WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct 7, 2011 —
On October 4, 2011, General Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, spoke on "AFRICOM Perspectives" at a military strategy forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.
He addressed topics including U.S. AFRICOM's strategic focus, the growing threat of violent extremism throughout Africa, U.S. involvement in effort to counter the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) extremist group, and budget concerns.
CSIS is a foreign policy research institute in Washington, D.C. The Military Strategy Forum welcomes senior defense leaders to present their vision and insights on the direction of U.S. defense policy and military strategy.
The complete transcript is included below.
CSIS video of the Military Strategy Forum
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JENNIFER COOKE: My name is Jennifer Cooke; I'm director of the Africa program here at CSIS. First, I want to welcome you all to CSIS and to the CSIS Military Strategy Forum, which, over the course of time, has brought senior defense leaders to present their vision and insights on the direction of U.S. defense policy and military strategy. CS is really most grateful for the Rolls Royce North America, for their support for this series which has been really fascinating.
I'm particularly pleased today to welcome General Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command. General Ham, I think you can say, is still fairly new to the command, having been in his position less than six months. Although I think, with everything that has happened in those six months it must feel quite a bit longer.
The general came to the command on March 9th, 2011. Ten days later, Operation Odyssey Dawn was launched in Libya, the front end of an AFRICOM-led coalition to enforce the UN Security Council Resolution on Libya. The Libyan crisis, I think, that initial front edge went very well, I think, by all assessments. The crisis obviously is not yet over. There are huge uncertainties now in how that country will rebuild itself, how it will hold itself together, what has always been a deeply fragmented society. A lot of uncertainty about the regional fallout of of a vacuum in Libya, into the Sahel and beyond, and perhaps to some extent political fallout from within Africa surrounding the role of AFRICOM and the NATO intervention.
In that time, Sudan went from one state to two, with South Sudan formally declaring independence on July 9th, huge uncertainties there politically and economically and most immediately in terms of security, ongoing violence, huge fragility -- problems with the integration of militaries building a professional military force followed by the integration of a professional military force, demobilization, and so forth.
In that time we saw a major upsurge in attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria, including the attack against the U.N. headquarters in Abuja in August. We've seen the unfolding of an epic tragic humanitarian crisis in the Horn, particularly the famine in Somalia that threatened close to a million people with famine, with al-Shabaab just today having launched major attacks in Mogadishu. So that back and forth in Somalia continues. Piracy in Somalia, but now we're hearing increasing reports from West Africa.
And then the ongoing issues that have been there for a long time -- the DRC capacity building more broadly -- and so forth. And also I think there's debates here in Washington, D.C., and probably struggles that you have to fight here in terms of budget cuts and what that may mean for the command going forward.
Anyway, we have no doubt that you are up to all these challenges. General Ham brings 36 years of service which has included assignments in Georgia, Italy, Germany, to name a few -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Macedonia and Iraq. He's had a tremendous breadth of experience in a series of very tough jobs in Macedonia, in Mosul during the very dark days of the Iraq war.
His previous assignment as commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe -- most recently leading the investigation into n the Fort Hood shootings, the delicate issue of "don't ask, don't tell" -- some very difficult and sensitive jobs -- and I think people have remarked to me, that you're quiet and you listen, and very deliberate and very fair-minded in all of these -- in all of these circumstances, and we appreciate that.
We are so delighted to have you here. We're going to keep it fairly informal. General Ham will talk for 10 minutes, and then we'll ask a few questions, and we'll open for discussion with the audience. So thank you, General Ham, thank you.
GENERAL CARTER F. HAM: Thank you -- thank you very much, Jennifer, and it is great to be here. Thanks very much for inviting me to have the chance to talk a bit about Africa and Africa Command.
As Jennifer kind of laid out what I've been doing as a soldier over the past several years, you'll notice none of that addressed any service in Africa or any association with Africa. And I think that's kind of where we have been as a military and certainly growing up in the Army, Africa was not on our horizon. It wasn't an area that -- a continent that we thought much about. It wasn't certainly in the forefront of any of our activities, but that has dramatically changed and, certainly over the past several years, recognized in 2007, 2008, when President Bush decided that -- to form U.S. Africa Command, kind of birthing it out of U.S. European Command, as many of you will recall, which formerly had responsibilities for U.S. military engagement in Africa.
