TRANSCRIPT: General Ham Discusses Security Challenges, Opportunities at George Washington University
U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs
General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), shared his perspectives on the security challenges and opportunities facing the United States in Africa at the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute. General Ham addressed a range of issues affecting the regional security and stability of Africa, including transnational threats.
During his presentation, he emphasized AFRICOMMs primary focus to strengthening the defense capabilities of African states and regional organizations principally through providing assistance, training and advice.
"By and large, we think our best efforts are when we are supporting and enabling African nations and African regional organizations to achieve their ends," Ham said.
General Ham spoke on a number of issues. Here are a few excerpts:
- On collaboration: "As I travel about the continent, and I think now - and I think I've been to 42 of the countries now in Africa, I get recognition of the challenges and of the problems, and in some cases the severity of addressing those. But I also come away with a real sense of optimism, and with a little bit of help, a little bit of collaboration, a little bit of synchronization by regional organizations, by the African Union, by the U.N., the EU, the United States, and others, these problems can be effectively dealt with. Not going to be easy, but there's a recognition that there are, in fact, solutions to many of these problems, as hard as they may be."
- On Somalia: "It's pretty clear to me that al-Shabaab right now is largely in a survival mode. They are under pressure from Ugandan and Burundian forces coming out of Mogadishu, Kenyan forces from the southwest and Ethiopian forces joined now by the Djiboutians, and increasingly partnered- those elements partnered with Somali forces. I think that's a pretty good model. I'm not Pollyannaish about this. I don't think we're going to ever completely eliminate al-Shabaab or they're not going to completely eliminate al-Shabaab, but I think this concerted effort, African-led, international community-supported, has afforded the Somali people something that they haven't had for 20 years, and that's hope. That's not insignificant."
- Enabling African-led activities: "I think there are some lessons learned from the African Union Mission in Somalia that might be applicable to northern Mali. But the first lesson, which I believe is very important, is that it has to be African-led, whether that's the African Union or whether it's ECOWAS. But I think there has to be a consensus of an African-led effort that others in the international community can support. So I think that part is most important."
- On Mali: "As each day goes by, al-Qaida and other organizations are strengthening their hold in northern Mali. So there is a compelling need for the international community, led by Africans, to address that. Negotiation is the best way. Military intervention may be a necessary component. But if there is to be military intervention, it has to be successful. It cannot be done prematurely. If there was an undertaking of a military endeavor today my sense is that, from a tactical assessment, is it would be unsuccessful and it would set back the conditions even further than they are today."
Below is a transcript of the event.
GENERAL CARTER HAM: What I thought I might do for a few minutes is just talk a little bit about who we are, what we're doing, and some of the current challenges that we face. And then what I'm really interested in, frankly, is a discussion with you and I hope it would be very much a discussion.
As you know, we are one of six geographic combatant commands and the newest of them, formed officially in achieving what in military terms is called full operational capability only on the 1st of October of 2008. So compared with longstanding commands, we're pretty new.
Our geographic responsibility entails the continent of Africa, its island nations, but importantly, it denoted less Egypt. Egypt still falls under the U.S. military activities under U.S. Central Command, but there's a little note in the Unified Command Plan that tells us how we do these things. It says for Egypt's involvement in African security matters, then U.S. AFRICOM has responsibility for that. I have had several very productive meetings with Egyptian leaders as it relates to Nile River Basin, security issues with Libya, and other matters as well. So we certainly do engage with Egypt.
Our mission is quite simple. It is to advance the national security interests of the United States in Africa. And we think we do that best by strengthening the defense capabilities of African nations so that they are increasingly capable of providing not only for their own security, but contributing to regional security and stability as well.
Now, as Libya is an example, we also, as a U.S. military command, must always be postured to implement the operational directives of the president and the secretary of defense, but by and large, we think our best efforts are when we are supporting and enabling African nations and African regional organizations to achieve their ends.
Our efforts are guided by two overarching principles, and they're simple and they won't these will not be anything earth shattering to you. The first principle is simply that a safe, stable, secure Africa is in the best interest not only of the African countries, but of our country as well. And the second principle is one that was espoused by President Obama in Accra, Ghana, in 2009, when he made a speech and he talked about, in the long run, it is Africans who are best able and best postured to address African security challenges.
That often gets condensed in the shorthand of African solutions to African problems. We firmly believe in that. Though, I think it's pretty interesting that at Secretary Clinton's last visit to the continent, she kind of expanded upon that and she said, yes, African solutions to African challenges, but we need African solutions and participation in global challenges as well. And I think that's a recognition of the evolving nature of things in Africa.
There are two documents that broadly guide what we do in Africa, and those I would commend to your reading; most of you probably have already read them. The first is the presidential policy directive for sub-Saharan Africa that outlines the United States' policy and strategy toward Africa, and it's based on four pillars. The first, to promote opportunity and development; secondly, to spur economic growth, trade and investment; thirdly, to advance peace and security; and fourth to strengthen democratic institutions.
Unsurprisingly, we at U.S. Africa Command focus on the third, building peace and security, but as a necessary precondition to achieving the other four objectives. So again, I think it's best to think of us in again, in a supporting and enabling role.
The second document that guides our principles is the Defense Strategic Guidance, which was released in January of this year, and it's an interesting document and it is in this document that is formally articulated the so-called rebalance to the Pacific. And as that document was made public, it caused some interesting discussions with our African partners, both military and civilian, and frankly within the U.S. government as well, because when you read that document, at least by my reading, I think the word Africaa appears one time. And so there's a concern there was a concern by Africans, does this mean that the United States is that the military is walking away, that you no longer care about Africa?
And I said, well, you know, we have to be realistic. In geostrategic terms, the focus on the Pacific, for a whole lot of reasons, makes sense. But rather than focus on geographic priorities, take a look at the mission sets that are outlined in the Defense Strategic Guidance. Look at the missions that the president and the secretary of defense say these are the tasks which we expect the armed forces of the United States to accomplish. Unsurprisingly, at the top of the list is countering violent extremist organizations. Sadly, that's a necessary function for us in Africa, but we do lots more.
Another priority is to maintain global access, certainly activities that we engage in in Africa. Importantly, in the term of building partner capacity is an important function for what we do in Africa. In fact, it is our main activity of strengthening the defense capabilities of African forces.
We talk about the armed forces of the United States necessarily being postured to contribute to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, certainly something for which we are postured at Africa Command.
And lastly, an important objective is prevention and response to mass atrocities; again, sadly, a requirement that is necessary in Africa. So we believe that Africa Command remains very, very relevant and consistent with the Defense Strategic Guidance that was issued earlier this year.
