VICENZA, Italy – African partner land forces chiefs and senior enlisted leaders, partner nation liaison officers, National Guard State Partnership Program adjutant generals and representatives, Multinational Joint Task Force and African Mission to Somalia commanders, interagency leaders, and senior U.S. military officials attended the 9th African Land Forces Summit, held May 19.
The summit theme for 2021, “Maintaining security in a degraded environment,” highlighted COVID-19-related challenges within the operational environment and encouraged dialogue to address military pandemic responses, as well as the pandemic’s effects on current and future operations.
In accordance with the event’s theme and taking into consideration the COVID-19 pandemic-related travel limitations and the health and safety of country delegations, the command organized ALFS 21 as a one-day virtual event. ALFS, one of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa’s premier annual engagements, was first held in Washington, D.C., in 2010, but has been co-hosted by an African nation on the African continent since 2012.
Following opening remarks from Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Rohling, the SETAF-AF commander, the attendees, including 35 African land forces commanders, participated in one of four regionally-focused plenary sessions on a virtual platform. Each plenary session opened with recorded speeches from U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville, the U.S. Army chief of staff; Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the U.S. Africa Command commander; and Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, U.S. Army Europe and Africa commanding general. Session participants then engaged in moderated discussion, which included prepared remarks from land forces leaders from the region, on topics related to the event theme.
In their remarks, McConville, Townsend, Cavoli and Rohling each emphasized that while the global pandemic has impacted the way ahead for operations, it has not diminished the U.S. Army’s commitment to supporting its African partners in ensuring peace and stability on the continent and throughout the world.
“We’ve all felt the impact of COVID-19 in our nations and our forces, and we must all be prepared for continuous change in the strategic environment and emerging challenges,” McConville said. “I still truly believe that we are in an age of strategic competition. That said, competition does not have to mean conflict. What we really want is cooperation and coexistence. Together, with strong allies and partners, we have many more options collectively than we do as individual nations to maintain our strength and readiness across the region.”