As Jennifer mentioned, I have been here about six months, and it's not quite been the six months I expected. It started a little differently than I had anticipated, but it's a reminder that you don't get to control things all the time, and the world situation evolves in ways and in directions that sometimes are not anticipated. Six months into this job, I would say that I'm at the point now where I'm just beginning to understand what I don't know about Africa. The complexity, diversity and the severity of the security challenges that spread across the continent can be a little staggering.
And it's easy sometimes to feel a little bit overwhelmed, and I would tell you that what keeps me from feeling overwhelmed is in my travels and encounters with African leaders, both military and civilian, and in almost every case what I find, as I interact with them, is a very clear-eyed view of the security challenges that they face. They -- they're not Pollyannaish about this. They know that there are some very serious problems that they have to address and, in most cases, have a pretty good idea about how to do that. And they realize that, in almost every case, these are some long-term efforts required. These aren't -- these aren't problems that lend themselves to quick and easy solutions. If they did, they would have been solved already. These are -- these are tough -- in many cases, longstanding issues.
So the challenge for us, at U.S. Africa Command, is to find ways in which we can help Africans address these concerns. We're guided at the command by two overarching principles. One, the first is one that was espoused by President Obama in his trip to Ghana in 2009 where he made the clear statement that's somewhat obvious, but we seek African solutions to African problems. And I think, for us at U.S. Africa Command, that the corollary to that is that -- is that, in the long run, Africans are better able to address African security challenges. But as some military leaders in Africa have told me, they need a little bit of help in some cases, and so we look to partner with Africans where we can, where our help and assistance is welcome, to help them address their security problems.
The second underlying principle in all that we do is, just again, a statement of the obvious, but that a safe, stable, secure Africa is in the best interests, not only of the Africans, but of the United States of America. It is in our best interests that stability prevails, and so we look for ways in which we can contribute to that.
Last month, a few weeks ago at the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama talked about this year being a year of extraordinary transformation. I think you can make a pretty good argument -- I think I could make a pretty good argument -- that nowhere has that extraordinary transformation been more evident than on the continent of Africa. From north to south, east to west, region to region, there are significant changes a foot that portend -- significant security implications for us and certainly for the Africans.
So just to give you a sense of where we are and what we're trying to do, I'll hit a couple of reasons briefly and then I look forward to your questions and the discussion with you.
For me, East Africa becomes the highest priority region for a host of reasons but, unfortunately, it is in East Africa where most of the negative security issues are present. There certainly are violent extremist organizations. There's a very close seam between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaida East Africa, al-Shabab -- a growing relationship there which is certainly of concern. There's piracy. There's a new nation of South Sudan and security force assistance that is required there; horrific famine and loss of life in the Horn of Africa, specifically in Somalia at present. We have legislated action here in the United States that requires us to assist in countering the Lord's Resistance Army, and there's a number of issues that are kind of concentrated in East Africa to me make that the area that requires our greatest attention at present.
It's also an area where we have some very willing partners, and I would note specifically Uganda and Burundi and their contribution to the African Union Mission in Somalia, which is having a very positive effect and doing quite well there. They're looking for ways where they can follow their own doctrine, and ours as well, which is exploit success. And so we'll look for ways that we might partner with them.
Next for me is the Sahel, and al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb. A relatively small, but unfortunately it's still strong and, in many ways, still a growing organization that creates a high degree of instability in the Sahel region, and an espoused intent to attack westerners and to include U.S. interest. And so I think AQIM remains a very significant issue with us and particularly concerning at present is the proliferation of weapons that may be coming out of Libya, and I suspect that is something that we may want to talk about in the discussion phase.
Moving a little bit south of that, as Jennifer mentioned, Boko Haram in Nigeria is also transforming. I think from perhaps an organization that was -- that looked primarily internally, but is now increasing their violence and certainly has increased the rhetoric and their intent to target Western and including U.S. interests in the region. Their 26 August attack against the U.N. headquarters in Abuja, I think, is evident of that. So for those that had any question about Boko Haram's violent nature and their motive, I think that was largely put to rest in that attack in August.
So we talk about extremist organizations -- al-Qaida East Africa, al-Shabab, al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, and Boko Haram, each individually of concern, but what really concerns me is that at least the stated intent for those organizations to link and synchronize their efforts and that to me would be a very, very dangerous outcome for us.
