AFRICOM Leaders Discuss Command’s Mission with Nigerian Journalists
General Carter Ham, commander of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), and Ambassador Christopher Dell, AFRICOM’s deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, met with a group of Nigerian journalists February 1, 2013, at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart.
Full transcript follows:
MODERATOR: If I could introduce General Ham, our commander, and Ambassador Dell, our civilian deputy. I’d like to start with questions on the right-hand side and we’ll continue to work around. And if you have any opening comments, General? Ambassador?
GEN. HAM: The reason we wanted to do this together, one is to save you some time so you don’t have to hear the same thing from two different people, but also to – we talk about the importance of military and civilian cooperation. And I thought it might be appropriate to show you that, because, you know, that while I have a military deputy, I also have a civilian deputy and it’s a very important part of how AFRICOM has been built.
Ambassador Dell, as you know, is a career foreign service officer, very senior. He has served as the United States ambassador in Angola, in Zimbabwe and has served also in Mozambique. He was most recently the United States ambassador in Kosovo. He served in Afghanistan.
So what that means to me and to the staff is that we get the benefit not only of a very seasoned diplomat who has great experience in Africa, which is very useful to us, but also he has a broader understanding of the entirety of what we call the interagency process, the whole of the U.S. government.
You know, we in the military tend to grow up mostly in our military lane. When foreign service officers work in embassies, they work with a broader range of the government and then, certainly as chiefs of mission, as ambassadors, as Ambassador Dell has been, they’re responsible for that whole team which includes military. So it’s very helpful for us to have you.
Just a couple of comments on what’s current for us. It won’t surprise you that Mali is at the top of the list right now and has been certainly for the past few weeks. In fact, Ambassador Dell and I were together in Miame (ph) when all this current activity began with the initial attacks by the extremists, and then the French response at the request of the Malian government, and then – and as things have unfolded for the past few weeks.
So we’ve been very engaged in that. We monitored, obviously, and were engaged in some ways in the Algerian hostage situation of a few weeks ago. We continue to be engaged in activities in Libya, Somalia, Gulf of Guinea, which is very important to Nigeria, of course. So we have a broad array of activities with which we are currently engaged, but I would say, at least for today, Mali is probably at the top of the list.
AMBASSADOR CHRISTOPHER DELL: And those are the operational engagements. Of course, there are probably another 40 countries in Africa where we’re not conducting current military operations where we attempt to remain engaged in a variety of ways, through security, cooperation programs, training exercises, exchanges of command visits and developing contacts and relationships with the military.
So the focus of AFRICOM is broader than simply conducting current military operations with U.S. military forces. It remains as much about working with our African partners on developing their own capacities and institutions to deal with security challenges they face individually as nations and regionally in Africa.
GEN. HAM: Good. So please.
Q: Just – I want some clarifications on the issue of conflicts in Africa. When there are conflicts in Africa, your policy is African solutions for African problems. When it happens in the Middle East, you directly intervene immediately to restore order. What accounts for the fact that U.S. – they have been in the forefront of the fight against terror, but when the terrorists took over a portion of Mali, more than half of Mali, that we have to engage the crisis to – (inaudible). What accounted for that policy?
GEN. HAM: Part of it I would say is a learning process. Part of it is a recognition of the limitations of national power, meaning that you can’t do everything. And you certainly can’t do everything militarily.
I think what our president meant when he spoke in Accra in 2009 that – well, he basically said that in the long term it is Africans who are best able to address African challenges. I think what he was acknowledging was sovereignty, national responsibility, the responsibility and the authority of the African Union and its regional economic communities and other regional structures, and that the United States is at its best when we are supporting or enabling African-led activities.
The difference between a place – between perhaps operations in Afghanistan and some places in Africa is that there was no government in Afghanistan. The government had been wholly co-opted by Taliban and by al-Qaida. So there wasn’t a government to deal with. And I would also say that it’s important to recognize that Afghanistan is not a U.S. activity. It is a NATO activity, with the 28 nations of NATO plus – I think Ambassador Dell is probably more current, but I think 43 or 44 countries totally engaged, so it’s a broader coalition. So it would be inaccurate to characterize that as exclusively a U.S. operation.
