. The U.S. Central Command maintains its long-standing relationship with Egypt, but AFRICOM coordinates with the government in Cairo on issues of African security.