On Thursday March 2nd, the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub held a virtual press conference. The briefing was attended by the Commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), U.S. Marine Corps General Michael Langley.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, General Langley is the first Black four-star general in the U.S. Marine Corps, promoted to the rank on August 6th, 2022. Langley follows the footsteps of his father, Willie C. Langley, an Air Force Veteran, serving his country.
General Langley grew up on military bases and graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington. He has served in the Marine Corps for 37 years.
Speaking from Rome, General Langley touched on the priorities of his tenure and Africa’s top regional security challenges.
The Importance of Africa
General Langley emphasized the importance of AFRICOM working together with African nations. According to the General, AFRICOM will function along with the U.S. National Security Strategy which recognizes Africa as an important geopolitical force.
“African nations are shaping our present, and they will shape our future. AFRICOM will continue to develop our partnerships and everything we do in Africa, and also in coordination and cooperation with our African partners,” Langley said.
This will be done through what Langley described as the 3D approach. “Some look at that as three-dimensional. Well, actually what it is, is an approach across a broad front of the U.S. Government, with diplomacy by the U.S. State Department, by development by our USAID, the Agency for International Development, and through defense as charged to me by our Department of Defense as Commander of AFRICOM,” he said.
Langley spoke about AFRICOM’s whole government approach, which sees African governments taking an active role in deciding and acting of their own volition without terms dictated to them with regards to solving problems.
“Just as the African – the actions of the U.S. Government and our whole-of-government approach speaks for ourselves, which is our actions – assures actions that are grounded in clear principles of core values, and also in parallel with the core values of the countries that we engage with that beget the overall objectives that are common that lead to the security and stabilization of desired – of the holistic desired end state,” Langley said.
Langley shared the military ties AFRICOM shares with African countries. The 2023 Chiefs of Defense Conference is an event that recently took place and saw participation by Langley and some of the military leaders of African nations. The conference saw the participation of 43 nations.
“During this Chiefs of Defense Conference we were able to build upon that momentum and also sharing ideas, sharing best practices,” he said, referring to the sharing of military ideas and strategies.
Langley also gave details on military exercises involving AFRICOM. The Flintlock and African Lion exercises are the military exercises he shared details on. According to General Langley, these exercises are not simply for aesthetic purposes but actually build and develop skill.
“So first of all, Flintlock – it’s over 29 nations that are going to be involved in Exercise Flintlock, and they address various issues across the spectrum of security, from crisis response to counterterrorism. And so over 1,300 members of the respective services across 29 nations that expands from South American countries, North American countries, to include Canada and the U.S., and some of our European partners will engage with our African partners to build – to build on interoperability and capacity to address CT challenges and build on the capability and capacity for crisis response,” Langley said.
General Langley said the African Lion exercise is one that has been going on for several years now. The exercise deals with transregional threats and complex security problems.
General Langley also touched on the various countries AFRICOM is operating in and shared his perspective on the multitude of issues taking place in Africa.
General Langley was asked a question regarding South Africa’s military drills with China and Russia. He noted that South Africa was a partner of the U.S. and wanted to diversify. Regarding the Mosi II drills, Langley said from the outside looking in, those exercises were different from those AFRICOM participated in.
He spoke on how support is being given to the Government of Somalia which is currently fighting against Al-Shabab. “And so we’re helping him (Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud) address his complex security strategy by building capacity and also capability within the Somali National Army, or some of their special forces, the Danab forces,” Langley said.
He spoke about the ceasefire in Ethiopia and how it was fragile but how it appeared as though both parties to the agreement were working hard to maintain peace.
General Langley spoke about how he had traveled to the North African countries such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. He acknowledged that those countries did not share the most cordial of relationships but could resolve any disagreements they had amongst themselves. A country the General was eager to mention was Libya. “Libya is making ways in the diplomatic realm to try to come together. I had two different – two different leadership representatives from Libya here at this conference,” he said.
The Wagner Group
During the briefing, Langley was asked about the Wagner Group’s operations in Africa. He said that the Kremlin linked group was causing problems in all the African countries they have operated in.
“So for several years Wagner has been a growing influence across the continent. They have destabilizing effects in every country that they have set foot on, whether we’re talking about Libya, Central African Republic, Mali. And they want to expand their presence in other countries as well. All of their activities of note have not helped these countries. It’s been destabilizing,” he said.
He pointed out that the Wagner Group had been accused of committing violations against human rights, including arbitrary killings. He pointed to Russia’s influence in Africa, claiming that it is being exerted through the Wagner Group and by the use of predatory means to lay claim to natural resources.
The moderator of the press event let General Langley return to his busy schedule but he said a final few words.
“So I close with that we all have an important role. And as I talk to State Department, they – we know that your work brings awareness to these issues in this hub call, and that affect the people on the Continent of Africa, but, moreover, the people across the globe. So in closing I say that I am honored to serve as Commander of the U.S. AFRICOM, and I remain committed to working with our partners to help build a better and more secure future together. Thank you,” General Langley said in conclusion.