But if you compare and contrast that with Somalia, as an example, where we felt – the U.S. did have a presence in Somalia in the mid – early and mid-1990s. That didn’t work out particularly well. What we’ve seen unfold over the past several years is the African Union and the neighboring states come to a conclusion that they were going to take action. They needed a little bit of assistance from the international community to include the United States. And Somalia today, while still problems, is in a much better place than it was a few years ago. That to me is an example of the power of an African-led activity that is supported by the international community.
That model may be instructive as we think about Mali. Mali, of course, presents the additional challenge of having experienced a military coup. We have some U.S. laws that prevent us from having a direct military-to-military relationship with the Malians until such time as a legitimate, constitutionally-based government is restored in Bamako. So I think those are some of the differences.
AMB. DELL: I would just add one point. The Malians did not ask the United States to intervene directly. They asked the French to play a role. We weren’t about to do that without fielding a request of that nature. The Malians turned to the French for help. The French have asked us for support.
Clearly, given the history and the context and the language and the historical ties, the French are very capable of operating in Mali. And they’ve asked the United States to provide support in those things that we do best, as the general said, whether it’s logistics sustainment, providing reconnaissance, those kinds of supports, helping African countries bring in their – the ECOWAS countries bringing their forces and support their logistics. So we’re playing an important role, but it’s not a leading role. And, again, that’s the way the Africans themselves have asked it to be.
Q: Well, my – mine is just generally, your engagements in Nigeria for this year, the U.S. and AFRICOM. What’s your target for this year in terms of training and everything?
And, secondly, before now, one of my colleagues asked about, you know, this AFRICOM situated – the headquarters situated in Germany. I want to really get your perspective on why here and not in [Africa], your programs.
GEN. HAM: Yeah. So I’ll – if it’s OK, I’ll take the second question first and the headquarters location. The reason we’re here is a matter of practicality. In 2008, when the command was formed, it was formed largely from European Command, which previously had responsibility for both Europe and Africa. European Command, as you know, is just down the street. It’s here in Stuttgart as well. So the people who were thinking about Africa were already mostly here in Stuttgart. And there was a – this facility was available. So there was a practical decision that said, at least initially, we would build the headquarters here.
And then, there was a – there has over the past several years consideration of what’s the right location for the headquarters. As you’re well aware, there was some resistance in some countries in Africa to the existence of Africa Command and certainly resistance to the presence of the headquarters in Africa. And so we’re sensitive to that and we realized that if we were to seek to put the headquarters someplace that might alienate or further complicate the relationship with one or more African countries. So it’s problematic.
The reality today is a fiscal, financial constraint. You know us. You see us. We don’t do anything small. So if we were to move the headquarters anywhere, it’s not just the operational headquarters. It’s barracks. It’s housing for families. It’s office spaces. It’s military shopping. It’s a medical treatment facility. It’s schools and playgrounds and gymnasiums and churches and – I mean, all of the aspects of a military community because that’s our culture, that’s how we do that. And that gets very expensive. And we’re in a situation, like Nigeria and most other countries, where are we looking for ways to reduce military spending, not increase military spending. So again there’s a practical aspect.
And then, operationally, this is a good place for us. We’re close to an international airport which has good connections to Paris, to Amsterdam, to Frankfurt, to London, which have most of the connections into Africa, which works out pretty well. We’re close to our European partners, many of whom are also actively engaged in Africa. That works out pretty well. We’re generally in the same time zones as African countries so we’re on the same kind of daily rhythm of business, if you will. That would be complicated if we were in the States, for example. So this works out to be a pretty good place for us.
To the more fundamental question about engagements in Nigeria, I would characterize them in a couple of different ways. We have a very, very strong partnership and enduring relationship with Nigeria on the important matter of maritime security, where the Gulf of Guinea is vitally important to Nigeria, but also to the United States. And Nigeria’s leading role in contributing to security in the Gulf of Guinea is deeply appreciated, and we’re thankful and glad to be a part of that and bringing the many nations of the Gulf of Guinea together to work cooperatively. And, again, Nigeria’s leading role is very important.
For air forces, our responsibilities – our engagement with the Nigerians have principally been focused on finding ways to improve the operational capability of the Nigerian air force so that – more of Nigeria’s air force is operational and able to support not only Nigerian operations, but more broadly the activities of other African nations. Mali is a great example. One of the greatest needs in the current circumstance is the need for airlift. And if Nigeria can increase the availability, the operational readiness rates of its air fleet that would help not only Nigeria, but others.
