DC National Guard joins Burkina Faso to fight terrorism

U.S. military officials and representatives of Burkina Faso’s military met at the Pentagon on May 1 to solidify a commitment between the District of Columbia National Guard (DCNG) and the their counterparts in Burkina Faso to jointly tackle some difficult problems, including a rise tide of terrorism.

Maj. Gen. William Walker, combatant commander of DCNG, said during the meeting they expect to leverage their strengths, specifically their knowledge of the region, the customs and the cultural traditions of West Africa, in the partnership.

“We have more West African born soldiers and airmen than, we believe, any other of the 54 National Guards and those soldiers and airmen are everything from public affairs officers to medical doctors.”

Burkina Faso is likely to need all of that help and more.

There have been more than 200 terror attacks in the last three years and according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, terrorist events, “related to Al Qaida in the Land of the Magreb (AQIM) affiliates and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), rose from 24 to 136 in 2018.”

To capture the commitment the small land-locked nation is making for what amounts to the fight of its life, Col. William Hummer, National Guard Bureau’s director of international affairs, compared it to the US military’s D-Day experience on June 6, 1944.

On D-Day, Hummer said, “something like 156,000 (American) troops landed on those beaches on in Normandy. That was about 8%” of 1.4 million troops at the time.

A U.S. military translator speaks with a member of the Burkina Faso military delegation. (WTOP/J.J. Green)

“Burkina Faso, this past month,” he added, “launched an operation to address insecurity in the eastern part of the country. The Burkina Faso Security Forces put 20% of their military into this fight to confront terrorism.”

Andrew Young, U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso, who was in attendance at the meeting said the partnership comes at a critical time.

“Burkina Faso is in a tough fight against terrorism. There’s been a surge in terrorist attacks. This surge in attacks is targeting the state, this fragile democracy and the values that we share with our partners.”

The relationship between the two militaries is a part of the State Partnership Program (SPP). The program, which includes 75 partnerships with 81 nations is a key component of DOD’s plan to address security interests globally.

The SPP is designed to help the U.S. support and assure its allies, deter aggression, and build lasting security cooperation relationships based on mutual respect and common interests.

Walker said the DCNG support to Burkina Faso would cover the entire security cooperation spectrum.

“We have special agents from the ATF, the DEA, the FBI, the United States Secret Service and the United States Marshals service. It’s about strengthening their security capabilities and their security apparatus,” Walker said.

The partnership also provides a valuable opportunity for DCNG to enhance its own readiness, its interoperability and regional expertise.

U.S. Africa Command Deputy Director of Plans Brig. Gen. Steven deMilliano said the partnership, “reinforces our whole of government approach that we’ve taken to our security cooperation in the endeavors that we have on the continent for security, stability and prosperity; not only in Burkina Faso, but for their neighbors as well.”

J.J. Green

JJ Green is WTOP's National Security Correspondent. He reports daily on security, intelligence, foreign policy, terrorism and cyber developments, and provides regular on-air and online analysis. He is also the host of two podcasts: Target USA and Colors: A Dialogue on Race in America.

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