More broadly, we do focus with our African partners on maritime security. We had some very good successes in the Gulf of Guinea in the west where the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, and the Economic Community of Central African States, ECCAS, have collaborated at the regional level and the individual states to increase their maritime domain awareness and intelligence sharing, to collaborate more closely on maritime security, working out legal agreements that would allow things such as hot pursuit of criminals or pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, increasing the capacity of coast guards and navies in the country to counter illicit trafficking and piracy. So a lot of success there as well.
Our efforts at Africa Command are less present, less visible the further south we go, but we have some strong partnerships there as well. South Africa has recently expressed great interest in addressing piracy on their coast, and I think this is a great area where South Africa could and should take a leading role, and I think they'll be quite effective in that area as well, if there are some ways we can hopefully look forward to that.
At the end of all that, you got to say, OK, well, what is it that you want to achieve? Well, one of the things that I've tried to do, as I talk with the commands, we should never lose sight of who we are. We are, first and foremost, a Department of Defense geographic combatant command, and our primary responsibility is to protect America, Americans and American interest from threats that transit or might emanate from the continent of Africa. We think we do that most effectively by strengthening the defense capabilities of African states and regional organizations, again, back to the principle of Africans are better able to address African security challenges. But that's what we do.
If you ask me what keeps me awake at night, it is the thought of an American passport-holding person who transits through a training camp in Somalia and gets some skill and then finds their way back into the United States to attack Americans here in our homeland. That's mission failure for us. So that's what we've got to remain ever vigilant for -- is that kind of threat that addresses our country.
It's been a fascinating first six months for me. I've enjoyed the multiple dimensions of the command and the complexity and diversity of the mission sets that we have on our plate. I should mention as Jennifer talked about, we are in a different fiscal situation than anticipated, and so we aren't sure what that's going to mean for us just yet.
I think the way I choose to address this within the command is twofold. I think, first of all, it will require us to have a much sharper prioritization. I think we're going to have to be more clear about where are the highest priority efforts for us? At the other end of that spectrum that probably means there are some things that the U.S. military has done in the past that we're likely to not be able to continue, or we will do it smaller or less frequently than we have in the past. We've got to do that in collaboration with our partners at State and AID and a number of other agencies as well.
Secondly, I think the fiscal reality will drive us to a more regional approach rather than a series of bilateral engagements. I think that actually fits pretty well with the direction that the African Union and others would like to head in terms of building regional capacity. So I think our efforts actually might be complementary in that regard.
And so with that, I'll pause and see where you'd like to go in terms of questions for discussion.
MS. COOKE: Great. Well, thanks very much. I find that, it just reminds us of how many diverse challenges we face from all -- from so many angles.
Maybe just to start, in terms of -- I think many of the battles when AFRICOM was first established in terms of reactions from African countries -- some of that still happens -- but I think General Ward spent much of his time kind of putting out those kinds of fires, trying to explain what the command was and what it wasn't. In that, it kind of gave this sense of -- in some ways the command emphasized much more the softer side of capacity building and longer-term partnerships and so forth, which are all important to the harder side, but I think that in some ways that almost got overemphasized.
And I think the kind of unapologetic statement of we're there for U.S. interests is important, but I wonder if Libya, if Somalia, some of the reports on drones, if some of the kind of difficult political relationships we've had to establish because of -- because we need security partners -- are you feeling blowback? Has there kind of been a resurgence from some of the African partners on some of those older debate on what Africa means, AFRICOM means, and what kind of presence is desired or wanted in Africa? Or are people saying we need you.
GEN. HAM: Yeah, good, thanks. I should have set at the outset just that -- say that we wouldn't be anywhere near where we are without the efforts of General Ward. He saw -- unlike anybody else, me included -- he saw Libya coming. And I don't think he knew exactly how it would unfold, but he saw something coming and formed the joint task force well ahead of time that anybody else saw something coming. So he had some great vision and it was his significant effort on building personal and professional relationships that has allowed the command to continue.
I was worried about that, frankly. I was, you know, as Jennifer mentioned, you know, 10 days into the command and we began kinetic operations in a place where we hadn't talked much about kinetic operations before. So I was concerned about how that might unfold.
In an earlier trip into the continent, in talking with military leaders, I asked them frankly that question. You know, is this activity, is this military operation in Libya -- is that going to affect the relationship that Africa Command has and seeks to continue with you or with your partners?
And one of -- a senior African leader -- I had -- this military leader and I were having this discussion; he kind of leaned back in his chair and said, General, the Africans who hate you will still hate you. And the Africans who don't hate you still won't hate you. (Laughter.) I thought that was a pretty mature approach. That, you know, one specific thing isn't going to alter the opinion of the command. Military, more than civilian leaders were kind of the opinions of -- you know, we always knew who you were, I mean, you wouldn't put a military command if you didn't have, you know, some vision that at some point you might have to conduct military operations.
