CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti -- Gen. Tommy Franks, commander, U.S. Central Command, visited Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa operations June 26, taking time to address the nearly 1,800 service members here conducting counter-terrorism operations across the region.
Gen. Franks, who is retiring in July after 38 years of service in the U.S. Army, was accompanied by Brig. Gen. Mastin M. Robeson, commander, CJTF-HOA on a regional tour that also included stops in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The CJTF operations area, part of the US CENTCOM area of operations, is defined as the total airspace, land areas and coastal waters of Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen.
Franks told the gathering of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, "The purpose of this (visit) is for me to have a chance to represent millions of people and stand up here and tell you all thanks a whole lot for being a half a world away from everything that's important to you. The Global War on Terrorism wouldn't be doing anything if you weren't doing what you're doing - that's a fact."
Franks went on to say, "Everyone here should be very proud of who you are, what you do and where you are. Recognize what you're doing is buying a future for my grandbabies, your children and future grandchildren. Thanks a lot for what you're doing for the country."
Before wading into the crowd for hundreds of handshakes and photos, Franks urged CJTF-HOA forces to "take care of yourself, take care of each other and most importantly, take care of the mission."
After receiving an intelligence update and briefs on current CJTF operations, Franks and Robeson discussed the overall progress of the mission. They also reviewed the emerging relationships and degree of support from national leaders in the region and discussed requirements for synchronizing maritime, land-based and aviation assets at key points in the Horn of Africa to better focus counter-terrorism operations.
Franks also met with Maj. Gen Fathi Ahmed Houssein, Djbiouti's Chief of Defense and was received by Ismail Omar Guelleh, President, Republic of Djibouti for talks on coalition force operations and partnership issues with Djibouti.
In brief ceremony, President Guelleh took the opportunity to honor Franks by presenting him with the Medaille de la Grande Etoile de Djibouti (Commander of the Djibouti Grand Star Order) for his service and contributions toward creating a more secure and stable environment in Djibouti.
Last week, Lt. Gen. John P. Abizaid, Deputy Commander (Forward) for U.S. Central Command, and U.S. President George W. Bush's nominee to succeed Franks as commander for U.S. CENTCOM, visited CJTF-HOA operations here. Abizaid also met with President Guelleh, as well as Djiboutian and coalition military officials engaged in counter-terrorism operations across the region.
Franks and Robeson met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Chief of Staff, Ethiopian National Defense Force, Lt. Gen. Samora Yenusto on June 25 in Addis Ababa to reaffirm support for creating an environment leading to economic stability and national development. Also, U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Aurelia Brazeal hosted a dinner in Gen. Franks' honor that was attended by Ethiopian Minister of Defense, Abadula Gemmeda and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Seyoum Mesfin.
In Asmara, Franks and Robeson met with an Eritrean delegation on June 27 led by President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, which also included Minister of Defense, Gen. Sebhat Efram and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ali Said Abdella. U.S. Ambassador to Eritrea, Donald J. McConnell accompanied Franks and Robeson for meetings with Eritrean officials to discuss the CJTF mission and other regional security issues.
Recent East Africa visits by Franks and Abizaid underscore the importance of the CJTF-HOA mission and the commitment of U.S. CENTCOM to partner with host nations to win the Global War on Terrorism in the Horn of Africa region.
The CJTF-HOA headquarters, which arrived in theater in December 2002 to oversee operations in the Horn of Africa for U.S. CENTCOM, has the mission of detecting, disrupting and defeating transnational terrorism in the region and assisting in creating conditions that deny the reemergence of terrorist activity.