A senior officer of the Armed Forces of Liberia expresses fear that terrorists in neighboring countries may spillover into Liberia.
In an exclusive interview with the Voice of America, Command Sgt. Maj. Karmoh Duke Freeman says the “worrisome” terrorism developments outside Liberia must be deterred with additional forces.”We asked our partners to get involved immediately so that we’ll curtail the situation,” Freeman said, “because we need more than what we have at our border points.”
He says the AFL of about 2,000 forces was built “from scratch,” after the last rounds of hostilities ended in 2003.The VOA notes that U.N. peacekeeping mission that helped develop Liberia’s military formally withdrew earlier this year, potentially leaving the nation vulnerable to threats.
Sergeant Major Freeman recommends routine military patrols around the border, along with recruitment expansions for military, police and immigration officers.Liberia also receives support from the United States and African countries such as Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana and Benin.
“We’re there to help coach, teach, assist, advise and let them know we have their back. We’re not going away. We’re going to be there even in crisis,” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Stone, the commanding general for the Michigan National Guard’s military police, told a small group of reporters Friday at the Pentagon.
Michigan National Guard has partnered with Liberian forces since 2009, as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.The state has sent military police to conduct specialized training, as well as provided engineers for construction. National Guardsmen teach critical military skills like marksmanship, Stone said, but they also go a step further, providing Liberian forces with the knowledge of how to transport a unit to a range and run a range properly.
He adds that Liberia’s forces have come a long way since the Michigan-Liberia partnership began, growing from a force of a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand. Liberia’s military’s commander was not even a Liberian until 2014.
“They weren’t professional enough, and there was such a fear because of the civil war, there was such a distrust … that they took a while to get a professional military where a Liberian officer could be vetted, trained, and have enough respect where the president was comfortable,” Stone explains.
While Freeman describes the Liberian military as an “offspring” of the U.S. military, the Chinese military is spreading influence in the country via contributions in logistics support. The acting command sergeant major conceded that China was a logistics “partner” and educator, but denies the Liberian military was cooperating further.
“No, we don’t work with the Chinese military,” Freeman insists. “We need the American military most.”Stone notes the Chinese and the U.S. have very different approaches in Liberia, with the Chinese focusing on economic connections, while the Americans focus on personal connections.
“They’ll [the Chinese] offer economic assistance to build something, but there’s no sustainment model. There’s no ongoing relationship,” he adds. VOA