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TRANSCRIPT: AFRICOM's General Ward Interviewed by the BBC's Nick Childs
NICK CHILDS: Right. We&#39;re ready to go ahead. <br /> <br />Just first of all, tell me about your thoughts when you were selected for the job. I mean, did you have a clear idea of what the job was, what Africa Command would become, as far as
NICK CHILDS: Right. We're ready to go ahead.

Just first of all, tell me about your thoughts when you were selected for the job. I mean, did you have a clear idea of what the job was, what Africa Command would become, as far as you were concerned?

GENERAL WILLIAM WARD: Well, as I was confirmed for the job I had been a part of, in an indirect way, the transition work. As the deputy commander of EUCOM, I certainly was aware of the decision, as with the transition -- did not know obviously that I would be the first commander because that's obviously something that the president would need to do to have the decision confirmed by the Senate.

But I was aware of the work of the strategy team, the broad objectives of the secretary of defense and the president, and why this command was being established, and so I did have an idea of this notion of creating a command that had more of an interagency construct to it, a flavor to it, so that as we developed our plans and our programs -- prior to execution -- we had a greater understanding of the work being done by others, so that the intent would be to create an endeavor that would be more effective in delivering security assistance because it was more comprehensive and at least recognized the work being done by others, and therefore we'd be executing it and implementing it in a more effective way. So I did have ideas and notions and an understanding of what it was we wanted to do prior to having been confirmed by the Senate.

MR. CHILDS: In terms of its genesis, if you'd like, it's had a slightly bumpy start in the sense that it's created some unease, some hostility, in some ways, because people have seen this as the United States looking at ways to beef up its counterterrorism efforts, maybe to establish bases in the countries concerned. Was that a failure on the part of the United States, that that perception has arisen, and how much of a problem has it been for you?

GEN. WARD: I think one of the things that we faced was a reaction to what was a good intention, and that is to talk to those who would be the recipients of this new command, and ways to let them know that we are doing something different and new. And as that effort was undertaken, as the consultations occurred, there were various things of the presentations that were made that were taken as emphasis items as opposed to the true meaning of why we reformed ourselves in this way, to create a more effective delivery of our security programs.

And so it has had an effect on me because we have taken time now to try to reverse, to right the perception if you will, and so as I do a lot of my engagement and my outreach I'm doing things now, speaking to various audiences and groups through the African continent, other parts of the world, trying to say this is what we're talking about. It's not a decision that was taken to establish a redefinition of our policy, it was a decision taken to reorganize what we are already doing but to do that work in delivering programs in the more effective manner, again, keeping with things that we're asked to do by the nations of Africa and their organizations, and those activities all being consistent with our State and U.S. foreign policy objectives. And as I talked to that message, as my deputies take that message, there is greater acceptance.

But you're right; we are overcoming some of those prior perceptions that were just not representative of what the real intent and purpose of the command was.

MR. CHILDS: Have you had to back off some of the ideas, mainly, that you had? I mean, there's been a lot of focus recently on this question of whether you're going to put a headquarters in the continent and if so, where it might be. I mean, have you had to rethink that and what are the plans?

GEN. WARD: Right. Personally, I have not rethought that because for me, since my time as being appointed as the commander, it has always been our notion that the presence of the headquarters on the continent would come as a result of how we see it facilitating the delivery of our programs and where that might occur. Right now, there are no definite plans to take the headquarters or a portion of it to any particular location on the continent. Those things will come over time as we determine the efficacy of taking that type of decision and then, obviously, being in great discussion with a particular host nation. And we have not done that, we --

MR. CHILDS: So that's not going to happen in the next year or so?

GEN. WARD: No, no. It will not happen in the next year or so. Right now, as we establish the headquarters that's being stood up in Stuttgart, and the work that we are focused on is work that we ensure continuity in the delivery of our programs to the continent.

Having said that, do I spend a lot of time on the continent? I sure do.
Do my deputies spend a lot of time on the continent? We sure do, but in various places. I mean, the work of the command has not been one particular location; it's, you know, throughout the continent to the best we can make that the case. And so wherever we are, we by definition have to be out and about in very different places in order to be as effective as we can be. And so this is a mobile environment. We have to get around to establish the relationships that we want to establish and meet with folks, and meet with people and leaders, and discuss our programs with those who are affected by the programs, the nations, as well as their regional organizations. So we are spending a lot of time doing a lot of traveling, and we've had to do that wherever we were.

