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TRANSCRIPTS: AFRICOM's General Ham on Fox, NBC, CNN, BBC, AP
General Carter F. Ham, commander, U.S. Africa Command, was interviewed by Fox, NBC, CNN and BBC via the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System and by AP via telephone March 25, 2011. <br /> <br />The interviews focused on the future role of
General Carter F. Ham, commander, U.S. Africa Command, was interviewed by Fox, NBC, CNN and BBC via the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System and by AP via telephone March 25, 2011. The interviews focused on the future role of U.S. AFRICOM as NATO takes command of operations in Libya. "What makes me most proud is how quickly this coalition came together to operate very, very quickly," said Ham. "We'll now make sure this transition to NATO occurs very quickly and very precisely. It's a complex matter to do this transition while maintaining the momentum of the operation, but I'm convinced that this team that's been assembled can do just that." Ham clarified throughout the interviews that the military mission in Libya is threefold: enforcing an arms embargo, the no-fly zone and protecting civilians. Currently, NATO has taken control of the arms embargo, and is expected to take over enforcement of the no-fly zone mission in a matter of days. Ham also noted that his understanding is that NATO has also agreed to the principle of the mission component of protecting civilians, but that mission remains the responsibility of U.S. AFRICOM for now. "Our mission is dictated by the UN Security Council Resolution… and I think appropriately, at least to me, the most important of those is to protect civilians, and that is where we're putting our effort - on that, not on supporting one party or the other." Ham also delivered a straightforward message to the regime during his interview with CNN - comply with the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1973. "Cease attacking civilians," said Ham. "Withdraw your arms and your troops from areas in which they are attacking civilians. Serve the people of Libya and not serve this illegitimate regime." The following are the full transcripts of the general's interviews with each news agency. Click here to watch interviews. Fox News JENNIFER GRIFFIN: First question: Can you explain to me the new command structure once command is transitioned? Right now you're handing over transition for enforcing the no-fly-zone; that will be handed over to a Canadian general, I understand. Will there be an American above him in the chain of command? GENERAL CARTER HAM: There are three components to the mission outlined in the [UN] Security Council Resolution of 1973. First is the arms embargo, which is principally maritime operations. That has already been handed over to NATO and there's an Italian admiral running that operation. Next is the no-fly-zone; that's been agreed to, to hand over and we expect that handover to occur this weekend, probably effectively on Sunday. And there'll be a Canadian three-star who will oversee that. Then, the remaining mission is the protect civilians mission. And it is my understanding that NATO has agreed in principal to accept that mission and they'll have discussions over this weekend as specifically how to do that. What that will mean is overall the NATO commander over the no-fly-zone and the protect civilians mission will be the Canadian three-star. He'll work for the commander of what we call Joint Forces Command Naples, which is a NATO assignment. That position happens to be filled by an American admiral. It is the same American admiral who is presently our Joint Task Force commander Admiral Sam Locklear and of course they work for the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Admiral Jim Stavridis. MS. GRIFFIN: Understood. What will your role be once the entire mission is transitioned over to NATO? GEN. HAM: When the entirety of the mission is operated by NATO, then U.S. Africa Command will be in a supporting role. Libya, of course, is in Africa Command's area of responsibility so we have overall U.S. military responsibility for mission that might entail Libya. So, I won't at that point have any direct command authority over the missions which will be operating in Libya; that'll be purely in the NATO chain. But clearly as an African country, it remains of great interest to me and those here at U.S. Africa Command. MS. GRIFFIN: Will U.S. F-16s and F-15s still be fighting and flying bombing missions once the command is handed over to NATO? GEN. HAM: It is clearly the intent that when the mission is accepted by NATO that the U.S. will contribute what we call unique U.S. military capabilities. So I think it's likely to see capabilities such as U.S. aircraft that are very capable at the suppression of enemy air defenses; or jamming systems; certainly some of our intelligence; and collections systems that are almost unique capabilities. But where other nations and other