- Damon Wilson, Vice President and Director, International Security Program, Atlantic Council
- Ambassador Mary Yates, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Advisor on Strategic Planning, National Security Council
- General William "Kip" Ward, Commander, United States Africa Command
- Dr. Nancy J. Walker, Director, Michael Ansari Africa Center, Atlantic Council
September 29, 2009
DAMON WILSON: Good evening, and welcome to the Atlantic Council. Thank you for being here today with us at the council for this Commanders Series event with Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the current combatant commander of the United States Africa Command. My name is Damon Wilson. I’m vice president and director of the International Security program here at the Atlantic Council.
As many of you know, the Commanders Series is the council’s platform for bringing the most senior U.S. and allied military leaders to a public forum to discuss their outlook and challenges and to take questions from our impressive audience.
Since we started this series in 2006, we’ve heard, from among others, Gen. James L. Jones while he was at NATO, Adm. Timothy Keating of U.S. Pacific Command, Gen. Daniel McNeil and Gen. David McKiernan, both former commanders of ISAF, and most recently from Jean-Louis Georgelin, France’s chief of defense.
These events have been some of the council’s most fascinating discussions and I very much look forward to tonight’s speech and the discussion with Gen. Ward. None of this would of course be possible without the strong support of the council’s dear friend, Saab AB and Amb. Henrik Likjegren, who is here this evening, the senior advisor to Saab’s president and CEO. So very much thanks to you, Henrik. (Applause.)
Some have asked us why the Atlantic Council is hosting the combatant commander of U.S. Africa Command, but to us here at the council it’s a priority, and it’s pretty obvious, the answer. First of all, Africa, of course, is on the Atlantic – (laughter) – but more importantly, Africa is a strategically important area where there are both opportunities and challenges for trans-Atlantic cooperation.
The Atlantic Council is about reenergizing the trans-Atlantic relationship for global 21st century challenges, and we believe that many of those challenges, but also the solutions, can be found, among other places, in Africa.
And that’s why the Atlantic Council recently launched the Ansari Africa Center, and we’re delighted to have Dr. Nancy Walker come on board as the council’s director of the center. She’ll be joining this evening’s program as a moderator of the discussion with the general after his remarks.
With that I want to turn over the podium to Amb. Mary Yates, who will introduce this evening’s speaker. Amb. Yates, we’re delighted to have you join us. It adds a very poignant touch to the evening.
The ambassador, until recently, was the deputy to the commander for civil military activities at Africa Command. Among U.S. geographic commands, AFRICOM was unique in having two co-equal deputies, a civilian and a military deputy.
Amb. Yates was recently lured back to Washington to take her current position at the National Security Council as special assistant to the president and senior director for strategic planning with an impossibly large mandate as the White House policy planner.
Before her service with AFRICOM she was the political advisor at EUCOM, and she has also served as the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Burundi. Her service in Kinshasa as a political officer and then public affairs counselor from 1991 to ’95 occurred during the genocide in neighboring Rwanda when she was recognized for her extraordinary service in Goma.
Amb. Yates, we’re delighted to have you with us tonight. Thank you for being our introducer of Gen. Ward.
AMBASSADOR MARY CARLIN YATES: Thank you, Damon. When I was asked if I could come and introduce Gen. Ward I said, that’s one of the easiest answers I’ve even given in my life – yes. And I didn’t have to write a script.
I’ve had the privilege of working for this gentleman for the past three years. And I know some of you know his military history. That could take hours to explain, when he became an infantryman in 1971 – is that right, General?
GEN. WILLIAM “KIP” WARD: That’s correct.
AMB. YATES: And the amazing part is he has served from Korea to Germany to Egypt to Palestine, Somalia, and Alaska and Hawaii. He got the great American states. And he didn’t get those four stars easily. He earned them at each stage. And I can’t tell you how many meetings I sat in when a young man or a woman in some position, and he’d say, I’ve done your job. You know, it wasn’t like I know how to do it but I’ve done it. So this is what we might think about.
So it’s wonderful to work for a military commander who understands the full breadth and depth of what the U.S. military can do. But I’d like to just take a moment and talk about Gen. Ward and his leadership because that’s what’s so unique, and it’s absolutely what we needed when we stood up this command. I’ve learned since then “stood up” is a military term, so – (laughter, inaudible).
The leadership, first he needed it with the U.S. military because to create a command out of whole cloth was not easy. The services were not exactly willing to send their best and brightest to us. But we stood up that command because he made the right arguments, the right presentations inside the U.S. military and also for the people who came and said, what are we doing? What are we building?
You know, we didn’t have billets, we didn’t have places to live, we didn’t have phones, we didn’t have computers but we built it. And it took his leadership each and every day. But, equally important, it was with the allies because the Europeans and others weren’t quite sure what we were doing by cutting up and making a new command, the Africa Command.
And I think the Spanish loved you; the French loved you. I got to go along on a lot of those trips. That was hardship duty. (Laughter.) But I shouldn’t leave out the whole interagency and the world back here in Washington and the many, many trips you made to the Hill and also to the State Department, to AID to build those relations that build a different kind of command. And I had the honor to serve you a lot in that capacity, that interagency capacity.
