Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -- Brig. Gen. Mastin M. Robeson, commander, Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa, was a guest speaker at this year's Golden Spear Symposium held here, July 28 through July 30.
The purpose of the symposium is to provide a forum for strategic-level dialogue on current security issues and give representatives a chance to discuss and refine the work accomplished at previous Golden Spear meetings.
The African countries involved with the symposium were Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania and Uganda.
During the symposium sponsored by U.S. Central Command and organized with assistance from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Robeson's speech focused on terrorism being a regional disaster.
"When we think of disaster relief, our thoughts generally go to the requirements posed by the effects of floods, famine, earthquakes and storms," said Robeson. "I would argue that unchecked terrorism might be the greatest disaster of all. It brings about the loss of human life and untold suffering, undermines national leaders, destroys a nation's confidence in its government, erodes cultures and almost always creates economic disaster."
Robeson went on to say that terrorist groups breed in impoverished and underdeveloped regions and the only way to effectively defeat terrorism is to improve these regions so terrorism is not allowed to exist.
"The creation of such a safe and secure environment begins with the elimination of transnational terrorism," he said. "We must sufficiently invest in our military police so they are properly trained and equipped and we must seek common ground to develop regional cooperative policies that achieve regional securities."
Robeson said the symposium provides a great place to begin developening the regional framework of cooperation to successfully respond to immediate and imminent disasters.
For this reason, the majority of the symposium consisted of planning sessions where important issues were talked about and discussed by African, European and U.S. officials. The newly appointed Commander of CENTCOM, General John Abizaid, and His Excellency (Dr.) Salim A. Salim, former Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity, were among a few of the higher-ranking in attendance.
One of the key points made at this year's symposium was the necessity to take initiatives and forge ahead in the upcoming year.
"Initiatives like cooperative border security, improved air traffic control and airport security, coastal patrolling, sharing of information and intelligence, and the ability to deal swiftly and decisively with terrorist cells are great proposals that become giant steps when leveraged through regional partnerships," said Robeson. "Bi-lateral agreement is not enough, we must partner together if we hope to eliminate those elements that mean to destroy our way of life."
The conference series began in 2000 with an inaugural event in Kenya. This, however, was the first conference in which the threat of terrorism was addressed as a disaster requiring immediate attention.
"It is imperative that the free nations of the world proactively develop means and capabilities to disrupt and prevent the disasters that can be imposed by the insidious actions of transnational terrorists," said Robeson. "Our best hope for success is through our collective strength. Only collective regional commitment will preserve the freedom we so richly cherish."
After discussing the importance of counter-terrorism and the need for stability in the Horn-of-Africa region, Robeson ended his speech by saying, "I firmly believe that if we do not defeat the terrorists here and now, our children will fight them for decades to come. The future of this region rests in our hands."
Following the speech, Robeson answered questions from government officials dealing with future roles the Task Force will play in the region.