allied partners have a capability, for example, in aircraft that can enforce the no-fly-zone or conduct air-to-ground operations, then I think you'll see the U.S. role greatly diminished in the near term and ideally, very, in the short term, others would take on those mission and again the U.S. would contribute our unique U.S. military capabilities. MS. GRIFFIN: How seriously should we take these meetings that are taking place in Ethiopia with representatives of the opposition and Libyan government with the African Union? Is that something that's significant? GEN. HAM: Well, certainly the meetings at the African Union are very, very significant. The African Union is an organization in which most of the nations of Africa are members. It's a consultative and deliberative body to address matters of common interests of the African states. So we think that that effort is very, very important. I'm sorry I'm not aware of the meetings that the transitional national council meetings, if that's who you're referring to, meeting with other states. I'm sorry; I'm not tracking those kinds of meetings. MS. GRIFFIN: Understood. And sir, under your command, is anybody providing weapons or help to the opposition forces? GEN. HAM: No, we're not. We do not have a mission to support the opposition forces. We have a very clear mission to protect civilians. In doing so, we attack regime forces who are attacking civilians. Does that help the opposition? Well, it probably does, but that's not the intended purpose. The intended purpose is, protect civilians, not to provide close air support or any other means of support to the opposition forces. MS. GRIFFIN: Do you know of any instances where non-coalition members are providing weaponry to the rebels? GEN. HAM: Not that I'm aware of, no. MS. GRIFFIN: And do you see a situation in the future where the mission could be broadened to include ground troops from the coalition? GEN. HAM: Well, I think that becomes a discretion point within NATO or some other organization. We took on this first mission to protect the regime from slaughtering civilians. We've done that, particularly in the area of Benghazi. NATO will now take on this mission and establish the environment for which that will now allow for further discussions for the ultimate end state of what is it that the international community would like to see. So could you see a UN force or an African Union force or something in there to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance or in some other role? I don't think that's inconceivable, but I don't see that that would be under the, certainly not under the auspices of the coalition and I think unlikely for NATO. MS. GRIFFIN: Okay. Last question…Do you have information that one of Qadhafi's sons has been killed? Is there any confirmation of that sir? GEN. HAM: To be honest with you Jennifer, the only place I've seen those reports has been in the media. And I think there's been mixed reporting about that. I certainly don't have any independent confirmation either way on that subject. MS. GRIFFIN: Understood. Okay, anything else you'd like to add sir? GEN. HAM: Thanks. I just, I did have, I had a great day yesterday. I got to go see the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines at Sigonella on [USS] Mount Whitney and then out to [USS] Kearsarge - lots of nations represented. What makes me most proud is how quickly this coalition came together to operate very, very quickly. We'll now make sure this transition to NATO occurs very quickly and very precisely. It's a complex matter to do this transition while maintaining the momentum of the operation, but I'm convinced that this team that's been assembled can do just that. MS. GRIFFIN: Thank you so much sir. GEN. HAM: Alright, thanks Jennifer. NBC LESTER HOLT: General, there's a lot of question about who's in charge. My understanding is NATO has taken over the maritime component of this; it is about to take over the no-fly zone; and may ultimately take over the protection of civilians. But for the time being, can you tell me what your mission is as U.S. commander and who you report to? GENERAL CARTER HAM: Sure, let me make that clear. There are three components of implementing the provision of UN Security Council Resolution 1973. Maritime, which is the arms embargo that has transitioned to NATO and is under the command of an Italian admiral; no-fly zone, which will transition very soon, probably this weekend, and there'll be a Canadian three-star operating under NATO command for that; and the protect civilians mission, which NATO, as my understanding has agreed to in principal, and I think they'll have discussions over this weekend as precisely how to accept that mission. That should occur pretty shortly. In the interim, the protect civilians mission and currently the no-fly-zone mission are under my authority, and I work for the secretary of defense and the president of the United States. MR. HOLT: When all this does fall under