But finally, and relevant to tonight, is the relationship he built with Africans. And we started out in a little bit of a strategic communications hold. (Laughter.) Maybe that’s putting it mildly. But it was going to Africa, first time to the African Union to signal this was an organization we wanted to support the capacity-building of, and that’s proven to be very worthwhile with all the missions that you have continued to do, but also with some of the tougher leaders.
You know, I can think of some of those former Maoist types who sat there and they had their agenda when you talked to them and you just politely listened and then we moved forward. But I give credit – and when the history is written about the Africa Command, it will be about the leadership of this man that you’re going to hear from tonight. (Applause.)
GEN. WARD: Thank you. Okay, Mary, I’ll send you that check. What account do you want me to use? (Laughter.)
AMB. YATES: I can’t do it. I’m at the NSC.
GEN. WARD: I am absolutely thrilled to be here this evening, and as I listen to the array of folk who have stood here before, I’m a bit taken insofar as why now Kip Ward? But you just heard Mary Yates so you know why now Kip Ward.
But it’s not about Kip Ward; it’s about the mission that Kip Ward has been blessed to have at this stage of a career that my wife and mom says, is it every going to end? (Laughter.) And the answer is eventually but now is not just the time because the nation has asked me to do something and as a soldier, I salute, move out and get the mission done.
Mary, it’s great to be with you, to see you and to thank you for those very, very kind words. I richly appreciate the association that I’ve had now for these past three-and-a-half years with Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, first as the – now, if all of you foreign policy advisors, when you hear the word POLAD, look at someone like they have some horns growing out of their heads. (Laughter.) Foreign policy advisor.
I’m trying to get – the State Department is adopting that term as opposed to political advisor: foreign policy advisor, okay? Can I get some help with that? (Laughter.) Come on now, I need some help. (Laughter.) Foreign policy advisor. You know, this interagency thing worked for me. You know, I’m doing my bit here I think.
And I’m really happy to be here to have this opportunity to talk to you a bit, and I know that it’s not about me talking to you; it’s about me taking your questions. So I’ll be brief, but I do want to make a few points and then spend some time – or need some time to entertain some of your comments and your thoughts because we are a listening organization.
And we take that very seriously, and that listening certainly entails hearing from others who have opinions, ideas, perspectives that are important to us as we move ahead to do something I think we all can agree with, and that is, how do we move ahead in a way that causes the continent of Africa to be as stable as it can be?
And in whose interest is that? Well, it’s our interest to have a stable continent of Africa, for a host of reasons, and they vary but I won’t even consider to try to explain them all. But if stability is important, then what we are attempting to do I think will resonate.
The continent of Africa and its island nations are growing in importance, and to be sure, paying attention is in our national interest. There are myriad security challenges to consider, from a population explosion, illegal trafficking, natural disasters, pandemic influenza outbreaks, the increase in insurgencies, piracy.
However, it’s just as important to talk about the opportunities that are also present there and that are emerging. Growing economies. You say, what? Yes. Increase democratization. You say, what? Yes, emerging regional, security and economic communities, and most importantly, a growing political will among nations to confront challenges and to be serious about providing for their own security.
Africans not only want to make lives better for themselves; they also want to be respected members of the global community, as evidenced by their increased participation in regional as well as global peacekeeping activities that they are engaged in.
Now, I mentioned that I’m kind of a – I’ve been around for a bit. Mary was very kind, but I’ve been doing this for now a little over 38 years. And as a guy with some longevity, every now and then a benefit or two comes your way. And for me, the benefit occurred about a month-and-a-half ago.
As I was walking out of a meeting; it was kind of – the audience was a bit – they weren’t hostile but they were testy, and as I was walking away, having done what many said was a fairly well account for myself, a puff of smoke appeared and, I mean, I was shocked at the appearance of a genie out of that smoke. (Laughter.) I’m serious. I mean, you’ve heard these stories and you think, well, this guy is out of his mind but, I mean, a genie.
Now, one of the things that has been my lot here the last six, seven years is I get driven around. I like to drive. I like cars. I used to race cars, build cars, but I don’t get a chance to drive a lot anymore. And so when I was asked, well, Ward, for your years of service, and you’ve done it in a fairly selfless way, what do you think I can do for you?
I said, well, you know, I’ve served all over the world. I’ve driven many places, to Alaska – Ambassador Yates mentioned my assignment in Alaska, but you know what? I like to drive; driving to Hawaii would be kind of great. The genie looked at me, driving to Hawaii? Lot of water there. I said, yeah. He said, you know, that’s kind of materialistic. A lot of cement is involved, you know, environmental issues.
And I thought about it. Yeah, that’s right. That’s probably not a very fair thing to be asking of the genie. I said, well, maybe I’ll wish for peacekeeping missions that are efficient, effective, painless and can end quickly without a return to conflict. The genie said, Ward, do you want that bridge to be a two-lane or four-lane version? (Laughter.) Stability. Stability. Peacekeeping. Improving capacity for those who attempt to do so.