As mentioned, the number one priority is countering the growth of violent extremist organizations, and this is our highest priority at Africa Command and is a continuing challenge to be sure. Whether it's addressing al Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate in East Africa, principally in Somalia; a growing extremist network in Libya, across the region into northern Mali; and then troubling re-growth or reemergence of Boko Haram in Nigeria, all signal the importance of countering violent extremist organizations to us at AFRICOM.
What I worry about more than anything, though, is rather than each of those individual organizations, while they are indeed dangerous and important, it is a growing linkage, a growing network and collaboration and synchronization amongst the various violent extremist organizations which I think pose the greatest threat to regional stability more broadly across Africa, certainly into Europe and to the United States as well. And I suspect in some of your questions, we'll get to some of those details.
There are lots of other challenges. There's Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army. And for those of you who know about the Lord's Resistance Army, it's a horrific organization. The best way I can characterize it, if you ever had any doubt as to whether there's really evil in this world, do a little research and see what Joseph Kony does. It will eliminate any doubt in your mind as to whether there is evil in this world. And we have an obligation and an ability to help the Africans address that problem and we're very, very glad to do so.
But all is not doom and gloom in Africa. We have a tendency to focus on all these bad things. That's our nature, to focus on problem sets. But Africa is also an exciting place to work, a place of great opportunity risks to be sure, challenges abundant, but as I was mentioning before the session, as I travel about the continent, and I think now and I think I've been to 42 of the countries now in Africa, I get recognition of the challenges and of the problems, and in some cases the severity of addressing those. But I also come away with a real sense of optimism, and with a little bit of help, a little bit of collaboration, a little bit of synchronization by regional organizations, by the African Union, by the U.N., the EU, the United States, and others, these problems can be effectively dealt with. Not going to be easy, but there's a recognition that there are, in fact, solutions to many of these problems, as hard as they may be.
Some have characterized this as the African century, with fast economic growth in many places, changing dynamics across the continent. I tend to think of Africa, as again, as a place of great opportunity and a great place for us to continue to make a difference.
In my travels about, I've learned a number of African proverbs, and one of which I think is particularly relevant to us at U.S. Africa Command. And it says simply if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. And we at U.S. Africa Command have chosen to go far and we've chosen to go in partnership with the Africans as we seek to address our common problems.
So thank you. And with that, I would welcome your questions or comments. Thank you.
MR. FRANK CILLUFFO (Director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute): Thank you, General, and if you could join me here. (Applause.) And if it's OK, I'll open up with a handful of questions and then open it up to the audience. And thank you for that comprehensive backdrop.
One of the points you raised, which is one that I think many of us worry about, and that's the what you're seeing a bit of a conflation of conflict zones and synchronization of various actors, whether it's al Shabaab and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, whether it's al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al Din in Mali, whether it's Boko Haram that here recently was espousing jihadi objectives globally. Where do you see this going? And can you confirm for us that you have seen Boko Haram coordinating and synchronizing with other affiliates?
And then of course, you have the Ansar al-Sharias popping up. As my kids would say, will the real Slim Shady, please stand up? I'm not sure exactly who is who, but you're starting to see a convergence, and I and I think that gets lost upon people. Historically, you always saw tactical cooperation. Now, I think you're starting to see strategic cooperation. And I'd be curious start maybe with Nigeria and Boko Haram, then maybe a little bit on al Shabaab, a little bit on Ansar al Din, and try to get a sense of how we better address these, because we need networks to defeat networks, and ultimately, that's what AFRICOM is enabling.
GENERAL HAM: The common thread in all of this is ideology. It's very easy to focus on a particular organization or geographic region, but the real challenge is how do you address an ideology that is expanding and is gaining traction across a wider regions of Africa. And I think again, the challenge is how do you address the how collectively do you address the underlying issues that make that ideology attractive? And I think, in that regard, the military, I would say, is an essential but non-decisive component of countering that ideology. It would be more successful when there's good governance, when there's economic development, when there's medical care, when there is hope and opportunity for people so that they foresee a better future and are not susceptible to a more extremist ideology which presently seems to be gaining traction. So I think that's the real issue, because it is this ideology that connects the various organizations.
Yes indeed, we have seen clear indications of collaboration amongst the organization, amongst the organizations. So in one instance, Boko Haram in Nigeria, we believe and have seen reports that Boko Haram is receiving financial support, probably training, probably some explosives from al-Qaida in the lands of the Islamic Maghreb in a relationship that goes both ways.
We believe it is likely that some members of Boko Haram have gone to training camps in the north of Mali. We believe it is likely that, again, money and explosives, maybe weapons have come from that region into Nigeria, and so that is a worrying worrying condition.
There's a number of ways to address that. It starts with border security, better border security and the nations in the region understand that. We've just seen very recently Burkina Faso deploy a sizeable border reinforcement element to try to get better control of the traffic across their borders. But a point that was made earlier this morning is I think for Americans, most of us don't understand the size just the enormity of the distances that we're talking about. And you're exactly right. That the region we talk about in the Sahel is the size of the continental United States. And, you know, so, you know, people thinking that this is a simple problem that a couple of surveillance aircraft or a small number of African forces can bring this under control, this is it's exceedingly complex.
MR. CILLUFFO: Well, General, I was delighted to hear you address the need to address the ideology. To me and we've written many reports on that that's the missing dimension of our counterterrorism statecraft. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, in this case, it's the ideology. So we've got to we've got to get to the point where we can address that. And in addition to the positive, I think we need to also go negative in a political campaign to expose the hypocrisy of the adversary.
But you had discussed some of the cooperation of these organizations. And I'd be curious. The foreign fighter flows, are you seeing bigger numbers come from the Middle East and the Arab world into, say, Mali, Northern Mali?
GENERAL HAM: Northern Mali is the particular challenge of the moment in the complete collapse of the Malian government and so now there is no control in the northern two-thirds of the country and I don't know how to describe it any way other than a safe haven for al-Qaida in the lands of the Islamic Maghreb.
They're reinforced by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, we believe, is al-Qaida's best financed affiliate, deriving their money from kidnappings for ransom, from involvement in the drug trade, in other illicit trafficking, things so simple as fuel and tobacco and what have you. But they have a lot of money.
Now they have a lot of weapons. Many of the again, for lack of a better term, mercenaries that Mr. Gadhafi hired to come fight in Libya, once it became apparent that they were either, A, not going to be paid, or B, he was not going to be around, they left Libya and brought with them lots of weapons, to include some heavy weapons, and mostly came back into Northern Mali.
