By Kebba AF Touray
The Gambia’s Defense Minister, Sheikh Omar Faye, has taken a giant step to deepen security ties between Banjul and Washington.
This move is demonstrated by the just concluded four-day visit to his Washington counterparts.
During the visit, Minister Faye held a series of discussions with authorities in the USA to strengthen security cooperation between the Gambia and the United States of America. Minister Faye met with Mrs. Chidi Blyden, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for African Affairs at the Pentagon on Tuesday July 27th 2021.
The duo exchanged views on a range of issues and core among them is the need to build the capacity of the members of the Gambia Armed Forces and the security situation in the Sahel.
Minister Faye also briefed DASD Blyden on the ongoing comprehensive Security Sector Reform process in The Gambia, which seeks to better address the security needs of all Gambians.
Minister Faye reiterated Gambia’s firm desire and readiness to continue to effectively participate in United Nations Peacekeeping Missions to promote international peace and security.
DASD Blyden commended The Gambia for successes registered in the area of security, as well applauded the Gambian peacekeepers for maintaining an unblemished record in their operations as blue helmets under the United Nations.
At the end of his meeting, Minister Faye was given a tour of the Pentagon- the Headquarters of the US Department of Defence and one of the world’s largest office buildings.
Minister Faye, accompanied by his Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Ndey Marie Njie and his Liaison Officer, Major Basiru Sarr, visited the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies. During the visit to the center, he held discussions with the Director for Africa, Mr. Judd Devermont. The discussions were centered on capacity building of the staff of the Ministry of Defense, the ongoing Security Sector Reform, the evolving security situation in the Sahel and collaboration in the enhancement of National and regional security networks.
Minister Faye and his delegation also met with Mr. Stanley Brown, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US State Department. The discussions at the US State Department were focused on Peacekeeping and the possibility for The Gambia to be a member of the Global Peace Operations Initiative.
Minister Faye also held a telephone conversation with Her Excellency Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations. The duo also exchanged views on the importance of the United Nations in maintaining global peace and order, and agreed to work closely together to address security challenges in the Sahel region.
Minister Faye and his delegation also visited the prestigious West Point Military Academy in New York, where the Minister held talks with the Chief of Staff of the West Point Military Academy, Colonel Mark Weathers.
Minister Faye during this visit, also met with Cadet Cobna Manneh, who is the first ever Gambian to gain admission to the internationally recognized and well-respected institution.
The Minister encouraged the Cadet to work hard in order to obtain good results and return to The Gambia at the end of his training to contribute to the work of the military in The Gambia.
Commenting on his visit, Minister Faye described his engagements with the US authorities as fruitful, and expressed the hope that his encounters have created a better understanding of the Gambian situation and will facilitate deeper and more vigorous collaboration between military establishments in The Gambia and the United States.
“It is instructive to state that, currently, there are 6 members of the Gambia Armed Forces pursuing various courses in the United States Military Training Institutions. One is pursuing Senior Staff and Command course, one doing Intelligence course, 2 in the Naval Academy, 1 in the Army Academy and 1 in the Air Force Academy,” he said.