Now I’ll continue by noting that we have had some important visits to the continent of Africa by some senior U.S. government leadership, to include President Obama’s visit to Ghana and Secretary of State Clinton’s seven-nation tour most recently. Now, during the president’s visit he stated that the four areas that are critical to the future of America are democracy, opportunity, health and peaceful resolution of conflict.
Now, these are enormous endeavors to undertake and no one entity can address any of these issues alone. U.S. African Command’s mission calls for us to do our work in concert with other U.S. government agencies and in support of U.S. foreign policy objectives.
Now, our government attempts to use this “3-D” approach – diplomacy, development, defense – and to address these diversities in Africa, all while supporting U.S. foreign policy objectives.
Now, we at U.S. Africa Command are but one element of that approach. We coordinate with the U.S. Department of State, our U.S. Defense Department, the U.S. embassies in each country on the programs and activities that we’ve developed to support our overall U.S. government effort.
We also have representatives from non-Defense Department agencies who are members of our staff helping us to understand the work of the other U.S. government agencies to ensure we complement them as best we can. Now, I want to emphasize: We support, not lead, those other government efforts.
We get a lot of questions about the location of the headquarters, so I’ll answer that one up front. My headquarters is located in Stuttgart, Germany and will be there for the foreseeable future. Now, however, we do have a highly valued and well dispersed presence on the continent, our offices of security cooperation. You know them sometimes as ODCs, offices of defense cooperation; OMCs, offices of military cooperation. I ran one of those in Egypt, by the way, about 10 years ago.
They’re offices of security cooperation because their dimensions of security are much wider than just military activities and weapons sales. These offices of security cooperation, along with our defense attaches, the bilateral assistance officers who are placed in a country when we have a state partner program through our National Guard, aligned with a particular country, as well as our Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa are there. We inherited many of those.
We also have liaison officers who are posted to the African regional organizations such as the African Union headquarters – the continental organization, obviously – the Economic Community of West African States, the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Center, as examples.
You know, they are there to work with the country teams, to work with the host partner nations, to serve as representatives to our partner militaries to better understand their security requirements so that when our partners request support and assistance from us, we can be in a better position to turn those requests into successful programs. We work across echelons, bilateral level, regional level, and at the continental level.
I mentioned the “3-D” approach. Our command’s mission is sustained security engagement. And I highlight that word “sustained,” with a primary focus on building the security capacity of our African partners as is determined by our foreign policy priorities.
Kip Ward doesn’t establish those. Do I have an input? Sure. They’re established by our foreign policy priorities. These include the goal of preventing conflict. Our primary focus is on building the security capacity of our African partners to promote and improve security and stability in Africa, not through episodic events but by way of a consistent and logical pattern of engagement to reinforce success and behaviors, and all in a manner that is consistent with that foreign policy.
Now, to achieve this we seek to build partner security capacity which encompasses the vast majority of our efforts. This is done in all domains, working to enhance the performance of maritime, land and air security forces through exercises and through programs.
We strive to add value to these activities to make them more effective in helping build the capacity that Africans themselves desire. We see a professional African security sector as a vital element towards helping to prevent conflict.
Now, as I mentioned, we promote strategic relationships with our friends, our allies, our partners at the national, regional and theater levels. It includes organizations such as the African Union, its regional economic communities. We believe that professional, effective security institutions that operate within the rule of law and are responsive to civilian authority are key to foster conditions under which development can occur.
As many threats to peace are transnational in nature, we also encourage regional cooperation through information sharing, combined planning, multilateral exercises, and combined operations against common threats and support to the African standby forces.
We pursue partnerships with other international actors who are invited to participate by African nations and organizations to assist in building their security capacity. We’ll be in contact with nations from around the globe – Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Brazil, Portugal and others who are involved in capacity building activities as well as other military efforts in Africa to assure our efforts are harmonized.
We also want to continue to explore opportunities for greater collaboration with African and European partners to eliminate duplication and to maximize limited resources in order to improve security and stability in Africa.
We support the goals of our partners from other U.S. government agencies by way of our civil military activities that foster long-term stability. These activities not only provide outstanding training and experience for some our military communities such as veterinarians, medical technicians, as well as construction engineers, a core competency that we want to maintain; they also support African humanitarian capacity building in areas where it doesn’t exist. Ultimately these activities support broader U.S. government efforts to foster development.
And I guess finally I’ll say that we have and will respond to crises when directed by the president. Our aim is to prevent conflict, but we do stand ready to take action when directed to do so by our command authority.
Now, two years ago U.S. Africa Command began transferring numerous missions, programs, activities and engagements. These are all programs that are tying into the “3-D” approach, some of which you may already be familiar.
Highlighting just a few very quickly: Africa Endeavor, a communication and information systems interoperability program that is about to occur in a few days and will have about 29 African nations participating. This exercise helps Africans become more interoperable as they routinely deploy with each other in various peacekeeping and stability operations throughout the continent of Africa.