So you have a very well financed and now a very well armed organization operating in a safe haven and I suspect it's not unexpected to see the emergence of training camps and specific recruiting efforts that we have seen individuals recruited from various parts of the world, across the Mideast, from sub-Saharan Africa, certainly some indications of recruiting efforts in Europe as well, and there is an attraction there for those who succumb to this ideology, Northern Mali is a pretty attractive place to come right now. So we're seeing that and it is indeed very, very worrisome.
GENERAL HAM: And one of the things that I think is worth underscoring is even in the UK, you saw a number of non-Somali Diaspora foreign fighters come to Somalia. So you almost get the sense that they're going to come back with the street creds, and that's a big concern from a homeland perspective, is that they obviously have the golden passport, the ability to travel within the United States. So I think you're starting to see a bit of a conflict zones or conflict zones and to some one extent or another, they come back with the creds. And to me, that's something to think about.
One of the other questions I'd be curious and you've been very outspoken in a very thoughtful way even before you assumed the command of U.S. AFRICOM on hybrid threats. And if you think about it from smuggling is smuggling is smuggling, whether it's drugs, weapons, people, you name it, and then you apply and add on to that tons of weapons, I think you're looking at a potential toxic blend. So do you treat this as a counter-narcotics issue, a counterterrorism issue? Is our doctrine up to snuff? Do we need to tweak COIN, CT, and counter-narcotics, and look at it from that perspective? And then how do we start enabling because ultimately it's to enable the men and women indigenously to be able to tackle these issues?
And I know ECOWAS has committed troops to address the issue and to address the challenges in Northern Mali, but I don't think they're going to be deployed until around this time next year, maybe a little sooner. Is that too little too late?
GENERAL HAM: We do we have had a tendency, I think, to compartmentalize the threats that present themselves, particularly to the United States, as a military threat or a criminal threat or others. And I think there's I'm encouraged by the growing recognition across the U.S. interagency that these are they're interconnected and blended and it necessitates a much more cooperative, collaborative and synchronized effort across the whole of government. There are certainly some impediments. Some of them are just cultural and institutional. I think we're beating down those barriers more effectively each day. But some are in law and in policy. And that requires us to, I think, again, take the so-called comprehensive approach.
What I've come to understand better over the past year and a half plus is the same networks upon which the trafficking of illicit goods and people occur are also the same networks that terrorist networks use to move people or money or weapons or ideas and directions. So the more that we can work collaboratively within the U.S. government and increasingly with host nation governments and regional organizations to address those problems, I think the better off we shall be.
And I've come to better understand, for example, the authorities that in the U.S. government that Treasury and others have to monitor, to interdict these networks. And while they may not have a direct military link, the effect is the same. You're disrupting the network. And that's really what we want to do. And I see a Coast Guard partner here, you know, and the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard have a very vital role in all of this. So I think there is more we can do.
MR. CILLUFFO: General, on Boko Haram, I know there's been a bit of good work and analysis on this, where do you put that on the likelihood-consequence scale for the homeland? Do you see them as potential enabler I think you're starting to see them trying to assert a more significant role among their breadth and ilk. Do so you see this as a threat today or tomorrow or what indication should we be looking for?
GENERAL HAM: I think if you ask me today does Boko Haram present an imminent threat to the United States and the homeland, probably not. But in the mid-1990s, al-Qaida didn't present an imminent threat to the United States homeland either. It is clear to me that Boko Haram's leadership has aspires to broader activities across the region, certainly to Europe and I think, again, as their name implies, anything that is Western is a legitimate target in their eyes. So I think it's in our national interest to help the Nigerians address this problem internally before it gets worse and the organization has an ability to further expand their efforts.
I'll be in Nigeria next week and I look forward to discussions with them about what can we do and again, acknowledging there is not a military solution, certainly not an American military solution, but I believe also not a Nigerian military solution to Boko Haram. The Nigerian military has a role to play, but only as part of a broader strategy.
MR. CILLUFFO: With that, I'm going to ask a bit of a provocative question and it's looking at the Federally Administered Tribal Area in particular, and some lessons, which of course we can't just export and import ideas from one theater to another, but one of the things I think we've learned there, think of it as suppressive fire. The more time al-Qaida, Haqqani Network, and others are looking over their shoulders, the less time they're training, plotting, and executing attacks.
We don't have that same equivalent. I'm not suggesting we do, but I'd be curious what your thinking is when you're looking in very narrow graphic geographic AOR, such as Northern Mali. Do you think that that these sorts of tools, whether it's and again, these are just tactics. I think people fall in love with drones as a form of warfare. It's a means to an end. But do you see these sorts of techniques, tactics and procedures having a role in Africa at some point, maybe not in your maybe not but in the future?
GENERAL HAM: I think they already do and I would point to Somalia as a place where that kind of approach is perhaps instructive for the future. Again, never precisely analogous, but the African Union-led effort in Somalia, supported by the international community, to include the United States, has enabled an African force to first increasingly protect Somalis, secondly to be more aggressive in pushing al Shabaab out from areas which they've long controlled and now, importantly, mostly out of Mogadishu and mostly out of the port city of Kismayo. I think that model may be somewhat instructive.
It's pretty clear to me that al Shabaab right now is largely in a survival mode. They are under pressure from Ugandan and Burundian forces coming out of Mogadishu, Kenyan forces from the southwest and Ethiopian forces joined now by the Djiboutians, and increasingly partnered those elements partnered with Somali forces. I think that's a pretty good model. I'm not Pollyannaish about this. I don't think we're going to ever completely eliminate al Shabaab or they're not going to completely eliminate al Shabaab, but I think this concerted effort, African-led, international community-supported, has afforded the Somali people something that they haven't had for 20 years, and that's hope. That's not insignificant.
The challenge now is less military as the security environment is improving. It's now how do you get local governance in? How do get economic development so that people, again, have opportunity.
But just over the past year, if we sat in this conference room a year ago, and you said, hey, in December of 2013, Somalia's going to have a president, a constitution, a parliament. Al Shabaab's not going to be in control of Mogadishu or Kismayo or other widespread areas across the country. We would all say you're crazy. That's not going to happen. But that's exactly what did happen because the Africans decided that's what they wanted to have happen.
Just one little personal anecdote in that regard. I was afforded the great privilege I believe a great privilege of last autumn, autumn of 2012, at a meeting in Nairobi with the military chiefs of Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Kenya. They'd been directed by their governments, by their heads of states, you guys figure out the military strategy to get to defeat al Shabaab in Mogadishu first and then more broadly across the country. And they did just that. I mean, as you might suspect, wild disagreement about how to do that and lots of different ideas of what's the right approach, but ultimately they came to conclusion, said, OK, this is what we're going to recommend back to our heads of state.
