During a presentation at the Chatham House, London, England, on November 16, 2012, General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), talked about AFRICOM's mission and its relation to security issues in Africa.
The complete transcript is provided below:
ALEX VINES: General Ham has been commander of the U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart since March 2011. He was previously the commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and the 7th Army. He has a very long and distinguished career and has also served in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Macedonia and Iraq. General Ham has a received a number of awards and decorations.
General, thank you for coming to speak here again, and I invite you to go to the podium and --or if you prefer to sit down and speak.
GENERAL CARTER HAM: I'm glad --I'm glad to do that.
MR. VINES: OK. All right. Thank you very much.
GEN. HAM: Thanks, Alex. Thank you very much.
When one is first invited to Chatham House, you don't really know exactly what to make of that because it's --first of all, you never think of yourself having arrived in a position where anyone is particularly interested in your views. So I'm very --I was very anxious and very excited to receive this invitation. And I got a lot of good advice about coming up here. And the first rule was one that Alex just mentioned, that just because it's Chatham House, don't believe that it's under Chatham House rules. So that's OK.
But the fact of the matter is, there is a lot for us to talk about. There is a lot going on in Africa, as there always is. And there is certainly a lot going on within the United States Africa Command.
If I may just make one brief comment about my military background, as Alex rattled off the number of places where I've served and places that I'd been and positions I've held, you didn't notice in that any mention of Africa. I've not served in Africa before.
In fact, for the United States military, Africa, to be completely honest, is not a part of the world that the United States military has focused on very intently until recently. We have had previously only a very small number of U.S. military intelligence analysts who focused on Africa and an extraordinarily but --small community of attaches with repetitive assignments and experiences on the African continent. But for most of us, American military officers, Africa has been an afterthought. It's not been the scene of significant planning or potential military conflict or any other reason to think about Africa.
That changed in the mid-2000s. And I think amidst military engagement in other parts of the world, there was a growing recognition in the United States that Africa was increasingly important to the United States in a number of areas, certainly economically but politically and diplomatically as well from a development standpoint and also from a security standpoint. So in the mid-2000s there was a decision to establish the United States military command that was exclusively focused on the African continent.
Those of you who have focused on this before know that previously, the United States European Command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, had responsibility for U.S. military activities in Europe and in Africa. And so in 2008 the two headquarters split, one remaining focused on Europe and a new command, under the direction of General Ward, established to focus on the continent of Africa, its island nations.
And importantly, less Egypt: Egypt remains, in the area of responsibility for the U.S. military, under United States Central Command because of its essential connections to the broader Mideast. But there is an interesting little asterisk in our direction or implementing direction that tells the combatant commands what to do, and it says, for Egypt, for matters related to African security, then --that U.S. Africa Command interacts with Egypt --and in fact, I have had the great opportunity to do so in the time I've been there.
As Alex mentioned, I've been in the job about a year and a half. It's been exciting. It's been broad-ranging. I'm encouraged by the optimism and opportunity that I find as I travel about Africa. But also, we have to be realistic about the many challenges, some of which are security challenges that Africa faces.
For U.S. Africa Command, our mission can be distilled simply to say, we advance the United States' interests in Africa, and we think we do that best by enabling and strengthening the defense capabilities of African nations so that they are increasingly capable of providing not only for their own security but to contribute to regional stability and security as well.
Of course, as all U.S. military commands must be, we stand ready to implement and conduct military operations when so directed by our president; operations in Libya last year would be a good example of that type of activity.
Our activities are governed by a number of different U.S. publications, two of which I would mention and commend to you. The first is a document that was released earlier this year, called the "Presidential Policy Directive for Sub-Saharan Africa." The official title is "A Comprehensive U.S. Strategy on Sub-Saharan Africa." That document outlines in broad terms what it is that the United States government seeks to achieve in partnership with the African nations.
It's focused on four primary pillars, the first of which is to strengthen democratic institutions, a common U.S. goal in many places. Secondly, to spur economic growth, trade and investment, an area, I think, for the United States of growing importance on the continent of Africa. Thirdly, to advance peace and security; this is the goal that U.S. Africa Command is most keenly interested in. And fourthly, to promote opportunity and development.