The African Maritime Law Enforcement Program – hmm, combined law enforcement program – recently conducted off of the coast of Cape Verde, Senegal and Sierra Leone, a program designed to build partner maritime law enforcement capacity and to detect illicit activities that occur in the exclusive economic zones of the participating nations.
Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara, the military portion of the Department of State, Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership where we help develop and maintain a flexible, enduring counterterror coalition as well as regional, operationally focused partnerships to support specific counterterrorism operations through that region of cooperation.
The African Partnership Station is an ongoing program of at-sea training deployments, providing assistance to coastal partner nations at their request, a U.S. naval vessel to embark international staff, observers from African nations as well as South American and European countries.
The conduct visit, board and search training, maintenance training, leadership training, all at an at-sea platform, things that the nations who participate ask of us, helping them increase their capacity in providing for their own security.
You are all familiar with the Africa Contingency Operations and Training Assistance Program, ACOTA – State Department program. We endeavor to support that by uniformed members who are there side by side with those trainers as they prepare those battalions for participating in peacekeeping endeavors.
You add to that the International Military Education and Training Program, IMET – really, really important, providing long-term benefit to such an important cadre of folk who have long-term potential in their nation’s military forces, bringing them here to the States, training in our schools, taking those experiences of having lived here back to their homes as they attempt to increase the professionalism of their military forces. Long-term value; very significant.
Exercises, natural fires about to occur in Uganda, a multilateral exercise involving five nations there in East Africa, focused on disaster relief, crisis response, bringing together regionally to help address common goals, common methods for conducting humanitarian operations, working together as regional partners.
Now, getting these programs to work requires us to be a listening and learning organization, one of our key tenets; seeing things from someone else’s perspective with hopes that we will then do it more effectively in achieving the results that we are all being asked to do. And what’s the purpose? What’s the intent? Stability. Increased stability.
Now, we operate in ways that capitalize on our ability to understand what’s going on by listening to the viewpoints and getting the perspective of others. To use another military metaphor, we get outside of our foxhole, go downrange and look back at it from someone else’s perspective with the hopes that by doing so, we see it in ways that will cause the activity to be more effective.
I’m about to conclude my remarks and take some questions for you. Before I do, let me make a couple of final points.
Our activities, as I mentioned, in line with U.S. foreign policy and with what our secretary of defense sets as our mission parameters. New construction, security force assistance, partnership are all important tools for helping our friends move forward and away from the conflict scenarios that exist.
We have been open and frank about how important it is for us in the interagency to work cooperatively and cohesively to ensure that our efforts are as finely harmonized with the work of others as they can be in achieving common goals.
I say this because at the inception of the U.S. African Command, there have been questions about whether or not we were going to take over the roles and the responsibilities of other U.S. government agencies. That has never been the case. It’s clearly not the case today.
Our mission, vision, strategy and activities supports our work and mil-to-mil activities and support to the best we can make it, the work that is being done by other members of our government.
U.S. Africa Command recognizes that what works in one situation may not work in another. And while I’m confident that each of our programs add value to the peach and security efforts of our African partners, we know that there is always room for improvement.
So we are a listening and learning command, seeking the perspectives of others, as I’ve mentioned, so that we can better understand how to develop and implement programs that our partners make their own and use in their efforts to enhance their professionalism.
We believe that an integrated approach across the U.S. government is the best. It allows us to bring to bear all of our resources and talents in a cohesive way. It promotes national unity of effort that encourages us to dialogue and to address areas where diverse agencies have different views.
Now, through my experiences in this position and as I’ve come to understand from previous assignments, the U.S. effort is most effective when we act as a whole. Again, what we are about is increased stability in Africa, and doing our part in our lane to cause our activities to be as harmonized as they can be as we move forward.
As we do this, we look to continue to learn more by engaging across wide audiences to cause our efforts to be as, best as we can make them, commiserate with what we are doing in support of our entire U.S. government policy.
So I’ll stop there and leave some time for a follow on, but I appreciate the opportunity that you have provided me to give you a brief dose of your United States Africa Command, one of your nations geographic combatant commands – different not in what we do but hopefully doing it in a way that causes the effects to be greater. So it’s the “how.” It’s the “how.”
Thanks very much and thanks for paying such good attention. (Applause.)
DR. NANCY J. WALKER: Thank you, Gen. Ward. And let me echo Damon’s words of welcome to all of you who have joined us tonight. It’s lovely to see standing room only crowd here at the Atlantic Council, not necessarily known for hopping discussions on Africa policy but that’s about to change. I am thrilled to have been able to join the Atlantic Council team – three weeks in – and to have one of our first events to be able to welcome Gen. Ward and his team.
Let me take the chair’s prerogative and ask the first question. You concluded on a “how.” Standing up the command was done quickly. As you said, your public diplomacy messages were not necessarily received in the way that you thought.
GEN. WARD: They weren’t mine. (Laughter.)