It was a very, very powerful moment because I was very much a bystander and again, I was honored to have been invited. Now, at the end of that conversation, they turned and said, OK, and here's what we need from you, you know. (Laughter.) And it was things that would not be surprising. You know, continued financial support, some logistic support, some training and equipping, which the United States does through the Department of State, some intelligence sharing, but the key is it was them. It was that Africans deciding what they wanted to do and saying, OK, if you can help us a little bit, that's a good thing. So I think that construct might be the right construct for Mali as well.
MR. CILLUFFO: General, I think that is a great point. Washington tends to focus on mistakes, and of course we always want to learn from our mistakes. Often it's looking through rearview mirrors and fixing what was broken and not looking ahead, but I think we should also learn from our successes. And I think there's an important story and lesson there.
One of the questions, though, I would have is do you feel the Kenyans and the Ugandans do they have the backbone to continue should they witness what is their threshold? Should they should al Shabaab or domestic sympathetic extremists go after their then you think that they've got the backbone?
MR. CILLUFFO: And I mean it I don't mean in a negative way, but to continue to address.
GENERAL HAM:Uganda's already been attacked by al Shabaab, suffered casualties and sustained in fact, increased their effort. The increasing al Shabaab attempts inside Kenya to undermine. The Kenyans so far have demonstrated a good capability to detect and disrupt those attacks, but I believe and those will continue. There's no question. I mean, al Shabaab will seek to undermine the public support. My sense in talking with both military and civilian leaders in the troop contributing countries, they are committed to this mission. They're committed not so much for altruistic reasons, though they're it is good, you know, to afford the Somali people their own choice, but they recognize this is for their own security as well.
So my sense is, you know, this is a soldier talking about statesmanship, but all the indications I get is that they're committed to this mission.
MR. CILLUFFO: I might note a George C. Marshall sounding soldier speaking as a statesman. (Laughter.) So it was excellent. I've got two more quick questions and then we're going to open it up to the audience.
Firstly, you had discussed the ideological components. And clearly, if we were to look back to the Arab Spring, winter, whatever we want to call it these days, social media played a critical role played a critical role against regimes that weren't all that transparent, but it also plays a critical role from a terrorist perspective for to facilitate recruitment and radicalization.
There's a lot of discussion. I guess there're basically three options. Do you shut something down? Do you keep it open and collect? Or do you push back? And you actually have seen the Kenyan military push back on Shabaab and other actors, you've also seen ISAF push back on the Taliban tweet for tweet. So I'd be curious, what do you think the best solution is there, keeping in mind that most of those that are actually being radicalized and recruited are going to be Westerners, because not everyone has access to Twitter in some of the regions we're talking about increasing, but not everyone. What do you think we ought to be doing in that space?
GENERAL HAM:I'm one that signs up for denial of service is both difficult to do and only has temporary effect. And the ability of these are very sophisticated operators and they can they can move pretty with great agility across cyberspace. So denial of service is a necessary tool, when it should be used, in my view, with with great restraint and only when we think that that will have an important and near immediate effect.
I think cyberspace is the it's the contest of ideas. I think we've got good ideas. I think we've got winning ideas. And I think most Africans have winning ideas. And so the competition in social media, I think, is an important one.
The reality is we could try all day to keep extremist organizations from operating in social media. We'll never be successful. I think we're more successful when we encourage governments to be open, to share their ideas, to be accessible to the governed and to share their ideas. And I think in the long term, that's more of a winning strategy than trying to whack-a-mole each individual social media site as they start to pop up. And I a message that we don't want.
MR. CILLUFFO: One thing, though, I might note, if it facilitates an operational planning thing, then we shut it down.
GENERAL HAM: Sure. I just want to say denial of service for a limited a limited effect is an important tool and we always want to keep that. But it's not the tool to counter the adversaries' use of social media.
MR. CILLUFFO: And foreign terrorist organizations, just to add to the complexity, we do have rules, regs with respect to foreign terrorist organizations, whether or not this provides additional
GENERAL HAM: You know, we fundamental tenet for us is we follow the law.
MR. CILLUFFO: Absolutely.
GENERAL HAM: They don't, but we do and we don't want to change that.
MR. CILLUFFO: My last question to take us a little off topic before we open it up is increasing concern about the government of Iran. And you increasingly see some Iranian influence in Africa, as well as China. And I'd be curious two big juggernauts we're going to be looking at from a national security and also a national interest perspective going forward.
What lessons ought we consider thinking about in terms of Chinese influence in the region? And, specifically, are you seeing in Yemen Iran has flexed some of its muscle. We're starting to see some of this concern with respect to its proxies elsewhere, notably Lebanese Hezbollah but others. I'd be curious what your thinking is there. I mean, anything on those two points?
GENERAL HAM: Sure. On Iran, we do Iran's presence in Africa is not huge. They are there in limited numbers and to limited effect. The most grave concern is the transiting of weapons and technology principally but not exclusively through Sudan. And so that is that certainly is an area of concern to us.
China is completely different. China is everywhere in Africa, and certainly, from my view, not in an adversarial relationship, economic competitors to be sure. There's lots of Chinese investment across the continent.
I would say to oversimplify this, the Chinese have chosen an investment in infrastructure roads, bridges, airports, ministries of foreign affairs, the African Union headquarters at Addis, football stadiums all over the continent, which is usually where I get beat up when I travel around, oh, the Chinese built that. What have you guys done for us?
MR. CILLUFFO: American football or European football, soccer? (Laughs.)
GENERAL HAM: Soccer. Soccer. Yeah, soccer. And so they'll say, you know, the Chinese built that football stadium. What's America done for us? And I will admit in probably a moment of ill-advised comment, I was kind of frustrated by that, and I said, well, America invests principally in health activities and education. And the fact that there are young people alive to go play and watch football is largely because the people of the United States have made that commitment.
And that's kind of our difference. We've chosen a path of investing in human capital. That's not very sexy. It pays off in the long term rather than the immediacy of a football stadium. We've seen over the past several years a 30-plus percent decline in HIV/AIDS. That's not exclusively the United States, but we have been the largest contributor to that effort. I mean, that's something we should be proud of. That's huge that people have the people in Africa have that future and otherwise they wouldn't.
MR. CILLUFFO: Absolutely. I'm going to open it up.