In my view, as part of that U.S. government strategy, the "advance peace and security" pillar is a supporting effort to all of the other objectives. You don't get good governance, you don't get economic development, you don't get growth and opportunity if you don't have adequate security and stability. So we think our efforts contribute in a significant way to the overall U.S. government's goals.
A second document I suspect many of you have read is that released --approved by President Obama in January of this year, released by Secretary Panetta, and that's the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. It's --that document is most well-known because it is in that document where the rebalance of U.S. military effort to Asia-Pacific was first formalized in an official document. It's a great document, and it does lay out the priorities for the United States armed forces.
When the document was released, I had the opportunity to talk with many of my African counterparts, both military and civilian, and frankly they were concerned because when you read that document, you will see that the word "Africa" appears precisely one time. And so our African partners say --looked at that and say, does this mean that you no longer care about Africa?
And I said, well, again, we have to be realistic. From a geostrategic point of view, Asia-Pacific is the focus --highest priority for my nation. But rather than think that the number of times the word appears is important, look at the tasks that are outlined in that document for the United States armed forces and see what you think about the relevance of Africa then.
Unsurprisingly, at the top of the list for tasks for the United States armed forces is the defeat of al-Qaida, its associated networks and to prevent further attacks on America, Americans and American interests. That's not surprising to you. The sad fact is we do a lot of that work in Africa today. We want to work to a point where we don't have to do as much work.
Secondly, there's a lot of discussion in the document about the necessity for continued strategic access to the global commons for economic growth, to allow free access globally to markets and for the global economy to continue to prosper. Certainly we do a lot of that work in Africa.
A third priority is building --what we call building partner capacity, as I said, strengthening the defense capabilities of allied and partner nations, so that they can first of all deter conflict; so that the commitment of military forces, whether they be U.S. other, is less and less likely. We think that's a high priority, and we certainly do that in Africa as well.
An increasingly important priority for the United States military is the prevention and response to mass atrocity. Sadly, Africa has had this experience, and we work carefully with our African partners in that area as well.
And lastly, the United States military is expected to be prepared to assist others with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, wherever that may occur. And of course that's certainly work that is conducted in Africa as well.
So that range of tasks says to me that the United States military still has a relevant role and will have a relevant role in Africa for many, many years to come, and we seek to --again, to work in close partnership with our African partners as we --as we move forward.
I'd suggest --just a few comments about a couple of current topics and then I would welcome your questions and comments. We could have a broader discussion.
So I'll highlight three current topics, three current issues that U.S. Africa Command is involved in. I won't talk about Mali, because I suspect you're going to ask me about Mali. (Laughter.) So we'll save that one for the question-and-answer period, but let me talk about three others.
First of all, Somalia. If you had told me a year ago that Somalia would have a president, a constitution, a parliament; that the city of Mogadishu, the port city of Kismayu would be largely free of al-Shabab; that al-Shabab would be under duress by the African Union mission forces in Somalia, I would have said, you're crazy; there's no way that that could possibly happen. But yet that's exactly what has happened. It is, to me, the best example of what can happen when African leaders, military and civilian, make the decision that they are going to accept responsibility, they are going to lead and act to accomplish a mission. And they asked for a little bit of international community support, and the international community was able to provide most of that.
I'm very proud of that the United States has been a piece of that. Most of our effort has been in training and equipping the AMISOM forces who have fought so bravely, and sadly, many lost in the fights in Somalia. But I think our effort has contributed to the success. We've provided some intelligence, which we think has been helpful. And so I think this is perhaps a good model of an African-led, international community-supported endeavor. And perhaps there are some parallels to Mali. We can talk about that.
The second current topic that I would mention is Libya. It is important to recognize that in the current situation of great fragility in Libya, the one thing that is very positive is that for the first time in more than 40 years the Libyan people have been able to vote, to select their own leaders. It's messy. It's problematic. There's lots of challenges. There are no government institutions to speak of. There are well-armed and equipped militia operating outside of government control across the country, lots and lots of challenges, to be sure. But the fact that Libyans are choosing their own government is a good sign.