MR. CHILDS: In terms of the backdrop of what's actually happening on the continent, in some respects it looks as if things are going downhill in some ways. Now, you talked about part of your aim is to sort of set conditions for preventing conflicts and yet, there's continued concern, grave concern about Darfur and Chad, unease now about what's happening in Kenya. How is that affecting your planning and the priorities you're setting?

GEN. WARD: I think we've got to be humble -- we have to be focused on long-term results. What's happening now on the continent can't be reversed overnight. What we have to do is focus on the work that we do that leads to long-term results, that lead to the long-term stability that we all would desire.

And so our method, our intent, is to do things in a sustained way. That may not allow you to wake up tomorrow morning and get to see a sea change or something, but in 10 years, you can look at me and tell me, with those efforts, there has been a difference, much in the same way as we look back at what happened in Europe and Asia -- over time -- produces the sort of impact, the sort of results that make a difference. And it doesn't happen overnight; these are long-term, sustained endeavors recognizing where we are and helping to put things in place that lead to societal stability and then with, you know, security that you don't create that overnight, that these things come with time. And so this is not a short-term, quick-fix, now-it's-all-right endeavor; this is a long-term commitment, sustained engagement that over time we think will lead to the sorts of stability that, in fact, is lasting.

And oh, by the way, there are examples of that on the continent now and yes, for sure, there are troubled places and there are conflicts, but there are other places where things are going ahead in substantial ways and important ways, and we want to reinforce that as well. So I think that's where we are and we will continue to support these short-term crises, from disasters to other things that certainly are important of the day, but in ways that are consistent with our national policy objectives and what we are asked to do by those who are taking actions in those objectives.

MR. CHILDS: Is there a flipside to these issues of unease and concern about what you are doing, in the sense that there's almost a sort of tyranny of expectations that the United States has created an Africa Command, that when there is a crisis you're going to be expected to respond in stronger ways than have happened in the past? Is that a worry?

GEN. WARD: I think the expectations that may arise can be a worry, for sure. The notion that this now exists, so therefore do something -- it is certainly part of the landscape, the potential of what people would expect. We have to deal with that. I think it is also when you talk about the flipside of that; you know, intervention, military intervention, that's also something that is not desirable. And so, you know, managing expectations is a part of what we have to deal with and sometimes you satisfy people with what you say and other times you don't, and that's, you know, kind of what it is. But the expectation management is a flipside of this created command.

Another is that this comes with additional resources -- that's one of my points there; it doesn't follow that automatically mean that resources for security systems will automatically be there. What it does mean is that for the first time there's a unified command that, when the resources are distributed and prioritized for various activities around the world, the continent of Africa has an equal voice at the table to those -- at those sessions, just as has been the case for other parts of the world: Europe, the Americas, Asia. And so again, not to guarantee it but again, a focused advocate for doing things to assist in building partner capacity for our friends in Africa as well.

MR. CHILDS: So at the moment you're not going to have any extra sort of military capabilities, any extra-military resources? That's not really what you're about, you're saying.

GEN. WARD: That's correct. I mean, this notion of large garrisons and assignment of forces to do things, that's not what it's about. It's a desire to look at the programs that we are delivering, and how can we more effectively deliver those programs; how can we, over time, work to make a case for maybe increasing the ability to deliver those programs to be sure.

But that comes with being an advocate of what we're doing and then causing what we do to be seen as preventive security as opposed to reacting to crisis situations. And by doing things to help build capacity, to help professionalize militaries, to help address the needs of humanitarian suffering where military and militaries who are responsive to legitimate civil governments have a role in how we can facilitate and increase the ability of the African nations to do those sorts of things.

MR. CHILDS: Do you think, in a way, that there's been too much focus on AFRICOM, that that's been a problem? Everyone's seen that, as far as the United States is concerned, it's AFRICOM at the moment.