And with the army, our focus has been on helping the army to develop the capabilities that are required to deal with the many challenges that the army faces.
The challenge of Boko Haram obviously is well known and better understood by you than by me. But the threat that Boko Haram uses - of car bombs and suicide bombs, we call those improvised explosive devices. Working with the Nigerian Army to defeat that network, that threat is very important as well.
And then, more broadly, our engagement with the Nigerian military has been on leader development. You just heard from Chief Master Sergeant Johnson about the role of non-commissioned officers, warrant officers, which we think is important for a professional force. The officer leader development – every place I go in the United States, to our staff colleges, our war colleges, there are Nigerian officers there performing well and increasing their capability. So those are broadly some of the matters that we’re engaged in.
AMB. DELL: Over the long term – I keep making the point, bringing a diplomat’s perspective to this that the real partnership between the United States and Africa in the security realm is going to come from building enduring relationships, grounded in mutual values and common interests. And I think what the general is just pointing to, the aspect of training for your officer corps, indeed for the senior enlisted, is a critical piece of building those kinds of relationships.
First of all, there’s the life of a student together. You know, when you’re young colonels or young captains serving – an American captain, a Nigerian captain going through a course together, they develop lifelong relationships and friendships. But then there’s also the particular culture of the American military, the idea of respect for civilian control over the military, for, I would say, absolutely iron-bound respect for constitution, the constitutionality in which the military operates. These are values – we hope that these training experiences, these educational experiences can impart to officers who join us from other countries and that they bring back to their own military culture at the end of the training period.
Q: So what informed the decision to set up AFRICOM and what has Africa contributed –benefited from the command?
GEN. HAM: It’s a great question. And it’s a question we ask – the second part of yours is a question we ask ourselves. So to go back in time, in the mid 2000s I think there started to become in the U.S. government a recognition of the growing importance of the African nations and of the connection between the African nations and my nation.
Some of that is just demographics: a billion people, one seventh of the world’s population. That’s sizeable. As I talk with people – you know, 54 nations – that’s a quarter of the United Nations’ membership. Usually, there’s, you know, one or two African countries on the U.N. Security Council. So if you want to advance your diplomatic initiatives, to think that you can do that without doing so in partnership with African nations I think is short sighted.
From an economic standpoint, you know, depending on the survey you look at, but, typically, most surveys say six or seven or the 10 fastest growing economies on the planet are in Africa. And the United States – you know, we want to be part of that. You know, we want – we’re looking for strengthening our own economic growth. And so you have to partner with nations that are also developing economically. So, I think those are some of the aspects.
Then there are some very practical aspects more so perhaps in the security realm. If you look in East Africa and the transit points through the Bab-el-Mandeb, the Suez Canal, the chokepoint of the Straits of Gibraltar, which most people forget – half of the Straits of Gibraltar are in Africa not in – you know, everybody thinks of it as European. But strategic chokepoints through which large percentages of global economic traffic transits, so you want to make sure that those remain open and that – and so global access is assured.
There’s a humanitarian aspect. There’s an affinity between the American people and the peoples of most African countries. You know, we have a fairly sizeable African-American population. There’s a cultural and historical tie there that is important as well. And then, there’s an enduring U.S. interest in fostering good governance and democratic reform, respect for human rights in all of its manifestations.
So all of those things together, I think, cause the U.S. government to say with that growing importance of Africa, should we not have a military command as one aspect of the United States government’s engagement in Africa? Should we not have a command that is structured just as we have for all other parts of the world?
We have a command for South America. We have a command for Asia. We have a command for Europe. We have a command for the Mideast. Now, we have a command for North America. It just made sense, I think, to say we should also have a command for Africa – and the benefit of that I think is having a group of people – the ambassador, myself, and all who are here – that we wake up every day, and the only thing we think about is Africa’s – the United States’ relationship with African countries. We don’t have divided attention. We don’t think about other parts of the world. We think exclusively about that. And while our focus is principally the military-to-military relationship with the presence of the ambassador and others means it’s a bit broader than that as well. So I think that’s good.