The presence of violent extremist organizations in a growing network in Libya is truly worrisome, and we are working with the Libyan security elements to try to help them build the capability to deal with that growing threat. On the military side, we have good relationships with the military chiefs in Libya and are finding ways to help them in border security, maritime security, building a national counterterrorist force and other capabilities that that nation so desperately needs.
The third current topic I would mention is the effort to bring Joseph Kony and the other senior leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army to justice. Those of you who monitor Africa things know this is a long-standing problem, and it is only recently that the United States has become significantly engaged in this, but it is, again, another example of African-led and international-community-supported. The African Union Regional Task Force, the four countries of the region, Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, increasingly working together --still some problems, to be sure --and a little bit of support from the United States, again, in the areas of intelligence, logistics support, some financial support that enables rotary-wing and fixed-wing lift for tactical mobility of African forces, a small cell of about a hundred U.S. special forces that are operating in the region alongside our African partners as well, I think, is --again, is a good way for us to support an African-led endeavor with what you might call unique U.S. military capabilities.
The mission is not done. Kony's still at large. But there have been significant successes in terms of increased defections and escapes, increasing effectiveness of the African forces. And so again, I think that mission is on a positive trajectory.
Let me close there and welcome your questions and simply say that, again, as I have the opportunity to travel about the continent of Africa and meet with senior military and civilian leaders, they understand the complexity of the security challenges that they must confront. They are increasingly understanding that it requires an African and a regional African approach. Individual nations, for the most part, are no longer able to address the threats that present themselves regionally and transnationally. We think our best role, again, is helping them address those threats with capabilities and assistance that they most need.
Early on in my tenure, I had the opportunity to travel a bit, and in an early encounter with an African chief of defense, we had our normal discussions about the current situation, about our security assistance cooperation and the like. And as I was getting ready to leave, he said, General, listen --we're a big country, but we have a small population. We don't have a lot of money. We have some significant security challenges. We need a little bit of help. We need your help. That all made perfect sense to me, and I understood what he was saying. But then he said something that was unexpected to me and took --has taken me a while to truly understand. He said, more than your help, more than your assistance, what we really want is partnership.
I will admit when he said that to me, I didn't really understand what he was talking about. I've come now, in the year and a half or so since then, to better understand what he was after. He's after a relationship that is mutually beneficial, both bilaterally and regionally. He's after a relationship in which all parties treat each other with dignity and respect and to recognize that, yeah, we're a blessed country, and we have a lot of capacity, but what we don't have is understanding and context of the challenges that so many Africans face. But when we do this together, then we have a real chance for success. And that's what we hope to do at U.S. Africa Command.
So with that, again, thanks for allowing me to be here, and I very much welcome your questions or comments.
ALEX VINES: General, thank you very much.
GENERAL CARTER F. HAM: OK, thank you. Thanks, Alex.
MR. VINES: Please, if you'd like to sit down, then we can take questions.
OK, we have reasonable time. So are we having a microphone? Yeah -- (inaudible) -- coming. So let's start with the gentleman with the scarf. Please tell us who you are.
Q: Thank you. Richard Reeve (sp); I'm an independent consultant. Going back a few years to 2004, U.S. involved in the Sahel back then with the Pan Sahel Initiative. Of the four militaries that the U.S. partnered with back then, all four of them have overthrown or tried very hard to overthrow the civilian governments. What have you learned about partnership with African militaries since then?
GEN. HAM: One of the things I think we've learned is that it's not sufficient to focus exclusively on tactical activities. We're very, very good in training, tactical and technical matters. We have a lot of recent operational experience in our force, so we're very, very good about that. We've got to spend more attention at the senior-leader levels to talk more about the real role of militaries in free societies. And so what we -- to -- what we try to help African militaries build are security forces that are not only technically and tactically capable but that are also responsibly subordinate to legitimate civilian authority, that operate under the rule of law, are respectful of human rights and see themselves as servants of the population.
