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Nominee Vows to Bring Unified Focus to African Continent
The new U.S. Africa Command will bring a more unified focus to the African continent and help strengthen stability and security in the region, the general nominated to stand up and lead the new command told the Senate Armed Services Committee
The new U.S. Africa Command will bring a more unified focus to the African continent and help strengthen stability and security in the region, the general nominated to stand up and lead the new command told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, who currently serves as deputy commander of U.S. European Command, told the senators during his confirmation hearing that he will build on U.S. efforts already under way to solidify relationships and develop capabilities of African nations.

If confirmed, Ward said, he will help bring AFRICOM to initial operational capacity as a command subordinate to EUCOM by October. AFRICOM is slated to be established as a separate unified command by Sept. 30, 2008, consolidating efforts currently being conducted by EUCOM, Pacific Command and Central Command.

“I see the establishment of AFRICOM as a wonderful opportunity to efficiently and effectively apply the elements of U.S. national power in ways that help the Africans develop and implement their solutions to African concerns,” Ward said in his written response to questions raised by the senators.

The new command will enable the Defense Department “to view all of Africa through a single lens of a single unified command, allowing us to maximize our participation as a partner in pursuit of our mutual interests for peace, prosperity, and stability,” he said during today’s testimony.

Ward noted that the African continent is linked to the United States by history, culture, economics and geostrategic significance. Meanwhile, its importance in global affairs has increased tremendously, he said.

After traveling extensively through the region, Ward said, he has concluded that “our assistance to existing and emerging African security institutions is most effective when it fosters African solutions to African challenges.”

Many African leaders and organizations such as the African Union have committed to working toward a safe and secure environment on the continent to promote effective development and governance, Ward told the senators.

He said he will build on the “great strides” the U.S. European, Central and Pacific commands have made in working with African militaries to enhance African security through military exercises, humanitarian programs, training events and support to peacekeeping operations.

“Much of their success stems from listening to the Africans and getting their perspectives and applying the solutions in accordance with their stated needs and within our means,” he said.

Ward acknowledged that establishing the new command and transferring responsibilities to it will be complex. He noted that three unified commands and AFRICOM’s transition team have been working together to ensure no disruption or confusion in continuing ongoing Defense Department efforts on the continent.

“My goal is to make the transition of operations and activities to AFRICOM’s responsibility as seamless as possible,” he said. “I will reinforce the excellent work currently being done on the continent and the strong relationships already established.”

Meanwhile, Ward said, he will build on existing coordination among the Defense Department, State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and various non-governmental organizations in Africa.

As a reflection of that interagency relationship, Ward’s command will have two deputy commanders. In addition to a military flag officer to focus on military operations, AFRICOM will have a deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, a position to be filled by a senior State Department Foreign Service officer.

The Foreign Service official will direct the command’s plans and programs associated with health, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian mine action, disaster response and security-sector reform.

This team will work together to help build a stable security environment that enables Africans to pursue broader goals such as economic security, Ward told the committee. He described a three-pronged approach toward this objective, with the Defense Department advancing U.S. military goals and activities, the State Department conducting diplomacy, and USAID carrying out development work.

AFRICOM will lead these efforts as it focuses on conducting security cooperation to build partnership capabilities in areas ranging from peacekeeping to maritime security to border security to counterterrorism, he said.