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TRANSCRIPT: Commander of Special Operations Command Africa Interviewed on Counter-LRA Efforts
<i>Rear Admiral Brian Losey, commander of Special Operations Command Africa, talked to journalists about the U.S. military&#39;s involvement in countering the Lord&#39;s Resistance Army, April 24, 2012, emphasizing that it is an African-led
Rear Admiral Brian Losey, commander of Special Operations Command Africa, talked to journalists about the U.S. military's involvement in countering the Lord's Resistance Army, April 24, 2012, emphasizing that it is an African-led effort.

"We are supporting and enabling an African-led effort. We have to do business in a manner that is acceptable and digestible to their ways of doing business," Losey said.

He added that the goals are to coordinate and integrate operations activities with African partners. "In the end, it will be our partners that determine what success is or not," Losey explained. "Very clearly, the LRA is embodied by Joseph Kony. It's the one measureable end state that perhaps has been identified. But again, if our African partners feel the LRA has been marginalized to the extent that the population is protected and the LRA as an entity that proffers atrocities onto civilians does not exist anymore, and we have a sustainable capacity to maintain that, then perhaps that may call that success."

The protection of civilians, said Losey, is one of the variables that can be controlled, therefore, a major focus of the U.S. military is increasing the capacity of Central African armies to be able to protect their citizens.

"If the atrocities visited upon the people in the last quarter century cannot occur anymore because the security situation--the early warning systems, the ability for the LRA to support themselves doesn't exist--then you've reached an alternative end state that really neutralizes the LRA."

The complete transcript of Losey's interview is included below. (See also: Ham Discusses U.S. Military's Role in Counter-LRA Efforts) REAR ADMIRAL BRIAN LOSEY: OK. Well, first, I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you all today. And this is an important mission for us for I know a number of reasons that General Ham described. This is a different way of doing business for us. It fits what AFRICOM does. It is designed to address African issues in an African way. Necessarily, it's a small footprint operation. There's not a lot of bodies involved, but it leverages the strengths that we feel we bring to supporting our African partners in dealing with some of these issues, in particular the LRA. So we see this as a good way of doing business here. It's not the only way. And it may not fit in other theaters necessarily, but it certainly fits the LRA context. And I think you'll see that when you go down range and talk with the folks. It's a complex operation. Although we're not in a technical environment, nonetheless it's extremely complex culturally, politically, geographically and also from a standpoint of the craftiness of the people that are involved. They've been on the run for 25 years now. They've visited tremendous atrocities on the people in the region. And those effects have been scarring to the people. You can see that there today. It's taken on almost a supernatural quality for some of the people there. So it's very, very important that we do what we're doing as our president directed, as legislation directs and as supported and welcomed by our African partners. So couple key things to note though and things that don't come out with a lot of clarity, we emphasize that we are supporting and enabling an African-led effort, OK? We're not the lead. I think there are, at times, expectations amongst the population or folks that aren't tracking careful wordings in the media that we're leading the effort and that the United States has brought, you know, the full force of its capabilities to bear. It's not true. We are supporting and enabling an African-led effort. We have to do business in a manner that is acceptable and digestible to their ways of doing business. We have to be sensitive, too, to the dynamics in the region as we work with four adjacent states on a problem that's easy to line up on but less easy to actually implement multilateral actions. And so we feel that that's one of the strengths that we bring is the teamwork and the team building, using a little bit of our communications technology perhaps to bring a common understanding into what we call a common operating picture, and with that common understanding, developing ways to simultaneously apply pressure ultimately to localize, contain, isolate and then focus our efforts, because the region that we're operating in is substantial. It's an area roughly the size of California. It spans four different states, and they range rather widely across different areas. So one of the other challenges we have is these operations have been going on for years, quite some time. And our U.S. involvement has been at different levels since around 2003. There's a tremendous amount of information that is out there. We know a lot, but do we understand a lot? And it's getting to the crux of everything that we've absorbed and understand over time, bringing that into a common understanding so that everybody can say, well, you know, based on the season, based on the flooding, based on, in the dry season, where the water's at, the migratory patterns of animals, based on where people go with respect -- all these dimensions weigh into where people can exist and choose to exist. And understanding the whole of that, using little bits of technology as we're able to, to reinforce that, crunching all the data together to find where patterns are in the history of this thing are all things that we're bringing; reinforce that with communications. Necessarily when you look at our counterparts here, they're operating over extended ranges. They have varying capabilities with respect to their ability to resupply themselves. So logistics sustainment in this wide-ranging area is important. How do you feed the troops? How do you -- you know, how do they not have to forage for