That's real easy to say; that's really hard to do. But I think that those have to be goals to which we strive. And I think, at least for those senior leaders with whom I interact, they understand that and will work in partnership to try to achieve those goals. But we won't always be successful, but we have to keep those goals in mind as we move forward.
MR. VINES: Thank you. Let's get another question -- gentleman here.
Q: Good afternoon, General. Just -- I'm going to ask your first Mali question, so I hope I win a prize.
MR. VINES: Could you tell us who you are?
Q: My name's -- (name inaudible) -- I'm a member of Chatham House. Just a few weeks ago, the undersecretary of state, Dr. Brigety, was here, and he was asked about Mali, about the post-conflict phase. And he stated that, as he knows, there is no plan for the post-conflict phase in Mali. So I'm just wondering, at this stage in military development -- after, you know, the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia -- you know, is it really feasible that the U.S. is going to go into an operation like this without having thought about the post-conflict stabilizations phase of the operation?
And just leading on from that, looking further into the Mali issue, a lot of the commanders and a lot of the towns that, you know, have been taken over by the insurgents are smuggling hot spots. And lots of the commanders are smuggling leaders or -- (inaudible) -- criminal leaders. So how much of the criminal -- you know, that whole criminal investigation side of it is part of -- part of your plan, and how much of it is going to be purely kinetic and purely military? Thank you.
GEN. HAM: Well, first of all, I would never contradict Reuben Brigety. (Laughter.) He's a good friend and very, very knowledgeable, and he's a much better dresser than I am. (Laughter.) I suspect he was here with bow tie and complete -- before I answer your specific question, let me answer -- let me -- just make a brief comment. This is not a U.S. plan. It must not be a U.S. plan. This effort must be, in reality and in perception, an African-led plan.
And that's exactly what is being developed. Under direction from the ECOWAS heads of state, the ECOWAS planners met in Bamako to develop the plan that is called for by the Security Council resolution and called for by the ECOWAS heads of state. The United States and others did, in fact, have planners there in an advisory capacity at the request of ECOWAS as we move forward. But there should be no mistake: This is an -- and must be -- an African-led plan.
To that end, I think the plan that has been developed has a sound framework. I do believe, in my military judgment, that there are areas of the plan that require further attention. I think there is necessity to further define the logistics requirements. How do you sustain a force for an extended period of time over long distances in relatively harsh terrain, and a multinational force at that? I think the discussion of the nonmilitary aspects of the campaign need further explanation and addressing in the plan.
But I'm also confident that that will happen. I think, again, the base plan, to me, is sound. It's workable. It needs some attention. I think now that, as the -- in 10 days or so, as ECOWAS delivers the plan to the United Nations Security Council for consideration, these kinds of issues will be addressed, as will the types of support that may be necessary from the international community. So I think that will play itself out in the coming -- in the coming weeks.
I think you are right to identify the presence of illicit networks, illegal trafficking in persons, in drugs, in weapons, financing. This is -- this is certainly present in the same region. And the networks upon which that illicit trafficking is conducted are the same networks that support the terrorist organizations that are operating in northern Mali. One of the efforts that I think is important in an overall campaign plan, not just military, are to find opportunities to separate out the criminal aspects, to separate out the politically motivated entities and focus specifically on the terrorist presence and deal with criminal, deal with political in different ways.
MR. VINES: Thank you. It's quiet -- that side of the room is really quiet. The gentleman there with the pen -- you, sir. No, no, behind -- no, no, TG (sp), behind. Next -- there.
Q: Hi. Amar Outar (sp) Maseur (sp) Newspaper, South Sudan. I would like to ask about Joseph Kony and Mr. Bashir in Sudan. Do you think Mr. Bashir in Sudan is more dangerous than Joseph Kony because he help Joseph Kony himself to hiding in the border between Sudan and -- between South Sudan and Darfur? And also he's -- Mr. Bashir -- he's sent weapon to many country -- to Somalia and to another country. Why United States didn't help international community to arrest Mr. Bashir because Bashir is more dangerous than Kony?
MR. VINES: Thank you.