And a couple of ground rules. Firstly, to please identify yourself and your organization. And my first rule is to always give first right of refusal to a student. Do we have any students here who want to ask a question? There in the back, and please identify yourself. Wait for a mic. We have a mic? No mics? So just speak loudly.
Q: Good morning, General Ham. Thank you for your service. My question is, at a time when we're facing such fiscal austerity we're also seeing a confluence of (inaudible) on the African continent. So in your mind, what do you see as the best counterterrorism policy that heeds both of the factors?
GENERAL HAM: We are certainly, all of us, in an era of declining fiscal resources. The good news for us in AFRICOM is we're a cheap date. (Laughter.) You know, we don't consume lots of forces. We don't need big, costly U.S. military forces. You know, we're not looking for carrier strike groups and fighter wings and Army brigades and Marine Corps regiments. We're much better when we have small tailored forces again, principally focused on assisting and enabling the Africans.
So I think from a financial standpoint we'll be OK. The resource that I am shortest the most is intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; the ability to increasingly understand what's happening across the area of responsibility.
MR. CILLUFFO: We have one more student question back there, and then we're going to open it up. Please identify yourself.
Q: Thank you. My name is Brian Herbert (sp). I'm a student at Georgetown University.
MR. CILLUFFO: We won't hold that against you. (Laughter.)
GENERAL HAM: I thought I was perhaps the enemy walking in here (inaudible, laughter.)
Q: Thank you so much for speaking today. I really this has been a fascinating conversation. I appreciate that today's subject is on CT in Africa, but I was wondering, with recent events in the eastern DRC, if you might comment on those events there. What do you think what role, what responsibility, if any, is there for AFRICOM in the eastern DRC, in that conflict that's over there?
GENERAL HAM: Yeah, it's a great question, Brian (sp). And those of you in this room probably are aware, but most Americans and I would put myself in this category until a year and a half ago have really no understanding of the complexity and the challenges of the Great Lakes region of Africa and the fact that over about a 10-year span from mid-'90s to early 2000s, 5 million people killed. And most Americans have no idea that there some call it Africa's world war. And part of that is that almost all those who were killed were, you know, poor black Africans. And that's not a demographic that gets a lot of attention in the United States, but the casualty rates, the extent of displaced persons is extraordinary.
So first of all, it's a very valid question. I do not think that there is any significant role for the U.S. military in the eastern Kivu or in the Great Lakes region and North Kivu. I think it's principally diplomatic. But I know that Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, who's a great ally and partner, was recently there, working with the heads of state. From a U.S. military standpoint, we look at things simply as, you know, is there a requirement for a noncombatant evacuation? There are lots of Americans who work in nongovernmental organizations, as missionaries and others. You know, could there be a requirement to help them get to safety, if the conflict expands?
Might there be a requirement to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance? We do that pretty well. You know, we can operate airfields in remote places with great efficiency if there's a need to get more goods and services. We do things like water purification. So there's now I think the latest estimate was about 260,000 displaced persons; the number is probably going to grow. There are some capabilities that we might offer.
Longer term, though, I think is where our efforts are best placed. And that is, how do we help the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo build the kind of institutions, build inside their force, you know, soldiers who operate under the rule of law, are respectful of their citizens not only are they technically and tactically capable but don't involve themselves in human rights violations. I think that's where our longer-term investment will probably be best spent. So I think the immediate crisis, there's probably not much of a role for us in the military. Longer term, I think there is.
MR. CILLUFFO: Right. I have bunch of hands. We're going to start there, then go there, then go there, then go there and then go there. We'll try to get as many as we can.
Q: Thank you, sir. I'm Major Dave (name inaudible). I'm actually a soldier who poses as a statesman and dressed like one, over at the State Department during the (off mic). I'm glad that you mentioned the success of al-Shabab or not of al-Shabab but of AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia in taking Somalia back away from al-Shabab, denying that al-Qaida franchise a safe haven.
And our question from our GW student over here talked about fiscal austerity. By my calculations, what the U.S. is that has cost the U.S. since AMISON started in 2006, it's a little more than $650 million which, although it's a lot, if put into perspective, especially focusing on the fact that our reason for you know, according to our national security strategy, our reason for being in Afghanistan is to deny al-Qaida safe haven. We've done that in Somalia at $650 million. (Inaudible) perspective, that's about equivalent to a little less than three days of the 2013 OCO supplement for the costs in Afghanistan.
What are our challenges in doing this or applying this to Mali you know, to northern Mali, where the al-Qaida franchise has an area, a safe haven, as you mentioned, larger than the size of Texas? And why do we look to our bankrupt European Union allies to fund it?
MR. CILLUFFO: General, I might note, before you jump in, there's a difference though with a partner that wanted to see success in Somalia. I'm not sure that's always the case in Pakistan. I said that; no one attribute that to General Ham.
GENERAL HAM: It's a great challenge. I think there are some lessons learned from the African Union Mission in Somalia that might be applicable to northern Mali. But the first lesson, which I believe is very important, is that it has to be African-led, whether that's the African Union or whether it's ECOWAS. But I think there has to be a consensus of an African-led effort that others in the international community can support. So I think that part is most important.
There will be challenges. The interim government in Mali is, from a legal and policy standpoint, from the U.S. military because there was a coup, military coup, we're prohibited from having military-to-military relationships with the Malian armed forces. That's a pretty significant impediment and we've got to figure our way through that.
The ECOWAS forces have largely been trained and equipped for peacekeeping missions, whether they be African Union or United Nations. They haven't generally been trained and equipped for the type of mission that might be necessary in northern Mali. And that's part of that is just simply the terrain and the distances and, frankly, the duration of an expected operation. There are challenges in bringing together military forces from a number of different troop-contributing countries, some of whom are a couple of Francophone countries, others Anglophone and still others with Portuguese as a principal language. So there are some tactical and mechanical things that are a challenge.
But to me, first and foremost, is this is African-led, I think that's the essential ingredient. Then, the rest of us who are supporting can find a way, and we will find a way, to be supportive of an African-led endeavor.
MR. CILLUFFO: A question back here. Sorry. Please?
Q: Tom Bowman, with NPR. Good morning, General. You were in the United States when the attacks on Benghazi occurred. And of course, you called for help from Fort Bragg and also assistance from U.S. troops training in Europe.
So the question is: Where was your Quick Reaction Force that could have arrived faster because, of course, those troops didn't get there until the next day. And when you took over AFRICOM, did you ever ask for a QRF? And if so, why didn't you get one?
GENERAL HAM: There's an accountability review board this is underway, and it's looking very broadly at all of these activities and as well as a number of congressionally directed activity. So I'll let that process work and answer those specific questions.