GEN. WARD: I don't know if I recall it too much. I might say that it's misperceived. Again, we had a notion of letting, of wanting to let our effective audiences know what we were doing, internally with our reorganization to show that we are trying to do our work in a more effective way and more effective manner. Because of that, it's created expectations that have been the focus because of misunderstandings, misperceptions. And so in some regard it has created, you know, this reaction that has not really been reflective of what the real and true intent is. I'm okay with that because it has given enthusiasm -- there's enthusiasm for what we're doing; I think the fact that we are seen as an organization who recognizes the fact that there are other actors involved, that this is a larger requirement to deal with than just the military component; all the other players who are involved, various international actors to various private actors to various interagency actors within our own government. So the enthusiasm for this enterprise, the creation of this command, is something that I welcome.

And so I'm not at all displeased with this level of attention. Now, we're working to get it moving in a direction as we stand the command up that causes it to be better understood, and then causes it to hopefully be received in the way that others said yes, this can be value-added and our collective endeavor, our collective attempt to increase overall stability in the continent of Africa.

MR. CHILDS: You're standing up as a proper unified command in October.
What's Africa Command going to look like at the end of the year, in say, new year's time?

GEN. WARD: Yeah, you're correct. Right now, we are a sub-unified command, a part of -- sub-unified to U.S.-European Command as we go through this transition. In a year's time, AFRICOM will still be a maturing organization. We will be a learning, a growing organization. In a year's time, we will have looked through the various missions, activities, programs, and exercises that are being conducted across the continent; developed our methods for transferring those activities to our now three separate commands into a single command, AFRICOM. We will have further established relations with various members of the international community, with various interagency members of our own government, with various members of the non-governmental structures that exist. So we will be building and solidifying those relationships; we will have worked to harmonize in a better way the programs that we are conducting currently on the continent. And we will continue to look for ways to improve upon that.

So, the AFRICOM that exists today will be different from the one that exists in a year, and that one will be different from the one that exists in five years. And so our effectiveness, our look at how we do our business, will continue to evolve and I would say that in five, 10 years, our designs will be either different because we will get better at greater clarity, better understanding in what we're doing because we will have been listening to others and making adjustments as we move ahead.

So in a year you will see a command that has accepted responsibility for the work of the Department of Defense on the continent of Africa, so that when there's a question about our work as opposed to determining, well, is this European command or is this Central command or is this Pacific command, it's a single command; it's an AFRICOM. And then we will be able to go out and work with others to hopefully cause greater clarity and provide better delivery of security assistance to the programs to the continent and its island nations.

MR. CHILDS: You said five to 10 years. I mean, how long do you think it will take before AFRICOM is fully fledged?

GEN. WARD: It continues to grow. I look at what goes on in our current structure now; NORTHCOM, Southern Command -- Southern Command is still evolving. I've spent time talking to my counterpart commander there and he tells me about the things that they continue to do and change. EUCOM is changing today and so, when we say it's fully fledged, I don't know if I know exactly what that means. I mean, I don't think you get to and end-state and, okay, now, we're here, this is it. We will continue to evolve and continue to change; we'll continue to adapt to the environment, growing, learning, as we do that. And so it will be a work in progress, I think, for -- because we want to be want to be a learning organization, so we don't want to get to a point and then just stagnate. And so it will be something that will continue to evolve, I believe.

I think the important thing, though, is that when it comes to the work of the Department of Defense, it will be done through AFRICOM as we work with the entirety of the Department of Defense and the services, obtaining resources for our military-to-military training, helping to grow capacity.

As an example, African nations have come to say, we want to improve our maritime safety and security; we want to improve our air domain safety and awareness, building those sorts of programs. And so those will be -- those don't happen overnight. They want training, personnel; getting the requisite equipment in place to have monitoring systems in place linking those vast borders; how to do the nations cooperate with one another; those are things that we continue to do, and that's how we define our continuous activities as we work with these nations over time but in a sustaining and persistent way as opposed to being episodic and sporadic in the approach to helping them build this capacity.

STAFF: A couple more minutes.

MR. CHILDS: Thank you very much, that's fine; that was great.

Thank you.

GEN. WARD: Nice to meet you.