NATO, is there going to be some disagreement, especially in the protection of civilians mission as it pertains to striking Libyan troops and vehicles on the ground? GEN. HAM: I think this precisely what NATO will discuss in the coming days. Again, it is my understanding that they have agreed in principal to accept that mission and the discussion over this weekend as to precisely how to do that, what nations will offer forces, under what rules will they operate, those kinds of matters to be decided. Our role, currently under my authority as the current commander, is to make sure of two things: first, that we continue exercising the mission that we have at present to protect civilians, and secondly, that we are prepared to transition responsibility for this mission to NATO quickly, effectively, and without disruption to the ongoing mission. MR. HOLT: Putting politics aside, the fact that there are joint commanders as it is right now between NATO and the U.S. unilaterally, from your military experience is that an ideal set-up? GEN. HAM: Well, it's workable because we do so much with NATO and have for so many years, so we have common operating principals; we have great, collaborative discussions on how to do this; and in this particular case, the next higher NATO commander is Admiral Sam Locklear, who is, in his NATO capacity, is the commander of Joint Force Command Naples - a NATO position - but he is also the U.S. commander of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, so he is intimately familiar with this mission. And he is exercising presence simultaneously - some U.S. responsibilities and his NATO responsibilities. Ultimately, when the entirety of the mission goes to NATO, assuming that decision is made, there'll be the three-star Canadian officer who I know and have great confidence in, will be the commander and he will report to Admiral Locklear in his NATO role, and of course Admiral Locklear reports to Admiral Stavridis, U.S. officer who is the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. MR. HOLT: As we noted, there's some disagreement among the allies as to how far to go to strike Libyan ground targets. Once everything falls under a NATO umbrella, if in fact it goes there, will the U.S. have some latitude to strike unilaterally at targets it deems fit? GEN. HAM: Well I don't think the U.S. would ever limit its military capabilities. I don't think that would be the case. But what we do as a member of the alliance and a contributor to this mission, the U.S. participates in those discussions and the NATO alliance will come to an agreement as to how to exercise that particular mission. The U.S.'s role is envisioned to be one of contributing what we call unique U.S. military capabilities. Those assets, those capabilities that the U.S. possesses that other nations don't posses or don't posses sufficient quantity of to contribute to this mission, and that is what we would envision to do into the future. MR. HOLT: The mission is, as you stated, is to protect civilians, but to the extent that you're helping the rebels, is that just defacto or are you actively working with them? GEN. HAM: No, our mission is clear. Our mission is to protect civilians. It is specifically not to offer direct assistance to the opposition forces. Now, as it is, the forces that are attacking civilians are regime forces, so when we attack those and destroy or degrade their capability, that certainly is working to the benefit of the opposition forces; but we are conducting no operations that are directly in support of them. That's not our aim. MR. HOLT: You have expressed the fact that at the end of the day, Qadhafi could remain in power; and you've suggested that's not the ideal outcome in your opinion, but that leaves the question: what does a standoff look like? If this becomes a stalemate, what happens then? Is this a prolonged mission? GEN. HAM: Well, I think we're at a very interesting and decisive point here. The president and others have made it clear that it's U.S. policy that the current leader in Libya no longer continue in that role. However, it is not a military aim to achieve that objective. So we don't intent to use military means to achieve that policy state. I think where we are is an opportunity to have, we have stopped the attack on Benghazi; we can create a sufficiently stable situation under NATO command and control, that there'll be an opportunity then for the international community to come together and have discussions about what do they see collectively as the end state in Libya. It's my understanding that there's a large meeting scheduled for early next week which all the participating nations will attend and start have those discussions of the way ahead. So I think it's not formally decided what that end state will be, but there is now an opportunity, I would say a necessity, to have those discussions. MR. HOLT: Does it bother you or concern you as a veteran commander that you have troops engaged right