GEN. HAM: I would take exception with your -- with you description. I think the United States has been pretty firm about President Bashir. He is under International Criminal Court warrant. The United States has imposed sanctions against Sudan. So I think the actions have been -- have been taken quite strongly. And the United States has been extraordinarily supportive of the Republic of South Sudan, to include its move towards independence last year, a ceremony which I was privileged to attend.
Kony -- there's no question but that Kony is an evil man. And those who -- those who are cognizant of his activities and those of his group are very supportive of the efforts under way to bring him to justice. Kony's -- if we knew where Kony was, if we had evidence of his location, I'm confident the Africans would go get him. There are lots of rumors of where he is and where he isn't. And that's why this effort continues. I'm confident it will ultimately be successful because it is Africa Union led and supported by particularly four other nations. And I'm convinced the effort against Kony will ultimately be successful.
MR. VINES: Thank you. More questions? Sir.
Q: Harry Blaney, Center for International Policy in Washington, former policy planner at Department of State. I would like to ask whether or not your command has undertaken a long-term, kind of strategic view of where you are going long term in the -- in Africa and the rising issues. You mentioned two documents. One you did not mention is the CIA one about the impact of climate change on the global security landscape.
And particularly, as you know, Africa is one of the more vulnerable places where that impact may grow and become a growing issue of both security -- for both individuals and in many ways the environment. And I was wondering whether or not you could give us some idea of where all that -- where all those issues are going, what you're focusing on within your command and in these -- and in what I'll call a macro-environment in Africa. Thank you.
GEN. HAM: My staff will be very glad that you asked that question because they are in the midst now of undertaking a study of what I call AFRICOM 2025. What do we think will be the future security environment and how will we be best postured, from a military standpoint, to operate in that -- in that changed environment? This is an undertaking, while focused specifically on the command, reaches out across the U.S. government to many international partners and many international and private organizations, think tanks and universities, recognizing that we need expertise from a broad array of subject-matter experts.
I think you are right to raise the issues of the potential impacts of changing climates, particularly for Africa where water and food security are so important and will significantly shape the future environment. So our work is under way. I think we are -- we are several months away from a reasonable product. I'd like to finalize it probably by the spring of 2013. And it will not surprise you to learn that we're working this very carefully with the -- with the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy as well as the two geographic branches of Near East Affairs and Africa Bureau within the Department of State.
MR. VINES: Question there? Yeah. All right then.
Q: Thank you. Knox Chitiyo, Chatham House. General, could you tell us a bit about the funding for AFRICOM, in the sense that defense budgets and so on are being cut or reduced across the U.S. and the developing world -- developed world? Does this impact on AFRICOM?
GEN. HAM: To use an American term, AFRICOM is a cheap date. (Laughter.) We -- our budget is -- overall budget is less than $300 million. Most of that, unsurprisingly, will go to civilian pay. We will withstand some budget reductions, but I don't think the budget reductions will be so dramatic as to require us to make major changes, with perhaps two exceptions. We conduct and lead and resource a number of military exercises around the continent of Africa. Some of them are very large and principally military in focus, with military forces conducting training for a variety of contingencies. Some of them, exercises are more focused at the leader level, tabletop exercises to deal with the disaster relief and the like.
Heretofore, our exercises have been principally accomplished on a bilateral basis. That's not particularly efficient. And I think it is also not reflective of the current operating environment, where we must find ways to operate more broadly and with more partners, both state and nonstate actors. So the budget reductions actually will drive us to a policy that I should have made anyway to focus more on multilateral exercises than on bilateral exercises.
The second area I think where budget reductions will have a bit of an impact is in how the international community, the non-African community, if you will, engages with African countries. As most of the non-African militaries like the United States will see some changes in reductions in their budget, we've got to find ways for us non-Africans to be more collaborative, more imaginative in our approach, in our interaction with African countries so that we collectively, we non-Africans collectively can coordinate our resources in a way that is most beneficial to the country in Africa in which -- in which we are working. So I think that will be the most -- the ways that we must feel the budget change.
MR. VINES: Thank you very much. OK. So the room has warmed up. You, sir.
Q: (Name inaudible.) General, there are certain concerns about the growing Chinese influence in Africa. How does AFRICOM view the current Chinese influence in the Africa, competitive?