The question that you ask is actually the best question I’ve ever been asked. I was asked the first time at a conference in Tanzania that says, has AFRICOM made a difference? And I think it is a really good question and one that we have to continually ask ourselves to see are we in fact making a difference.
And my answer to that today is yes. I think we are making a positive difference. I think there’s more we could and should be doing, but as we look at a number of countries – there are events, training, programs that are in place now that weren’t in place five years ago that are helping those countries.
Some of it is with regard to equipment. In Nigeria’s case, as one simple example: the Nigerian ship Thunder, now the Nigerian navy flagship, came about as a partnership between Nigeria and the United States. So that’s one aspect of that benefit. I think Somalia is another example of where AFRICOM’s assistance with a U.S. State Department-led effort to help the Africans counter the threat of al-Shabab; I think that’s been beneficial.
So I think there are enough indicators that we have made some positive impact, but I think there’s more that we can do. As Ambassador Dell mentioned, I think our greatest contribution probably is in helping African states build the security institutions that are necessary and focusing on leader development so the next generation of African military leaders are prepared to assume their responsibilities.
Q: Why do you think this terrorism is gradually expanding in the world? It started somewhere in the Middle East, now we see it in Africa. We don’t know where it’s going to end. Why do you think despite the efforts to reach – (off mic) – it’s still consistently expanding?
GEN. HAM: Yeah. Of course, terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Terrorism has existed on our planet for a long, long time in various manifestations. What we are faced now with not exclusively, but, in many cases, an extremist view of Islam that is far outside of the mainstream, that is – seems to be the organizing principle or the coherence for many current extremist organizations.
I think– there are a number of factors as to why do these extremist organizations – how are they able to survive and, as you say, in some cases, grow. When you look at the places where they have been able to take root, they’re typically in places where there is an absence of legitimate government – Afghanistan is a good example, Somalia previously was a good example, now Northern Mali – where there’s an absence of legitimate government I think– is a first step.
Secondly, they take root in places where – to put it simply, where people, mostly young men, don’t have hope. If they – if they don’t have the prospects for education, for a job, for the ability to have a family and to take care of that family – if you look to the future and you don’t have any hope, then the recruiting allure of these extremist organizations starts to become more attractive. And we see the reverse is also very true, where people, again, mostly young men, where they view that they do have opportunities for education, and development, and participation in their government, and the opportunity for a better life, these extremist organizations have a very, very difficult time taking root in those situations.
So what that means to me is that while in the immediate circumstances, such as a situation in Somalia or in Northern Mali, there is perhaps a necessity for some military action. The military action will not be the solution. The solutions lie in non-military approaches and activities that will address the underlying causes of dissatisfaction, that, of course, mostly in the purview of the ambassador.
So I think it is important to keep this in perspective, that even in circumstances where a military effort is required, that military effort is not going to solve the long-term challenge.
AMB. DELL: There’s the questions of good governance, economic development – I would add another element to that which I think helps explain the way the modern manifestation of terrorism has developed is that we live in the information age, the ease of communication, the ease of spreading that message through social media and other networks, the ability it gives them to communicate, likeminded individuals to find each other, establish networks. I think they’ve proven very adept at exploiting these new technologies.
And that has become in fact a powerful sort of accelerant for the terrorist groups. It’s one of the unexpected consequences of the age we live in where, you know, media – information is opening up so many channels for good for so many people, and yet, there is this dark side to it where people of ill intent can exploit it to their own advantage. That’s one of the things we struggle with. These groups are very small. They’re very agile. They are able to take advantage of these things in the way that large, complex government bureaucratic structures have a much harder time keeping up with them.
So I think this is just one of those things. It’s a reflection of the modern era nobody had thought about, but it – the wonders of the Internet were launched, et cetera. It’s going to continue to pose a real challenge for us. We have to get better at it ourselves and figure out ways to use the Internet to promote economic growth, to promote good governance, to address the underlying causes that lead people down the path of extremism.
Q: I listened to you earlier, General Ham, on your cooperation with Nigeria to be able to tackle the, you know, the issue of Boko Haram. And I realize that last year, the defense headquarters placed a huge amount of money for anybody who has information on finding the whereabouts of 13 commanders, identified commanders, because we want to get – once you get the – (inaudible) – you’ll be able to get – you know, probably solve the problem, put a lasting solution.
