TRANSCRIPT: General Ham Discusses U.S. AFRICOM objectives and Africa security issues at Brown University
The U.S. military is not an independent actor in Africa, and its efforts support larger U.S. government objectives and shared security interests with African partners, according to General Carter Ham, commander of United States Africa Command, during remarks at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, December 8, 2012.
"There are no times that I can think of where the military component would provide the decisive effort, or certainly not the single effort, in addressing any of the challenges that present themselves," he told an audience of African scholars, activists and other experts at the 2012 Achebe Colloquium.
The colloquium, entitled Governance, Security and Peace in Africa and convened by Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, professor of Africana studies at Brown, focused on security issues throughout Africa.
Ham said the mission of U.S. Africa Command is to "advance the United States security interests in Africa, and we think we do that best by strengthening the defense capabilities of African countries so that they are increasingly capable of providing for their own defense and of contributing to regional security and stability."
He emphasized how the command's work is guided by U.S. policies, directives and guiding documents, noting the Presidential Policy Directive for Sub-Saharan Africa, which outlines President Obama's vision on U.S. policy toward Africa and the four focus areas: strengthen democratic institutions; promote economic growth, trade and investment; advance peace and security; and promote opportunity and development.
"U.S. Africa Command's efforts unsurprisingly focus on that third role of advancing peace and security, but we do so recognizing not that that's an end state, but that stability and security are necessary preconditions for the other three pillars to take hold," Ham explained. "So, again, we view our effort as a supporting effort to achieve the other overarching goals, recognizing the interdependence of all of those.
AFRICOM's work in Africa is also guided by the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, Ham said. The guidance was released by the Department of Defense in January 2012, and it outlines U.S. defense priorities for the coming decade.
Ham told the audience the Defense Strategic Guidance is a document "in which the president and the secretary of defense tell those of us in the United States military, here are our priorities; here are the things that I expect the U.S. armed forces to be able to do.
"In Africa in that direction, the president and the Secretary of Defense tell me to apply a low-cost light footprint and innovative approach. What that means to me is we don't by directive, but also by my belief and principle, we don't want and certainly do not require a large standing U.S. military presence in Africa. Personally I believe that would be counterproductive. Rather, we are better when we bring specifically tailored capabilities for specific missions, time-limited, to achieve specific effects."
The underlying theme of General Ham's remarks and subsequent question and answer session focused on AFRICOM's support to the U.S. governments' diplomatic, development and defense efforts in Africa.
"With regard to partnership across the U.S. interagency, we have what we commonly refer to as the 3D approach -- diplomacy, development and defense, Ham said. "And that's the right priority, by the way. It's the right sequence. But it necessitates a close collaboration between all of the U.S. participants in each of those three D's.
Here are more highlights and excerpts, followed by a complete transcript:
On countering terrorism and violent extremist organizations: "We do know very clearly that al-Qaida's core has been weakened. And that has resulted in al-Qaida's affiliates and associated organizations around the globe growing in importance as al-Qaida's core has been weakened. The network of al-Qaida affiliates and adherents in Africa is changing in ways that, in my opinion, do indeed increase threats not only to individual African states, but also to regional stability and already do and will continue to present increasing threats to U.S. and other international security interests. What's particularly worrisome to me is not so much each individual group, though those are certainly of concern, but it is the growing connectivity between some of these groups that is starting to form a network across Africa which could be very, very dangerous."
On the African Union Mission in Somalia: "It's easy to get captured by the negative in Africa, and think constantly, always, of problems and increasing challenges. But we should remind ourselves that there are some very good efforts under way. And to highlight just one, I would highlight the African Union Mission in Somalia. And I think it's an important lesson for us as we look at Somalia and say, why did that happen? And I think it happened because the nations of East Africa collectively, and under the auspices of the African Union, decided that they would take action. And this is an important distinction. So it was not the international community; it was certainly not the United States, saying: This is what you should do in Somalia. It was the regional states making that decision, crafting a plan and then coming, frankly, to the international community and ask for some support, which the United States and many others were able to provide. But it was an African-led and -designed effort. And that might give us some indications for the future as we look forward to the potential of other missions. So there is some good news, to be sure, as we move forward in that regard."
On maritime security: "Our effort AFRICOM's effort in that in both East Africa and in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa where we're also seeing increasing incidences of piracy our efforts are not to take over that mission but to help African nations develop the capacity and the capabilities that they need to enforce their own laws. The challenge in maritime security is the expense. Other than operations in space, the operations in the maritime domain are the most expensive for any nation to undertake. And with the exception of wealthy nations such as Nigeria and some others South Africa most nations most African nations do not have the financial wherewithal to provide for their own maritime security. So this necessitates a collaborative regional approach, and we have been very happy and very pleased with some progress in the Gulf of Guinea, which has brought together not only the individual states in the region, but the two regional economic communities to foster policies and in some cases laws that allow the nations and the two regional economic communities to collaborate more effectively. And I should specifically highlight Ambassador Mark Bellamy, the former director of the Africa Center for Security Studies, for that centers work in the particular area of maritime security to help nations come together and operate more effectively."
