Commander, U.S. Africa Command, Army General Stephen Townsend, has ended a three-day West African visit (February 22-25) with a stop in Nigeria on Thursday to meet with the nation’s leaders and further the long-standing partnership and security cooperation between the two nations.
During the visit, General Townsend met with the Nigerian President’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, and National Security Adviser, Babagan Monguno, to discuss regional security issues and to express the Command’s gratitude for the assistance provided during a hostage rescue operation last year.
“When we asked for their help, the Nigerian government answered the call. Our hostage recovery mission in October would have been impossible without their support,” said Townsend. “They quickly provided assistance that helped the U.S. military to save an American life. That is a strong example of our partnership with Nigeria.”
According to a statement by the U.S. Embassy, Abuja, Townsend also met with senior military officials, including Minister of Defence Bashir Salihi Magash and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Leo Irabor, to talk about on-going cooperation in the region and greater maritime security and threat mitigation.
Nigeria is a key partner in countering violent extremist organizations throughout the Lake Chad Basin.
“The bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the U.S. is built on several pillars including security cooperation,” Townsend said. “U.S. Africa Command will do our part to advance the security cooperation pillar, so that Nigerians can enjoy the more secure future they all deserve.”
The statement added that “as close partners, the U.S. and Nigeria have worked at ensuring the collaborative relationship continues to grow to include a commitment to interoperability. Nigeria purchased 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, which will be delivered later this year.”
“Nigeria’s purchase of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft is another example of their commitment to interoperability and security in the region,” said Townsend. “Our economic relationship with Nigeria is already strong, and we look forward to the continued strengthening of security relationships. Nigeria’s leaders understand the importance of a collaborative approach to ensuring stability in West Africa and partnering on areas of mutual interest.”
The Commander also met with the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard. “General Townsend’s visit to Nigeria demonstrates the strategic importance the United States places on our bilateral relationship with Nigeria,”
Leonard said. “Our security cooperation partnership with Nigeria’s military will strengthen the country’s capabilities to secure land and sea borders, enhance overall security, and combat terrorism in the North East.”
As part of the visit, Townsend participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Nigeria Military National Cemetery to honor those who have given their lives in the service of their nation.
During the visit, the delegation expressed their condolences for the seven serving personnel killed in the crash of a Nigerian Air Force aircraft in Abuja earlier this week.
Earlier, General Townsend conducted a two-day visit to Ghana, February 23-24, where he met with Ghanaian leaders and U.S. Embassy personnel in Accra.
“Ghana is an African security leader and a key partner of U.S. Africa Command. Ghana’s peacekeeping contributions, protection of vital sea lanes in the Gulf of Guinea, and leadership help prevent the advancement of violent extremism. I look forward to exploring ways we can continue to deepen our partnership.”
Townsend met with several Ghanaian leaders, including President Nana Akufo-Addo; Chief of Defense Staff, including both current and immediate past Chiefs of Defense Staff Rear Admiral Seth Amoama and Lieutenant General Obed Akwa, respectively; Minister of Defense, the Honorable Dominic Nitiwul; and other senior members of the Ghana Armed Forces.
Topics of discussion included the shared commitment to degrade the influence of regional violent extremist organizations. Ghana contributes to efforts to counter violent extremism through its leadership within the Accra Initiative, which supports regional information sharing and cross-border security operations between the littoral West African states and the Sahel.
“West African security requires collaboration and partnership. The challenges faced cannot be faced by one nation alone,” said Townsend.
As violence in the Sahel and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea both steadily increase, Ghana’s strategic location makes it a critical anchor for multiple efforts, including activities to improve maritime security and counter transnational crime.
“U.S. Africa Command is committed to working with the Ghanaian military on regional challenges. We are improving out military ties through exchanges and Non-Commissioned Officer development,” Townsend said. “It’s important we grow our partnership with Ghana to advance shared security goals.”
While in Accra, Townsend also met with members of the U.S. Embassy, including Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan.
“We were pleased to welcome General Townsend, whose visit reaffirmed the broad and longstanding partnership between the United States and Ghana,” Sullivan said. “The visit underscored our shared values and the United States’ interest in working together to pursue mutually beneficial security solutions.”