DAKAR, Senegal — Military leaders from 10 different nations across Northwest Africa and the U.S., in partnership with the African Center for Strategic Studies, gathered for the Regional Air Chiefs Conference here Tuesday through Thursday.
The commander of U.S. Air Forces Africa, Gen. Philip Breedlove, was on hand at the conference to deliver the keynote speech highlighting the concept of a multinational partnership to help improve regional stability to a crowd of more than 100 attendees comprised of air chiefs, distinguished guests and media personnel.
“Partnering … to enable African solutions to African problems is still our primary philosophy,” said Breedlove. “This conference is a prime example of our desire to hear and to learn from the many perspectives our African partners bring to the table.”
The conference will focus on four key priorities: cross regional issues; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; regional approach to airlift; and air/ground integration.
“Together we can create a region where all citizens can live in peace. As you pursue these goals, we will be there, side by side and shoulder to shoulder,” said Lewis Lukens, the U.S. ambassador in Senegal. “In our meeting before the start of this conference, General Breedlove mentioned the NATO motto, ‘stronger together than apart,’ that applies equally in West Africa as it does in Europe.”
Also attending the conference as a panel speaker was Maj. Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, the 3rd Air Force vice commander, who talked about bringing together lasting African partnerships and the future of Northern and Western Africa.
“This week (together) we will bring new ideas to the table,” Everhart said. We have a saying in English, to think outside the box; let’s do just that.”
One challenge all nations in the region face is a strong presence of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. AQIM is an Islamist militia that aims to overthrow governments and institute an Islamic state. They’re known to operate out of a host of African countries, including Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.
“As Airmen you are on the front lines in the global fight against these violent extremist organizations,” Breedlove said. “Our common enemy is well equipped and willing to do what is necessary to accomplish their objectives. These groups are a viral threat that crosses national (African) borders. They cannot be overcome by a single nation; (it) requires partnerships and significant cooperation.”
During his speech, the minister of defense for Senegal, the Honorable Minister Augustin Tine, echoed how each nation should continue to work with each other.
“Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success,” Tine said.
Breedlove expounded on the necessity of sticking together.
“(Violent extremist organizations) cross national borders and blend with the national population, taking them on takes a regional approach, no country can do this alone,” he said. “I’m excited to hear your council on how we can best confront these challenges.”