themselves in this environment? And so there has been a significant logistics effort. I believe since 2008 we've provided roughly $50 million in logistic support to enable these sorts of things. But having people on the ground and able to look at logistics sustainment processes is an important piece of what we bring to the effort as well. So in the end bringing everybody together, sharing common understanding, coordinating or integrating operations activities with what our understanding is what we seek to do. And in the end, it will be our partners that determine what success is or is not. Very clearly, the LRA is embodied by Joseph Kony. It's the one measurable end state that perhaps has been identified. But again, if our African partners feel the LRA has been marginalized to the extent that the population is protected and the LRA, as an entity that proffers atrocities onto civilians, does not exist anymore and we have a sustainable capacity to maintain that, then perhaps they may call that success. So it's hard to define all that. Although we do know what the one or two measurable end-state effects are that we're aiming at, in the end it'll be our African partners that drive what mission success is on this. So with that, I'll stop. I'd like to answer your questions. MR. : Sir, thank you for those very comprehensive opening comments. So we'll do the same thing with -- (inaudible) -- REAR ADM. LOSEY: Sure. MR. : -- we can start with Jeffrey. Q: Thanks, Admiral, for making yourself available. Two questions to start with; one, couldn't you be more effective with more troops? A hundred doesn't sound like a lot. I mean, you yourself just said it was an area the size of California, over four states. And two, can you -- it's confusing to me; what's the most forward any of your guys are? Like, I understand -- you know, everybody's been emphasizing that they're assisting and training, that they're not, you know, leading this, but what does that actually mean on the ground? What's the most forward they are? ADM. LOSEY: OK. Let me answer your first question first. I think that, one, our force structure right now is what's authorized. Two, I think that given how we're operating at the moment that it's entirely adequate, again, supporting and enabling. We're not outside of our forward basing areas. Again, the functions that I described, whether it's sharing of information and intelligence, fusing that into a common operating picture, integrating that into operations across the LRA-affected areas, reinforcing that with communications, improving logistics efficiencies -- all those things can be done from forward operating locations, not necessarily on patrol. So I would say to you that I think our footprint is about right. I think it's also important to recognize that what we put in there, you know, has to be a supporting effort, not a leading effort. And that's what 100 people gives to you, OK? They're mature operators. They're seasoned. And they've got about the right tools to provide the support in a way that our counterparts can absorb that. And then the second question? Q: The second question is -- you sort of answered that in answering the first -- is how forward are they? ADM. LOSEY: OK. Well, I've mentioned before and it's fairly general -- your folks have been out -- different elements of your organizations have been out (there). Dungu would be as far out as we are from Entebbe, which is really the center of gravity for our command and control elements. And again, operating by and large in that local area, doing training functions, conducting meetings -- they have a combined operations fusion center, which brings civil authorities, military counterparts and all the other influencers in the area together to try and generate common understanding and consensus on what can be done -- and also, to an extent, to understand what it is we can do, expectation management. Q: And just to follow up a little bit; I've been to Obo, I've been to some of these areas. So you -- so there are no special forces guys leading and going into the -- to the bush with the Ugandans, looking -- you know, following the tracks that they follow? ADM. LOSEY: Not our role to track -- right now, supporting and enabling. And largely, you know, I can't give you an exact distance from our forward operating base there in Obo or in Dungu or in Djema or wherever, but within that local area. There are training activities and the guys do go out, and they're working, you know, basic military soldiering skills and the like, touching up on different tracking skills. So all those things are going on, but in a training context. Patrols are conducted by the African partners. Q: Thank you, sir. MR. : All right. Q: Admiral, a quick brief question follow -- (inaudible) -- on something you said to Jeffrey. You said our size of our force is adequate to the mission. As they're already -- you know, since the mission started six months ago, has there been discussion about possibly changing that? Can you foresee a change in mission if the targets change or that you might have to recast your forces? Or do you think this will be a sufficient model throughout? ADM. LOSEY: I think we need a little more time to determine that. I think that under the current operating context, we haven't fully matured all the dimensions that -- of our support and enablement. There's still plenty of room to grow in terms of the effects that we can achieve with the footprint that we have right now. Q: And if I could follow up with a broader question, U.S. special operation forces obviously -- they had a critical and crucial role in the global war on terrorism over the last 10 years. Your forces -- (bring a lot of expertise and experience). What lessons are your forces in Central Africa drawing on missions elsewhere? Or is this really a unique operating environment? ADM. LOSEY: I think this is a unique operating environment. You know, the lessons that you draw from different theaters of operation are applicable to those theaters of operation. But they also give you some context and depth for understanding what's different about the environment that you're in right now so you don't displace the