now in combat and the political leaders are still working out not some minor details? GEN. HAM: Well, certainly. In an ideal circumstance, that before you commit U.S. forces, or any forces, to a campaign, you have a very, very clear vision of what your strategic end state is and how you're going to match those ways and means to achieve that objective. But sometimes the conditions don't allow you to have that discussion. And in this case, the regime was slaughtering thousands of civilians. I don't think it would be appropriate to wait and have that strategic discussion, albeit necessary, without intervene. So I think in this case, our intervention was appropriate to stop the attack on civilians, do the best we can to prevent further attacks on civilians, and set the conditions for those strategic discussions to now occur. MR. HOLT: And I want to make sure we're clear on the point. I think a lot of people look at this and they look at the years of the no-fly zones being patrolled in Iraq and certainly the Balkans. Is it your expectation that this is going to be measure in weeks, months, what? GEN. HAM: I don't know. In the next phase of this, I don't have a good sense of how long that will be required to be in place. That's I think the necessity of these discussions which will occur next week in London. It is a matter for NATO and for all the contributing nations of the international community to have that discussion. My sense is, because of so many other global commitments, that none of the nations in the international community are interested in a protracted engagement, but would rather look for definitive opportunities to achieve an agreed-upon end state. And I think that's what they'll talk about next week. MR. HOLT: And last, if I can just get your observation of what's happening on the ground. This has been talked about as a pro-democracy movement to oust Moammar Qadhafi. But, does it also and perhaps more resemble a civil war to you? GEN. HAM: I don't know that I would use that term because that kind of to me that conveys that there are two kind of well organized groups and I'm not sure that that's exactly what we're seeing. Rather, how I would describe it, is a regime that is chosen to attack its own people who have voiced some dissatisfaction with the existing government. And rather than allowing some opportunity for the civil discourse of those disagreements, the regime has decided to kill them. So again, I wouldn't describe it as such, and I think our mission that we presently have under UNSCR1973 is clear - arms embargo, no-fly zone and protect civilians. MR. HOLT: Alright General Ham, we'll end it right there. Thank you so much for your time sir. And certainly our thoughts are with those of your troops in harm's way and we appreciate all you're doing. GEN. HAM: Thank you very much. That's heartfelt and very much appreciated. They're doing - the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines of all the nations - are doing a magnificent job, and appreciate your best wishes. MR. HOLT: Alright, you guys be well. Thank you sir. CNN WOLF BLITZER: And joining us now from Stuttgart, Germany, General Carter Ham. He's the commander of U.S. forces now serving over Libya. He's the commander of the U.S. military's U.S. Africa Command - only been in business for a couple weeks. You've got your hands full General Ham. Thanks very much for joining us. GENERAL CARTER HAM: Well, thank you for having me Wolf. MR. BLITZER: You're still in command of the U.S. mission over Libya, is that right? GEN. HAM: That's correct. MR. BLITZER: When does that change? When does NATO take over? GEN. HAM: Well, NATO has already taken over one piece, which is the arms embargo that's principally maritime. We expect that NATO will take over the no-fly zone this weekend and then the next piece, the third and final piece, is the mission to protect civilians. It is my understanding NATO has agreed to that in principal and will this weekend decide on the procedures and the timing of accepting that mission. But, I think that will probably occur in the very near future. MR. BLITZER: So when NATO takes overall command of everything, assuming that happens and that's still an assumption right now, what is your job and the job of the U.S. military's Africa Command? GEN. HAM: Well, Libya is one of the 53 countries in Africa for which this command is responsible. So, we still have a decided interest in security matters in Libya, but once NATO assumes responsibility for those missions, then I would no longer have a direct command authority relationship with the forces engaged in NATO operations. MR. BLITZER: Do you have a clear understanding, general, of what the mission is in Libya right now? GEN. HAM: I do. It is threefold. It is to execute the arms embargo; it is execute a no-fly zone; and it is to protect civilians. MR. BLITZER: Is it also to get rid of Qadhafi? GEN. HAM: It is not. It is very specifically not that mission. MR. BLITZER: Why not since