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US warship headed for AFL exercise

Liberia’s Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Daniel D. Ziankahn, (Rtd), says a warship is expected here anytime soon from the Michigan National Guard for an exercise by the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), amidst pirate attacks on ships and other vessels sailing the Gulf of Guinea route that begins from southeastern Liberia to Gabon.

“I have talked with my counterparts, so they will be coming to conduct some training exercises with … our Coast Guard. So the warship will be coming,” Minister Ziankahn said Tuesday, 6 July during a live talk show on Prime FM in Monrovia.

According to Ziankahn, piracy has shifted from the Horn of Africa to the Gulf of Guinea, noting that this year alone, there have been more than 100 plus attacks on ships and other vessels sailing the route.

“So we will be very, very lucky to have the warship here to conduct some training exercises,” he said.

Minister Ziankahn said the warship will soon be seen on Liberian waters, cautioning the public not to be surprised if they see it here. The former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia explained that a warship is used in battles, loaded with military helicopters.

Additionally, Minister Ziankahn disclosed that the AFL will soon have a ‘platoon – minus’ going to Michigan, the United States of America, to partake in a readiness exercise that is being done by the Michigan National Guard. 

He said for the first time, this exercise will be taking place from the end of July to August this year, and “we will be having a warship too, coming here.”

Ziankahn said there exists a state-to-state partnership between Liberia and Michigan, recalling that when he went there about four years ago, he negotiated with the Adjutant General for the Michigan National Guard [Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais] for Liberian troops to go to Michigan.

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He recalled that the request was reiterated when he took President George Manneh Weah to Michigan in 2018, and Gen. Vadnais agreed for Liberian soldiers to be sent there to take part in the preparation exercises that include air, land, and marine components. 

According to an online publication done by the Michigan National Guard in early August 2015, Ziankahn, then AFL Chief of Staff, spent three days in Michigan in early August, touring the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center with Michigan’s top general, Maj. Gen. Vadnais, and other senior leaders of the Michigan National Guard.

The publication indicated that since 2009, Michigan and Liberia have been partners under the U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Program, and added that the August visit to Camp Grayling by Ziankahn was the first time a chief of staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia had been to Michigan.

Commenting on his recent trip with President Weah to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Paris, France, Minister Ziankahn said they met with the Crown Prince of UAE and some issues were discussed.

From that meeting with the UAE authorities, Minister Ziankahn said eight brand new armored personnel carriers (APCs) were sent to Liberia, noting that just one unit of the APCs costs about US$350,000.00.

According to Minister Ziankahn, APC is used to transport troops into battle or into an operation and each has a capacity to carry about 11 persons.

He noted that AFL is now conducting border patrol in the southeast of Liberia, emphasizing that the patrol is intended to ensure that the place is safe and to assure the citizenry.

In Paris, France, Minister Ziankahn said he was given the chance to make the case for the AFL and it was noted and the French authorities agreed to help AFL with some equipment and to share intelligence with the Liberian side in the Sahel Region where both France and Liberia have peacekeepers.

The Defense Minister assured that “we should expect to see a better army” for Liberia, but he also appealed for more of the citizens’ support in addition to their moral support to the army.

Ziankahn said he thinks other stakeholders need to look in the direction of the AFL to see how best they can try to improve their living standards. He noted that he wants the army to be respected as a force that the citizens can run to when there is a problem, and not an institution that citizens can run away from. https://thenewdawnliberia.com/us-envoy-renews-partnership-commitment-with-afl/By Winston W. Parley

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