DR. WALKER: The ones that you inherited. Talk a little bit about what you inherited and some of the things that you think worked that you might do differently or the lessons that you’ve learned in the process because this is a Washington crowd and we know that it’s not just about substance in the message but sometimes the process becomes the message as much as anything.
GEN. WARD: Thanks. I appreciate that.
One of the things that we had – and I’ll try to keep my answers short here because I have a tendency of going too long, so I will try to be brief – as we stood up the command – I say “we,” clearly, you know, our government – the thought that this was so brand new and different really was not quite understood. It wasn’t as if the Department of Defense had not been operating through various military programs in Africa, but we were doing it through three different commands.
That produced uncertainty, certainly inconsistency. And for parts of the continent it wasn’t a major issue; for other parts it was, especially places where you have the command for an organization that’s getting input from three separate organizations.
You take the African Union as an example, where CENTCOM, PACOM, EUCOM, all are dealing with it. You know, one guy in a uniform shows up today, another lady shows up in uniform tomorrow – hey, I just say you yesterday. Why are you back here today again? And so we were really not organized in a way that lent itself to being as effective in helping our partners increase their capacity.
But as the command was stood up, as a part of the communications package that talked about the command, those sorts of things were not what was highlighted. And the issue of, quite candidly, the command – command – going to Africa created all kinds of angst and anxiety with respect to huge formations of sailors or soldiers and airmen and Marines coming in, planning down.
The issue of our interagency approach kind of brought up the fact that, well, we were taking over for USAID, we were taking over from the U.S. State Department. All those things were being funded through this military apparatus. Not the case! But that was the perception.
And so, over the last now couple of years we’ve spent some time saying, that’s not the case. But more importantly – more importantly, I talked about the hundreds of missions, activities, programs and exercises that we inherited.
From three commands doing good work, we have, through our adding value to those programs, demonstrated that, one, we’re not coming to the continent with garrisons and thousands and thousands of troops and soldiers, and the programs that we do in fact conduct with our African partners and friends are things from professionalization to mil-to-mil training that are making sense to them. And when their neighbors see it, hmm, they appreciate that as well.
And so we have hopefully began to turn that around and be able to move forward, and in two short years, as Amb. Yates talked to, from every week having a different IP address to having different phone numbers and not knowing where your desk is, and all the while – all the while your U.S. Africa Command carries on with our programs and our activities in ways seamless to our partners.
And you can be, I think, proud of that because there wasn’t one of these sign curve dips. We maintained because the men and women, uniformed and civilian, that came together and put something in place that this nation I think will benefit from, as will our friends in Africa, and when we benefit, the global community benefits.
DR. WALKER: Thank you.
I see a lot of questions, which is terrific. May I invite you to wait for the microphone and please introduce yourself. First, right behind Damon right there.
Q: Gen. Ward – (inaudible, off mic).
GEN. WARD: Good to see you again.
Q: Thanks for coming. For going on a year my colleagues and I have been trying to help the tribal chiefs in Darfur reach consensus and unity, but consensus about what kind of post-conflict security arrangements can provide for stability – a challenging mission.
I think that our government today is hoping a formal negotiation can lead to a Darfur peace agreement. And assuming that’s the case, there is going to be a crying need for capacity building in Darfur, but of course that will be a subordinate entity from the central government of Sudan.
And I wonder, to what extent do your marching orders allow you to coach and build capacity within a country in a post-conflict situation? Now, it is direly needed, clearly, to figure out, do they need an SPLA like the south has or do they need a constabulary or a provincial police force? Those are tough questions, and I wonder, is that the kind of thing Africa might be able and allowed to do?
GEN. WARD: A great question and thanks for it. I think at this juncture, where we are is our nation wrestling with a scenario for Sudan, and that scenario with respect to the north, the south, the east, Darfur, the situation between the various plans, the tribes.
Once that’s determined, we will have clear direction on what role we will play in helping those entities improve their professionalism for moving from periods of bush wars and intertribal conflict. But it’s all going to be based on an overarching strategy, an overarching policy insofar as how we as a country see the entirety of Sudan and that picture.
Right now we support the Comprehensive Peace Accord, and in that it talks about the level and degree of support that we provide to the southern Sudanese. We are engaged with them in some limited way through a professionalization, some capacity – training sorts of things, some limited work to increase their understanding.
Our schools, we have officers and non-commissioned officers coming back here to the States for our military education and training programs. I do have there a liaison present, and so – but that will evolve in a more substantial way as a reflection of the overarching strategy that our country, our nation devises or determines for our approach with the Sudanese, both north-south as well as the vast complexity of that continent – correction, of the country, and not causing what we do to add to problems but in fact to be one that will contribute to stability.
DR. WALKER: Behind you, sir.
Q: Stuart Johnson from RAND. Gen. Ward, thanks very much for a very interesting presentation, and I think the overflow crowd here is an indication of just how much interest there is in Africa now.
You have a very complex OAR. You have 52 countries – I don’t count Western Sahara and of course Egypt is part of CENTCOM. That’s more than –
GEN. WARD: I could 53 because I do include Egypt.