the president has repeatedly said that the U.S. policy is that Qadhafi must go? GEN. HAM: It is indeed U.S. policy that the current leader of Libya should no longer be that leader and that he has lost legitimacy. But it has also been a determination that we will not seek to achieve that policy end through military means. MR. BLITZER: But you work for the president of the United States; he's the commander in chief. You report to the president and if he says Qadhafi must go, isn't it your responsibility to implement that policy? GEN. HAM: It is the policy, but the president has also stated very clearly, to me and to others, that we will not seek to achieve that policy goal through military means. MR. BLITZER: How will the U.S. achieve that policy goal? GEN. HAM: Well I think by other ways, by economic sanctions, certainly by diplomatic effort; there are a number of ways that the international community can apply pressure on the current leader in Libya, but specifically to me, it is not a mission to cause regime change in Libya. MR. BLITZER: Of no regime change as far as your mission is concerned, even though the president has repeatedly said Qadhafi must go, so it's still a little vague in my mind, how will you know success in Libya when it occurs? GEN. HAM: Well I think we have achieved already a large degree of success. We do have an arms embargo. We do have a no-fly zone. And we have halted very serious assault by Libyan regime forces toward the city of Benghazi. I don't know how many people we saved in doing that, but I know we saved some. We have an ongoing effort to where we see regime forces attacking civilians that we take military action to prevent that to the degree that we can. And we have had some success. Have we had complete success? No. And it breaks my heart that that's the situation we're in. Because we find these regime forces taking cover inside built up areas where they know because of our concern for civilian casualties that we won't strike in there. So it's a tough, tough situation right now, but I think we have achieved a large measure of success. A second part of the mission is indeed to transition this to NATO and we're prepared, we have transitioned one part of the mission, and I think in the coming days we'll transition the other parts of the mission and we'll do that seamlessly. MR. BLITZER: Will NATO do what the U.S., the British, the French, the Canadians, have already been doing - going after Libyan ground forces, attack them from the air? GEN. HAM: It is my understanding that NATO has agreed in principal to accept that mission and in the coming days they'll decide exactly how and when they want to execute that mission. It's important to remember that the United States is a NATO member. We participate in those discussions. And I'm confident that those discussions will indeed end with a satisfactory solution for NATO to accept this mission. MR. BLITZER: But in the meantime, until NATO is fully onboard for that part of the mission, the U.S. and the others will continue to pound Libyan ground forces that may endanger civilians, is that right? GEN. HAM: Until I am relieved of this mission, our mission, my mission, is to protect civilians. Now we will take actions that are consistent with our imperatives of being precise, being very discrete, being conscious of civilian casualties. But there should be no mistake, when we see regime forces attacking civilians, we will do everything we can to stop those attacks. MR. BLITZER: Are you arming the rebels? GEN. HAM: No. MR. BLITZER: Why not? GEN. HAM: First of all, I have no authority to do that. Again, our mission is not to support the opposition forces. Our opposition is to prevent civilian casualties. Now, there's a linkage there. Those who are causing civilian casualties are regime forces. So when we destroy or degrade the capability of regime forces, then certainly we are doing that and there is some benefit to the opposition, but we do not operate in direct support of the opposition forces. MR. BLITZER: It makes it sound like the U.S. and its partners are neutral in the civil war that's going on in Libya, is that right? GEN. HAM: Our mission is dictated by the UN Security Council Resolution. So the agreement of the Security Council has given us these three missions. And I think appropriately, at least to me the most important of those is to protect civilians, and that is where we're putting our effort - on that, not on supporting one party or the other. MR. BLITZER: If these rebels, the opposition, and civilians for that matter, are being attacked by Libyan snipers, what do you do about that? GEN. HAM: It's the toughest problem that we have. Again, we have some very precise weapon systems, not just U.S., but all the contributing nations. But we must necessarily be very conscious of causing further civilian casualties. So, when we see regime forces attacking civilians, we evaluate that very carefully and if we can interdict and if we can act against