U.S National Defense University Capstone Fellows Visit AFL

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Another landmark feat for Liberia’s national security and defense cooperation between the Ministry of Defense/Armed Forces of Liberia (MOD/AFL) and US Department of Defense has taken place in Liberia. This was consequent to MOD/AFL receiving a delegation of 19 distinguished fellows from the National Defense University (NDU), USA, led by Gen (Rtd) Thomas D. Waldhauser and Rear Admiral Gerard Mauer (Rtd). Other members of the delegation comprised senior military officers from the US Armed Forces. The team was on pivotal study tour to the Republic of Liberia and MOD/AFL in particular. The purpose of the visit was to strengthen military engagements and enhance strategic discussions relating to bilateral partnership between the MOD/AFL and US Department of Defense.  The visit commenced with a meeting with the Acting Minister of Defense, Brig Gen Geraldine J. George (Rtd). The Acting Minister welcomed the distinguished fellows and expressed her delight for their choice of Liberia as destination of their visit. Furthermore, the Minister highlighted the substantial support the MOD/AFL received from the United States since 2006 when the new AFL was formed. She also acknowledged the AFL as a “Force for Good,” emphasizing the comprehensive nature of US support received by the armed forces on reforms, trainings, and equipping. Additionally, the Minister commended the pivotal role played by the State Partnership Program with the Michigan National Guard, which bolstered ties between the AFL and US Armed Forces. Similarly, the Minister pointed out that it is gratifying for the team’s choice to visit Liberia after a keenly contested Presidential election. The Minister also conveyed the warm compliments of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the AFL to the team and wish them fruitful study tour.

Relatedly, the NDU team engaged the Chief of Staff (COS) AFL, Brig Gen Davidson F Forleh in a strategic discussion. In attendance were the Deputy Chief of Staff and other principal staff officers of the HQ AFL. The COS explained Liberia’s longstanding relationship with the United States by underlining the mutual benefits derived from this collaboration. He further Provided the team with a comprehensive overview of the AFL’s achievements through US support and expressed satisfaction in the standing of the AFL as a national asset. The COS affirmed that the enduring support from the United States reflects a robust bilateral relationship between the two nations.During the interactive session, the COS outlined his top command priorities as: discipline/professionalism, provision of logistics for the AFL, and improving welfare of personnel. He expressed concerns over contemporary security challenges in West Africa which adversely inhibited Liberia’s growth.  The COS highlighted the security challenges as terrorism from the Sahel, maritime crime in the coastal states, militancy, youths’ restiveness, porous borders, illicit drug trade, and illegal arms/ammunition trade amongst others. Adding that, the existing collaboration with the US Government, especially the Michigan National Guard, is known for its instrumental role in building the capacity of personnel in the Liberian National Coast Guard. Following the meeting with the Chief of Staff, the NDU team received a comprehensive 30-minute briefing from the AFL Assistant Chief of Operations, Col Joseph T. Gayflor. The brief highlighted the successes gained from the US partnership, including training, mentorship, and equipping. He also outlined challenges faced by the AFL, such as attrition, unimproved training facilities, limited training aids, inadequate housing facilities, and equipment shortages resulting from wear and tear. The NDU team further engaged with 25 selected AFL personnel from the 8 rotations (LIBBATT 1 to 8) that previously served in the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali. The meeting provided a platform for an exchange of experiences and insights, which further enriched the mission of the team. Finally, the MOD/AFL expressed heartfelt appreciation to the NDU delegation for their visit, recognizing the significance of such exchanges in advancing the shared goals of security, stability, and cooperation. The visit was adjudged as a testament to Liberia’s enhanced capacity in peace support operations, underscoring the success of the fruitful collaboration with the United States.

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