It has been a point of discussion to be sure, as I travel around Africa. There's no question, but in some countries, there is a very differing view about Libya. There's not much disagreement about the end state: Clear agreement on the necessity to protect civilians -- pretty near-agreement that Mr. Qadhafi -- Libya will be better off without Mr. Qadhafi, and better with a government that the people are able to select; lots of disagreement about how to get there.
And that's OK. So we've had that discussion. There's been no instance where -- at least none that I'm aware of -- that any country has backed away from or reduced -- asked to reduce their military-to-military engagement and exercises or anything like that with us as a result of Libya. As I -- again, as I go around the country, almost every place, it's, can you do more? We'd like to -- you know, can we host an exercise here? Can you do that, can you do this? So -- even in places where there's disagreement about the way in which the operations were conducted, the relationships are still strong.
MS. COOKE: Just one more question before I open it up. One of the State Department's big priorities, coming into the Obama administration, was rebuilding some of the relationships with big, important powers -- I'm thinking Nigeria, Angola, South Africa -- that had been somewhat kind of neglected and become a little bit prickly in some ways. Perhaps Nigeria less so, but South Africa, Angola -- I think there's a real keen desire by the State Department to try to broaden that engagement somewhat.
South Africa, obviously, we've had ups and downs politically -- I mean, we consider them a good friend but it does get prickly at times. And it seems the maritime security aspect may be, kind of, one way to build out on a broader security relationship with them.
I'm wondering what are the reactions? Obviously Boko Haram in Nigeria now -- Angola. Can you talk a little bit about those three countries kind of the reception -- they're three countries that have capacity few other African countries have in terms of peacekeeping, in terms of conflict resolution, and so forth.
GEN. HAM: Yeah, sure. I -- they are three very important countries. And I haven't found an unimportant country in Africa yet --
MS. COOKE: Yeah, the little ones come up and surprise you --
GEN. HAM: Yeah. But in terms of capacities -- so starting with Nigeria, it's very clear -- Nigeria is the leading country for most activities in West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. A very significant role in ECOWAS, they lead a number of other missions in a variety of places. We have had a long-standing and very helpful, very useful, naval and air military relationship -- less strong with the army. And in my visit to Abuja I had a great meeting with the chief of the army staff following President Jonathan's visit here with President Obama.
And I think we're now starting to find ways in which we can cooperate more closely. Very clearly -- Boko Haram has altered that relationship somewhat. And so we're looking for ways in which we can help -- looking for ways that Nigeria would like us to give help in developing their counterterrorism capabilities and -- things such as nonlethal training, nonlethal equipment, to be more precise in the application of force, I think, are ways in which we can proceed.
Similarly, as we engage military-to-military, State and AID and many others in the international community are working with Nigeria to help address the underlying causes from which Boko Harmam gathers some strength, particularly, you know, the dissatisfied youth and others. So there's programs underway there as well. And it is finally helping Nigeria find the right balance and for us in the military, how can we help?
What we know very clearly is that a single-tracked military effort will won't satisfactorily address this and the Nigerians very clearly understand this -- so a strong and growing relationship with Nigeria.
Angola, on the other hand, has been largely hands-off for quite a while. We are starting now to have the foundation of a good maritime relationship with Angola. And I think the maritime domain will probably be the area of main emphasis for us. It's where they have asked for some help. Our 6th Fleet commander has been there on a vision to start to establish that relationship. And I think that's one that bears promise. We look to partner with the Portuguese, who, you know, small but long-standing relationship. And I should mention, more broadly, I know that many of the Europeans have longer experience in Africa than we do, and while not always positive, we seek to partner with them as we move forward.
And then South Africa, I absolutely agree with you -- South Africa, a very large, very powerful nation in every domain -- diplomatically, economically and certainly in the security sector as well. South Africa and Africa Command have not had the strongest ties. General Ward -- put a lot of personal energy into that and, I think, gained some significant ground in demystifying Africa Command. This past summer we had the largest exercise in the post Apartheid era. The military-to-military relationships are strong and growing.
What we hope to do, again, is find ways that South Africa would like some assistance. They should, rightfully in my opinion, continue in a leadership role in Africa and even more broadly, internationally, of leading African Union missions, leading U.N. missions, certainly their role in the South Africa Development Community of addressing piracy on a regional basis, I think, are all positive indicators.