that threat without causing further harm to other civilians, then we will and we have acted with some great effect. But it is the most difficult target set we have when we see these regime forces in built up areas, both in armored vehicles and sniper positions as you sight. It is a tough, tough challenge for us. MR. BLITZER: If you had actionable intelligence on the whereabouts of Qadhafi, would you go ahead and either kill him or arrest him? GEN. HAM: I would not. I do not have that as a mission. I don't spend any time thinking about where he is. I don't expend any of my intelligence collection assets doing that. It's not part of my mission set. MR. BLITZER: Do you have the capability to jam Libyan state television and radio broadcast? GEN. HAM: Well, without getting into a lot of detail, we have pretty significant jamming capability and broadcast capability and we are using that. MR. BLITZER: But they're still on the air. GEN. HAM: Well, I'll say we have the capability and we're using it. That doesn't mean that we can or should necessarily mean that we can do that 24 hours, 7 days a week. But we do have a capability and we are employing it. MR. BLITZER: Well one capability would simply to be to use airpower to knock out their towers. That hasn't been your mission, is that what you're saying? GEN. HAM: No. I'm saying we look at assets that facilitate the regime's command and control and if we can target those and destroy those without causing civilian casualties then we will do that and we have done that. But we always, we always are very precise and always, always very conscious about civilian casualties. MR. BLITZER: Because I raised the questions because some argue that those broadcasts endanger civilians in Libya right now, the way Qadhafi's state propaganda machine is using those broadcasts. GEN. HAM: I think as an extension of the regime's command and control, I would assess those as legitimate targets and we have a variety of means to try to disrupt that. MR. BLITZER: What kind of liaison officer or officers do you have with the opposition? GEN. HAM: None. MR. BLITZER: Why not? GEN. HAM: Again, it's not our mission. Our mission to protect civilians and the president has been quite clear that there will not be U.S. military boots on the ground. MR. BLITZER: No boots on the ground, but there are civilians - U.S. diplomats and others who are in liaison with the opposition. GEN. HAM: There is contact. I'm not aware of anyone who is on the ground with them. MR. BLITZER: Well, the president himself said that he was naming someone to be a liaison to the opposition. When I was in Paris the other day with the secretary of state, she met with one of the opposition leaders herself, so there is a dialogue, but what your saying is, not a military dialogue with the opposition? GEN. HAM: That's correct. MR. BLITZER: So what's next general? Give me your bottom line assessment right now. How long is this operation in Libya going to take before you can declare mission accomplished? GEN. HAM: Well I think, again, we've accomplished quite a bit already. We will continue until such time as the mission transition. We will continue to do all we can to protect civilians. That means we attack those regime forces that threaten civilians. We attack his command and control systems that direct those forces and then we also attack his ability to sustain threats against civilians, whether that's ammunition or fuel, or transportation systems as well. And we will continue to execute the no-fly zone. So we'll continue in that way as we have and we are learning more every day. Our targeting is getting more precise and more effective. But at some point, and I expect this to be in the very near future, we will transition this mission of protect civilians to NATO. And we'll do it, though it is a very complex transition, we'll make that transition happen without any loss of momentum in the execution of the mission. MR. BLITZER: Finally general, seeing your officers surrounding Qadhafi, do you see evidence they are defecting? GEN. HAM: Well I think there is some indication that I would tell you frankly is mostly through the media reporting, that there is at least some wavering. I don't see how they could be in that position and at least not question their ability to continue to exert control. His command and control systems, his forces; certainly there is no air force left. All those systems that he used to repress the country have been significantly degraded. So I've got to believe that in the minds of some of those inner circle people, there are some questions that are arising as to whether or not this is in fact the best course of action for them. MR. BLITZER: This is my last question general, and it's an opportunity for you. CNN is seen live around the world, including in Libya, and officers, your military-to-military, the officers surrounding Qadhafi might be watching right now. Qadhafi might be watching, his sons might be watching. Look into the