Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, Djibouti’s minister of foreign affairs, agreed to establish a bilateral strategic and defense forum today during a meeting in Djibouti City, Djibouti.
“The forum will provide a formal and enduring structure for discussing and coordinating issues of mutual concern between the two nations,” according to a statement issued by Pentagon Press Secretary George Little.
The two leaders also discussed ways to strengthen and enhance the close military and civil partnership between the two countries and affirmed their nations’ commitment to the success of the African Union mission in Somalia and countering the threat of violent extremism, Little said.
“The Department of Defense will continue to emphasize its strategic relationship with Djibouti,” he added.
Following the discussions, the deputy secretary briefly spoke with about 150 service members representing the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force units assigned to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.
“We’ve done great things over the last 10 years,” Carter said. But at the same time, he added, the department recognizes that it is now turning a strategic corner. Instead of being defined by the response to the events of 9/11, he said, the nation has moved forward to face the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Africa holds great opportunity, Carter said. In addition to fighting extremism and protecting maritime security, CJTF-HOA personnel are planting seeds for the long-term future of Africa, the deputy secretary said.
Camp Lemonnier serves as a hub for activities throughout the Horn of Africa, Carter said.
“You are central to our strategy,” Carter told the troops.
Camp Lemonnier sets the standard for joint operations, said Air Force Lt. Col. Elizabeth Ortiz, CJTF-HOA public affairs director.
A U.S. Navy expeditionary base and the only enduring U.S. military base located in sub-Saharan Africa, Camp Lemmonier serves a vital role in U.S. and international security, Ortiz said.
In addition to hosting and supporting CJTF-HOA, the camp supports counterterrorism efforts and operations geared toward building security, sovereignty, and stability in the region, she said.
CJTF-HOA operations are centered on military-to-military engagements, civil-military operations, key leader engagements and providing enabling support to partner nations.