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TRANSCRIPT: AFRICOM 'Not Africa's Policeman' Ward Says in Paris
General William Ward said U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) is not a police force for Africa but instead works with other nations to assist African nations in providing for their own security. <br /> <br />"I&#39;m not Africa&#39;s policeman," Ward,
General William Ward said U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) is not a police force for Africa but instead works with other nations to assist African nations in providing for their own security.

"I'm not Africa's policeman," Ward, commander of U.S. AFRICOM, said in a news roundtable January 6, 2010, at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. "But I do work in conjunction with the nations of the continent to give them, where we can, the additional capacity to provide for their own security. ... And to do that in a committed way, over time, in a sustained way."

Following is a transcript of the press roundtable.

GEN. WILLIAM E. WARD: (In progress) - offer you a few thoughts before I take your specific questions and, just again, just thank you for spending some time with me as I can talk about my command.

Now, as you know, the command is still relatively new but we are functioning. Our work with African nations is not new - our military partnership - and you've seen United States military personnel working with African partners for many years. And what we've done is to improve how we function in order to better meet the needs of our African partners.

What my command has done is to consolidate the work under a single headquarters that provides our partners with one, single United States Department of Defense organization that focuses every day on our military-to-military activities in ways that were not done before.

Our focus is a long-term support to U.S. policy in Africa and to support the security objectives of African nations. And there's no doubt among any of us that a stable, more secure Africa is in the best interest of America, as well as the world community; and to be sure, in the best interest of Africa.

Second, I'm asked the question often where my headquarters will move - or if it will move from Germany to Africa. The answer is there are no plans to do that. There's no work underway for the foreseeable future as long as I can see it. We will remain where we are and that's working out just fine.

The personnel who support our programs and our exercises will continue to travel to the continent back and forth, as I do, as we conduct our various activities with our African partners, as well as our coordination with our Chiefs of Missions [at U.S. Embassies] there at the embassies on the continent and our various other activities that we do.

I think you would also find it important to note that we go where we're invited to go. We aren't imposing ourselves anywhere. Which is something that I think is something that's substantial.

I think you've likely heard this before: The main role of my command is to help promote a stable and secure Africa. I travel frequently and discuss with our partners how the command can assist in our common areas of interest, such as maritime domain awareness - maritime security - countering violent extremism.

Our Navy has a program; our Army has a program, my Marine forces component as well as our Air Forces component, all working with our partners' security activities to help them increase their capacity to provide for their own security. And we can talk about some specific examples of that as we go through the question-and-answer period.

But just as a quick example, in Sierra Leone, the last couple of months, working with their law enforcement in the waters off of their coastline. They have been able to help curb illegal fishing that had been robbing them of some of their territorial treasure.

In the Sahel, you are all probably aware of our program with countries in the West and North, where we assist in training and equipping, and then mentoring the military forces in order to help them strengthen their capacity to counter extremist threats that emanate from their territory. It's an ongoing effort that over time will give them the necessary improved capability and capacity and structure to deal with those extremist threats inside their borders.

It is also important to note that our main effort is to support our partners with training and equipment as they work to deal with the problem within their borders and help to promote regional cooperation, because we know that those border issues are transparent to those who seek to do harm.

We see terrorist and criminal activity, a threat to the entire region and beyond, as well as the countries of this region, are the lines where we see this being addressed most appropriately through their activities as they counter those violent extremists.

I think I'd wind up by saying, we have been and we do remain a command that is committed to working with our partners to assist them with activities that they ask us to do in order to help them set the conditions for improved security and stability as the ultimate, ultimate purpose.

We have a strong relationship with the French armed forces as well as other international partners, and we continue to welcome opportunities to work together and to draw upon the expertise and experience of those who have experience in the region as we pursue our mutual goals for stability.

So with that, I'll stop and I'll be happy to take some questions and comments at this point. Thank you very much.

Yes, sir?