On countering the Lords' Resistance Army: "For the students here, what I often tell audiences is if you have any doubt as to whether there is really evil in this world, when you go home, Google Lords' Resistance Army. Google Joseph Kony.. It will eliminate any doubt in your mind as to whether there is genuine evil in this world. It's there. It is a horrific organization, as most here know. Again, an African-led effort, an African Union regional task force, and last year President Obama directed us in the U.S. military to provide some assistance to that African-led effort, and we're glad and honored to do so. So we at present, we have about 100 special forces personnel in a number of different locations across the region providing training, communications support, medical support, logistics support for the African forces. It's an interesting thing. The American forces are not the ones who are out trying to track down Joseph Kony. The Africans can do that far better than we do. They understand the terrain, they understand the culture, they have language capabilities. They're from that region. The regional efforts are making a difference. We are seeing increased levels of defections, fewer attacks and enhanced cooperation between the various African forces that are engaged in this."
On optimism: "While the security challenges in Africa are complex and diverse and it's very easy to come away with a sense of great worry, I come away from my engagements in Africa with a great sense of optimism. when I meet with our chiefs of mission, when I meet with heads of state, with ministers of defense, chiefs of defense, members of civil society, they understand the complexity and the difficulty of the security challenges they face, but they sense that with a little bit of help they can overcome those challenges, and that's what gives me great optimism.. I have yet to go to (a) country in Africa, or to the headquarters of one of the regional economic communities, or to a regional standby force, or to the African Union Peace and Security Commission -- I have yet to go to the first place in Africa where (it is said), 'General Ham, thanks for coming; we don't want any more Americans to come.' I'm waiting for that. That hasn't happened yet. But again, I think it's because we're looking to do what they want to do. We're not looking to do what we need to do. It is support of African countries, regional organizations."
Transcript of the event follows:
(In progress) ... And it is a it is a distinct pleasure for me to introduce General Ham, one of the (inaudible). And (inaudible) it would be enough to say that he is the commander of the United States Africa Command. And that, by itself, would not do it justice. But he has been a part of all of the major military actions of his day. And that includes Iraq; that includes the commander of (U.S Army Europe) Command. And I would just say that it is a distinct pleasure that he is here as the commander of the Africa Command, given the purview of this colloquium. And if you want to, you can look at all of the bio in the Defense Department or on Wikipedia.
You will see extensive discussions about him. But, General, it is our great honor that you would take the time from your command and come here as a as a tribute to this university and as a tribute to the greatest writer in the English language in our lifetime. (Applause.)
GENERAL CARTER HAM: Well, that was a most kind introduction. I think you could probably sum it up by simply saying that Carter Ham's an old soldier. (Laughter.) And he's done a lot of different things. But, Professor, it is indeed a great honor to meet you in this very distinguished assemblage here at Brown University. There's so many distinguished personages here ambassadors and scholars, former ambassadors and practitioners, members of various governments and civil society. I must tell you, when I was in high school and somebody said we want you to go to a lecture on an early Saturday morning, I think I know what my answer would have been. (Laughter.) So great credit to you all for making this journey. In all of that, Professor, with all due respect to you, sir, you are not the most intimidating person in this audience. My wife is here. (Laughter.) Just as some of you know, you can get away with a lot of things with a lot of people. You can't get away with much with your wife. So I'm glad that we've had the opportunity to travel together. I'm also reminded by perhaps by Ward's introduction that says 50 years ago he made his first journey to Africa and has long service on that great continent, as have many of you who have studied so long and made this your life's work.
I see my friend, Ambassador Bisa Williams, currently serving as our ambassador to Niger, and Ambassador Mark Bellamy and others who have again, have been American Africanists for a long, long period of time. That's not me because for many, many years, for most of my career, the United States military was not particularly interested in Africa. It isn't a part of the world where we spent a lot of time and energy. That changed, but only very recently. You know, and for the students you may not know this, but Africa Command has only been in existence less than five years. It was formed officially on the 1st of October, 2008, and using a military term, when the command achieved what we call full operational capability. So we're a young command, certainly the youngest of the United States military's geographic commands, of which there are six.
So I came to this command without the depth of knowledge and background and experience in Africa that most of you have. The way I best categorize that, I think, is to say I've now been in this job about, I guess, 20 months or so now, and I'm at a point in my learning where I'm beginning to understand how much I do not know about Africa because every time you think you have an understanding, there is another level of complexity or diversity or another challenges or another factor that is revealed to make us understand to make me understand that I really don't have the depth of knowledge that is necessary. So at this colloquium, frankly, I should be in the audience not at the podium, as an opportunity to learn from you all. And that's what I have enjoyed, frankly, the most about this experience.
I have had, in the 20 months or so that I've been at the command, the opportunity to travel quite a bit. I've been to 42 different African countries. There are a couple that, frankly, don't want me to come there. There are a couple, frankly, that my government doesn't want me to go to. So we balance all of that, but I try to get out and about. And it is, frankly, the very best part of the job the opportunity to engage with government leaders in African countries, with our own chiefs of mission and their country teams, with civil society.
I remember very vividly at Ambassador Williams' chief of mission residence an opportunity to meet a Tuareg woman who had been a slave in her own country. And they had her step forward and was recognized and honored for that. And those kinds of experiences start to give you a bit of the understanding that's necessary to work effectively in Africa.
What I would like to do this morning, consistent with the colloquium's theme, is to focus a little bit on U.S. security interests in the continent. And of course, we could talk with you for hours and hours and hours. I'll try to take far less than that and certainly afford some time for questions and discussions. The U.S. security interest in Africa might be broadly categorized in four areas. From a U.S. military perspective, it will not surprise you that addressing and countering a variety of violent extremist organizations which are present in Africa is our highest priority. But we have other security interests as well maintaining global access, which is important not only for our own economic growth but for the international community's economic efforts and, importantly, for Africa's as well. We have certainly a U.S. security interest in deterring or preventing conflict, particularly we tend to think of conflict as state-on-state conflict, but certainly in Africa we see many non-state actors fomenting conflict on the continent as well. And then the last broad category of U.S. security interests, I would say are probably humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, mass atrocity prevention and response options, which sadly do require attention in Africa as well.