MS. COOKE: Let's open it up for questions.
Q: Dane Fulgam (ph) with Aviation Wing. The broad question here is what do you need in the way of ISR. General Carlisle, who is Plans and Ops for the Air Force, said that they fully intend, even with the current budget crisis to go on beyond 65 UAV orbits. And so what share of that are you asking for, and if you're not in that planning part, what are you asking for, because it seems like ISR would help you as much as you can possibly get.
MS. COOKE: Let's take another. Steve Morrison in the back. Steve is the former director of the Africa program --
Q: Good morning, general. Thank you so much for your remarks and congratulations on all the great work. I wanted to focus on the budget and the case that can be made to the American people right now. As we all know, I mean, we're in historically difficult budgetary circumstances right now. And DOD in particular with the August package, with the supercommittee, with the projections looking forward over the next several years. Perhaps into the next full decade, we're going to see some significant contractions. And I would expect that AFRICOM as a relatively new entity with relatively small budgets, so it might actually be quite vulnerable.
And I wanted to ask you, how do you make the -- you talked about setting priorities and having a regional approach -- you're not all that well-known to an American public or to a congressional audience. I'm saying how do you -- where's your thinking right now in terms of making -- under the current circumstances -- making the very best, strongest, clearest case to an environment here that is skeptical about putting dollars overseas, scared about our own economy and very divided politically? Thank you.
MS. COOKE: Next, in the way back there.
Q: Sasha Lezhnev from the Enough Project. Thank you for your comments, General. I was pleased to hear you talk about the Lord's Resistance Army towards the beginning of your speech in terms of priority areas. I think it's a very positive development that the Pentagon is deploying some military advisers to the LRA conflict in support of the existing efforts.
So my question about that deployment was, how long do you see that as going forward? We've been pretty disappointed with the results from the Ugandan Army to date. And is there any effort to increase the number and the quality of troops from Uganda that's being deployed out there? They do have more elite forces -- for example, the presidential guard brigade. Is there -- is there an effort to try to increase the quality of those forces? Thank you.
MS. COOKE: Let's start with that and we'll come back for another round.
GEN. HAM: If it's OK I'll just -- I'll just take them in sequence. Dave, on the ISR question, the first answer is, no commander would ever say he or she has enough ISR. (Laughter.) So it's an insatiable appetite, I think. But I have to tell you that given the missions that Africa Command has been handed, we've had the ISR necessary to accomplish those missions. It's principally been focused, unsurprisingly, in East Africa; more recently and currently a heavy emphasis in Libya, and then more broadly in the Sahel, focused on al-Qaida in the lands of the Islamic Maghreb.
The near-term challenge, I think, will be as NATO contemplates concluding Operation Unified Protector, the NATO mission in Libya -- to which the United States has contributed a pretty significant level of collection assets -- how much of that do I need to keep as Unified Protector ends and Libya comes -- the Libya mission set comes back to Africa Command in a normalized relationship?
We're going through that drill right now, but I think for the near term, because of the threat of proliferation of weapons -- principally because of the National Transitional Council -- hopefully at some point interim government's interest in securing their own borders will have a sustained U.S. ISR present at least for the next several months.
My guess is that it'll probably be a little bit less than what's there right now. It'll be a little more focused, perhaps, on the borders, less focused on targeting with which the assets are doing now in support of the NATO mission and more broadly supportive of border security and again tracking these trafficking routes for weapons. So I think that part will continue.
As always, it's something we got to watch very carefully. There will always be pressure to reduce it, so one of my responsibilities is to continue to convey to General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta of what our operational requirements are. So far Africa has -- AFRICOM's requirements have been very well-supported and I think we'll be OK in that regard. The other challenge we face, of course, is for emerging requirements. And the challenge there is access and basing, where we are almost wholly reliant upon host nations to provide that basing and access. So if there were to be an emerging crisis elsewhere in the continent, then we obviously would have to wrestle through the issues of basing and overflight.
On the budget, you talked --
Q: Could I just ask one follow-up -- have you any sense of where are the SA-24s that were -- (inaudible)?
GEN. HAM: Well, first the question is -- first off, you know, how many -- There is a state-led -- Department of State led MANPADS Task Froce that has been operating now for a couple of months, actually, with regional partners, the neighboring countries, if you will, to make sure that border security issues are addressing this concern. There have been discussions very recently with senior members of the National Transitional Council.
