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Opening Statement by GEN Stephen J. Townsend, Commander, U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM), before the United States Senate Committee (SASC), 30 Jan 2020

By GEN Stephen J. Townsend

Chairman Inhofe, Ranking Member Reed, and distinguished members of the committee, good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.

It is a privilege to be a part of and lead America’s finest men and women at U.S. Africa Command, an exceptional team dedicated to protecting America and advancing her Interests on the African continent. I would like to take a moment to honor the memories of three exceptional Americans – U.S. Army Specialist Henry J. Mayfield, Jr., Mr. Bruce Triplett and Mr. Dustin Harrison – who lost their lives in the service of our nation on January 5that Manda Bay, Kenya.  To their families – our thoughts and prayers are with you. Your loved ones died while protecting the American people from the very real threat of the Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab terrorist groups.

I am here this morning with my battle buddy, shipmate and friend Admiral Craig Faller, to discuss shared challenges and opportunities in both the areas of responsibility. I work with Admiral Faller and fellow Combatant Commanders to address common trans-regional issues, while furthering joint force readiness and our ability to fight across the globe.

AFRICOM is critical to maintaining this ability as Africa over-watches a global cross-roads with strategic choke points and sea lines of communication that are essential to global commerce and critical to U.S. operations in the world.  Our future security and prosperity rest on our strategic access in times of crisis and these waters remaining free, open, and secure.

U.S. Africa Command has been engaged in an ongoing “blank slate review” in concert with the Department of Defense, we’ve developed a prioritized list of objectives and actions to protect the Homeland and secure our strategic interests in Africa while focusing the American taxpayer’s investment in the right areas.

Africa is key terrain for competition with China and Russia who are aggressively using economic and military means to expand their access and influence.  I believe Africa offers America a competitive edge over China and Russia and we should take advantage of it. We will grow more efficient to contribute to higher defense priorities and refocus resources to global power competition, we cannot take pressure off major terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda. These groups, and many others, remain an inconvenient reality in Africa.  While we should not try to confront each one, we should remain resolute in confronting those who threaten Americans and the American homeland—like Al Shabaab, the largest and most violent of Al Qaeda’s branches. Today, AFRICOM does that using a light and relatively low cost footprint by supporting African and international partners who are leading these efforts.

I have learned that small investments—a few troops and a few bucks—can go a long way and make a real difference in Africa. Our whole of government and partner-centric approach acts as a force multiplier to address Africa’s many complex challenges.  What AFRICOM accomplishes with a few people and a few dollars, on a continent 3 ½ times the size of the continental United States, is a bargain for the American taxpayer and low cost insurance for America in that region.

A secure and stable Africa remains an enduring American interest.  U.S. Africa Command remains ready to protect and advance American interests and respond to crises in Africa.

Again, thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for your continued support to our armed forces.  I look forward to your questions.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.