Q: Thank you. The conventional wisdom regarding al-Qaida substantially describe a weakening force. At the same time and on the other hand, we have in Africa different cells, either local or regional, which describe themselves as parts of the al-Qaida galaxy. That's why I would like to have your assessment about the reality of the threats and the reality of the connection between those local authorities, for example, in Sahel, and the bin Laden apparatus. Thank you.

GEN. WARD: Yeah, thank you. First of all, the statements and declarations that these groups make, I take them at their word. And so when they indicate they're part of these global networks, I believe them. And I think, given that condition, it takes this very coordinated effort to address that threat that's presented by these various conglomerate activities that are likely in some varying states of capacity, capability, et cetera, et cetera, but it does not take away at all nor diminish the fact that there are connecting lines, that there are things that they seek to do in common.

To be sure, the first and foremost one is conducting violent extremist acts against innocent people. And so as we see that threat that's posed by these groups who have proclaimed their connection where it comes to protecting innocent people, I think we are well-advised to continue our work together to do our very best to prevent those violent acts from occurring.

Q: Is Somalia a priority for you in the fight against terrorism, in Somalia?

GEN. WARD: Well, I would say that there are centers of action or activity that we have to pay attention to around the world. Somalia, with its vast, ungoverned spaces, provides an area that would certainly permit extremist activities to occur from training to facilitating.

But it's not the only place. Vast areas of space in the past - great oceans and great deserts and great mountains - could serve as a barrier. In today's environment, those areas become - I call them their superhighways. And so these vast areas that permit terrorists, that permit violent extremists, that permit criminals to act unchecked are areas that we are concerned about wherever they are around the world.

Q: Just a related question, do you think the recent statement from al-Shabaab that they'll take an interest in Yemen is to be taken seriously, then, going back to that previous - (inaudible, cross talk).

GEN. WARD: I take anything these guys say seriously, including that.

Q: Would you clarify the narcotrafficking in Africa as an extreme risk?

GEN. WARD: I think narcotrafficking is a risk wherever it occurs, including Africa, yes.

Q: What is AFRICOM doing specifically?

GEN. WARD: Well, AFRICOM is working, as we are asked to do, where nations on the continent are trying to improve their capacity to address these activities. And so we don't go out and become the narcotrafficking police person.

What we do, do is where nations have an interest in combating and addressing those threats, and they have requirements to increase their capacity through training, through equipping, where we can and where those activities are consistent with our foreign policy objectives, then we engage in activities to train, to provide equipment, working with others who have like and similar objectives so that we can hopefully achieve the type of result that will help the nations of the continent improve their capacity to deal with those threats; with the trafficking of drugs, weapons and other illegal commodities.

Q: You use the word, "conglomerate."

GEN. WARD: I don't think I used that word.

Q: Yes, you just used it.

GEN. WARD: Okay. (Laughter.)

Q: To what extent do you think the links - the Islamic groups claim they have with al-Qaida are theories or not? Or don't you think that some of these links are some kind of major (built ?).

GEN. WARD: Again, because I'm not there, I don't know. So that's why I take them at their word. When they say that they are linked - when they say that they are - they joined together to achieve their purposes of harming innocent civilians, I take them at their word that they're doing that and I think given how we have seen activities occur all over the world, where you have violent actions being taken, where innocent people are being killed, we have to appreciate that what they are saying, they are attempting to follow through on.

Q: If you say you take them at their word, what does it mean concretely that the U.S. is sending Special Forces?

GEN. WARD: No, no, actually I think -

Q: - Strikes against - (Cross talk.)

GEN. WARD: No, when I say I take them at their word, when they say that they are joined up with their - with others who said that they are conducting these violent extremist activities. I take them at their word. I take the words, the statements that are made by these extremist groups seriously when they say that are supporting one another. That was my point.

Q: General, you have been in charge of AFRICOM for nearly 2 years. So can you point trends because, okay, there is a threat, an extremist threat in the Sahel area, but can you point - describe a trend, whether it's increasing and where it's increasing, in which specific sector it's increasing extremist acts, you know, narcotrafficking you've seen. What are the trends since you have been in charge?

GEN. WARD: What? Sure.

Q: Is it increasing? Is it, you know and where it's increasing, where it's decreasing?

