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STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. ambassadors from 15 countries and embassy staffs from Africa spent last week at the U.S. European Command learning about EUCOM and how they can work together.

The primary goal was to improve peacekeeping operations of the Economic Community of West African States.

Troops from ECOWAS countries were used as peacekeepers, with assistance from EUCOM, in Liberia last summer after former President Charles Taylor went into exile.

Several countries had used EUCOM programs to train their troops.

The conference, held Tuesday through Thursday, gave EUCOM the opportunity to highlight what the command was doing and how it could help the diplomats, said Navy Capt. Stephen Ross, Africa division chief for EUCOM’s plans and policy directorate.

Ross, who put the conference together, said the three-day event also allowed the diplomats to tell EUCOM the types of help they would like.

EUCOM regularly holds conferences for U.S. ambassadors and other diplomats from within its area of responsibility.

ECOWAS was established in May 1975 to promote trade, cooperation and self-reliance in West Africa. Its members include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

EUCOM’s deputy commander, Air Force Gen. Charles Wald, was host to the conference.

“Over the course of the conference, we aim to take advantage of the experience and knowledge of this interagency group to improve this critical sub-regional organization, achieve consensus on the way ahead for ECOWAS and identify and agree on take-away action items,” Wald said in a letter to participants.

Military attaches, analysts and other military leaders also attended.

Ross said that, in general, the ECOWAS nations are rich in natural resources and that the U.S. reliance on their resources will be growing in the next decade.

He said that until the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Africa and many other regions had been forgotten. They are now getting more attention as terrorist cells have been rooted out in the Middle East and have moved to parts of Africa.

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