So let me talk about the first one first, which occupies a significant portion of our time and energy at Africa Command, and that's addressing the growing threat of violent extremist organizations in Africa. I don't need to explain to this audience that the global threat of terrorism is evolving. And this certainly includes the threats that are emerging some of which have been present a long time, others emerging in Africa. We do know very clearly that al-Qaida's core has been weakened. And that has resulted in al-Qaida's affiliates and associated organizations around the globe growing in importance as al-Qaida's core has been weakened. The network of al-Qaida affiliates and adherents in Africa is changing in ways that, in my opinion, do indeed increase threats not only to individual African states, but also to regional stability and already do and will continue to present increasing threats to U.S. and other international security interests.
What's particularly worrisome to me is not so much each individual group, though those are certainly of concern, but it is the growing connectivity between some of these groups that is starting to form a network across Africa which could be very, very dangerous. As one example of that, we're seeing indications of increased communication, of training, sharing funding and weapons between a number of groups which are well-known to this audience: al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, which works in north and western Africa; al-Shabab in Somalia; Boko Haram, while not specifically an al-Qaida affiliate affiliated organization, but in Nigeria; and certainly just across the Gulf of Aden, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen. All of those have worked together to strengthen this network, which I think poses an increasing threat to good order and security and stability across the region.
In addition to that, we are seeing indications of increasing collaboration, perhaps exploitation, by these terrorist networks of the illicit trafficking or criminal networks which exist in Africa and have existed in a long for long periods of time. As one example, it's our assessment, it's my assessment that al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb is al-Qaida's best funded - their wealthiest affiliated organization monies that that organization gets from kidnappings for ransom, to be sure, but also through affiliation and support of the trafficking of illegal drugs and other materials, some of them quite simple gasoline and tobacco and the like. But this is a very well-funded organization. And its nexus between terrorist and criminal activities, I think, is one that we need to better understand as we move forward and find ways to address that problem set.
It's easy to get captured by the negative in Africa, and think constantly, always of problems and increasing challenges. But we should remind ourselves that there are some very good efforts under way. And to highlight just one, I would highlight the African Union Mission in Somalia. If you had told me a year ago and I suspect most in this audience if you had said a year ago that Somalia would have a president an elected president, a parliament, a constitution, that nations would begin recognizing the government and establishing embassies in Mogadishu, that al-Shabab would largely not completely but largely removed from Mogadishu and from the port city of Kismayo, that al-Shabab's hold on the Somali people was weakening I think most of us who work in this area would say: You're crazy. That's not going to happen. But yet, that's exactly what did happen. And I think it's an important lesson for us as we look at Somalia and say, why did that happen? And I think it happened because the nations of East Africa collectively, and under the auspices of the African Union, decided that they would take action. And this is an important distinction. So it was not the international community. It was certainly not the United States saying: This is what you should do in Somalia. It was the regional states making that decision, crafting a plan and then coming, frankly, to the international community and ask for some support, which the United States and many others were able to provide. But it was an African-led and -designed effort.
As one example of that, I was privileged a little more than a year ago to be invited to a meeting in Nairobi of the military chiefs the chiefs of defense, the highest-ranking military officers in Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda and Burundi. And they came together at the direction of their heads of state. And their presidents had told them: OK, you military guys, figure out the campaign plan to defeat al-Shabab. And I was honored and humbled, frankly, to be invited to join that meeting. And I was truly and honestly a bystander.
It was a very heated debate. As you might expect, there were differing views about how to proceed and what was the right priority, where should the troops go, what should the timing be. But ultimately, they came to a conclusion those African military chiefs and said: OK, this is what we think we should do. Now, truth in lending, at that point they turned to me and said, OK, here's what we need you to do. So there was an American piece to this, but it was African led, designed and executed. And I think that is why the African Union Mission in Somalia's been successful.
And that might give us some indications for the future as we look forward to the potential of other missions. So there is some good news, to be sure, as we move forward in that regard. AMISOM is not the only success that regional entities have had in Africa. It may be the most contemporary, perhaps, but certainly it seems to me that there's increasing political will and capability of regional organizations to address African challenges.
As mentioned, AMISOM has made great progress since 2007. I would say if you looked at a graph of their activity from 2007, it was small increases for a number of years and then last year it just really ramped up. And I think, again, that's instructive. Patience which is not an American virtue is sometimes necessary for these operations. There will be setbacks, but the investment in the long term, certainly should be worthwhile. But the African Union has participated in many other successful missions of certainly open for debate about how successful, but the fact that the African Union has taken a leading role in these activities, I think, as well, is important. So whether it was Burundi in 2003 or Sudan, which is the current the precursor to the current mission, intervention in the (inaudible) I think all of those bode well for an African-led solution.
And that gives credence to what our president said when he visited Accra in 2009. He gave a great speech. And in that speech, one of the themes was, in the long term, it is Africans who are best able to address African security challenges. That gets condensed often to the shorthand: African solutions to African problems.
Secretary Clinton in her last most recent visit to Africa expanded upon that in what I think is a very meaningful way, and she said, yes, African solutions to African challenges, but global problems need African solutions and African contributions as well. It's no longer a plan where Africa is looking only internally. It is time and it is appropriate for Africa to be more engaged in the international community. Violent extremism is, of course, only one of the issues that presents itself and its challenges in Africa, and we've talked about some of those organizations.
