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AFRICOM's General Ward Visits African Union
Making his first official trip as commander of United States Africa Command, General William E. "Kip" Ward visited the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he told reporters November 8 that he came to "explain what
Making his first official trip as commander of United States Africa Command, General William E. "Kip" Ward visited the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he told reporters November 8 that he came to "explain what AFRICOM is" and to "listen" to African voices.

Before his news conference, Ward met with African Union (AU) Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré, former president of Mali.

Ward said that by visiting the AU headquarters, he hoped to gain better understanding of the "proud traditions" of the African Union and its importance to the peoples of Africa.

United States Africa Command began initial operations October 1 in Stuttgart, Germany. When it reaches full operating capability September 30, 2008, the command will be responsible for U.S. military relationships with 53 countries on the African continent and its island nations. The Department of State will remain responsible for U.S. foreign policy, Ward said.

In his previous role as deputy of U.S. European Command, Ward made numerous visits to African nations. However, this was his first visit since the U.S. Senate confirmed him in late September to be the first commander of U.S. Africa Command.

Ward told reporters that he looks forward to developing a relationship with the African Union member nations and regional organizations that is built on "trust, confidence, and understanding." Fostering this relationship "begins with dialogue," he said.

Among Ward's other points:

The AFRICOM team is still being built. Ward is assembling a staff that will allow the U.S. Department of Defense for the first time to organize all of its activities in Africa under one command. U.S. Africa Command will be innovative by including personnel from other agencies, such as the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This inclusiveness, Ward said, is because the U.S. military is just one part of a larger effort to advance common African and U.S. interests.

AFRICOM will endeavor to bring added value to stability and security cooperation programs requested by African nations. At the same time, AFRICOM will seek to do no harm to the collective and substantial efforts already taking place in Africa. AFRICOM will do everything in its power not to disrupt or confuse current and ongoing U.S. government or partner-nation efforts on the continent, Ward said.

AFRICOM wants to make the transfer of activities from the three commands that are currently responsible for U.S. military relationships in Africa – U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific Command - as seamless as possible, Ward said. These activities will be transferred to U.S. Africa Command in a series of phases through September 2008.

AFRICOM’s success and credibility will be seen in terms of how the new command "directly contributes to the stability, security, health, and welfare of the nations, regional institutions and peoples of Africa," Ward said.

AFRICOM seeks to build partnerships to help enhance the work of Africans in providing their own security, Ward said.

AFRICOM will be a "learning organization" that evolves through sustained interactions with African partners, Ward said.

AFRICOM will sustain current activities taking place with African partners, Ward said. AFRICOM will also look for ways to expand these efforts and address important regional challenges.

According to Ward, some examples of past and current military activities in Africa include: Medical exercises such as MEDFLAG; a communications interoperability exercise known as Africa Endeavor; disaster preparedness exercises, such as NATURAL FIRE and GOLDEN SPEAR; capacity building exercises such as FLINTLOCK; and security sector reforms to increase the training capability of African nations destined for peacekeeping missions. These activities will continue under AFRICOM, Ward said.

AFRICOM also will continue to work closely with the State Department to train African peacekeepers under the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, commonly known as ACOTA, Ward said.

AFRICOM will also seek to expand the successful State Partnership Programs that have paired eight African nations with the National Guards of U.S. states. For example, the New York National Guard is partnered with South Africa.

Ward said new U.S. initiatives such as African Partnership Station (APS) demonstrate the types of activities that AFRICOM will seek to promote. The maritime initiative will not be a one-time ship visit, he said. Instead, the USS Fort McHenry will work on and off-shore in the Gulf of Guinea over several months to build capacity and long-lasting person-to-person relationships.

Ward stressed that he wants to support African organizations and listen to African voices. "We want to learn from you" so that AFRICOM can support and enhance African efforts, he said.