ASMARA, Eritrea -- Marine Brig. Gen. Mastin M. Robeson, commander, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa visited with Gen. Sebhat Efram, Eritrea's Minister of Defense, and attended the U.S. Embassy's independence festivities here July 4.
Eritrea is one of the seven countries in the task force's area of operations; others include Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Yemen. The visit's aim was to reinforce the relationship between Eritrean military leaders and the leadership of CJTF-HOA through discussing current issues facing the East African region, as well as the Global War on Terrorism.
"Eritrea has been a visible, vocal and public supporter since day one in the War on Terrorism," Robeson said. "During visits like this, we are able to hear each other's perspectives concerning regional issues."
During the meeting, Robeson and Efram discussed geo-political issues, humanitarian concerns, military cooperation and overall progress in counter-terrorism operations within the Horn of Africa region.
One of the main topics discussed by the two leaders was the affect of terrorism on economic growth and national development in the region. Both agreed that continued expansion of the information sharing network currently in place is a key to success for counter-terrorism operations. Robeson and Sebhat also noted that timely sharing of information forms the foundation of the CJTF-HOA mission, detecting, disrupting, and defeating transnational terrorism and assisting in creating conditions that deny the reemergence of terrorist activity.
Through inter-country military training exercises and civil-military operations CJTF-HOA has enhanced the region's stability by building strong relationships and promoting destruction of terrorists cells in the Horn of Africa region, since arrival on station December 2002.
Sebhat explained, "Bringing stability to the region will not be accomplished in one day, we have to work at it everyday to bring hope to the hearts and thoughts among the people."
This visit was one of many made by the CJTF leadership to Asmara to discuss regional counter-terrorism issues. Previous visits have included meetings with Isaias Afwerki, President of Eritrea and other ministerial level officials and President Isaias was the first head of state to visit the CJTF headquarters aboard the U.S. Mount Whitney in March of this year.
"We will continue our relationship with Eritrea, General Sebhat offers many perspectives that aid our mission. We must understand how people view life before we can understand the person," Robeson affirmed.
Following their discussions, Robeson and Sebhat attended U.S. Independence Day festivities at the Intercontinental Hotel here. The celebration's host was Donald J. McConnell, U.S. Ambassador to Eritrea and also included many government and civilian representatives from Eritrea and across the region.
"It has not been an easy year for the United States which continues to face the challenge of confronting international terrorism, an effort for which we have had the unstinting support of the government of Eritrea - we are grateful for that," McConnell said to the crowd of hundreds.
McConnell went on to note the strong working relationship between the task force, Eritrea and the other countries in the region that have the common goal of destroying terrorism.
"The United States will continue to work with Eritrea, in cooperation with other partners and international organizations, on the agenda of peace, security, economic development and democracy. In doing so, it is my hope that relations between our two countries, and our two peoples, will strengthen and develop further over the years to come."