Eastern African Force Exercises Capability to Respond to Crisis
The Eastern Africa Standby Brigade (EASBRIG) kicked off a week-long command post exercise on November 24, 2008, a crucial step toward forming a regional force that can quickly deploy to take on security, humanitarian and other crises.
EASBRIG brought together 13 Eastern African nations under the umbrella of the African Union. It is one of five regional forces being formed by the AU as part of the African Standby Force.
"The CPX is the first step toward moving forward on a concrete (security) capability in the region," said David Asher, chairman of the Friends of EASBRIG which helps coordinate international support for the force.
Subject matter experts from the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, and the U.S. Joint Forces Command are supporting the exercise, along with representatives from the UN, European Union, France and many other organizations at different levels.
"Without our partners' support, we would not have been able to hold the exercise this year," said Brigadier General Salimou Amiria, chairman of the chiefs of defense staff of the Eastern Africa region.
The exercise will test 110 EASBRIG headquarters and battalion command staff members in scenarios the force might face during a peacekeeping operation. Exercise players will "translate the AU mandate (for a peacekeeping operation) into tactical and operational activity," said Simon Mulongo, director of EASBRIG's Coordinating Mechanism.
"The conflict profile in this region is long and deplorable," said Kenya's minister of foreign affairs, Moses Wetangula, at a ceremony starting the exercise. "The challenges of our region require a unified approach."
This year's exercise will lead up to a field training exercise in 2009 which will also include soldiers, police officers and civilians who will round out the force. When fully formed, EASBRIG will have an initial military component of about 6,000 augmented by a non-military force of as many as 3,000, according to an EASBRIG press release. The goal is to have a fully-capable African Stand-by Force by 2010.
In ceremonies to launch the week, the Kenyan Army Band played the national anthems of all 13 participating countries as their national flags were raised in front of one of the buildings of the International Mine Support Training Center here, where the exercise is being held.