VICENZA, Italy — U.S. Army Africa's commanding general met with Algerian military and government leaders in Algiers, Algeria, Dec. 5-7.
Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg discussed bilateral relations and regional issues, toured the Algerian Central Military Museum and met with reporters for a free-ranging press conference before returning to USARAF headquarters in Vicenza, Italy.
Accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Algeria David Pearce, and members of the American country team, Hogg met with Maj. Gen. Ahcene Tafer, land forces commander of the People's National Army (ANP); Mohamed Kamel Rezag Bara, presidential adviser on counter terrorism; Maj. Gen. Ahmed Senhadji, secretary general of the Ministry of Defense; and Brig. Gen. Rachid Saoudi, commander of ANP special forces; said Lt. Col. Philip Archer, U.S. Army Africa's North African regional desk officer.
Hogg took the opportunity to clarify USARAF's missions and dispel erroneous perceptions during a press conference Dec. 6, with Algerian and international media.
"This is my first trip to Algeria, and I'm here to meet with the leadership of the land forces and to develop a relationship, and to discuss some of the future training opportunities that both of our nations can do together," Hogg said.
He mentioned upcoming joint Algerian-American reconnaissance and counter-IED training possibilities, and a future visit by Algerian soldiers to the United States to investigate how the Army integrates its lessons learned center into its training regime.
"A lot of mutual discussions and a lot of mutual benefits this year," he said.
Hogg went into some detail to explain what U.S. Army Africa is, its place in the overall U.S. military, and the context of its operations in Africa.
"Let me explain a little bit about what U.S. Army Africa does. It's one of these headquarters that a lot of people don't know anything about, to include some of the people I talk to in the U.S. military," he said.
Hogg clarified that USARAF is an Army component command with its headquarters in Vicenza, Italy, and is the land forces component of U.S. Africa Command, led by Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward, which is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.
"It is strictly a headquarters. That means I have a staff and personnel that do headquarters-type business. I have no assigned forces, which means I do not have combat forces assigned to my headquarters," Hogg said.
"Our primary mission here on the continent of Africa is what we refer to as theater security cooperation. In other words, we come at the request and the permission of the sovereign countries here in Africa to train, to work with, to cooperate on a variety of areas, from just basic command-post exercises to doing humanitarian and disaster relief-type events – the whole realm.
"But we come only if a nation says, 'Hey, we'd like to do some work with you. We'd like to partner with the U.S. Army forces,'" he explained.
"And the other piece that's very important is that we are in support of the embassies. So we do not do anything on our own, unilaterally. We work with the countries and we work with the embassy, and that's really what our mission set is."
Hogg responded in the negative when asked whether USARAF had established or was in the process of establishing bases in Algeria or the region.
"I think the question you're trying to ask is: 'Do we have any bases here in Algeria'' And the answer is: No, we don't have any bases here," he said
Hogg responded as well to a number of questions regarding security and counter terrorism activity in the Sahel region.
"As you know, this is a regional issue, where Algerian land forces have taken a leadership role, and it's very impressive, the progress that's been made," he said.
He described the current status of counter terrorism in the Sahel as a work in progress.
"And with the leadership of the Algerian land forces and the work that they're doing down there for coordination, there's progress being made," Hogg said.
He was asked about whether counter-terrorism training is part of the Algerian-American land forces relationship.
"Our support and assistance is based on request from sovereign countries, and it's really in a training piece, so that kind of flows into your counter-terrorism training," he said.
The general was asked whether USARAF, or AFRICOM, is planning to establish a headquarters on the African continent proper, and took the opportunity to dispel that lingering notion.
"There is no decision, no desire to move the AFRICOM headquarters. I mean, General Ward's been pretty clear on that. He wants to get beyond that and just get into the mission. As far as my headquarters goes – Vicenza, Italy. That's where we're at, that's where we're going to stay," he explained. "Which means we do a lot of travel to make the mission happen – but that's OK.
"So there are no plans now, in the future or in the past to move AFRICOM into the continent, and that's really where we're at at this stage," Hogg said. "We're more interested in getting on with our mission of cooperation and helping with security and stability on the continent."
"The bottom line is: continued engagement and agreement as far as some of the future activities that are planned, and the potential for future exercises here in Algeria. And so it's very productive and very enjoyable. I've enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to coming back," he said.
Hogg returned to Vicenza Dec. 7. The visit strengthened the overall relationship between the Algerian and American land forces, said Archer.
"They value the growing partnership with the U.S. military. They are a very modern military and we have much to learn from them," he said.