Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS)
Primary Operating Location: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Secondary Operating Location/s: Various across the Sahel region of Africa
– Joint Special Operations Task Force – Trans Sahara (JSOTF-TS)
– Joint Special Operations Aviation Detachment (Burkina Faso)
Start Date: June 2005
End Date: ? 2013
Superseded: Operation Enduring Freedom – Chad
Superseded by: Operation Juniper Shield
Summary: Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) was the US Government’s third priority counter-terrorism effort and was the Department of Defense’s contribution to the inter-agency Trans Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) mission by forming relationships of peace, security, and cooperation among all Trans Sahara Nations. OEF-TS activities fostered collaboration and communication among participating countries. Furthermore, OEF-TS strengthened counter-terrorism and border security, promoted democratic governance, reinforced bilateral military ties, and enhanced development and institution building. US Africa Command (AFRICOM), through OEF-TS, provided training, equipment, assistance and advice to partner nation armed forces. This increased their capacity and capability to deny safe haven to terrorists and ultimately defeat violent extremist organizations in the region.
OEF-TS was the operational name for this overarching campaign plan against the Al Qaeda network and other terrorist organizations in North and West Africa. In late 2012 or early 2013, another nickname, Operation Juniper Shield, was applied to operational activities in support of that campaign plan. In January 2013, it was reported that OEF-TS had been renamed Operation Juniper Shield, but initially this did not appear to be the case. Sometimes the operations were referenced together as OEF-TS/OJS. Eventually, OEF-TS did formally end and the nickname was dropped, with Operation Juniper Shield being used instead for the campaign plan and operational activities.
While the primary focus of OEF-TS was counter-terrorism, the TSCTP focused on overall regional security rather than solely on counter-terrorism, and elements assigned to OEF-TS assisted with building capacity for other security threats as well. The partnership comprised the United States and 10 African countries: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia. As part of the TSCTP, OEF-TS extended previous efforts to train and equip company-sized partner nation forces to help deter the flow of illicit arms, goods, and people, and to preclude terrorists from establishing sanctuaries. Under the program, training and equipment was provided to specific units focused on counter terrorism. In addition, U.S. forces provide mentorship focused on leadership and responsibility. Through OEF-TS, AFRICOM trained, equipped, assisted, and advised partner nations through activities including, but not limited to: Military information sharing; communications systems interoperability; joint, combined, and multinational exercises enhancing cooperation; countering extremist ideology; sustaining regional operations; building upon mutual military professionalism and accountability; airlift and logistical support; and ground and aviation training and maintenance support. AFRICOM engaged TSCTP nations through OEF-TS through a variety of activities, such as: Joint Planning Assistance Teams (JPAT); Mobile Training Teams (MTT); Civil-Military Support Elements (CMSE); Military Information Support Teams (MIST); Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET); Foreign Military Financing, Foreign Military Sales, and International Military Education and Training; Senior Leader Engagement to gain perspective and build regional cooperation; and Counter-Terrorism Train and Equip (CTTE).
As a top priority, increasing multinational partner support for TSCTP to enhance and promote African regional coalitions, such as the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). AFRICOM actively engaged other countries and organizations and invites them to become a part of the TSCTP. TSCTP was in fact only the latest iteration of US counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel region, which began most actively with the establishment of the Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI) in November 2002, which then evolved into the Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative (TSCTI) in June 2005, and then became the TSCTP with the transfer of responsibility of the military component from US European Command (EUCOM) to AFRICOM in 2008, following the activation of the latter command. The PSI also began the pairing of these efforts with the annual Exercise Flintlock, a special operations field training exercise in Africa, which was began as a EUCOM sponsored Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) activity in the 1980s. Exercise Flintlock remained a core effort for forces supporting OEF-TS and the TSCTP.
OEF-TS was brought more into the public eye on 20 April 2012, when 3 members of the US Army and 3 civilians were killed in what was reported as a vehicle accident in Mali. The US military members were in Mali as part of an on-going engagement prior to the unrest that occurred in Mali on 21 March 2012. The US Army’s Criminal Investigation Command led an investigation into the accident, but did not suspect foul play. The 3 soldiers were part of the 91st Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), part of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), and the Intelligence and Security Command. The reason why 3 Moroccan women were also in the car was not identified, but the soldiers were said to be traveling for personal reasons, not official US business.
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