GEN. WARD: Yeah, that is a - I don't know if I would say I can give you answer to it - what is the trend - but I would tell you that the activities continue and they continue in myriad locations. You know, kidnapping is occurring in the Sahel. Narcotrafficking is occurring, the west coast of Africa. We see evidences of it maybe moving to the east coast of Africa as well. There are activities of extremist and terrorist acts that occur in North Africa.

We see, off the coast of the Horn the acts of piracy continue. So it's not so much trends increases or decreases. The point is these activities continue to occur. They occur around the continent. They are occurring at a rate sufficient enough that it impacts those societies in a negative way. And where those societies - those governments - the illegal fishing that takes and robs them of their territorial treasures for many of these nations, fish is a big source of protein. It's a source of revenue. If it's done illegally, no license is being granted, so that the nations can take that revenue to help increase the economic status for their people. And so where these activities occur and wherever they occur, it has a negative impact on the population where governments have determined that they are - that they are inclined to try and do something about these illegal activities, but they lack means, capacity.

And they say with some help from not just America but other international partners and countries who have stability as a common objective and goal and where increasing the capacity of these nations to provide for their own security provides a longer potential for success against illegal activities, then we are prepared, given our foreign policy objectives supporting this, to go and provide training, equipment that will increase the capacity of these nations to address these threats and these challenges. But it's occurring in many parts of the continent.

Q: Hello, Sir.

GEN. WARD: Hi.

Q: Thank you for coming - inviting us. Of all the various geographic locations we mentioned and of all the various important issues that the U.S. military is confronted with in your jurisdiction, or your area of jurisdiction, there's a very broad range and surely, there is one point where you have to decide that you're going to focus resources on one particular - not necessarily one - several - we've understood that several areas are concerning.

When you have to allocate the resources in terms of numbers, what are your top priority in terms geographic location and where would you allocate the most resources in terms of the various criminal or destabilizing activities ranging from al-Qaida to illegal fishing? Where would you most allocate the resources?

GEN. WARD: Well, combating terrorism is something that has global importance to all of us. So clearly, we pay attention to that. We don't do a lot of that on the continent, but - and so it's not that we are allocating resources in a direct way. It's how we conduct our training. The thing about many of these activities - when you have a trained and capable force, it can address these same sorts of things of controls of borders and things such as that nature.

If a country has an ability to patrol its borders, that permits that country to be more effective in countering terrorism, in countering illegal trafficking. And so it's not that these are exclusive activities. We see levels of cooperation going on across the continent as nations of the region work better to help address problems that they may encounter, from terrorism to illegal trafficking to maritime safety and security, which contributes to an ability to combat illegal trafficking, which contributes to an ability to address the threat from terror, as terrorists are moving back and forth freely.

So these are not mutually exclusive activities. They increase the capacity of a nation to provide for its own security. And so they can be applied across various areas. Again, it's also a function of where we are invited. And so it's - it's reflective of the need for additional support. It's reflective of where that support is requested.

It is reflective of our national policy that says where we would be partnering with a nation of the continent of Africa, but also to include the regional organizations, the African Union, the regional economic communities and their organizations - how we can be of an assistance in the adding to their capacity to address these various challenges and issues.

I might also add that it's not all about just addressing a problem or a challenge. It's also about reinforcing successes and taking advantage of opportunities that are there where progress can also be made. So it's not one or the other. The priorities sometimes change, based on factors I just outlined, resources that are available and what's going on at a particular time.

Q: General, the two terms that are mentioned frequently - and you just mentioned - are training and equipment, as part of what you do. Could you tell us something about the equipment? What exactly are you putting on the African continent? Is it trucks? Is it surveillance? Is it weapons? And where is it going and how much of it?

GEN. WARD: It's typically things that support - it's trucks; it's communications equipment; it's life-support equipment; it's logistics - equipment that enables security forces to do a job. It's training so that they are better prepared, so they understand, so they can move in more efficient and effective ways.