GEN. HAM: Good. Thanks. Again, as a -- as a newcomer to Africa, I will admit to some surprise, in my initial trips around the continent -- China is everywhere, really everywhere. And that's -- and that's probably a good thing. I don't in any way -- would not in any way characterize the U.S.-China relationship in Africa in any way adversarial. There -- certainly there is economic competition, and we say that play out. That's probably healthy for both China and the United States and probably healthy for the African countries where we work as well.
But I would say that in my view, China and the United States have taken different views in -- with regard to our interaction in Africa. China, as many of you know and have seen, and I have seen, is very good at infrastructure development -- roads, bridges, airports, government buildings and the like -- constructed by the Chinese in -- which greatly benefits the African people. And I probably left off the most important thing they do is build football stadiums. (Laughter.)
The United States has taken a different approach. We don't -- we don't focus much on building stuff. We've chosen a different path, which is primarily investment in human capital. So overwhelmingly the U.S. assistance and support that is provided to Africa is in the area of health care, which is by far the most significant; education, specifically women and girls' education, agriculture and the like -- so perhaps not as visible as a football stadium, we believe very -- nonetheless, very, very important.
On the military front, again, not adversarial. But I think we need to look for ways where we can work more collaboratively with the Chinese in the military domain in Africa. And let me cite two examples. In Tanzania, the Chinese built the national -- the facility for the National Defense College. Good facility, they did that, and I'm sure the Tanzanians are very appreciative of that. The Tanzanians asked us for a little bit of help in the curriculum development, for the programming at the -- at the National Defense College. Well, maybe that's an example of the kind of collaboration we might be able to do in the future, where we focus on areas where each can apply their strengths to the benefit to a particular African military, or more broadly, across the region. So again, I'm realistic in my approach, but I think we should -- we should explore opportunities to work more collaboratively across the government.
MR. VINES: Thank you.
Gentleman in the back there. You, sir. No, there. Yeah, please. Tell us who you are.
Q: General Ham, Greg Calcott, Fox News Channel. I wonder if you could speak a little bit about al-Qaida in the Maghreb, specifically what role you think it might have played in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, what kind of a threat you think it poses not just to Africa but to the West and the United States, and how important that mission being discussed is in routing it out of Mali.
MR. VINES: Thank you.
Q: There are -- in my view, getting in discussions with senior military and civilian leaders across the region, there are -- while there may be some differences in the approach to Mali, there are two larger issues on which there is universal agreement. The first is the necessity to maintain the territorial integrity of Mali. There's no support for any separatist movement. And the second area of broad agreement is that the continued presence of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in a safe haven in northern Mali is unacceptable to the Malians, unacceptable to the nations of the region, unacceptable to the international community.
The truth is though, that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is stronger today than they were a year ago. They have safe haven, they have funding, they are -- they are al-Qaida's best-funded affiliated organization, moneys that they get through kidnappings for ransom, through their association with the narcotics, illegal narcotics trade, and other illicit trafficking. They have lots of weapons and lots of fighters, many of whom came either back to or to northern Mali in the aftermath of military operations in Libya. They have very -- al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has clearly espoused their very close allegiance with al-Qaida ideology, with al-Qaida senior leadership, and their intent to establish a caliphate and to export violence, not only in the region, but more broadly across the globe as well.
So for those reasons, I view -- and I think many others view al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb as a -- as a very significant and growing threat, and if left unaddressed, will present an increasing risk to the nations of the region, to the peoples of the region, increasingly to Europe and to the United States as well. And for those reasons, I think the activities by ECOWAS and others to address this problem require our support and our attention.
Q: Thank you.
Q: And General, just a --
MR. VINES: No -- no, that's enough, thank you.
Q: Thank you very much.
General, you mentioned --
MR. VINES: Could you tell us who you are, please?
Q: Oh, yeah, sorry. My name's Anna Nabiva (sp).