Has there been any requests on the Nigerian government to the U.S. especially to help the government to be able to locate – (inaudible) – the commandant, especially the leader, Shekau, Abubakar Shekau, because there is the realization – we know that the United States government or military has the capability to be able to locate some of these terrorists, that is where they are hiding.
Has there been a specific request apart from some of the diplomatic, you know, meetings we have, normally when there is – (inaudible) – ask for help in – (inaudible) – actually move beyond the room, you know, where those words are spoken. So has there been a specific request asking for the head of the military of the U.S. to be able to locate some of these leaders?
And number two, you mentioned the issue of resistance when AFRICOM was set up. Do you still see some of this resistance coming into play in the present day operations?
GEN. HAM: First, the ability of the United States to perform functions, as you’re talking about, is sometimes exaggerated. We do have a lot of capability, but it’s not unlimited.
And as one example I would tell you that the number one priority for the U.S. government in the counterterrorist role had been since 1998 to find Osama bin Laden. It took us more than 10 years with – as the highest priority, the highest priority that we had in the counterterrorist role, and essentially unbounded resources. I mean, it was that important to us that a huge dedication of the – of the U.S. government across all aspects of the government to find this guy. And it took 10 years.
So I often accuse people of reading too many Tom Clancy novels. I don’t know if you read Tom Clancy novels, but in Tom Clancy novels, you know, it’s – we find people right away and do something. But, you know, of course, he has to do it in the confines of a couple of hundred page book. We are very good, but we’re not as good as some people make us out to be. So I think first is some expectation realization.
The second thing is with regard to support for other nations, you know, we are ready to offer within our capabilities support to other nations if they find that useful. In the case of Nigeria, Nigeria has great capability. What Nigeria has asked us for is not so much equipment or things like that, but is to help them – help the Nigerian military better understand how we use intelligence and information from various sources, how do you put that together in a coherent manner so that the government can then make wise choices as to actions that it may wish to undertake.
Information, as you know, comes from a wide variety of sources. It comes from the media. It comes from human sources. It comes from technical sources. It comes from a wide variety of means. And in Nigeria, like in the United States, multiple organizations have responsibilities for different pieces of that information collection and analysis process.
One of the things that we have learned over 11-plus hard years of learning in Iraq and Afghanistan is how do you – we call it fusion. How do you fuse all of that information in a coherent manner so that senior decision-makers can then give direction to the various entities of government? Nigeria has asked us to – for some help in that process and so that’s being undertaken now.
On the second question, there is – there are still some places where – whether they are individuals or organizations that still have questions about Africa Command. So we have some work still to do to convey what our purpose is and our accomplishments are. We do that best I think by our actions more than by our words. If our actions are valuable to African nations, to regional economic communities, to the African Union, then those actions I think will speak for themselves. But certainly there are still some doubters or questioners.
AMB. DELL: But I would add, I think – you know, AFRICOM has now been in existence for five years. I think a lot of the initial – what you would call the myth surrounding AFRICOM when it was first set up I think have been dispelled by the actual record of what the last five years have shown.
So in my own recent travels around the continent, I found less resistance to AFRICOM than I did when I was a chief of mission serving in Africa and there was discussion of setting it up. So I think there has been quite a bit of progress in this over the last five years.
GEN. HAM: And there was – just to add on to that. There was a lot of concern that we were going to establish U.S. military bases around the continent. There was a lot – concern and anxiety over that. And we haven’t done that. We have one place in Africa where we have an enduring presence. And that’s in Djibouti, where we have about 2,000 people in a strategically important location. And that gives us a capability, frankly, to move about the continent.
But that’s the only place where we have an enduring presence. For all other military presence, except for the attachés, of course, who are in the embassies, but the other military presence is usually short duration and for a specific purpose.
So, for example, there’s an exercise upcoming in the Gulf of Guinea. And so we’ll have a number of people, you know, present in the region for about a month, working with African partners for that maritime exercise and we’ll typically – we’ll have a ship and other assets present for those kinds of exercises. But they’re there limited time and for a specific purpose rather than a base and an enduring presence, with the exception of Djibouti.
Q: Ambassador Dell, let me start with you.
AMB. DELL: Yes.
Q: Looking at the fact that you work on the humanitarian side and especially with the peace support operations, I was reading a report yesterday on Mali and the growing cases of sexual assaults and violence.