But it's logistics support; it's equipment that facilitates their ability to do a job. It is typically not lethal equipment. Weapons - typically not. It's predominantly logistics support equipment, transportation. It's materiel that permits them to - equipment that they may have - to keep it operational so that they are in a better position to conduct their activities.

Q: And even if lethal weapons is an extreme minority of what's being supplied, can you give us an idea of the figures, or to what value?

GEN. WARD: No, it would be - it's such a small portion, that even that would be - I think that we don't track and we typically do not do. So it's not like I can roll it out and say this is what we have done, because it's something that we typically do not - that we are not doing.

Q: Okay, very good.

Q: Please, could you just remark about your - (inaudible) - and your cooperation with African countries?

GEN. WARD: I'll try to be a bit concise here. The cooperation is reflective of the things that the African countries would indicate they would like to do to have an increase in their capacity to provide for security. As an example, we are about to have what is known as the next iteration of our Africa Partnership Station, where we have a platform - vessels - that are embarked with crew from the United States, European countries, the African countries, that would go around, sailing. The East Coast of Africa - about to launch right now, there are two vessels that would conduct training. West Coast of Africa - we've done it for, now, almost 3 years. On board this ship, you'll have a group of professional sailors, Marines, soldiers; you'll have members of the African nations. They will pull into a port or an area, deliver some humanitarian supplies that might be useful in an area, conduct leadership training, conduct maintenance training.

As an example. A nation - one of the littoral nations in Africa has some patrol craft - some maritime patrol craft, but they haven't been working. They're broken because there are no repair parts or there are no trained technicians maintaining the electrical systems on these patrol boats - important. Saltwater, sea water corrosion - how do you keep those operating? Part of the trainers - the professional personnel onboard - can teach how to keep those systems going. And so it's tailored to what the nation wants us to do.

Prior to that training activity beginning, there are a series of planning meetings, whereby the nation says, as a part of a planning conference, we would like to have some assistance in doing these things, be it maintaining some of our outboard motors for our patrol craft or some of the inboard motors, or repairing electrical systems, or training of our non-commissioned officers, some professional development - a menu of activities. And as this Africa Partnership Station activity occurs, it is basically a training platform, it is doing the sorts of activities that the nation has asked us to do on their behalf. And we spend, typically, a week, 10 days, at each location, as this happens.

There are other activities that exist as nations of Africa prepare to conduct peacekeeping operations, where they may have equipment shortfalls - again, logistics. We call them "kit" - individual equipment, boots, uniforms, load-bearing equipment - things that, when you carry your backpack, the harness that you have, some force protection stuff. When you go, do you set up barbed wire? Equipment, trucks, communications, radios.

One occasion, when nations move from one part of Africa to another part, they have to get there. So that whole business of as simple as getting aboard an aircraft - as a young lieutenant many, many, many years ago, I learned that when you load an aircraft - a pallet - you know, your food, your gasoline, your lubricants - you pack those things in different ways. When you go onboard your aircraft, you secure them - you tie them down to the floor of the airplane so that when the plane takes off, you don't have loads shifting.

Many of the nations have never done that, but they are prepared to deploy on these peacekeeping operations. So we train their people to be able to do those same sorts of activities. So it's not that we are there doing this, but we train their forces to be able to do these sorts of activities that enable them to participate in these sorts of peacekeeping operations and that facilitate their logistics so that they can go forward and perform. That's the type of thing that's going on.

COL. FRANKLIN CHILDRESS [AFRICOM Public Affairs]: Sir, let's get another question from somebody that hasn't asked one. Over here.

Q: Yeah, you just mentioned Somalia's problem of extremism, and so we would understand why they are partnered with the U.S. state-sponsored - you know, one of the most insecure places in the world. Coming to Nigeria, do you think Nigeria is really insecure? Do you think Nigeria should be added to the list of states sponsoring terrorism.

GEN. WARD: Well, I'm aware of that just having happened, but I'm not prepared to discuss why - I'm not at all involved in those sorts of decisions, so I'm not prepared to render a thought on that at this point in time.

Q: You have been on the ground. You have worked in Nigeria. Do you think Nigeria poses a threat to security, in any way, to the U.S.?