But let me talk about another area where we are doing some work, and that's in the area of maritime security. It's not a very sexy or high-profile mission, but it is nonetheless very, very important. In East Africa and the waters adjacent to East Africa and the western Indian Ocean, achieved in 2009 the notorious distinction of having been of experiencing the highest rates of piracy and armed robbery at sea of any place in the world.
Pirates originating from Somalia have attacked vessels in the water of Kenya and Tanzania. They've gone as far south as Madagascar and Seychelles, over 1,000 miles eastward into the Indian Ocean, and it's a very, very significant problem. As (inaudible) incidences of piracy have declined, that's mostly because the shipping companies have embarked security teams at great expense, and at expense which is of course passed on to consumers. What we do know is that the efforts to address piracy at sea are temporarily effective.
But to address the underlying causes of piracy that needs to be done ashore, and that involves areas such as economic opportunity, good governance, judicial system, enforcement of laws both on land and at sea illegal fishing and sportsmen and the like and the necessity of nations to have a maritime capability to enforce not only laws within their territorial seas but in their economic zones as well. Our effort, AFRICOM's effort in that in both East Africa and in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa where we're also seeing increasing incidences of piracy, our efforts are not to take over that mission but to help African nations develop the capacity and the capabilities that they need to enforce their own laws.
The challenge in maritime security is the expense. Other than operations in space, the operations in the maritime domain are the most expensive for any nation to undertake. And with the exception of wealthy nations such as Nigeria and some others - South Africa, most nations - most African nations do not have the financial wherewithal to provide for their own maritime security.
So this necessitates a collaborative regional approach, and we have been very happy and very pleased with some progress in the Gulf of Guinea, which has brought together not only the individual states in the region but the two regional economic communities to foster policies and in some cases laws that allow the nations and the two regional economic communities to collaborate more effectively. And I should specifically highlight Ambassador Mark Bellamy, the former director of the Africa Center for Security Studies, for that center's work in the particular area of maritime security to help nations come together and operate more effectively.
Another contemporary issue which many have monitored for a number of years are African-led efforts to counter the Lords' Resistance Army. And again, as many of you know, an organization which began in the mid-80s as a group opposed to the Ugandan government has grown and expanded over the intervening years, even though being pushed out of Uganda about six or so years ago. They continue to operate in the tri-border region area of South Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. Hundreds of thousands of persons have been displaced. For the students here, what I often tell audiences is if you have any doubt as to whether there is really evil in this world, when you go home, Google Lords' Resistance Army.. Google Joseph Kony.. It will eliminate any doubt in your mind as to whether there is genuine evil in this world. It's there. It is a horrific organization, as most here know.
Again, an African-led effort, an African Union regional task force, and last year President Obama directed us in the U.S. military to provide some assistance to that African-led effort, and we're glad and honored to do so. So we at present, we have about 100 special forces personnel in a number of different locations across the region providing training, communications support, medical support, logistics support for the African forces. It's an interesting thing. The American forces are not the ones who are out trying to track down Joseph Kony. The Africans can do that far better than we do. They understand the terrain, they understand the culture, they have language capabilities. They're from that region. So we try to bring to bear what we would call a unique U.S. military capability, so we have the opportunity to provide fixed and rotary wing lift, transportation, increased signals support.
We've helped with the soliciting of volunteers for a regional network of communications whereby small towns and villages have an opportunity to call for help if they feel that they are under threat from the Lords' Resistance Army and others. So there are some significant progress being made. The regional efforts are making a difference. We are seeing increased levels of defections, fewer attacks and enhanced cooperation between the various African forces that are engaged in this. But Joseph Kony is still at large and that is the fundamental mission of the African Union regional task force is to bring Joseph Kony to justice.
The last contemporary effort to talk about is Mali, where in March of this year following a military coup and the collapse of the Malian government, in the northern two-thirds of the country there now exists what I think can only be described as a safe haven for al-Qaida and Islamic Maghreb and other organizations.
Now we see the interim government of Mali, the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, the United Nations Security Council, the European Union, as well as many others, working to address what I think are best categorized as four interrelated problems that exist in northern in Mali.
The first and perhaps most important and essential ingredient is the restoration of constitutionally backed, a constitutionally based government in Bamako. We think it's very difficult to proceed in any other area until there is a legitimate government restored into Bamako.
The second challenge is addressing the legitimate concerns of the underappreciated and an oft-neglected demographic in the northern portion of Mali, mostly Tuareg, but not exclusively Tuareg who have been disenfranchised in Mali for many, many years, and their concerns need to be addressed.
Thirdly, there is indeed a terrorist problem in northern Mali that will probably necessitate some form of security approach to deal with what we believe is a relatively small hard core of terrorists in northern Mali.
And the fourth problem set is one that often gets neglected, and I think to the detriment of the people of the region, and that is continuing humanitarian assistance challenge across the (Sahel ?) that leaves people in great disadvantage.
To address all of those four problems, it requires a comprehensive strategy. It's insufficient to deal with only one of those problem sets. The strategy has got to deal with all four. In my view it must be African-led with the support of the international community. Certainly the United States has made it quite clear that our preference is for a negotiated solution, and we believe most of these problems can and should be addressed through negotiation, to include separating from the terrorist organizations other groups that have somewhat aligned their goals with the terrorists. But we also believe that it's prudent for the Economic Community of West African States to prepare for the potential for military intervention. We don't think it can wait. We think they should prepare now. In the best circumstance that force would not be necessary. We think it is prudent to prepare for that, and there will likely be U.N. Security Council and other international support required should such a plan be undertaken.