What is AFRICOM doing in terms of working on this situation with African militaries and with some of the possible civilian partners you might have, because it’s a very big and invariable problem that comes up when you conflict situations?
Then my question to General Ham – terrorism has taken over everybody’s time and attention right now, but you still have instability with rebels in Central Africa. What is AFRICOM doing?
AMB. DELL: We’ve seen the reports, too, about the allegations of abuses occurring in Mali. It’s very troubling. As you say, though, this is a part of every conflict or historically has been a part of a conflict.
We’re not in a position right now to address the specifics of what’s going on in Mali. We’re not present in a significant way. As General Ham mentioned earlier, because of the political situation in Mali, we’re not allowed to have direct contact with the Malian military because of the involvement in the coup earlier, last year. So it’s difficult for us to have a direct kind of influence on the current situation in Mali. I’m very confident that our French partners are just as – you know, our traditional allies, West European nation, I’m sure they’re just as troubled by these reports and I think they’re investigating it actively.
Looking more broadly, a significant activity that the command is increasingly engaging in is human rights training for African militaries and leaders working in fact to empower women to play a larger role in the security sector, which I think will have a long-term positive impact on the way African armies, military units, security forces behave in conflict situations. Empowering women to have a larger voice in commanding those forces I think is going to have a long-term beneficial impact.
And we’re looking at various ways to support that. Right now, it takes place largely through conducting seminars and workshops through our public outreach section, working with African leaders, security sectors, to try and bring more women into the security sector, into the decision making process.
These are problems as old as – that have existed as long as mankind has been fighting wars. It’s only in the last, I would say, 100 years that people began to recognize that this kind of behavior was simply abhorrent and not consonant with the kinds of modern values that we’re all working to instill in our countries.
I’m saying that because I don’t want to mislead you. This is not a problem that’s going to get fixed overnight. I think this is a long-term shift in cultural norms and values that we have to work on with a long-term – with long-term determination. And that’s the approach I think AFRICOM has begun to take more broadly, although in specific exercise context, where we’d actually do military-to-military exercises and training, that’s always an element that we try and bring into it as well. So it takes place at these two levels, like gives you some sense of – we struggle with this problem. I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say it’s – it’s always a concern and a real challenge.
GEN. HAM: I would just add on the – on the issue of gender-based violence that we also find that in militaries where women are an accepted part of the military, then instances of gender-based violence drop dramatically. And this is –an area where Nigeria has been, and, in my view, should continue to lead in the expanding role and seniority of women in the military. Nigeria’s example can be very, very powerful to other African nations. So it’s – I think in – many other African nations are looking to Nigeria and to others to say, how can we more fully incorporate women into our ranks? And there’s been some positive – very positive signs.
I was talking with a military chief from another country, a country that has – a very, very tiny fraction of its military are women. And the chief of defense made a very wise observation. He said as we professionalize our force and we are seeking to recruit bright, young people to come into our military, he says, our current policies exclude half of the population of my country. And he says, we can’t afford to do that. And I thought that was a pretty good way to look at this that if you want to have the best people come into your military, then you’ve got to find ways to more fully incorporate women into the military. We’re still going through this. You may have seen news just last week where Secretary Panetta made some announcements about how the U.S. military – I mean, we’re still evolving. We’re still going through this process as well.
To your second question about Central Africa, it is an exceedingly difficult portion of the continent for us to operate. It’s tough to get access. We don’t have the same cultural and historical linkages in many places in Central Africa, but I’d highlight three activities that are ongoing.
The first is the African Union-led effort to capture Joseph Kony and the other senior leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army indicted by the International Criminal Court and bring them to justice.
In late 2011, my president gave us direction to provide support to the militaries of the four African countries involved – Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and Democratic Republic of Congo. So, today, we have about 100 U.S. Special Forces advisers who are embedded in those four countries. And our role is not to be out conducting patrols to capture Kony. It won’t surprise you that the soldiers of those four African countries are better at doing that than we would ever be. They know the language. They know the terrain. They know the culture. They’re much more effective.
So our role is to say, what can we do to help them? Better intelligence, long-range communications, logistics sustainment for long periods in the field. We provide some airlift to move them about and a bit of medical assistance, programs like that. So, again, our role as a supporting and enabling role to provide some capabilities to the African forces, which they don’t have themselves.