It's very clear to me, and in a meeting that I attended with Chairman Jalil and others, the National Transitional Council recognizes that concern and understands their responsibilities to control the weapons first of all, try to regain control of those which have fallen outside of the government's control. And so I think everything is on the table, whether it's a buy-back program or others, I think, are all being considered.
There are some worrying indicators that some MANPADS -- type nonspecific -- have left the country. And I would just say that in my recent travels to most of the neighboring countries, this is near the top of their security agenda. They're focusing significant collection and law enforcement and military efforts to counter this threat. They all understand the seriousness of this proliferation of weapons. So I don't know the specifics but certainly it's a worrying trend.
On the budget -- we are already in the grand scheme of things pretty small potatoes in the budget area. And my guess is, you know, at some point somebody will propose the notion that says well, just do away with Africa Command. And I suppose if somebody made that proposal they'd look at it and probably find it wouldn't make much difference in the budget world. The approach I take is I think that we get disproportionate effect for a very modest investment.
It is sometimes a tough sell to say, again, why should we be spending money in Africa where we ought to be spending money at home? It is that longstanding debate of prevention versus response. And so I think Libya might be instructive in this regard. Of course, you can never, you know, exactly equate things.
But, you know, we're at a billion -- in the neighborhood of a billion of spending in military operations in Libya. Maybe, just maybe, we could avoid a future exercise like that through the expenditure and the investment of some millions of dollars over time to help build the capacity of African states' security forces to behave in responsible ways, and they're professional, they're capable, they're responsive to legitimate civilian controlled and that they're supportive of the people of their country.
It's an imprecise art that you could never -- you can't prove the negative. But I believe that that effort, that relatively small effort paid in prevention and deterrence, building partner capacity, I think, will pay off for us in the long run. It won't prevent every emerging crisis, but what we strive to do is, again, by increasing the defense capabilities of our African partners and of the regional organizations, help them build the capacity not only to prevent hostilities but, should prevention fail, to be able to more effectively respond to these emerging crises without us having to become involved. And I think that's the direction that we clearly want to have.
Finally, I will say, on the budget, at least at present, there is in -- certainly in my mind, and I think in many others -- there is a very real threat to America from these violent organizations that exist in Africa. We've got to address that. Again -- mission failure is that threat comes home here and we've got to do all that we can to prevent that from occurring.
Having said that, we -- I understand very clearly, we're going to be in some -- in some tough budget discussions. But I think we have a pretty good case to make.
Lastly, to the Lord's Resistance Army. I have to tell you, six months ago, I didn't know anything about the Lord's Resistance Army. You start to learn a little bit about this, and if you ever had any question if there was evil in this world, it's resident in the person of Joseph Kony and in that organization. We now have legislation that requires us to help address the problem of the Lord's Resistance Army, and of course, you know rule number one for the military is we follow the law, so there's a law that tells us to do this.
In the four-nation boundary of Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and now the Republic of South Sudan, this small group of the Lord's Resistance Army continues to terrorize, they continue to murder, they continue to kidnap people. The Uganda People's Defence Force has been kind of the leading effort in this regard. They have had some successes -- they have had some recent successes in killing and capturing some members of the Lord's Resistance Army, but none of the senior leaders. My best estimate at present is that Kony and the senior leaders are probably in the Central African Republic. The Uganda People's Defence Forces are shifting their effort in that area.
Our role so far has been in facilitating intelligence. We're hopeful here and the very near future to be able to increase the number of U.S. military advisers and trainers in that regard.
There is a joint combined intel ops center that is manned almost exclusively by Africans -- we have some small representation there to coordinate the efforts of all the different organizations. The U.S. in a State Department led effort trained, very effectively -- trained the battalion of the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo that's operating in northeast DRC in this effort. And we're in discussions with the DRC about increasing that effort, perhaps training another battalion to help address this.
The Lord's Resistance Army -- the outcome is clear. That the Africans that are participating in these missions kill and capture Kony and his senior leaders and protect the citizenry particularly in that four-state area. And -- I'm convinced that those four nations are committed to that mission.
MS. COOKE: Tony?