General, you mentioned that you had to promote regional solutions to security problems. How exactly is it you envisage that working. And sort of use an example of that in the African Union Task Force that's going off to the LRA, the Congolese forces are reportedly not allowed to declare -- to declare LRA fighters in the Congo, because they'd ideally like the UPDF forces out, because they're accusing them of looting minerals. How would you go about dealing with competing interests in these kinds of regions?
MR. VINES: And Elena (sp), which organization are you with?
MR. VINES: OK, thanks.
MR. VINES: University College London.
GEN. HAM: The -- while regional cooperation and coordination is important, and I think a necessary goal, it doesn't mean it always works well, and it doesn't mean it's always successful. I think we have had some success, but not all the success that we need with the African Union Regional Task Force in the effort to bring Joseph Kony and the other senior leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army to justice. But there are certainly frictions amongst the four primary countries that are engaged in this. We try to use our good offices and opportunities for dialogue with the four participants to try to work through those regional efforts. We've had a number of meetings with the African Union's special representative for LRA, Ambassador Madeira, as well as the chiefs of defense of the four countries. We've met a number of times; we'll meet again next month at a very senior level to try to focus on this problem.
In a -- in a -- in an example of what I think is a pretty good example of regional cooperation, certainly more work still to be done, but is in the -- in the area -- in the area of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, where we have been working not only with the nations there, but with the -- with the economic community of West African states, and the economic community of Central African states to craft policies and, in some cases, laws that allow the sharing of law enforcement intelligence, that allow cross-border operations in hot pursuit, cooperative arrangements between security forces that's starting to have some positive effects. Still lots of work to be done.
And then lastly, I would comment -- we recognize, and I think the African Union clearly recognizes the necessity of having regional standby forces, and we would like very much to participate in the preparation of those forces in any ways that the African Union or its regional economic communities may find helpful.
MR. VINES: Thank you. More questions? (Laughs.) Right here in the front, please.
Q: Thank you.
MR. VINES: It's working.
Q: Thank you very much.
General, I do very much appreciate seeing --
MR. VINES: Can you tell us who you are, please?
Q: Sorry. My name is Hu Jiang Liao (sp), from the Chinese Embassy here.
Thank you very much for the remark on China-U.S. relations with Africa. I do share with you that the external partners, either U.S. or China or any other countries, their priority should be to help African develop their own capacity, not there to compete for sphere of influence or country -- (inaudible) -- resources. So I don't think -- I share the general's view that we don't have any strategic competition in Africa. And the other thing is that in addition to what the general said, I think that China and the U.S. has a lot in -- have a lot in common in cooperation with Africa. For instance, in the long run, we have also paid a lot of attention to the cooperation in health and agriculture education and environmental protection essential.
My question is, with regard to your African strategy, which are the -- besides Somalia and Lord's Resistance Army and Libya, what are the other primary concerns of AFRICOM? And which are your priority partners in Africa?
MR. VINES: Thank you very much.
GEN. HAM: The priority tasks for -- as outlined in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance -- tell us that countering al-Qaida and violent extremists remain our highest priority, and that's understandable, I think, for a military organization. So those places in Africa where violent extremism exists or seems to be emerging are the areas of highest priority. I mentioned Somalia and the presence of al-Shabab, Mali and the presence of al-Qaida in the -- in the Islamic Maghreb, a growing network of variously named organizations across North and West Africa, and I would include in that Boko Haram and their presence in Nigeria as an area of increasing focus.
What we would like to do -- I mean, obviously these are pressing and current issues, but we also recognize that these are not -- these are not challenges that can be addressed exclusively through military means. While there may be a military component of a strategy to address violent extremism, military action in and of itself will not be successful. So what we really try to do more broadly across the continent with a regional focus is ensure that our military efforts are fully coordinated with a broader comprehensive strategy that addresses the underlying issues of instability. And those tend to focus on economic development, good governance, education -- but those are -- those are programs that require a degree of security in which to flourish. So, that's kind of how we focus on a longer term.
MR. VINES: Thank you. We're now getting short of time; gentleman there -- right there with the red shirt. You, sir.