From the U.S. military side, we have had planners alongside the African planners as they've been preparing for a possible military intervention. While we have not been asked for any specific support, if the United Nations Security Council endorses an African-led effort, I think it's reasonable for us to expect that we would be asked again for what we would call a unique U.S. military contribution - logistics, probably financial support, intelligence, probably some training and equipping. I don't see us in a situation where we would be asked for U.S. participation in any actual combat operation. I think that would be counterproductive, actually, and in my view that should be and must be African-led.
So what do we do about all those situations that exist across the continent? Simply put, our mission at U.S. Africa Command is to advance the United States security interests in the continent across the continent, and we think we do that best by strengthening the defense capabilities of African countries so that they are increasingly capable of providing for their own defense and of contributing to regional security and stability. One of our underlying principles is we recognize that military force is often an essential but I would say non-decisive component of any overarching comprehensive approach. There are times when the military component is needed. There are no times that I can think of where the military component would provide the decisive effort or certainly not the single effort in addressing any of the challenges that present themselves.
We are guided in our efforts by a number of different documents from the National Security Strategy on down. Two documents that I would highlight the recently released earlier this summer, Presidential Policy Directive for Sub-Saharan Africa that outlines the president, outlines in that his policy that guides all of us in the U.S. government as to how we think and act in Africa, and it's directed or based on four pillars which will not be surprising to you: The first, to strengthen democratic institutions; secondly, to serve economic growth trade and investment; thirdly, to advance peace and security; and fourth, to promote opportunity and development.
U.S. Africa Command's efforts unsurprisingly focus on that third role of advancing peace and security, but we do so recognizing not that that's an end state but that stability and security are necessary preconditions for the other three pillars to take hold. So again, we view our effort indeed, the African's effort as a supporting effort to achieve the other overarching goals, recognizing that the interdependence of all of those.
The second document that guides our principles is the January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, in which the president and the secretary of Defense tell those of us in the United States military, here are our priorities; here are the things that I expect the U.S. armed forces to be able to do. In Africa in that direction, the president and the Secretary of Defense tell me to apply a low-cost light footprint and innovative approach. What that means to me is we don't, by directive, but also by my belief and principle, we don't want and certainly do not require a large standing U.S. military presence in Africa. Personally I believe that would be counterproductive. Rather we are better when we bring specifically tailored capabilities for specific missions, time-limited, to achieve specific effects.
As one example of that, some of you may have heard recently about the United States Army has announced what they call a regionally aligned brigade. That brigade, an Army brigade is about 4,000 troops. What you won't see are 4,000 troops deploying from the United States and plunking down someplace in Africa. What you will see are over the course of the year that that brigade is available as currently scheduled 96 different engagements in 35 different countries, specifically tailored to achieve the effects that are commonly achieved in our discussions with the host nation and with our United States ambassadors, the chiefs of mission across the continent. We believe that, again, is our best approach. Through it's security, cooperation activities, and exercises is the best way for us to strengthen our partner's defense capabilities.
So that's really the focus of our effort. We do lots of leader development issues, and we think that investment in people and in military leaders is our, is one of the most effective ways we can proceed. At the end state, what do we seek to achieve? We would like African militaries to be not only technically and tactically capable - frankly that's the easy part - but more difficult than that, we would like to see African militaries that operate under legitimate civilian control, that operate and function according to the laws of under the rule of law, that are respectful of human rights, and that are seen by their citizens as servants of the nation rather than oppressors. Now, that's a lot easier said than done, and there are some places where we have some significant challenges, but at least we have a direction where we'd like to help, and buy-in from almost all the African military partners with whom we work. In conclusion, let me just again come back to the theme that says while the security challenges in Africa are complex and diverse and it's very easy to come away with a sense of great worry, I come away from my engagements in Africa with a great sense of optimism. There is recognition when I meet with our chiefs of mission, when I meet with heads of state, with ministers of defense, chiefs of defense, members of civil society, they understand the complexity and the difficulty of the security challenges they face, but they sense that with a little bit of help they can overcome those challenges, and that's what gives me great optimism.
I'll relate to you a story that frankly until the past few months I didn't really understand what it meant to me. Early in my tenure I was visiting an African country, meeting with the chief of defense. We were talking about various programs and it was pretty standard conversation, frankly. I'm getting ready to leave and the general says, General Ham, thanks for visiting. We're a big country. We don't have a very large population. We're not a very wealthy country. And the fact of the matter is we need your help. We need a little bit of assistance. So I'm thinking to myself, well, that's pretty normal. That's what I would expect. But then he said something I didn't expect. He then said, but more than your assistance, more than your help, what we really want is partnership. I will admit that when he said that to me, I didn't really understand what he was talking about. I've come to understand better over these past many months.
What he was talking about is, treat us like equals. Treat us with dignity and respect. Recognize this is my country, not your country. And yes indeed, we do need a little bit of help, but we want to know that you're in this with us, that you stand with us shoulder to shoulder, so to speak. That was very powerful to me, and really and it shaped my thinking about how we ought to work in partnership with African militaries and other security forces. And I think as I look to the future, I think that is exactly the right the right word partnership to describe what we seek to achieve. It is their, they are their countries. We're the outsiders. Yes, we have interests, but our interests are almost always very closely aligned with the interests of African states and the regional organizations.