Q: Okay, you include Egypt. That’s fine. (Laughter.)
GEN. WARD: For matters of Africa, Egypt is there and we engage with the Egyptians.
Q: Dynamite. Got it. In fact, you’ve strengthened the point I was going to make, which is that’s more countries than any other COCOM has to deal with. So I think we’re all curious. We all have limited resources – all the COCOMs have limited resources – what are the key criteria you use to choose which countries to focus on engaging them?
GEN. WARD: Thanks for that. It’s a combination of several things. Obviously it starts at our national level strategy interests. It emanates through our national security policy. The chairman, the secretary of defense, obviously the Department of State, and how we look at, as a nation, the continent of Africa for engagement, what priority countries are we looking at and they’re being considered?
I don’t make those determinations. Do I have input? Yes, I do. But those are set through our national leadership levels, our Department of Defense. We go though iterations of that, as you I’m sure are familiar with respect to rewriting of documents existing right now, the guidance for the employment of the force, our priority countries again that are identified.
They obviously are evaluated. But, again, it’s not something that I do unilaterally. It’s a part of a national-level process: the Department of State, the interagency, our National Security Council.
And then, based on that, to include whatever input that I might add, we engage with countries that, for various reasons, are participating in peacekeeping operations, countries that have internal issues that threaten our national interest that we want to be a factor in helping to alleviate, to various degrees, as well as those things that we would like to see occur that will add to increased stability on the continent. And that’s where the notion of reinforcing positive things are also important.
But that determination is a determination that’s made at the national level. Then, based on that, I take my marching orders and move forward and engage with the nations that have been identified as our partners for engagement.
Q: Thank you very much.
GEN. WARD: Thank you.
DR. WALKER: Here in the second row – third row.
Q: Howard Walker. As someone whose 33-year diplomatic career included, among other places in the world, two ambassadorships in Africa, let me say on behalf of my colleagues, diplomatic colleagues – (inaudible, off mike) – how delighted we are to hear that your key mission is stability in Africa and all of the political and economic and social factors are a part of that. It’s consistent with what was our diplomatic agenda all along. And we’re delighted to have the resources in your command, in your department there, for that mission.
You are, however, here today in uniform, and as you mentioned at the end of your remarks, you’re a commander of a combatant command, and among your missions are to respond to crises and threats with regard to crises. And so could you say something briefly about how your command sees theater strategic interests and issues in Africa?
GEN. WARD: I think that’s an excellent point. We know that as we undertake our efforts, the various interests that America has are indeed our national interest. We are there because it’s in our national interest to be there doing those activities that we do. When you look at the continent of Africa geostrategically, its population, its resources, market potential, all those things are a part of it.
The distinction I would offer is the distinction that is not one that seeks to dominate any of those interests but that would cause the resources of the continent, for example, to be available in open ways, competitive ways for those who would seek to obtain those resources and, as importantly, that those resources could in fact be used productively to help the people who reside in the nations where the resources are present, and how we go about our effort to help improve the professionalization of security forces to help those nations provide the capacity to take care of their own security interests, help achieve those geostrategic interests, as we look at it.
I’ll give you a quick example. The littoral nations of the continent are being absolutely robbed blind in their territorial waters. So our efforts to help them improve their maritime security and safety goes towards helping them, one, use those resources for their people, in some cases to fish, a major source of protein. But when they’re being robbed blind by illegal fishing or fishers come in and don’t get the appropriate license, the people don’t benefit from any of that.
We can’t do it for the Africans. It’s not our desire to do it. But if they desire to have additional control and an additional ability to secure their territorial waters, if we can, through training; if we can, through the provision of some equipment that helps them to integrate their territorial waters and how they see that occurring in a regional way because that is in our national interest as well in helping to achieve additional stability in those regions.
So those are some of the broad things that I would say with respect to geostrategic interests there on the continent. Thank you.
DR. WALKER: A question over here, please?
Q: Yes –
DR. WALKER: Could you wait for the microphone, sir?
Q: Retired Gen. Atkison (sp). A couple of sort of mechanical questions to get a better idea of how the command is structured. I understand you have a subordinate headquarters down in Italy. It’s sort of a forward action maybe through yourself. Do you see a move towards the continent of the principal elements of your command?
And then, basic question about personnel strength and so forth. Do you have the military attachés or are they offline? Do you have naval and air elements within your command? What is the role of the territory or air base that we’ve gained from the French at the south end of the Suez Canal? I understand there is something there. So my question is a very mechanical thing. I don’t understand how you’re put together. (Laughter.)
GEN. WARD: Before I answer that, and I will, sir, if you haven’t gone to it, www.africom.mil. It includes a blog site that’s kind of interactive and as long as folks don’t use bad words on it, we put it on there. (Laughter.) It will give you some additional background into the command.
But the command, to get to your point, is organized in some traditional ways as it pertains to components, meaning we have an army component, an air component, a Marine component and a naval component, as well as a Special Operations command as a sub-unified command to the command, just as all other unified commands have.
The Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, which is Djibouti, which you address, we also now have that under our command but it was there when that part of the continent was in Central Command’s area of responsibility. So we inherited that as well.
The defense attachés and U.S. Africa Command’s AOR are as all attachés are in all other parts of the world. That process is going through a bit of revision now where we’re going to the senior defense official concept, whereby the attaché/senior defense official, is the single point of contact for our ambassador and country teams for all the military activities.
Some of them also have security assistance offices that handle the security engagement aspects. Where there is not an existence, then the attachés handle that as well. There is a direct link between the attaché and the regional command, but that’s not unique to my command. That’s the same as exists all over the world.
And so that’s kind of a bit of a nuance. The organization in Italy is my Army element. My Air Force element is in Germany. My Marine element is also in Germany. My naval element is also in Italy as well. There are no plans to move any of that to the continent of Africa. Those are headquarters structures.
We have no assigned forces in any of those outfits, and so when it comes to our ability to do missions, activities, programs that require any force construct, then we submit that requirement to the joint staff for the secretary of defense to allocate a portion of the globally available force pool to accomplish those temporary missions, activated programs in the continent of Africa.
Q: What is the strength of your command?
GEN. WARD: About – including my Special Operations Command – this includes civilians as well – about 1,300, half of whom are civilian.
Q: Thank you.
GEN. WARD: You’re welcome.
DR. WALKER: Okay, let’s go to a question in the back please. Yes? The microphone is here to your left.
Q: Caroline Baxter (ph), RAND Corporation. A very quick question. In case you’ve run into this – or in case you haven’t, what your hypothetical answer would be – AFRICOM seems to be two things. It pursues U.S. objectives on the continent and it also is a listening command. What would happen if Country X’s stated objectives were fundamentally different from U.S. objectives? How would that be rationalized?
GEN. WARD: I think it would have to be – well, there would be a national policy determination, as currently exists for some of the nations. Where we don’t have diplomatic relations, then I don’t go there. And so where I go and where I am engaged is a byproduct of overarching policy objectives for how we engage and have relations with various nations.
DR. WALKER: Over here, please?
Q: Thank you, Gen. Ward. Lauren Ploch with the Congressional Research Service up on the Hill. The instability in Somalia is obviously a great security concern, not only for the countries in the region but for the United States.
CENTCOM has been active off the coast on the counter-piracy piece and the State Department has got an ambitious new security assistance program. And your command has been very active with neighboring countries, with Kenya and with the peacekeeping contributors of Uganda and Rwanda and Burundi. I’m curious to know what you see AFRICOM’s role going forward in contributing to creating stability within the country.
GEN. WARD: I think more of what you just described. Again, apropos the question on Sudan, again, we follow what’s established as our national policy with respect to where we engage.
And so where we have right now support through the coalition, certainly transitional federal government, where we have said – you know, supporting those who are supporting that transitional federal government, so we provide support to that.
AMISOM, the African Mission in Somalia, where there are African nations who seek to go in and try to help out, where we can provide logistical as well as training support for those deployments, we are involved and engaged. And so to the degree that that occurs and will continue to occur and we will continue to provide support to those activities.
You know, to get to your question, I know you want to know, do I see a U.S. military footprint in Somalia? The answer is no, for a host of reasons but predominantly because our national policy says no. So I don’t – again, it’s kind of I follow along there.
DR. WALKER: I think we are running close to out of time, so let’s take two more questions. Ma’am, right here.
Q: Thank you. I’m Emira Woods. I am – (inaudible, off mike) – working here with the Institute for Policy Studies. I want to really thank the Atlantic Council not only for hosting this event today but for having the genius of having an Africa Center. Congratulations.
Gen. Ward, there are so many questions. I guess key is this issue around geopolitical issues in terms of Africa – geostrategic issues in terms of Africa. Many see the initial resentment and the continued resentment to AFRICOM being based not as a public relations fiasco but really in an understanding that Africa is becoming even more central, especially now in terms of oil and oil resources flowing from the continent to the United States. Africa surpassed the Middle East now as a supplier of oil to the United States. And many see sort of a push and a link between oil and militarism – (inaudible) – but also in Africa.
I guess when you – one of the five examples you gave today was of the current exercise in Gabon. Gabon is clearly an oil producer which had the longest-standing dictator on the continent until a few months ago when he handed over the presidency to his son. But clearly when the – (inaudible) – is used to really oppress civilians, to oppress the population, does that then not jeopardize U.S. strategic interests in the region, particularly those interests identified by President Obama in his Ghana speech, which underscored issues of human rights and democracy on the continent.
So I want to hear your response specifically to the one example that you gave today of Gabon. I know there are many others on the continent – (inaudible).
GEN. WARD: Okay, thank you. You know, one of the things that, you know, the Africa Endeavor series of exercises – this is now the fourth year – each exercise has a series of activities in an initial planning conference, a final planning conference that’s conducted in various places.
