Combined Joint Task Force commander reflects on progress in Horn of Africa
January 16, 2008
CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti — Asked about his accomplishments as head of the Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa, Rear Adm. James Hart talks about the village of Assamo.
The small Djiboutian hamlet sits near the border with Somalia. During his year directing CJTF — HOA, the task force has built a medical clinic in the village, as well as constructed improvements to the local school and upgraded water quality.
Those kinds of civic enhancements — targeting education, water quality and health — were spread all throughout Eastern Africa, he said. “We are trying to do that in many different places,” Hart said.
Hart is due to step down from his post in February, when he will be replaced by Rear Adm. Philip Greene, Jr.
Greene is currently the director of policy, resources and strategy at U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Africa at Naples, Italy.
During his tenure, adding the U.S. military’s capability to the existing network of aid organizations and State Department initiatives took some coordination, Hart said.
Previously, the military had problems with continuity and credibility when it came to humanitarian projects in the region, according to leaders of African aid organizations.
Hart made it a priority to improve communication between the military, State Department, non-governmental organizations and the various African governments.
Hart said that he asked himself, “How do we take the great capability that the American country has and work through African organizations?”
Hart placed liaisons with embassy and aid organizations and reached out to African governments. The improvements were quickly evident.
“I’m glad to see the military get smart,” said Kevin A. Rushing, deputy mission director for USAID in Ethiopia.
Hart said he was glad to learn from organizations that had been in Africa longer.
“USAID has a long history and has a strong network,” Hart said. “By developing a relationship we have learned much from USAID.”
In the waning days of his tenure at CJTF-HOA, Hart is hoping to include Rwanda in the task force’s area of responsibility.
He also planned to escort a group of American businessmen through the region, to give them a glimpse of the potential in the area.
Hart said if he had more time he would have liked to spread the message of the task force on a grass-roots level through the radio.
“Everybody here has transistor radios,” he said. “That’s how they get their information here.”
Hart would not reveal what his future plans were, but he said that he has enjoyed his time in Africa.
“It’s been a real pleasure for me to work with people here,” he said.