We won't agree on everything, and that's OK. But on those things on which we do agree, where we can treat one another with dignity and respect, where we have an opportunity to work together in a genuine partnership of collaboration and cooperation and I'm convinced that we can and we will address our mutual security interests in Africa. So again, professor and all, thank you very much for allowing me to come spend a little bit of time with you. It's an exciting place to work. It's easy to get up every day because there's so many good people focused on this effort. So again, thank you. And with that I would welcome your questions or comments. (Applause.) Yes, sir?
Q Thank you. My name is (inaudible) I'm from the Washington, D.C. (inaudible). Your lecture I mean, your presentation was very informative and very educating to me. Personally I'm very surprised that you did not focus so much on what is going on in northern Nigeria. The (inaudible) of the terrorist organization that is called (inaudible) in West Africa. If Nigeria is destabilized, that is the end of the entire West African region. And (inaudible) fighting terrorism effectively in Africa (inaudible) I believe (inaudible) can be taken care of. Then it is very easy to deal with the other terrorist groups in northern Mali or in the northern parts of Africa or in Somalia.
GEN. HAM: It's a great comment and I share your concern. And I think most people do share your concern about the increasing violence with which Boko Haram is conducting itself in Nigeria and as you are well aware, not no longer constrained to northern Nigeria but acting in places throughout the country. So the real concern is twofold I think. From an internal Nigeria issue is can they, can Boko Haram so destabilize the region that the government, that the nation is at risk? That's a real challenge from an internal Nigerian domestic security situation. But more broadly, if Boko Haram continues unimpeded and gains in strength and is able to strengthen their relationship with al-Qaida and the Islamic Maghreb, with al-Shabab and with other organizations, when we have seen clear indications that they desire to do so I think you're exactly right to highlight that as an area of grave concern.
Just so you know that I'm serious about this, I'm going to leave here in about an hour, go back to our headquarters in Germany for a few hours, get enough gas in the plane and go to Abuja to have just this discussion with the national security adviser, the minister of defense, the chief of defense and certainly with the U.S. country team there. It is a growing and grave concern, and Nigeria, as all of you know, the most populous country on the continent. Its influence from a diplomatic, economic, security standpoint it's vital not only to Africa but globally as well. So all of us, I think, have a vested interest in helping Nigeria in ways that Nigeria would like us to help in addressing this very real concern of global (inaudible). So thank you for highlighting that.
MR. : Just some ground rules, please. Raise your hand. Then we'll get the mike to you, OK?
Q: General Ham, thank you. I'd like to bring us back to Mali, if it's all right. Two years ago, I was there as part of an assessment of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership. And I witnessed the communications, logistics, intelligence, equipment, training, all that, that the U.S. military attachh was responsible for. The media, New York Times and others, have characterized what happened subsequently in Mali as a failure for AFRICOM. I'm not saying that that's fair. I want to give you the opportunity to say that, given the ongoing engagement which the military of the United States was already having in Mali, whether or not you too were taken by surprise by what happened. And finally, regarding partnership, which you invoked, part of the partnership of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative is also partnership between the Department of State and the United States Agency of International Development. So it's not only defense. It's also diplomacy and development. Could you say anything, from your perspective, from the Pentagon's perspective, about the partnership with those other two elements of the initiative? Thank you.
GEN. HAM: Sure. So, first of all, in Mali, I will characterize Mali most importantly as a failure for the Mali people. They're the ones who are suffering. Yes, I was surprised. And, yes, I was sorely disappointed that a military with whom we had a training relationship participated in the military overthrow of an elected government. I mean, there is no way to characterize that other than wholly unacceptable. And I saw that first-hand when afforded the opportunity to attend an ECOWAS heads of state conference not long after the military overthrew the legitimate government (inaudible). And it was actually very encouraging to hear the heads of state unanimously condemn this and say that, the (inaudible) the days of military coups in Africa are over. We will not stand for this. We will take action to restore the legitimate government in Mali.
Again, that's easier said than done, but at least the organizing principle is there. From a U.S. military standpoint, we did, in fact, take a look at this and say, because we have had a fairly longstanding training mission with the Malian armed forces, to look at ourselves and say, first of all, did we miss anything? Was there something that we should have seen that indicated that the military might participate in the overthrow of their government? And secondly, to look at our training very critically to say did we miss something in our training that might have contributed to this?
I think fairly unique circumstances in Mali that yielded a military coup in a very rapid series of events. But it did cause us to take a look and say our training with the Malians had been almost exclusively focused on tactical and technical means. Again, as I mentioned, that's the easy part. And we need to make sure that, in our engagements with African militaries, that while we necessarily do focus on tactical and technical pieces, we've also got to incorporate more about values, incorporate more about what does it mean to be a legitimate, respected military in a democratic society? There's plenty of good examples.
Just to highlight one, look what the Tunisian military did during their revolution. I think that's a good example of what a military can do during a period of upheaval in a nation. What the Senegalese military did during the latest round of elections, I think, are some good indicators. So we have some work to do there, to be sure. With regard to the partnership across the U.S. interagency, we have what we commonly refer to as the 3D approach - diplomacy, development and defense. And that's the right priority, by the way. It's the right sequence. But it does necessitate a close collaboration between all of the U.S. participants in each of those three Ds.