Q: Welcome, sir. Tony Carroll with Manchester Trade, and I teach at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
At this very stage, about two years ago or three years ago, a former assistant secretary of state described AFRICOM as Peace Corps on steroids. We talk a little bit about the security mission of the Africa Command, but I'd like for you to address maybe some of the softer part of your command, the unusual ability of your establishment -- institutions within your establishment -- to respond to humanitarian crises, whether they'd be in the construction of dams and water supply, whether they'd be in the construction of emergency food storage, whether they'd help in the areas of health supply chain management. These are special skills that you have and are needed in Africa. And as a Peace Corps volunteer, I don't feel threatened by -- a former Peace Corps volunteer -- I don't feel threatened. I think that you have unusual capabilities that in the right space could do great good, as well as in your security mission.
MS. COOKE: Thank you, Tony. Let's go with Ed and then the lady. Ed first, in the center.
Q: Thank you very much. I'm Ed Barber from GoodWorks International, Andrew Youngs consulting firm. Been working on Africa for 20 years. This is pure coincidence, but my question follows right on Tony's. I was wondering about the economic or quasi-economic dimensions of your activities in Africa. Dating way back in the '80s, I was an admirer of the West Africa Training Cruise and the civic action projects you all sometimes undertook in connection with that cruise -- building a farm to market bridge in a remote part of Mauritania or donating a couple of patrol boats to Senegal to be able to enforce their offshore fishing jurisdiction.
And I wondered to what extent those kinds of functions might continue, or will they be squeezed out by budget pressures? These are sometimes extraordinarily useful projects -- small bucks but making a big difference. And again, as Tony said, some of them are areas where you have unique capabilities.
MS. COOKE: Thank you, and there's a lady right behind.
Q: Thank you. Good morning, sir. My name is Rachel Smith , Headquarters, Department of the Army, G357. Going back to the budget question, with the reduced budget, what are your thoughts regarding China's increased spending on the continent? And your perspective -- Are we going to fall too far behind as a strategic partner with our African partners? Thank you.
MS. COOKE: Can I just add on to Tony's, perhaps you can be more specific to whether Africa is engaged in the Somalia humanitarian aspect of that, as well.
GEN. HAM: OK. Thanks.
The non -- for lack of a better term, the non-traditional military activities of the command are just as important as the military side. In fact, you could probably make a pretty good argument, because those contribute significantly to the underlying causes of instability across the continent, perhaps those, in the long term are more important.
And I should mention -- perhaps it's unusual for a guy in uniform -- but I'm a pretty big fan of the Peace Corps -- (laughter) -- because it may be seen a little bit of a non sequitur, but the -- for many Africans, the only American that they will ever see in their lives is a Peace Corps volunteer. And that one individual or that small team's influence lasts for generations and has a dramatic effect, so thanks for volunteering. We need more. And as you know, there are some places in Africa where the security situation is such that Peace Corps operations have been suspended. So I think, you know, one of our roles is try to help those countries get back to a situation where the Peace Corps can come back in.
We do -- we do focus in a -- in a lot other areas and, as Tony mentioned, to assist in that regard structurally, as many of you know, we have a deputy commander for civil-military activities, currently Ambassador Tony Holmes, former ambassador to Burkina Faso, as many of you know. The first was Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates who just formerly retired last Friday, and in typical Yates family tradition, is now back on active duty as the charge in Khartoum. (Laughter.) I guess that weekend was enough retirement for her.
Ambassador John Yates is a little puzzled by that, but they'll figure that out, I think. But -- and the others -- we have lots of other non-DOD persons on the staff. But the other key one I would mention is our senior development adviser, Mr. Mark White, who comes to us from AID. Those two senior leaders, more than any other, are the ones who help us in the command better understand how we can integrate traditional military activities in ways that facilitate those programs, so we do that in small ways.
So, for example, The Gambia, small country, they have big flooding problems. And those flooding problems, you know, have very significant adverse effect on agriculture, on fisheries and what have you. So we say, OK, well, how do you do that? Well -- so let's bring in the Army Corps of Engineers to help do an assessment of how do you -- you know, if anybody knows flood control it's the Army Corps of Engineers. They know how to do this, it's a core competency.
So that's a way that we can combine what is largely economic activity with some military support. As many of you know, there are armed force -- U.S. armed forces medical research centers and laboratories in Africa, which do great work. And I've come to really appreciate what they do. What I've asked them to do, now that I've learned a little bit about them, is to find ways to expand their work and increase their collaboration with African national and regional health programs so that we can take this great expertise that is resident in the U.S. military chain and expand that more regionally into African civil society. There are ways to do that.