Q: Hi, thanks. David Edwards from SOAS. I was just wondering, do you think there's a potential for contradiction between two of the U.S.' aims in Africa, mainly democratization and increasing the capability of the military in African states -- such as, perhaps, in the case of Museveni, who is heavily reliant on his military to remain in power?
MR. VINES: I'll take a couple more as a cluster, because we're almost finished in time. Right here.
Q: Walid Khalife (ph) from African Energy. General Carter, I want to ask you about the military partnership with Algeria, and in relation specifically to the conflicts in Sahel and northern Mali. Algeria, as you well know, has been firmly opposed to any military intervention. Now that is happening. What is your management with the Algerian military and the Algerian civilian leaders who are, of course, very reluctant to any intervention south of their borders? Thank you.
MR. VINES: Thank you very much. And I'm going to add -- use my prerogative for a final question, because I haven't heard it. General, when AFRICOM was created, there was a whole hullabaloo about location. Should it be in Africa? Should it be in a variety of different African states? Currently you're in Stuttgart. Where is this debate now about location of the command? Thank you.
GEN. HAM: The balance -- the balanced effort of U.S. emphasis on achieving its goals is always a particular difficulty. In some countries in Africa where we have a very good security relationship, the other objectives of respect for human rights, democratization, are not fully consistent with our objectives. We think that our government is sufficiently sophisticated that we can manage a good, sound security relationship with a country and still continue to focus on democratization and human rights, respect for the rule of law in a different -- in a different vein. We don't see them necessarily as mutually exclusive.
It doesn't mean we abandon one for the other, but it does mean that we have to live in the real world, and I think, in the cases of one of the countries that you mentioned, it is an ongoing balance. We have legal protections in our own government that -- for example, for military engagement that preclude us, under matters of U.S. law, from engaging in military training with individuals or units who have been found to have committed human rights violations. We think those are good protections to have.
So again, our goals don't change, but just because a country doesn't yet meet the goals we would like doesn't mean that we will necessarily suspend activity in another -- in another domain. But we can. So an example of that would be the current circumstance with Rwanda, where the United States government has made it clear that we believe that the government of Rwanda is supporting the M23 rebels in the Great Lakes region. We think that's unhelpful, and because of that, we have reduced some of our military-to-military engagement.
With regard to Algeria -- I just came from Algeria a few days ago and had a very, very good visit. I'll -- I won't attempt to characterize the Algerians' position; that's for them to say. But I have found a very -- a very deep and comprehensive understanding amongst Algerian military and civilian leaders of the challenges that are faced in northern Mali and more broadly across the region. What I have found is Algerians absolutely prefer a negotiated settlement. All of us, and certainly those of us in uniform, prefer a negotiated settlement, and we think all effort must be expended to seek a negotiated settlement for the north.
But while that occurs, I think -- and many others think -- it is prudent to prepare for the potential military intervention that may be required. And so I think that's what we see playing out at present. Specifically, I think -- I have been pleased to see Algeria's increased effort on border security so that -- particularly with the border with Mali so that there cannot be, to the degree that is controllable, free movement by al-Qaida and others across the border, and I think there have been some good improvements in that regard.
Finally, Alex, to the location of the headquarters. We are in Stuttgart as a -- as a consequence of practicality. The staff -- the staffs were together, European Command responsible for Europe and Africa. When they split out, it made sense for the people to remain in the same general location. In my view -- I was at the Pentagon during the birth of AFRICOM, and I think we did a poor job, frankly, of articulating the mission of the command and how it would operate on the continent. And in that process, we alienated some countries and some organizations and created some antibodies, if you will, to AFRICOM that persist today.
Because of that, and frankly because of the cost -- the financial cost of relocating the headquarters, I think it is impractical for us to consider Africa. We will continue to operate from Stuttgart, where we are well-hosted by the German government and postured well to interact with our African partners.
MR. VINES: General, thank you very much. This is where the meeting ends. I'd like to ask the audience if you can remain seated when the general leaves; I know he's got an urgent appointment to go to.
I'd also just like to remind those of who you are interested that we're holding an international conference here on the 6th of December on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. (Cross-talk)
General, thank you very much for spending this afternoon with us; let's give the general the customary appreciation. (Applause.)