Ambassador Williams might argue with me, but from my perspective, we have a pretty good relationship amongst defense, the chiefs of mission, and at USAID mission directors. So a couple of comments. The first thing is an obvious one, but I'll state it anyway. The U.S. military doesn't do anything in Niger that the ambassador doesn't say OK. We're not independent actors out there. We operate under the rule of law. I recognize that when I travel around, as I mentioned, to 42 different countries, wherever I am, I'm never, ever the senior American in that country.
When I come to Niamey, Ambassador Williams is the senior American. And my job is to support what she's trying to achieve. Now, truth be told, we might bark at each other behind closed doors and we might disagree about things. But that's business inside the family, and we come to an agreement in (inaudible) U.S. policy as we move forward. And I would say the same for USAID. We have a strong and growing-stronger relationship with USAID, not only at the missions on the continent, but in Washington as well. I have a very, very senior developmental adviser from USAID on my staff who helps us coordinate our efforts.
We have more non-Department of Defense employees at AFRICOM than any other military command in the country. So we benefit from Foreign Service officers, from members from the Department of Agriculture, from Homeland Security, from Treasury, from Drug Enforcement Agency, Health and Human Services, again, to try to bring to bear what has become known as the whole-of-government or comprehensive approach. And lastly, I have two deputies. I have a military deputy, who oversees the military operations, and I have a civilian deputy, very senior Foreign Service officer, who's been an ambassador, chief of mission, in a number of different African countries, to make sure that I try to keep those efforts in balance.
Q: Sir, good morning. I am (inaudible) from (Nigeria ?), working in Washington at the Institute for Policy Studies. I'm also the mother of a high school student, so I too want to applaud the students for being here early on a Saturday morning. What I really want to say, especially to the students in the room, don't believe the hype. It is important to recognize that the U.S. military has played a role since before the creation of AFRICOM, and still now with AFRICOM, in undermining peace and stability on the continent (inaudible) primarily providing weapons and training to irresponsible militaries on the continent. And I think it is critical for us to this morning ask you, General Ham, has there been is there planned a review of AFRICOM? Many of us see AFRICOM starting up, as you said, October 2008 and for the students, this is important 2008 represented the year in which Africa overtook the Middle East as a supplier of oil to the United States. A quarter of the oil coming to the U.S. comes from Africa. It will likely increase, because places like Liberia are just beginning.
So we have a lot of panels today, and it's going to be a long day. But I really I guess I feel a little bit upset that you're leaving. (Laughs.) I had hoped, with the honor of Professor Achiboka (sp) meeting all of us, that you would at least have taken the time to stay here and listen to the voices of critique and also to the analysis, people gathered from all around the world. It is important to listen. Had the U.S. listened before establishing AFRICOM, it would have been clear from places like South Africa that said, you know, we don't want to host an AFRICOM headquarters, from places all around the continent, including the African Union, that held on to a continental stance against a headquarters for AFRICOM. It would have been clear that that was not a priority for the continent and that the more narrow, short-term interests of accessing oil and other resources did not, as you say, align with the interests of Africa. So, you know, I don't want to take too much time, but I think it is important to listen to the voices of criticism and to obviously hear them and for the students to explore those as they (inaudible). Thank you.
Q: General, how much time do you have? Because we need to be disciplined with the use of time.
GEN. HAM: OK, so how about let me respond to this question and one more, and then we'll move on. First of all, I agree with you. I think it is very important to hear differing voices, because otherwise, if the only people I talk to are people who are like me, then I'm captured by my own experience. And so it is important to hear differing voices and to learn from them. And I also share your concern. I wish I could stay longer, but there are some pretty senior people in Nigeria that want to see me. And, as mentioned, that's pretty important.
First of all, I would say simply, you know, people are always entitled to their opinions. You're not entitled to your own facts. And so how much you know, how much (inaudible) business the United States does with African countries is certainly a matter of record. But it is important to know again, I'm not an independent actor. I don't get to go do things across Africa that I want to do. I'm governed by a secretary of defense, a president, and operating within the confines of U.S. government policy, with the consent of chiefs of mission.
So, for example, in terms of training and equipping African forces, there's a very, very deliberate process that is governed by a number of laws and policies, some very important laws, one of which that requires us not us, AFRICOM, but us, Department of State, because most of the security assistance the fact of the matter is, I don't provide any weapons to anybody in Africa.
The Department of State provides weapons to people in Africa, because that's how our government is set up, and wisely so, in my opinion. But there is a process that necessitates individuals and groups to go through background checks. And before the United States government signs up to conduct a training and equipping mission, there's background checks.
And the Department of State must report to the United States Congress that we've done these background checks and we are not providing training and equipping to people who have committed human rights violations. And as part of the agreement, the nations have to sign a document that allows, to use a technical term, end-use monitoring, which means that when the United States provides training and equipping, the United States again, principally through the chiefs of mission retains the right to always monitor how that training and how those weapons are (inaudible). Is it failsafe? No. Is it reasonable, and is it in accordance with our laws and with our standards? Absolutely so. Absolutely fair to criticize, and that's what our country does. I mean, we thrive on debate and diverse points of view.
But again, this is not the United States military as an independent actor moving about Africa. We are one small part of the U.S. effort. If you look at U.S. government spending in Africa, U.S. military spending in Africa is dwarfed by all other spending. Where do we spend most of our money? In health, in education and in agriculture; a little tiny bit in military. And that's because I think that reflects our national values. We invest in human capital. And so I think that's the right approach. And I'm proud of what we do in a supporting effort overall to the U.S. government. But I'm also absolutely OK with people who have different views than that.