wrong lessons you've learned previously into this environment. You know, when you look at, for example, the Colombian struggle with the FARC, much more of a similarity in that regard and a lot more mass with the FARC than you had with the LRA. But you're dealing geographically with an area that's larger, four separate state entities involved. I mean, these are not insignificant dimensions of the operation right now, but a lot more relevant to that context than would be to Iraq or Afghanistan. Q: Who are the kinds of soldiers? What kind of skills do they need for this mission? ADM. LOSEY: Well, the soldiers are from operational detachment alphas. And they come with all the basic special forces operating skills provided by Army special forces. So we are talking about, again, all the things that sustain and enable an operation that I've already covered, along with the skills to actually do that. And we're not doing that, but in order to teach, you ought to have been able to do. And they certainly have those skills. And I know that Mr. Gettleman has been in the field with the folks before. You know, you could ask the question whether they need much help in their ability to operate in the field. And I would say I don't think so. I think they're pretty darn effective at operating in their way. And so, you know, we bring something a little bit different. And that's where the synergy is -- it's the difference -- bringing things together. We also bring a lot of staffing processes that are tailored towards ferretting out the key bits of information that allow us to perhaps localize populations or folks operating within populations and then starting to isolate and contain those things. So these are all things we're working on. Q: I was slightly confused. You said we're not doing that, but we know how to do that. Could you define what you're not doing? ADM. LOSEY: Sure. Yeah. We're not doing patrols in the field. We're simply doing training functions and enabling functions. OK. Q: I wanted to expand on something you had said before. I'm -- I guess the general question is what specifically -- this has been ongoing for a long time -- they've been going for a long time. What does your group bring to the table and what are the -- some of the specific challenges that they're -- that they've -- or deficiencies that they've seen and they're addressing? You mentioned logistics was one thing, and also -- and some of the basic soldiering skills like tracking. Can you elaborate a little bit more on what sorts of things they are teaching the forces there, and knowing that that different forces have different capabilities in the areas? ADM. LOSEY: To tell you the truth, I'm not sure that we're teaching. And I wouldn't describe any features that we would have discovered as deficiencies. There are things that we have from our experience base that may bring a different approach into things. And I think that's -- again, it's the differences and the sharing of different ways of doing business that can be beneficial -- sometimes not always applicable. The big benefit right now -- what makes us a little bit different is the fact that we are having troop-to-troop contact in the field to do these training functions and to understand what's happening at the ground level up. When you're operating from embassies and through normal governmental structures that don't involve troops in the field, I think you get a slightly different tilt on things. So we're able to actually feel and understand, as you will when you go out in the field, to see, you know, who is the FACA who are the FARDC, you know, who are the SPLA, who are the UPDF. And you'll see the distinctions between them and how we have to adapt to try and bring that stuff together to create some fusion about of that. I think that's really the key thing, is contact. Q: So this is a learning process also for the U.S. troops that are on the ground? ADM. LOSEY: Oh, absolutely. We are constantly learning. Q: Thank you, sir. Q: Are you sure that you know the UPDF wants to catch Kony? The FACA doesn't do anything against the rebels ?) -- (inaudible)? Are you sure that they want to catch him? It's the only army in the region. ADM. LOSEY: I think our partners are committed without question. I think there are differences in how they operate, clearly. And again, you'll see that. There's no question of commitment. Who can -- who cannot be committed against Joseph Kony and the LRA with what they've done -- with what they've visited on the people. There's an obligation for these governments to protect their civilians. And that's what their militaries are charged with doing. And that's what we're helping them to do. I don't -- I have no question that there's commitment there, particularly among the UPDF who we've had the most amount of contact with. Q: It's not just journalistic cynicism though. I mean, you hear it from Ugandans -- civilians that, you know, Museveni doesn't want to catch him. ADM. LOSEY: I've not heard that. I've not -- there's no question in my mind that the UPDF -- I mean, this is a very visceral thing for the Ugandans in particular given the origins of the LRA and how they've evolved over time and what it's meant to Uganda. There's no question that the Ugandans are committed to eradicate the LRA, in my mind. Q: Can you tell us then, what's your sense of the LRA? Like, what's driving them? What's their capabilities? There were some people before that told me they were very impressed by their bush fighting skills. Like, we think of the LRA as these kind of just, you know, lunatics running around, but they're actually pretty strong, able bush fighters. But I'd like to hear from you, sort of what's your sense, you know, of their capabilities and what do you think is driving them? ADM. LOSEY: OK. Well, if you live in the bush you'll be good in the bush. So none of us should be amazed or awed by their capability to sustain themselves in the bush. I think it's broadly acknowledged -- this is not my personal view, I'm just going to cite the general sensing of everybody that we come in contact with -- that the -- they are committed to their own survival. Their ideology sustains only themselves. And