US troops, including a US Army Reserve Civil Affairs team, are currently deployed to an airbase in Garoua, supporting US and partner nation counterterrorism efforts across the Sahel and Chad Lake Basin. The mission focuses on combating terrorist activity and illicit trafficking that supports extremists’ ability to operate. Across the region, groups such as Boko Haram, the Islamic State, and al Qaeda affiliates target civilians and local governments who reject the extremist narrative, ideals, and methodology. Although attacks frequently occur within the country, Cameroon has traditionally been used more as a hub for recruitment and resupply. For example, Boko Haram fighters have been documented using women and children to move fuel, weapons, and funding across the border from Cameroon into Niger and Nigeria.
The Civil Affairs team in Garoua is working to ensure the safety and mission success of US forces in the area through good relations with surrounding communities, while also addressing local vulnerabilities to build resiliency and prevent terrorist groups from recruiting and drawing support from the local population. The importance of Garoua and cooperation with the local people will only increase the influx of workers and spectators in the months leading to the 2019 African Cup of Nations; Garoua is the most remote location scheduled to host soccer matches for this international tournament and is located far from the security umbrella of the capital.
While the US airbase has skilled, talented, and motivated troops and plentiful military resources, the Civil Affairs Team lacks quick-impact funding to assist outreach to the 600,000+ residents of Garoua and its surrounding villages. However, in collaboration with Spirit of America, the team has been able to provide services and training to over 50,000 civilians and the material support to put that training to work.
Using military manpower and skills coupled with SoA supplies, the team has conducted over a dozen SoA-sponsored projects in the past 12 months to include educational support, malaria prevention, birth certificate generation, nutritional programming for school children, and small construction projects to include buildings, wells, and classrooms. Currently, the team is working five civilian outreach initiatives across Garoua with SoA funding and equipment. These efforts will allow US forces to continue to foster relationships with the community, alleviate suffering, demonstrate American goodwill and compassion, and build resiliency against negative messaging and extremism.
With support by patrons like you, the team can continue civilian outreach to marginalized populations and assure the safety of US troops countering terror in Cameroon.