With regard to response force, when the command was initially formed there was a sharing arrangement with what's called the Commanders in Extremis Force with European Command. That was a good relationship that up until the 1st of October of this year was a shared arrangement, and now we have our own. It was just a matter of availability of forces, principally because of commitments in other parts of the world.
Q: I'm sorry. You got yours in October?
GENERAL HAM: Yes.
Q: So after the attacks?
GENERAL HAM: Yeah. Not but that decision, not related to the 11th of September. It was a planned transition.
MR. CILLUFFO: We had a question here, then there, then there, then there. We've got a lot of questions. We'll try to get through as many as we can. Please?
Q: Michael Krause, on I head SecureChain. And General, earlier before we walked in, I mentioned the thought process of your training of the advisors wasn't quite (inaudible) in your introduction. We did this at Fort Riley. You have a training advisory action.
Great country song; Hope on the Rocks,, by Toby Keith. You're giving the Africans hope. You're also journeying far together. You spoke about the interagency process and then training, training of advisory capacity within the various trouble spots in Africa. Could you comment on how intel, special operations, and the civilian force could come together to train better to give the Africans greater hope, and journey together?
GENERAL HAM: One of the most significant challenges that I've encountered at U.S. Africa Command is, again, Africa has not been a place where the United States military has focused. So we don't have the same depth of understanding of the issues in Africa that we do in other regions of the world.
That causes us to be very reliant on the U.S. intelligence community more broadly, to include the civilian components of the U.S. intelligence community. But we also have embedded in our staff a number of foreign service officers, people from a wide variety of U.S. government agencies Treasury, Homeland Security, Agriculture and USAID and many others that help us gain the understanding. That's the first ingredient, is we have to more thoroughly understand the environment in which we are operating. And what I found is that, just when you think you understand something in Africa, there's another degree of complexity that is revealed. It is a tough place to work in that regard. So that's, I think, the intelligence key.
Special operations are important because they bring a higher degree of cultural understanding. They bring language capability, they bring a capability that is specifically focused on training indigenous forces. So they understand critically, U.S. Special Forces understand how to do this. It is in their DNA, if you will. And so that's a very good capability to have as well. And they're widely respected across the African military, so there's a credibility issue as well.
We're also increasingly reliant upon what we call general purpose forces or the non-special operation components, the majority of the forces across the services again, with great effect, but usually in small numbers; you know, a small engineering detachment or a small C-130 maintenance crew, a small team from the Navy and Coast Guard that can train on ship boarding and search activities. Small elements like that seem to have a better effect in large-scale U.S. military forces.
Each of the services recognizes that. Each of the services Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard are increasingly focusing on Africa. We're seeing, again, appropriate forces made available for us to employ. And as our force presence in Afghanistan declines over the next couple of years, we anticipate more capabilities being provided to AFRICOM to employ across the country.
MR. CILLUFFO: That's important to hear I mean, because ultimately, even on the intel side, it's either super high tech or it's good, old HUMINT, and it's that convergence of the various disciplines. And I think that's happy to hear. We have a question here, and then there and then all right, sorry. (Laughs.)
Q: Thank you, sir. John Grossman; Northrop Grumman Corporation. Going back to the earlier point, you spoke, General, about deficiencies in ISR, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. And you spoke about the human intelligence throughout.
Given the fact that some of the states in the AOR Algeria, Nigeria, Libya in the future, even Egypt with FMF, financial resources, would it be in our interest and in the interest of AFRICOM to create a ISR, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance enterprise where we will at least hire technology (inaudible) forces for airborne, ground-based ISR, and supplement it with (inaudible) processing, exploitation, and dissemination supported by your (inaudible) in AFRICOM? Would this be a good thing for the world in general, for the United States?
GENERAL HAM: We have a saying in the U.S. military you're asking me a question far above my pay grade (laughter) which is true. So I would say I would answer it this way, I think. You know, decisions on foreign military sales and release of technology are obviously made by officers different than my own. We don't have at least for me, we don't have within the U.S. military the full range of we don't have the capacity to meet all of our global requirements within the U.S. military. And I think we ought to address that first before we start talking about whether we ought to allow for the export of other technologies.
But to the larger point, intelligence is increasingly the point of the realm. With a smaller force, with continuing global requirements, how you employ that force will be guided increasingly by the product of the intelligence community. And it has to be across-the-board from national technical means to operational and tactical level; collection across all of the various intelligence areas. And probably the area where we're weakest in Africa is in human intelligence. It's again, because it's not been an area where we focused, the linguistic challenges, the geographic challenges, the cultural challenges make human intelligence a particular concern. And I think, as many of you have seen in the news reporting over the past couple of days, the Department of Defense is looking at how do we more broadly increase our intelligence collecting capability so that we can better predict and plan for how we will employ a smaller force?
MR. CILLUFFO: That's a great point. Can I also and obviously you can't get into much specificity here, but synchronization of Titles 10, Title 50 do you feel that that's moving OK, that DOD (inaudible) agency, and then you've grey-area folks?
GENERAL HAM: Well, there's not much grey area. There's a lot of debate as to, you know, where things should fall. But I think there's a great we have a very good interagency process for the discussion of those, and always with, you know, legal oversight to make sure that we follow the first order of the day, which is follow the law. But I'm very comfortable that we have a good mechanism to address under what authorities should a particular activity be conducted.
MR. CILLUFFO: Happy to hear. A question over here.
Q: Thanks. My name is Steve Hirsch (ph). I'm a freelance journalist (off mic). I want to pick up (inaudible) that you mentioned during your address, which is underlying issues. I realize this is a little bit away from the military, but in a number of countries in Africa, you hear a lot of information about modernization, increasing trade, more openness and in some fairly rough places that were fairly rough in the past, like Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
I'm wondering if this sort of what we hear is this trend where modernization and improvement of living is real in your mind and whether it's not the sort of (inaudible) or terrorist groups that we've seen in that part of the world.
GENERAL HAM: I think it is. But we also shouldn't kid ourselves that this is these are factors that change overnight. And there are several countries, I think, that have focused very intently on economic development, improvements in education, particularly education for girls and young women, improvements in health affairs. And in those places, it's harder for this extremist ideology to take root. Again, if the general sense of a populous is that the government is looking out for them, is working on their behalf, there is opportunity that their children's life will be better than their lives, then that's probably the most effective counter to an extremist ideology.
We have to be realistic about it. And there is, indeed, sometimes a requirement for a military intervention to address the extremist ideology. But yeah, I think that's in a supporting role, not as the solution. The longer-term solution lies in the other areas.