every evidence we have right now is they are in survival mode, the character of their attacks have changed, and they can change again because with applied military pressure we've seen repeatedly that they will attempt to strike back and reassert themselves. But the end state serves nothing other than their own existence, and that should be all the more reason that we have common footing multilaterally across international organizations in the region to put an end to this. Q: And admiral -- MR. : We have time for a few more questions. Q: Admiral, in general, what's the quality of your intelligence on Kony's whereabouts? Do you have a better idea than you did six months ago about where he might be? And is this still a needle in a haystack or do you feel more confident than you did six years ago that he'll be able to be killed or captured? ADM. LOSEY: I am confident that we have room to improve our understanding of all the dimensions of the LRA and Joseph Kony operating in that environment. I'm confident that we know more now than we knew six months ago. And I'm confident that over time that we will get to the end states that our president has set out for us with respect to the LRA. Whether that means Joseph Kony being captured, I don't know. Those are things that we can't control. But we can control the protection of civilians. We can increase the capacities of Central African armies. We can instill and advance professionalization, obedience to civil authority, adherence to rule of law, standards of conduct -- all these things that give vulnerable populations confidence in their government's security forces. And in the end, you know, long-term stability and security in the region is in the interest of African states and in the interest of the United States. Q: You know, General Ham said that for him, he saw the LRA as an organization where if you cut off the head, that would decapitate the organization. Would you agree with that assessment? ADM. LOSEY: I agree absolutely. I think many -- as I stated before, Joseph Kony is considered the embodiment of the LRA. You know, so the question is, if Joseph Kony is removed, does the LRA end? I think so. Can the LRA end without the removal of Joseph Kony? That's up for our African partners to decide. Q: So how could the mission be successful if he's not removed? ADM. LOSEY: Well again, the variables that we can control is protection of civilians. If the atrocities visited upon the people in the last quarter century cannot occur anymore because the security situation -- the early warning systems, the ability for the LRA to support themselves doesn't exist -- then you've reached an alternative end state that really neutralizes the LRA. MR. : We have time for about two more questions. Q: Obviously you approach this in a military way, but there is a strong spiritual dimension, isn't there, to the LRA and to the efforts locally to try and reduce its power over the people. I wonder how -- you mentioned the cultural dimension to the challenges you face. I wonder how that spiritual dimension -- people are afraid of him because of the things he claims to be spiritually. ADM. LOSEY: Yes, sir. Well, we certainly -- we can't ignore the perceptions of people that operate in the environment around us. Regardless of what we feel, it's a very real thing for them. And you know, when you talk about displaced persons -- and depending on the figures and what timelines you use you're looking 300,000 to 465,000 people that are displaced -- that's nearly half a million people that can't till the land for sustenance. That's people that are -- that are roaming around and contributing to greater levels of instability and insecurity. And so restoring a sense of protection to civilians and security and stability in the areas is utterly vital --you know, aside from the embodiment that the Joseph Kony provides himself. Q: You had mentioned that the troop-to-troop contact that you've had has helped facilitate learning on the ground. Can you tell us some examples of what you've learned since this has started about the LRA that you didn't know before? ADM. LOSEY: I think I'll leave that to the guys downrange to describe some of that to you. There are some good, hard lessons, but I'm not going to waste your time with that here in Stuttgart. But you know, go down there and in the environment and talk to the guys. And in fact, most importantly, talk to our partners and see what they say. The learning thing and the partnership thing is a two-way street. I think we're all growing from it and moving in the right direction. MR. : And Carine (sp), do you have one more question for the admiral? Q: No, that's OK. Q: Can I ask one more thing? MR. : OK. Q: Admiral, do you have any idea where Kony is right now? ADM. LOSEY: We've identified some centers of gravity that we think he characteristically operates out of. You know, we don't -- we talked about the four-country area the size of California? He can't be in all those places at once. He has to sustain himself. He has to have shelter. And so there -- as a result of his historical patterns we know areas where he probably isn't. Q: Where he probably isn't? ADM. LOSEY: Is not, yes. Q: And Admiral, just a quick clarification question, did you say -- are there just Army special forces that are the hundred or are there special forces from across the services? ADM. LOSEY: There's -- it's a preponderance of Army special forces. That is -- when you talk about the field elements, it is all of that. When you talk about some of the supporting mechanisms, we've got elements from all the different services. And perhaps more importantly, we also have partners from our interagency. We have State Department embedded with us as well to help us facilitate and make sure we have the concurrence of these different states that we're operating in through the country teams and the ambassadors there. So again, a fairly -- as you try and coordinate and execute a regionalized effort across four different countries, making sure that you've got buy-in from all those different teams is very important. MR. : We understand. Thank you very much for you time, Admiral. ADM. LOSEY: Thank you. (END)