GEN. WARD: Well, I mean, it's not a matter of what I think. I think at this point in time, it's decisions that are taken and made - policy decisions - and I don't get involved in the policy business. I mean, it's, for me, it's just not something that I am a player in, if you will. I mean, it's not a decision that I make, nor that I take, nor that I play in the decision piece.

Q: Quite apart from the policy decisions that you don't - of course, we do understand. But having been on the ground -

GEN. WARD: Well, being on the ground is not reflective of - I mean, that is so -

Q: Well, you just said the Sahel region is insecure. You have been on the ground and you know the Sahel region is quite insecure. You talked about abductions; you talked about -

GEN. WARD: Well, if you're asking me, have I noticed any abductions that have occurred in Nigeria, I'm not aware of any. That's not the same thing. And so it's a difference.

Q: So you won't confirm that Nigeria poses any particular threat, because if it did, you would know?

GEN. WARD: Not that - I would not - I'm not aware of an abduction. I'm not aware of these sorts of things. But again, the characterization is something that I'm just not - I'm not going to - it's a policy decision. I'm not going to address that.

Q: Looking a little bit inwards, there was recently a report from the general inspection [Inspector General] from the Department of State about the Bureau of Africa, which was extremely critical, to say the least, about the cooperation between the Department of State and AFRICOM. This was in the middle of 2009 - August. I would like to know how, very specifically, you are planning or are already implementing some of the recommendations of this report and working with Mr. Carson about all these issues, which are very organizational issues and which are on your plate, obviously.

GEN. WARD: I think - I'm aware of that report. I think that report was reflective of discussions that occurred a couple of years ago about the potential for what might go on, and not reflective of what we are doing as we cooperate and work together. The assistant secretary of state for Africa, Ambassador Carson, and I have a great relationship. We've had it for his entire tenure as the assistant secretary. It existed prior to then, quite candidly.

My staff has great contact with the State Department's Africa Bureau, but not just that portion of it, because there's also the Northeast [Near East] and Asia Bureau that we also deal with. I visit the Department of State quite often. On my staff are several senior State Department officials who are there to help us ensure that we are aligned and linked with the policy pieces.

And so I think there are actions, activities, mechanisms and processes in place, both formally and informally, that routinely assure an alignment of what we do. We are - obviously, it's transparent. We work on the continent with the embassies, the country teams, the ambassadors. All the things that we do are known - coordinated through the embassies - and so I think it is that, that is the reality of the situation that exists today. And we continue to work to make it even better - to improve it.

Q: Do you think this report should be buried?

GEN. WARD: Well, we continue to pay attention to it because if the perception is out there that these things exist, then we need to continue to work to ensure that the perception is not the case. And so it's not something that we would throw away; we pay attention to it and we continue to do things to make sure that, whatever that it has outlined, that we are ensuring that those conditions don't exist.

Q: Thank you.

COL. CHILDRESS: Sir, you haven't asked a question.

Q: (Crosstalk) - the plan of AFRICOM was to settle down in Africa. Obviously, you just said that you have no more plans to try to make any bases in Africa. Why did you change it?

GEN. WARD: I've never changed. It has never been my plan. I was nominated by the secretary of defense and the president of the United States and then confirmed by our Senate to be United States Africa Command's first commander. I've only asked one country for my headquarters location, and that's where it is [Germany]. I've never put it anywhere else, and gone out to seek to have it go anywhere else. There was a lot of discussion - a lot of debate - but you said my plan, and I just gave you my answer. I never had a plan and I still don't.

Q: Sorry. I'll rephrase: Why did the United States change its plan?

GEN. WARD: Well, I don't - I'm not sure that the United States changed its plan, either. I think there was discussion about potential and doing this thing. The timing of it was there.

Our work is in our programs - the programs that we coordinate with our African partners - and many of you, if not all of you, have been to the continent. It's a huge continent. So the headquarters location is not essential to the work that we do across the continent as we work with the regions, the continental organizations - the African Union - the countries.