We work in those areas not as a lead agency, you know, but in support of in support of USAID, in support of certainly the State Department's broader activities. We are looking increasingly for opportunities to do public-private ventures. There is a number of nongovernmental organizations, international organizations that are doing great work in a wide variety of areas across the continent. Are there some ways in which a little bit of help, a little of involvement from us in places where we have access, that might help those activities along? So we're looking at those as well.
MR. CILLUFFO: Are there particularly I'm sorry, the tyranny of time requires I be a bit of a tyrant. Lots of questions. Hard for me, since I've never had an unspoken thought. But we have a lot of questions here. First there, then there, then there and then there. Sorry.
Q: Hello? (Off mic.)
MR. CILLUFO: Speak up, please.
Q: My name is Christine Vargas, and I'm from a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins SAIS. And I have a more tailored-down question on some of the things that have already been spoken on. It's slightly two-pronged; it has to do with DOD and intelligence preparedness in light of Benghazi, in light of Ansar al-Sharia's movement involving future attacks.
Firstly, is there a current rethinking of the length of DOD's tether to respond to things like Benghazi and the Special Forces, and to run up the flag after incidents like Benghazi? And secondly, with the intelligence community, is there any sort of thinking in DOD for requesting additional human capabilities from civilian agencies in Mali, and if so to what degree?
GENERAL HAM: Let me take the second question first. There's a very, very high degree of collaboration between all of the organizations across the U.S. government and many other governments who are focused on the conditions in northern Mali.
I wouldn't want to get very specific about it other than to say there's great cross-talk, great collaboration and, again, great discussion about as I said, as in the answer to a previous question, under what authorities is it best? Where can we best achieve our national interest?
With regard to the force posture, yes, as part of the post-Benghazi attack review, one of the components of that is what role if any should the United States military have in adjusting its posture globally to be able to respond to incidents; and similarly, an ongoing review to say, should there be a change to the Marine Security Guard presence at embassies and consulates around the globe? And so yes, that's underway. No decisions made that I'm aware of.
MR. CILLUFFO: General, I'm breaking my own rule here, but help me understand the decision that SOCOM versus a combatant command that has a geographical AOR, if this were to come down?
GENERAL HAM: Yeah. Generally
MR. CILLUFFO: Special Operations Command.
GENERAL HAM: Yes. So generally, any U.S. military activity that occurs within a specific geographic region is almost always done under the authority of the geographic combatant commander. And Special Operations Command typically is a provides those forces, but they operate under the geographic combatant command authority.
So as an example, if you remember earlier this year, a very successful hostage rescue operation in Somalia those were Special Operations Command forces that were provided to the AFRICOM; worked under AFRICOM authority to conduct that operation.
MR. CILLUFFO: A question all the way in the back.
Q: General Ham, thank you very much for sharing your insights with us. My name is Lesley Waner; I am currently at the Center for Complex Operations at NDU. I'm directing a project on steady state interagency (via ?) security cooperation and the AFRICOM AOR. So that's kind of where my question comes from.
GENERAL HAM: You need to come work for us.
Q: Actually, I'm trying to. (Laughter.)
MR. CILLUFFO: No jobs interviews (inaudible).
Q: Anyway, I was hoping you could speak a bit about the regionally aligned brigades that are AFRICOM has the I understand AFRICOM has the pilot for FY '13 for regionally aligned brigades. And my specific question is: Has Africa Command yet thought through what specific missions that they are focused on? For example, are they going to be more kinetically focused on counterterrorism or are they going to be more non-kinetically focused on building partner capacity and conflict prevention? And also, what role is there to leverage interagency skills, expertise and networks?
GENERAL HAM: If I could have asked for a set-up question, this would have (laughter) this would have been it.
The regionally aligned brigade is a concept of the chief of staff of the Army who said, as Army forces become more available because of the reduced deployments in Afghanistan, General Odierno wants to make forces available to the geographic combatant commanders on the shores of Africa as the first. So beginning early in 2013 for a period of a year, we'll have an Army brigade this one happens to be based at Fort Riley, Kansas that will be available to us for employment for about a year.
On the the current plans for about, I think, the latest count was about 96 individual engagements for that brigade in I think 35 different countries. So you have to kind of get out of your mind, it's not just a brigade getting on a bunch of airplanes and landing someplace in Africa in total, and so you've got 4,000 troops there; it's an employment of specific capabilities of the brigade in space and time to achieve the desired effects.
So in some cases, again, it will be a medical unit or a signal unit supporting a particular exercise. It might be an infantry company going into mountaneous terrain, to partner you know, to do some training with an African force in unfamiliar terrain. The rules of the brigade are such that I can only employ them in training and exercises. If I want to employ them operationally, then I have to go back to the secretary of defense and say, you've given me this force; I'd like to use a component of this force for a particular operation. So as for one example, the brigade has a small, unmanned aerial system capability. Maybe there's a place in Africa where we'd like to use that for an operational reason. So I've got to go back to the secretary and ask if I can have permission to do that. But the overwhelming majority of the apparatus is in training and exercising.
MR. CILLUFFO: We had a question way in the back, there. And just for people one more, one more, one more, and I think that's when we're going to have to close it. If we have any others, I will try to get to it. I apologize. Please?
Q: Thank you. (Name inaudible) Johns Hopkins University. The question, general, is
MR. CILLUFFO: Can you speak up, please?
Q: The question is, according to the news, this operation in Mali, north Mali, will start not before March. Al-Qaida is destroying the culture and the life of the operation very quickly. So the question is, don't you believe that we because as an Italian, we come together, we will go, together, there we will be late to the appointment.
GENERAL HAM: It is
MR. CILLUFFO: Is that a question?
GEN. HAM: It is a very, very difficult question. And you're exactly right. As each day goes by, al-Qaida and other organizations are strengthening their hold in northern Mali. So there is a compelling need for the international community, led by Africans, to address that.
Negotiation is the best way. Military intervention may be a necessary component. But if there is to be military intervention, it has to be successful. It cannot be done prematurely. If there was an undertaking of a military endeavor today my sense is that, from a tactical assessment, is it would be unsuccessful and it would set back the conditions even further than they are today.
So this is this ongoing debate between the Economic Community of West Africa States, the African Union and the United Nations Security Council to have this discussion of what is the plan, what are those resourcing requirements, what troop levels, how much money, how much time? And so I think in the next weeks this discussion is going to play out. But I would again, I would caution against premature military action, because of the long-term consequences.
MR. CILLUFFO: And the integrating of the various forces from the various countries. OK, so Quinn (sp), and then there, and then Joseph and then let's see if we (off mic).