Q: Yes, General Ham, I listened very carefully to your presentation, and unfortunately for those who assisted you in writing the speech, they actually laid a trap for you because the content of your speech has been the best recommendation for the dismantlement of AFRICOM. Everything you've said in the speech about the role of African governments coming together in AMISOM, the role of the African Union in Darfur, and the role of the African Union in having the patient, long-term role of peace negotiations in Burundi tells us that there is a capacity within Africa for a long-term peace process. So your speech, having told us about what the U.S. AFRICOM should be doing, did not mention what is going on in the Eastern Congo and some of the governments that you support are responsible for part of the crisis in the Eastern Congo. And what is surprising about your speech, there was not a word about Libya. Now, we know that you have stepped down from being the head of Africa Command after a review about what happened in Benghazi. And we are very worried about General Rodriguez, who will take over, the fact that he was trained in a certain way about dealing with Africans. But my question to you is, after you have said here to this audience that the United States Africa Command was engaged with the military in Mali that carried out a coup d''tat, wouldn't you have thought that we need a thorough evaluation of the U.S. Africa Command? Would it not be possible and necessary for the U.S. Africa Command to do an evaluation of the role of the U.S. Africa Command in Libya insofar as the events in Libya are directly related to what is going on in Mali?
And my last question: There seems to be a contradiction within the Pentagon about whether there is increased terrorism in Africa or a lowering of terrorism in Africa. Last week in the African Union, the top lawyer of the Pentagon, Jeh Johnson, said that we have a reduce in terrorism around the world so the war of terror should come to an end, and therefore those remnants of al-Qaida could be dealt with through law enforcement and cooperation. The thrust of your speech seems to contradict this position of Jeh Johnson. So two main questions an evaluation of what the U.S. Africa Command did in Libya, and do you agree or disagree that there is reduced role of al-Qaida; therefore we need law enforcement and not AFRICOM, and therefore we should call for the dismantlement of AFRICOM because the issue of AFRICOM is it creates problems in Africa. (Applause.)
GEN. HAM: It probably won't surprise you that I pretty strongly disagree with just about everything that (laughter, applause). First of all, I am the commander of the United States Africa Command. I know some, to include some in this room, have reported that I am not. I am. (Laughter.) And I don't see that changing anytime soon. Yes, the president has decided, has nominated a replacement. The Senate will do its business and work with the confirmation. But until the day that I leave, I remain committed to achieving our goals and objectives in the U.S. Africa Command. No,
I didn't talk about Libya. We could. There's lots to talk about in Libya. Some of it's good; some of it's not so good. And I think, you know, it's absolutely fair and I'm OK with people who fundamentally disagree with the folks at the United Nations - not the United States - the role that the United Nations undertook in Libya. And again, I think, because I've had great discussions with former Chairperson King (ph) and with others about how that unfolded, the one thing is undeniable, and that is that for the first time in 42 years, the people of Libya have an opportunity; have selected who will be their leader. Yes, it's ugly. Yes, it's messy. But that's undeniable. They have been afforded an opportunity which was denied to them by the previous dictator. And, sir, with all due respect, I have no regrets that the people have been afforded that opportunity to select their own government.
With regard to Eastern DRC, yes, it is indeed a terrible situation. And what I worry about is that conflict expanding more rapidly across the region. It has been the site of horrific loss of life, as most in this room know. But again, it is not an area in which United States AFRICOM is involved. We do not have any military forces engaged in that effort. We have had ongoing military relations with the armed forces of all of the well, the Democratic Republic of Congo and all of the neighboring countries. But again (inaudible) we believe that this necessitates a political negotiated settlement, not a settlement by arms.
With regard to the command itself, we are always, always, always evaluating our efforts. And I think I was pretty forthright and really thoughtful about Mali. But it is interesting; I have yet to go to the country in Africa, or to the headquarters of one of the regional economic communities, or to a regional standby force, or to the African Union Peace and Security Commission I have yet to go to the first place in Africa where the (inaudible) say, General Ham, thanks for coming; we don't want any more Americans to come. (Applause.)
I'm waiting for that. That hasn't happened yet. But again, I think it's because we're looking to do what they want to do. We're not looking to do what we need to do. It is support of African countries, regional organizations. And I think, again, that disagreement is healthy. It causes us to be more critical of our activities. And I welcome that and I think it's worthwhile. But on balance, I think in the less-than-five years that it has been in existence, there are things that are better in many places because of the U.S. Africa Command's supporting role to U.S. policy objectives in Africa.
It's certainly open for criticism. I don't lose any sleep because I think we're making a difference each and every day. But I certainly respect differing opinions. Can I leave just one last point? I know Jeh Johnson pretty well. He and I spent a year together, as some of you may know, leading a study that led to the implementation of the repeal of the law known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I know him. I saw him two days, I saw him yesterday I guess. I saw him yesterday. And I think, again, you can have your own opinion but you can't have your own fact. I think what Mr. Johnson said was, it is time to have the debate, the discussion as to whether it is time for the United States counterterrorist network to shift more into law enforcement than military. He didn't say that we should. He said that we should have that it is time to have a discussion.
MR : Thank you, General. (Applause.) (Cross talk.) MR. : say to the general, thank you very much for this discussion. It is only in America that this discussion of this kind (applause) that one of the most senior members of our military would take the time, as well as provide the comprehensive nature of this discussion, that he has done. I think we owe a great round of applause. (Applause.) I'd like to say that in 15 years and over 200 trips to Africa, this is the most comprehensive discussion of our military with respect to that continent that I have seen, General, in my lifetime of engagement. So thank you for doing this. (Applause.) (END)