The results have been pretty good. Over the past few months, a couple of senior lieutenants in the Lord’s Resistance Army have defected to turn themselves in. In one case, in a firefight, one was killed. Increasing numbers of particularly young people who have been captured by the Lord’s Resistance Army have found means to escape. We used fliers and broadcasts to encourage them to do so and then they have the four African countries to protect them. And that’s worked out pretty well. So that’s one instance.
The real mission is to get Kony in front of the International Criminal Court. That’s not been done yet, but efforts are under way. And Kony, in my view, is now really in survival mode rather than performing some of the horrific acts which he’s performed before.
A second is the ongoing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, which involves many different militias. We do not have a military-to-military relationship with the Sudanese armed forces, but we do with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, the South Sudanese Army. And we think, again, our best role is helping them transition – from a revolutionary force, a guerrilla force that was fighting against the legitimate government, how do you help them now professionalize and become an instrument of the state, a legitimate military organization. They’re too big. They’re much larger than they need to be. It’s too costly. It puts too much of a drain on the South Sudan’s budget. They’re too top-heavy. They have too many generals so there’s some – some acts, some reform that has to occur so our activities with Sudan to help them – with South Sudan to help them do that.
And then, lastly, the tough one is in the Great Lakes region, in Kivu, with the M23 organization in and around Goma and as a very, very difficult situation, and one difficult for us to engage in. The United Nations’ largest mission anywhere in the world is in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We provide substantial support to that. We’re very, very supportive of a negotiated resolution and we are supportive of the nations coming together on a military side.
We’re looking to find ways, again, for – to help the nations strengthen their border security capabilities, so Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo, so that they can better control their borders and impede what appears to me at least to be the freedom of movement that these rebel groups have to move throughout the region.
The good news is they’re not fighting or at least not fighting much right now certainly compared to a few months ago. And our support will continue to be with the ongoing negotiations. But you’re correct to point out. It is probably the most difficult part of the continent for us to operate in.
MR. : Before we conclude, I would still like to let our military members, if they have any questions that you might want to ask.
Q: With the role of AFRICOM as an observer in chiefs of defense staff conferences and their – (inaudible) – activities, are you satisfied with the relationship and the role AFRICOM has played in the relationship?
GEN. HAM: Our role, frankly, is whatever the chiefs want it to be. You know, we don’t go anywhere uninvited. It has been useful at least for the past few years for us to offer some support for such conferences. And so we’ve done them for chiefs of defense. We’ve also done it for army chiefs, navy chiefs, air chiefs, both on a continental basis and then also regionally.
And so we’re always – we’re listening. We want to be helpful in the ways that the chiefs want us to help. And if a little bit of U.S. support, you know, to contract for a facility, or to provide a little bit of transportation to help bring the chiefs together, we’re glad to continue to do that.
As Ambassador Dell mentioned, the relationships are vitally important. You know, as you look around Africa, in most places, the conflict is between adjoining states. And if we can help facilitate dialogue, understanding, building of relationships between the military leaders in adjoining states maybe, just maybe, you’ll lessen the likelihood of conflict, which is something we all want to do. So we’re glad to help where our help is requested. And we think that’s useful for us. It’s actually very, very rewarding to have the opportunity to – as an outsider - to be invited to listen to those conversations.
And I would – I would just highlight one such session to which I was invited in East Africa. The military chiefs had been directed by their heads of state to come together to talk about a military campaign in Somalia. And they invited me to join them. I didn’t say anything. It was their conference. And it was fascinating to watch that. It’s very encouraging to watch that, to see those very senior military chiefs fight, and argue, and struggle, debate, but ultimately come up with a plan that says, OK. We’re all agreed to this and then it can move forward. So if a little bit of help from us in bringing such leaders together is useful, we’re glad to do so.
Q: OK. Sir, like you said, that military action is not the solution. So what is the strategy? Or is AFRICOM looking at using the military to stimulate – (inaudible) – industrial complex – (inaudible) – involved in manufacturing, I think that – (inaudible) – instead of manufacturing war items.
GEN. HAM: I’ll ask the ambassador to comment on this as well. While the military is not the solution, there is often a military component to the solution. And that’s where I think AFRICOM comes in. We believe that, obviously, conflict prevention is preferable to engaging in conflict and then seeking conflict resolution. So prevention is the goal.