And so we are on the continent, in the form of our Offices of Security Cooperation, in the form of our various training activities and teams, working through the embassies. The headquarters location - where it is - is not any central piece of that. And because it wasn't, we've not pursued it.

Q: So I think that the United States is quite different than the French army wants to settle bases - in Africa.

GEN. WARD: Other than - you are aware that we have a base in Djibouti - other than that base, there are no designs, there are no plans, to put a base anywhere on the continent of Africa. And what's there now is what we inherited - was already there. So it's not like it went there because of Africa Command. There's no plans to create any bases in Africa.

(Crosstalk)

COL. CHILDRESS: Just a moment. There's a gentleman who hasn't asked a question.

Q: Thank you. (Inaudible) - in some countries, like my own country - the DRC, the former Zaire - we know that things are not going well on some parts, like in the east. Some people are stealing uranium to sell outside, and you know that some terrorists are using it to create weaponry. And we know that in that country, some forces, like the U.N. forces are there. But things are not going well. What you as AFRICOM, what can you do to help in such a country?

GEN. WARD: Well, again, what we can do - where your country is committed to creating a security structure that will enable your sovereign country to address those challenges and threats, we are capable of, given resources that we would have to be provided. And it goes back to this priority question that was raised earlier. If that becomes a priority for our national policymakers, in conjunction with achieving some foreign policy objective that's met with your country, then we are capable of assisting in training of those forces. We are capable of assisting in the continued professional development of those forces so that they are in a better position to address those challenges that you've talked to.

It's reflective of - it's contained in how we won't do that for you or your country, but how we can help your country address those challenges for itself. And there are activities along the lines of which we've mentioned. We are conducting a security assistance program in Liberia, for example, where the armed forces of Liberia - we are working to help with their training, their increased professionalization so that they become a force for stability as opposed to not.

It is that dimension - it is that direction that we could take in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as we move ahead. And I would offer also, doing it, not as - (coughs) pardon me - a one-off or separate from, but being as integrated and coordinated with what's being done by others there. You mentioned the United Nations mission so that these activities are as synchronized and as coherent as they could be so that the result, hopefully, is a result that leads to increased stability and increased professionalization of the security forces - the legitimate security forces of your country.

COL. CHILDRESS: We have time for one more question. I don't think you've asked a question, ma'am.

Q: What is the country where you face most difficulty and which difficulties exactly? (Laughter.)

GEN. WARD: I would say if you were to look at the continent, because I do not operate in traditional sense in Africa as you are, I think, trying to point out here, "difficulties," I think, not the appropriate way of addressing this. You know, to be sure, there are - there are countries on the continent of Africa that have security, governance challenges and problems.

And so how we work in those countries or how we work in support of those nations to improve their capacity is something that we would do as a function, as reflection of our policy, our foreign policy. I mean, I'm not in Africa with battalions of soldiers, you know, going around doing - so it's not that type of a - we are all concerned about Somalia. We are all concerned about the Sudan. We are concerned about Guinea. We are concerned places where there are - that there is instability.

But we're also heartened by countries where things are moving in a direction that is a positive direction. The cooperation is going on in Central Africa right now as the nations of Central Africa have gone after internal discontent creators for so long. The cooperation between Uganda and the DRC against the Lord's Resistance Army as an example. We are encouraged by those sorts of activities.

And so it's not that you know, there's some place that - I mean, many places provide challenges for all of us. And how we, as a world community - I'm not Africa's policeman. But I do work in conjunction with the nations of the continent to give them, where we can, the additional capacity to provide for their own security. And that's the point I think that we are - And to do that in a committed way, over time, in a sustained way so the true capacity is realized and the ability of the countries to take care of themselves, to contribute to regional stability, to contribute to continental stability as well as, in some cases, to global stability. The many African nations have participated in peacekeeping operations, not just in Africa, but in other parts of the world. So increase the capacity of these nations to address their own security challenges and to be effective partners in helping to address global security challenges.

Q: Thank you.

COL. CHILDRESS: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. We have to go.

GEN. WARD: Thank you all very much.

(END)
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