Q: Sir, Quinn Watson (sp). I'm a senior fellow here at HSPI and a consultant for Navanti Group. Throughout this discussion, one of the consistent themes has been the interconnectedness, the growing networking between militant groups across Africa. One of the questions I have was, in your experience, have you seen times where the inverse is occurring, where militant groups throughout Africa are not cooperating, where there's conflict between al-Qaida affiliate groups? And if so, are there ways that AFRICOM can help support those conditions?
GENERAL HAM: We are seeing just that. And two instances I would point out. In al-Shabab, in Somalia, there's clear disagreement as that organization is under increasing pressure. There's disagreement between the senior leaders. There's disagreement between foreign, non-Somali fighters and the Somali members of al-Shabab. And we look for fractures and fissures like that as exploitable opportunities.
The same is starting to appear, we believe, in al-Qaida in the lands of the Islamic Maghreb, where there is some internal debate and discussion about what's the right direction. And we're always attuned to see, are there opportunities that we could exploit to divide the various entities?
MR. CILLUFFO: General, can I just for clarification in al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb the leadership is all Arab, correct? There are no indigenous there's no leadership in the broader African
GENERAL HAM: That's right.
MR. CILLUFFO: So that many not cause root. I mean, one way al-Qaida was able to cause root in Afghanistan, for example, was they married off the tribal daughters. And I understand that is a question that a lot of people were looking at.
GENERAL HAM: I think that's right. But we are seeing, again, a concerted effort by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb to recruit tribes, increasing diversity within their ranks.
MR. CILLUFFO: A question here and then a question there. And I think we're going to be out of time; I apologize.
Q: Good morning, general. Chief Petty Officer Paul Brooks, Navy Maritime Civil Affairs. I'm curious about your concerns about the upcoming Kenyan presidential election with regards to a repeat of the 2007 post-election violence, and how that may affect stability both internally in Kenya and in the region.
GENERAL HAM: Yes. It's a very grave concern; obviously, a matter for Kenya to address first and foremost. But the consequences of electoral violence in a very, very important country for us and for regional stability would be certainly troublesome. Some of the candidates, as you know, are under indictment by the International Criminal Court. But I am also confident that the Kenyan leaders I talked to are working very, very hard to make sure that the electoral processes are in place for the conduct of elections that can be free and fair and absent of violence. But it's a very legitimate concern, and this is one that Kenya is such a leading light in East Africa, that if their elections go badly again that doesn't bode well for the region. Again, I'm confident that the national level leaders are working hard to prevent that.
MR. CILLUFFO: Joseph. And we may have time for one more question, all the way in the back in the red jacket. Please?
Q: General, Joseph Clark; HSPI. I wanted to ask you a question that follows some of themes discussed earlier today. You spoke about hybrid threats (inaudible) threats where we're seeing relationships principal actor relationships between different entities to gain capabilities they wouldn't otherwise have. You talked about 2nd Brigade, 1st ID being sort of put out in pockets to do different missions.
How do we think about force structure going forward in terms of our own capability? What advice would you give new soldiers, your successor 20 years down the line to how they want to think about the forces we put in place so that they would quickly learn and adapt to the threats we see before us?
GENERAL HAM: I think the force of the future is going to have to be even more agile and adaptive than today's force. The one thing we know for sure is that other than for missions of homeland defense and domestic disaster relief, if America's armed forces are going to operate somewhere else, in some other country and typically in unfamiliar terrain and inside an unfamiliar culture, the more comfortable we can make our forces air, land and sea the more comfortable they are in operating in those unfamiliar cultures, the better off we will be. That means language training. It won't always be the right language. It means cultural awareness. It won't always be the right country. But you gain an appreciation of how do you operate inside a foreign culture.
We also know that we're almost always going to conduct military operations alongside other nations' armed forces. If it's a longstanding relationship, like NATO, that's pretty easy because we've got well-established procedures and we know how to do things. But typically our military operations are with nontraditional partners, and that's certainly the case in Africa. So the more of our junior leaders are exposed to operating in those unfamiliar circumstances I think the better off we'll be. And I think this opportunity for the regionally aligned force from the Army, Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Africa Partnership Station for the Navy, Africa Partnership Flight for the Air Force give us those opportunities.
And I think, again, young people join the U.S. military not so much to stay at home; they want to go out and do things. We're looking to give them opportunities to come and do things in an important part of the world.
MR. CILLUFFO: That's wonderful. The last question back there, please?
Q: Faith McDonnell, from the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Thank you for your service, General, and for today. U.S. policy on the country of Sudan has been much more focused on humanitarian issues. But in terms of counterterrorism, not including the support of the government of Sudan I'm not talking about them because I think that they're part of it I'm wondering if AFRICOM is concerned about the way the Sudanese government is changing the populations of the country and replacing the people who are indigenous Africans with basically jihadists in eastern Sudan, now, with the Rashida who are smuggling weapons through to Hamas, with the Nubians who are being displaced and a Nubian friend of mine refers to this now as a new caliphate on the Nile and if AFRICOM has concerns about areas like this?
GENERAL HAM: Yes, very much concerned. One of my great frustrations is that we do not yet have any military-to-military connection with the Sudanese Armed Forces. We do with South Sudan. And I was honored to have participated or to have witnessed the independence celebration in Juba in July 9th of last year, but we don't have a good means for communication and connection with the Sudanese Armed Forces. I think we should have. I think we should have some means for communication. Again, I'm realistic. There's probably not much we're going to agree about, but we ought to at least be able to have the conversation. Right now, we're not able to do that. We're trying to work in that regard.
I think the border conflict, the border demarcation, the resource issue, certainly the humanitarian issues between South Sudan and Sudan are vitally important for stability in the region, not only between those two countries but because of the potential for this to expand pretty quickly across a region that's a little bit fragile right now because of the number of different conflicts. So I think you're right to point out this is an important area for us.
MR. CILLUFFO: General, before I let you go, let me say this was a treat. It was comprehensive, overarching. I think you truly do have the gift of the George C. Marshall scholar, diplomat, military officer.
And before I let you go, I'd like to leave you with a token, both figuratively and literally, our coin; maybe a little bit different than the military challenge coin history. But I want to say thank you. Thank you for your service. And most importantly, if there's anything we can do to ensure that AFRICOM and the men and women doing the hard work have the tools they need. We want to.
I also want to thank my staff for making this possible, our chairman, my boss, Leo Chalupa, and also your wonderful staff. This has been quite a treat. And thank you for your service.
GENERAL HAM: Thank you. (Applause.)