We believe, and our experience is, one of the necessary conditions for prevention is a capable, competent military force, as one of the guarantors of peace and stability is to have a capable professional military force. And that’s why so much of our effort is expended in helping African nations build the type of military that they need -- not that we need, but that that country needs to meet its security objectives -- because if – very selfishly, from a U.S. standpoint, if African militaries are capable of providing for their own security and stability and increasingly contribute to regional security and stability, that dramatically decreases the likelihood that the U.S. military will have to be engaged.
And we like that. We – you know, I mean – like most soldiers, you know, the people who least like military involvement are soldiers because we’ve seen what the cost is. But we also recognize you have to be prepared for it. So that’s – I think that’s why we spend so much time on security force development.
AMB. DELL: Yeah. I would add to it – I don’t think that the direct role for AFRICOM or the United States writ large is to help Nigeria transition its defense industries to a civilian role. I think that would be a relatively minor contribution to economic growth.
I think economic growth comes about when you’ve got good governance, when you’ve got institutions, including the security sector, that respect the constitutional order. You create a context in which economic development can occur. The role of the military in this is to help provide security and stability so that people can go about their lives, the civilian sector can go about their lives creating jobs, trading, engaging economic activity. I think the military can play a very direct and important role in providing security in areas like the sea lanes, which so much of Nigeria’s economy depend for the export of oil resources, which can then be used and can play back into economic development.
But the role of the military in this, the role of the U.S. military of AFRICOM is only one small part of what the United States government really has to work with Nigeria on. And we’re not necessarily – people are the right tools for helping outside of the security sector foster good governance. I think our State Department, USAID, are the agencies of the U.S. government more directly involved in helping Nigeria put in place those kinds of systems and institutions that Nigeria wants for itself.
We’re not – we’re not naïve. We know that this is a real challenge in Nigeria that you’ve got significant problems in terms of corruption, weak governance in some aspects, a rapidly growing population, a huge population in a relatively small geographic space. This is not something that’s going to be solved through military solutions. I think we can help provide a bit of the enabling context, but the real – the brunt of the activity is going to fall elsewhere, both the government of Nigeria and whatever support the United States can offer.
MR. : We’ve run out of time so –
GEN. HAM: I was – I was just looking at that. So yeah. So let me just close by saying thanks for making the trip. And I’m sorry – we only allowed you one single shot. I’m sorry. But the other thing you can do is you can give Colonel Davis your questions and we can do it.
Your presence here is important. One of the fundamental tenets of a free society, an open society is a free and open press, a responsible press with – that’s informed, that takes its responsibility seriously.
And as Ambassador Dell mentioned, this competition for ideas in the information space is increasingly important, whether it’s from an extremist organization, you know, that are not bound by the rules of truth or anything like – I mean, they can just say whatever they want to say, or whether it’s you who are bounded by a set of principles and guidance that, yes, you have to be very fast and you have to – but you also have to be accurate and truthful. And people rely on you. I rely on reporters to get a sense of what’s going on. So I’m glad that you’ve taken the time to make the journey up here. I’m sorry it’s so cold, but it’s Germany. You know, that happens sometimes. But your role is very, very important and for the military as well.
So I would encourage you, and I hope one of the outcomes of this program is that you have now links and ties to the military media specialists so you know who to go to in the Nigerian military to say, hey, I have a question about this or I heard this report. Can you confirm or deny? If you’re like me, sometimes the answer is no, I’m not going to comment on that, you know. But the free exchange of ideas is important.
And for the military, while there are always some things which must be kept out of the public view for operations and security means, we also have to remind ourselves that we are institutions of the government, and we are servants of the people, and the people have a right to know generally what we’re doing. Not necessarily the specific operational details, because we all understand for reasons – some reasons though – some of those have to be kept very closely held – but more broadly, what’s my army doing? What’s my air force doing? What’s my navy doing? You have a role to help people understand that and working together with your partners in the Nigerian military I think will be very productive in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.
AMB. DELL: I just want to say thank you. I hope it was useful for you. Look forward to seeing you in Nigeria one of these days.
GEN. HAM: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. OK. And we’ll keep our fingers crossed for the quarterfinals. (Laughter.) OK.