Rear Admiral Muatuca, Commander of the Navy
Rear Admiral Lacore, Vice Commander US Sixth Fleet,
Honorable senior members of the Mozambican Ministry of Defense,
Distinguished participants in the Senior Leaders Seminar,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Please accept my congratulations as we gather here today for the official conclusion of Exercise Cutlass Express 2019. In particular, I would like to thank the Mozambican Ministry of Defense and the Mozambican Navy for their generosity and tireless commitment to making this Exercise, including the Senior Leaders Seminar, a tremendous success.
This year’s Exercise took place in three locations, stretching from Djibouti down the coast of East Africa to Northern Mozambique, and finally to the Seminar here in Maputo. And having followed reports from my military colleagues over the past two weeks, I can say with confidence that Cutlass Express has again demonstrated that the people in this room and the military forces we represent, together stand ready, willing, and able to thwart any threat, be it maritime or otherwise, to the collective security of the East Coast of Africa.
East Africa plays an increasingly important role in global maritime trade, and maritime security is crucial to the economic and social prosperity of East African nations. Ninety percent of Africa’s trade transits via maritime routes, and more than twenty million people who live along the East African coastline, rely on the ocean for food and work. Effective security counters the vast illegal drug, wildlife, and fishing networks that cost local economies billions of dollars in lost revenue each year and deny communities their livelihoods and natural resources. Moreover, effectively patrolled coastlines and shared waters can help end the funding that allows violent extremists to operate in East Africa, including in Mozambique. Africa’s coast guards and navies play a critical role in disrupting these destructive global networks.
Exercises such as Cutlass Express are critical to enhancing interoperability and strengthening relationships between participating nations’ security forces, between institutions, and between people. Those relationships exist at every level: tactical, operational, and strategic. Over the last few days, as you shared best practices, concerns, and solutions, you proved the point of my opening address to this gathering: we are far stronger and more effective when we act together than when we act individually.
The spirit of cooperation between nations is what made this exercise a success. In that same vein, cooperation at multiple levels is what will be needed to address the violent extremism that threatens security and stability in East Africa, including in northern Mozambique. Cooperative military activities such as Cutlass Express are particularly relevant in this context, as they build the interoperability and intelligence sharing among partner nations that will be critical to tackle this emerging threat. Violent extremists, including those who have terrorized the northernmost districts of Cabo Delgado, do not recognize national boundaries and rely on an inter-connected network of supporters across multiple countries in order to survive. For this reason, it is essential that an equally committed and inter-connected network of partner governments use our joint security, intelligence, and law enforcement assets in order to defeat them.
As we move forward from this exercise, it will therefore be critical to maximize cooperation between regional and international partners in the manner demonstrated by all of you here who participated in Cutlass Express. This means sustained military to military and coast-guard to coast-guard information sharing and joint operations to control coastlines, detect threats, and eliminate those who would use maritime routes to facilitate crime and violent extremism. It also means reinvigorated cooperation among our land-based military, police, and intelligence agencies to better control borders, enhance partnerships with communities and civil society organizations, share information, and regulate the flow of people and goods. Disrupting violent extremism fundamentally requires disrupting broader criminal networks which extremists seek to exploit for their own purposes.
And as governments we must recognized that we cannot meet this challenge alone. Cooperation between our security forces and the communities they serve, including religious leaders, civil society and the public, is essential to prevent attacks and bring perpetrators to justice. We must also partner with these same communities to address the underlying factors that make people vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment by criminal organizations. The support and cooperation of community, religious, and civil society leaders is an essential part of this effort. Government agencies and security forces have the power and responsibility to set the tone and put the conditions in place to facilitate this cooperation and enable these actors to play their positive role.
As leaders, we tell our subordinates to come to us with solutions, not just problems. And finding those solutions was what this week was about. While we may not have answered every question or found a final solution to every problem, I am confident that the time you have spent together has generated new ideas, new partnerships, and new methodologies for further developing the interconnectivity between our nations’ security forces that will be critical to ensuring long-term stability in coastal East Africa and, indeed, throughout the broader Indo-Pacific region. As you return home, I hope you will continue to build on the partnerships that have been developed as part of this exercise so that together we can defeat any emerging actors – be they criminal or violent extremist — who threaten the security, stability and prosperity of our nations, our region, or our respective citizens.
Thank you for participating in Exercise Cutlass Express 2019. And once again – congratulations on a successful exercise.