Four-Star AFRICOM Commander Reassures Troops After Siege at US Capitol

U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend.
U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, Africa Command (AFRICOM), speaks to service members during his trip to East Africa at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Dec. 17, 2020. (U.S Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Dana J. Cable)

The head of U.S. Africa Command sought to reassure his troops Friday that the American government remains strong and ready to meet any threat, despite the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob incensed by false claims of election fraud.

"Some of you may be concerned about the events we saw unfold back home in the U.S. Capitol," Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, the AFRICOM commander, said in a joint statement via Twitter with Marine Sgt. Maj. Richard Thresher, the command's senior enlisted leader. "America has withstood much greater challenges in the past. … Our system of government is strong, resilient and will prevail."

The comments were a rare statement on current events from an active-duty commander and senior enlisted leader.

"The American people expect and need us to stay steady and keep clear eyes on our duty. And we will," the statement continues.

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As of Friday morning, Townsend appeared to be the only one of the 11 combatant commanders who felt the need to give assurances to his troops on the stability of U.S. institutions following the brief mob takeover of the Capitol building.

Townsend issued the statement as AFRICOM continues the Trump-ordered withdrawal of most of the estimated 700 to 800 U.S. troops in Somalia.

On Thursday, AFRICOM announced that the second airstrike of the new year had been carried out against al-Shabaab members in Somalia, resulting in the deaths of possibly five insurgents, according to initial assessments.

"This strike targeted known al-Shabaab leaders who facilitated finance, weapons, fighters and explosives," Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, commander of Joint Task Force-Quartz, said in a statement. "Our continued disruption of al-Shabaab through persistent strikes shows our ongoing commitment to our partners."

In several statements, Townsend has said that the mission in support of the Somali government will continue from neighboring countries despite the troop withdrawals.

The withdrawal announced by the Pentagon Dec. 4 was initially supported by the aircraft carrier Nimitz and its strike group. Last week, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced that the Nimitz would return to the U.S. But on Jan. 3, he reversed the order, stating that the carrier would remain in the Middle East to counter threats from Iran.

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