Last year the same exercise was conducted in Nigeria. The year before, it was conducted in – oh, I just lost the country. It was in Ghana. And so it rotates. Those African nations who participate determine where various pieces of it will be hosted. I probably don’t concur with the premise that it’s designed to repress the people.
What’s going on there is an exercise where nations who have come together who have determined that they want to be more capable in conducting peacekeeping and other missions, this is a communications interoperability so that when they come together and work together, they pick up the radio.
When they talk to one another, they have a better ability to do that to hopefully prevent the sort of thing that leads to problems for the deployed force as well as the command and control for the headquarters.
And so our methodology is a methodology that says, you know, we want to help them be more professional. Now, obviously, in that process these nations, as diverse as the continent is, come to it with different obvious, you know, types of things going on.
Again, where our policy indicates we have a relationship, then we work to help that nation become more professional, to cause the things that we do to be seen as examples of how militaries act as protectors of their people and not as oppressors.
That’s where we are attempting to go with this, and instilling those sorts of professional qualities on militaries that – and I’m simply saying that traditionally it may not have been seen that way because of what they’ve done and otherwise.
And so, our attempt is to help that transformation occur, if you will, and I don’t think you do that by ignoring it, and so we address it and we hopefully provide an example that is counter to what you’ve just indicated.
DR. WALKER: Thank you.
I need to ask – as the new kid on the block here at the Atlantic Council – I know if this were an evening meeting and it were 9:00, it would be my responsibility to enthusiastically conclude and say we finished exactly at 9:00. There is clearly a lot of interest. Damon, do we take a few more questions with our speaker’s permission or do we keep to the time and try to continue to be punctual here at the Atlantic Council?
MR. WILSON: He is going to take one more. We can indulge.
DR. WALKER: Okay. Well, there’s lots more. (Laughter.) Look behind you. And I think that before I pick the one, because we really only have time, perhaps, Gen. Ward, you’ll be willing to come back. There is clearly interest in the community and I know that the folks gathered here would – the room would grow in size if people knew you would be willing to come back and take some more questions at a future date.
GEN. WARD: I’m willing to come back.
DR. WALKER: Okay. (Applause.) So on that, Nancy, did you have a question?
Q: I’ll just sit. This is a great opportunity to promote your blog site for all these people who have comments and questions.
DR. WALKER: There you go. Okay, last question, far in the back corner. You, yes.
Q: General, it’s Jim Hentz from VMI and editor of the new journal African Security.
DR. WALKER: With the microphone please, Jim.
Q: Jim Hentz from VMI and editor of the new journal African Security. If stability is – (inaudible, off mike) – I know it is, and all – (inaudible) – are regional, what do you think of the standby forces – (inaudible) – use standby forces, and what can the African Command do to improve their efforts?
GEN. WARD: A great question. First, we are in absolute support to the formation and standup of these standby forces. We are bound with regards to our ability to interact with them by some things that are outside of our control. You know, we can only act with a presidential determination that gives us the authority to act directly with these standby forces.
Right now there are three presidential determinations that are enforced, one for the Southern African Development Community, one for the Central African Community and one for the Economic Community of West African States, also one for the African Union.
We work with them predominantly in two areas: one, modest equipment support, and then training, command and control support. And so because these nations that contribute to these standby forces are in fact the ones that make up who these standby forces are and, quite candidly, determines the capacities that they have.
And so we do work at the bilateral level with the nations because the contribute the forces that I’ve mentioned, but at the reasonable level, where the economic community has in fact a recognized standby brigade that is in some degree of maturation, then if we can do things in the form of equipment, training, then that’s how we get engaged.
Leadership training, professionalization, command and control, again part of the exercise that we’ve just finished talking here, addresses some of those. I’ll give you an example.
Recently the Economic Community of the West African States, ECOWAS, conducted a logistics exercise where they wanted to see their ability to deploy a peacekeeping force kilometers – thousands of kilometers away from their nation, the participating nation. Road movement – once you get there, can you talk back to your capital?
And so we were able to provide assistance to that, along with the Department of State, in supporting that exercise. It’s through those sorts of activities that we lend support to the regional standby brigades. But we absolutely think they are important because the Africans think they are important, both at the regional level and the continental level, and we aim to support those endeavors.
AMB. YATES: General, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us this evening. And, Gen. Ward, we’ll look forward to welcoming you back here –
GEN. WARD: Thank you.
DR. WALKER: – an audience that will have a lot more questions.
For those of you who are new to the Atlantic Council’s audience, please leave your business card so that we can continue to invite you to our events. And as we launch this, I’m sorry, Africa Center, please send your ideas. We do not have a written-in-stone mission statement.
And as I have told colleagues here at the Atlantic Council, it’s about drinking a lot of tea under the baobob tree and consulting about where the Atlantic Council can be value-added here in the policy community.
And, this distinguished crowd here, I look forward to your help and ideas – ditto Gen. Ward. It’s a real pleasure to host you here. Thank you very much for your insightful remarks.
GEN. WARD: Thank you. (Applause.)
Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.