African Defense Attachés and Embassy Officials Attend Weeklong Seminar

By Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Updated: 12/04/2009

Kingsley Nwanne Nwoko of Nigeria raises an issue.

Nine African defense attachés and six civilian officials holding security-related portfolios at embassies in Washington, D.C., attended the Africa Center for Strategic Studies-sponsored African Defense Attaché Seminar Nov. 16-20 at National Defense University.

The annual seminar acquaints newly-assigned African defense attachés and embassy personnel with the structures and workings of the U.S. Government and its security policies and programs pertaining to Africa.

Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.), the Africa Center’s Director, welcomed the participants and presented an overview of Center’s mission, goals, vision, and academic and outreach programs. He said he hoped the seminar would provide the participants with a better understanding of the intricacies of the U.S. Government.

Seminar participants included representatives from the: Embassy of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria; Embassy of the Republic of Botswana; Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon; Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt; Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; Embassy of the Gabonese Republic; Embassy of the Republic of Ghana; Embassy of the Republic of Kenya; Embassy of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya; Embassy of the Republic of Malawi; Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco; Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Embassy of the Republic of Senegal; Embassy of the Republic of South Africa; Embassy of the Republic of Uganda.

According to Brad Gutierrez, Ph.D., Academic Chair of Security Studies at the Africa Center and faculty lead for the seminar, as African defense attachés and embassy personnel begin their duties in the U.S., they face a broad range of governmental and non-governmental organizations, and a complex set of interactions that affect U.S. Government security policies and programs relating to Africa.

“An early familiarization with the U.S. Government and other organizations, and relationships within and among them,” Dr. Gutierrez said, “enables seminar participants to accomplish their duties more effectively and better articulate their countries’ interests and concerns to appropriate officials and organizations.

The seminar was conducted primarily through plenary and question-and-answer sessions with various experts and representatives from the U.S. Government, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations. Sessions included overviews of U.S. interests, policies, and programs in Africa; the role of the U.S. Congress in policy-making; and the roles that nongovernmental organizations and think tanks play in policy development. Other periods dealt with the Interagency process; security assistance mechanisms; and U.S.-U.N. roles, relations, and peacekeeping.

In addition to classroom activities, and to reinforce the concepts addressed during the seminar and broaden practical application, sessions about the Departments State and Defense coincided with field trips to these institutions to facilitate in-depth discussions about issues of interest to seminar participants and to introduce them to key personnel who address Africa-related issues.

At the Department of State, seminar participants discussed Africa policy issues with Laura Griesmer, Deputy Director of the Africa Bureau’s Office of Regional and Security Affairs; U.S. Army Colonel Mike Skardon, Military Advisor to the Africa Bureau; and Scott Fisher, Operations Advisor for the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program. The participants then had an opportunity to meet with their respective Department of State country desk officers.

Ambassador Vicki Huddleston (ret.), Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, welcomed the participants to the Pentagon. The first visit to the Pentagon for many of the participants, Ambassador Huddleston answered their questions about U.S. Africa Command and U.S. policy towards Africa. She also discussed the objective of providing African nations and regional organizations with an integrated Department coordination point to help address security and related needs.

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