camera. What would you say to them right now, officer to officer? GEN. HAM: I would say, comply with the will of the international community as outlined in the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1973. Cease attacking civilians. Withdraw your arms and your troops from areas in which they are attacking civilians. Serve the people of Libya and not serve this illegitimate regime. MR. BLITZER: General Ham thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to you and all the men and women you command. GEN. HAM: Thank you very much Wolf. BBC Global KATIE KAY: General Ham, despite an awful lot of western firepower being thrown at Col. Qadhafi he is still holding up in Adjabiya, he is still attacking Misurata, this looks increasingly like, as the French have said it could go on for a very long time. GEN. CARTER F. HAM: Well, I don't think it'll go on for a very long time I think we have an opportunity to execute the requirements of the UN Security Council Resolution the most important part of which is to protect civilians. It is important to note that we've already done that to a large degree by stopping the regime's attack into Benghazi. As you say there are other places where civilians remain threatened by the regime and we are doing our best each and every day and night to protect those civilians. MS. KAY: In the urban areas where Qadhafi's forces still are attacking civilians do you feel you are hampered by the terms of the engagement because you can't go after Qadhafi's forces in those cities? GEN. HAM: I am not hampered by the rules that we have because what constrains us mostly is our focus on precision and our very keen interest to prevent civilian casualties. It would make no sense to drop, for example, a large bomb on a regime armored vehicle in the city that would result in the killing of the very people that we are charged with protecting. And so we are very very careful and very precise. I would admit that it is a difficult target set and we work very hard and the very best that we can to protect civilians from those regime threats that emanate from inside the cities and we focus on that but we take this mission very, very seriously. It is my mission to protect those civilians and I take that to heart. MS. KAY: Is the anything more that you could do, that you would like to be able to do, to protect the civilians who are being attacked by Qadhafi's forces in the cities? GEN. HAM: Well of course the best thing to do to protect the civilians would be if the regime's military forces would comply with the will of the international community, withdraw from those cities, and no longer threaten their people, no longer serve this government which has been determined, been assessed as illegitimate. That would be the best, that would be the best outcome of this. In terms of military application…. MS. KAY: But it is very clear that he's not going to do that. GEN. HAM: Well we are trying, we are doing the best we can to try to convince them that that they should move away from these areas where they are threatening civilians and stop their attacks on their own citizens. But again, their leaders don't want them to do that so we're in a difficult time right now where we try to convince and compel the military forces to comply with the mandates of UN Security Council resolution 1973. BBC: Okay, General Carter Ham, thank you very much for joining us. GEN. HAM: Thank you BBC World JULIAN MARSHALL: You are listening to the BBC World Service. I am Julian Marshall, with news now, we return to the Libya Crisis, I am joined now by General Carter Ham, commander of US Africa Command, which has taken the lead in coordinating and implementing the no-fly-zone over Libya. He joins us now from Africa Command's headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Now how close are you to securing both strands of the mission namely securing a no-fly-zone over Libya and secondly protecting civilians against attacks from Col. Qadhafi's forces? GEN. HAM: Julian, on the first side of the mission, the no-fly-zone, we have an effective no-fly-zone in place now. Participants from many nations executing this and we have since the initiation of operations on the 19th of March we have seen only one violation of that no-fly-zone by a Libyan military aircraft and that aircraft was engaged. So the no-fly-zone is effective and the next step is to transition the command of the no-fly-zone and that will occur this weekend. The second part of the mission is the "protect the civilians" mission which is currently being executed under coalition authority, under my command, and our joint task force commander, Admiral Sam Locklear. NATO, it is my understanding that NATO has accepted, in principle, to undertake that mission and they will discuss, in the coming days, how and when to transition that mission. That's the toughest mission we have at present. MR. MARSHALL: Could I repeat my question which is how close are you to ensuring that civilians