One more example, again, selfishly motivated -- this battalion that I mentioned -- training in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a very innovative program to help them become self-sustaining with food. And so the Borlaug Institute has developed programs -- for that battalion -- that they now have their own fish ponds, they have their -- they grow and process their own cassava. They have the -- I don't think they have chickens yet -- they have pigs; they have cattle for milk and cheese. It is self-sustaining. Well, that's a pretty good thing for a military to have as they travel around. Other nations, South Sudan, for example is looking to expand that.
But there are also, now -- several of these militaries are looking at programs of demobilizing and reintegrating former soldiers into civil society. This is a program by which they could gain a skill. They gain some agricultural skill and then can transit out of the armed forces and be a meaningful contributor into society.
So those are a couple of the examples. And I -- and Tony is right to kind of call me on this as I -- as I spoke primarily of a traditional military aspect up front. The other activities, which we tend to do less visibly, which is OK by me -- in support of either other U.S. organizations, African organizations or international organizations, our small contributions, I think, can be meaningful.
Continuing on the economic dimension, I would follow up -- Ed, your questions about -- with some specific focus on maritime security, which is so important to so many nations. Some would argue that the -- that the genesis of East Africa piracy has its root in the loss of fishing capabilities and income from fisheries off the coast of Somalia, so it certainly has a security angle as well. But the economic challenges in the maritime domain are very significant.
It is important to recognize that almost everything that comes into or comes out of Africa does so by sea. And it's been very interesting. Most Africans don't think of themselves as a maritime continent or as individual maritime states, but they truly are highly dependent upon that. So we look for ways in which we can indeed partner with coast guards or navies. Liberia, for example, which had no coast guard. Small effort to help them do that; they've now conducted patrols in their territorial waters and have done fisheries enforcement in concert with other government officials in Liberia. Same in many other states as well is an important thing.
You asked a great question about -- Will these kinds of efforts be sustainable in a declining budget area? There are questions being asked about our efforts in countering narcotics and other illicit trafficking. You know, are those core competencies, are those things that perhaps are at risk? We've got to examine each and every one of those.
Ideally, what we want to do is get us out of that business, and get the Africans to the point where they can execute these missions with either greatly reduced or no U.S. support. But they're not at that point yet. And so I would make the case that those efforts have to be sustained for at least some period of time.
Rachel, you asked a great question too. I must admit, it's a little unfair for a Army person to be asking another Army person -- but this great question of China in Africa. You know, first of all, they are everywhere in Africa. And it's not a military rivaly, though there are lots of nations which have Chinese military equipment, but I don't -- it's not an adversarial relationship with China.
I have found in these first couple of months that some African countries are finding that the Chinese offer -- often offer military equipment perhaps at lower price than we do. But the Africans are -- some Africans are finding that without the sustaining programs that come behind that, that's not such a great deal. So they're looking to us now and say, OK, we now know why you're more expensive than the Chinese, because in three years, you know, this airplane, this tank, this boat that we -- that we got from the Chinese is no longer operable, whereas -- the stuff they get from us -- because we insist upon a sustaining package when they get U.S. military equipment. That works out pretty well.
I'm not particularly concerned about us falling strategically behind China in Africa. I think our interests -- there are certainly some areas where our interests are shared, and we should further explore those. An example would be, as I talked to some of you a few weeks ago, the Chinese recently provided riverine craft to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a pretty essential piece of equipment which we don't have much of. It's useful to the FARDC to have those assets. And that now, along with the training that we provide, I think, gives the FARDC a useful product. And I think there are perhaps some other areas, perhaps even in the areas of professional military education, where we might be able to partner with the Chinese and others to get bigger bang for the buck in some African countries.
MS. COOKE: I believe we are unfortunately out of time.
GEN. HAM: Because I spoke too long. I'm sorry. (Laughter.)
MS. COOKE: No, no. This was great. For someone who didn't spend a day of his career on Africa in 36 years you are certainly a quick study. You know -- what a pleasure to have you here, to hear your views so articulately said, and making the case, I think, for the command, and the future of the command here in Washington. Please join me in thanking General Ham. Thank you all for joining us. (applause). We hope we get you back in the near future.
TRANSCRIPT: General Ham Discusses "AFRICOM Perspectives" at CSIS Military Strategy Forum
US AFRICOM Public Affairs
Center for Strategic and International Studies
WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct 7, 2011 —
On October 4, 2011, General Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, spoke on "AFRICOM Perspectives" at a military strategy forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.