On 4/9/2010 4:12:57 PM Lieutenant Colonel Chris Wyatt, Office of Security Cooperation Botswana wrote:
In early April Deputy Assistance Secretary of Defense for Africa Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, visited senior members of government and the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) as part of her first visit to Botswana. Ambassador Huddleston, the senior most Department of Defense official to visit Botswana in the past few years, used this opportunity to pay a courtesy call to the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ambassador Seretse at his office in Gaborone.
The meeting, also attended by Ambassador Stephen Nolan, the U.S. ambassador to Botswana, was very productive as both Minister Seretse and Ambassador Huddleston discussed common areas of interest and potential areas of future cooperation. After her meeting at the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Ambassador Huddleston visited Lt Gen Masire, Chief of the Botswana Defence Force at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks in Gaborone. General Masire, who will retire in July, thanked Ambassador Huddleston for the U.S. military’s long friendship and assistance in the development of the Botswana Defence Force since its founding in 1977.
Ambassador Huddleston’s next stop was the new Defence Command and Staff College (DCSC) in Gaborone. She met the Commandant, Brigadier General Goitseleene Morake, and his staff. At Brigadier Morake’s invitation Ambassador Huddleston served as a guest lecturer for the current class of 34 students. Her topic was “U.S. Defense Policy in Africa.” The lecture was originally scheduled for 30 minutes but drew so much interest and so many questions from the BDF students that it lasted nearly an hour. In her lecture Ambassador Huddleston highlighted U.S. defense interests in Africa, including transnational threats like terrorism, illicit trafficking and climate change, regional and ethnic issues and diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and diarrheal infections that undermine security and stability of states and entire regions. The staff college, now in its third academic year, has quickly become a premier military institution and one of the finest staff colleges in Africa. Temporarily housed at a leased former primary school, the DCSC will move to a purpose built facility at Glen Valley (15 kilometers north of Gaborone) in 2012. At Glen Valley the DCSC will train not only Botswana officers but will also begin taking foreign student officers from throughout Africa.
The BDF Air Arm then flew Ambassador Huddleston and her party from Gaborone to Kasane in the far northeast by C-130 transport aircraft.
Heavy rainfall over Gaborone had resulted in a gray, overcast day throughout the first day of her visit. As the crew flew north they left the clouds behind, offering Ambassador Huddleston and her party an aerial view of Botswana’s second diamond mine at Orapa and, further north, the now water filled Makadikadi Pans which are normally dry basins. The flight arrived in Kasane shortly before sunset with clear skies.
On the final day of her visit Ambassador Huddleston and party drove to the Chobe Sub Sector headquarters near Kasane, where the Major Israel Mbangwe, 15 Infantry Battalion, Botswana Defence Force gave the visitors an operations brief detailing BDF anti-poaching operations and support to civil authorities in the region. The briefing was followed by a site visit at a BDF base camp in the bush. BDF soldiers use the base to patrol for poachers and protect Botswana’s diverse wildlife from predation. Tourism is the second largest contributor to Botswana’s economy. Conservation is also a significant area of interest for the government. The BDF does its part to protect Botswana’s natural endowments. In Botswana, the protection of wildlife and the environment are considered to be in the interest of national security. The final event hosted by the BDF was a boat trip up the Chobe River with a BDF Engineer Detachment based at Kasane. Members of the Kasane based Engineer Detachment transported Ambassador Huddleston and her party along the Chobe River where she was able to she first hand the variety and abundance of BDF protected wildlife along the banks of the Chobe. This included sightings of elephants, hippos, impalas and the rare puku antelope.
On her return to Gaborone with the BDF Air Arm, Ambassador Huddleston remarked at “as a military, how professional and experienced the BDF is.” She returned to Washington having been very impressed with not only the BDF, but the people and the country of Botswana as well. In her current position as a Department of Defense senior official and her past experience within the State Department, Ambassador Huddleston is a unique person in Washington. For their part, the BDF hopes the trip will prove useful to the long established relationship between the BDF and the U.S. Department of Defense.