are safe in Libya from attacks by Col. Qadhafi's forces? GEN. HAM: We have had some great success already. It is important to remember that when we started this operation that regime forces were threatening to assault into the town, into the city of Benghazi and the hundreds of thousands of the people who live there, those people now no longer live under threat of regime attack, so that I think is successful. But to be sure, in other places in Libya, in Ajdabiya, in Misurata, in Zintan, that there are civilians who today are threatened by regime forces. It's my mission, our mission, to do all we can to protect those civilians and we are taking that mission very, very seriously. MR. MARSHALL: Even as I am speaking to you there are reports that rebels are entering the city of Adjabiya, which previously had been under the control of Col. Qadhafi's forces, which still leaves towns like Misurata and Zintan, rebel held towns that are besieged by Col. Qadhafi's forces and here the mission, doesn't it, becomes more complicated? You’ve got Col. Qadhafi's tanks and artillery among the civilian population, how are you going to deal with that? GEN. HAM: It is the most difficult mission that we have, when we have the regime forces attacking civilians and they are in very close contact and they are in areas for which we have to be very conscious of causing additional civilian casualties. We try to the very best that we can to attack with precision and we are always conscious about limiting or not causing civilian causalities. It does us no good to take out a regime tank but kills the very people we are charged with protecting so this is a very complex mission set where regime forces are visible to us and not in close contact we have had great success and we have seen some of that around Ajdabiya and in other places. It is much more complex and we are seeking ways to be more precise in our application of firepower against targets that threaten civilians from within built up areas. MR. MARSHALL: Gen. Ham can you can just clarify one thing for me. As of now, this seems to be a divided mission, on the one hand you have the U.S. , France and Britain taking a lead role in protecting civilians from attack but command of the no-fly-zone operation has passed, or will pass to NATO, why is it necessary to have that division? GEN. HAM: Well, from a US standpoint my president made it clear at the outset that the US military would be focused on a specific set of missions of enforcing the rules of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, and then it would be limited duration and that we would transition responsibility to NATO or some other international organization. NATO has agreed upon that. The good news is that we have decades of interaction with NATO, we know how to conduct these operations. So in reality as we shift command of the no-fly zone to a NATO officer, a great Canadian officer in whom I have great confidence, that I know him, and eventually transition the protect mission as well. Those procedures will work out quite effectively and then they will serve under another NATO commander and of course ultimately under SACEUR [Supreme Allied Commander, Europe], Admiral Jim Stavridis. It is one of those situations that frankly it works much better than it briefs if I may say that. MR. MARSHALL: General Carter Ham., commander of U.S. Africa command, many thanks for being with us. Associated Press GENERAL CARTER HAM: Hi, Bob. ROBERT BURNS: Hi! GEN. HAM: How are you? MR. BURNS: I'm well. GEN. HAM: Where are you? Where are you? MR. BURNS: I'm sitting in the Pentagon. Where are you? GEN. HAM: Well, I'm not sitting in the Pentagon and for that I am thankful. I'm at U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart. MR. BURNS: Okay. I was just going to mention, as well, congratulations, by the way. And I happened to be there with Secretary Gates when he presided at your -- [change of command] GEN. HAM: I saw you at - I saw you but I know you were on a - when you travel with him, you travel on a pretty tight timeline. MR. BURNS: And you hit the ground running, huh? GEN. HAM: Yeah. That's right. Yeah. Yeah. MR. BURNS: Yeah. Listen, I know you're very busy and you've done a bunch of interviews and it's very late there so I won't drag this on. But I appreciate you taking a little bit of time. GEN. HAM: Absolutely. MR. BURNS: Let me ask you -- as you know, Admiral Gortney did a briefing here at the Pentagon a few hours ago. And the question always comes up: When you get down to the real core purpose of what you're doing in Libya, to get Qadhafi to change -- to back off and to stop threatening and attacking civilians -- he said, well, you know, we're making progress, but he hasn't really changed his behavior yet. Is there something more or different that you can do in terms of offensive operations to make more progress faster? GEN. HAM: Well, I guess my start point was that I wouldn't agree with the statement that we haven't done much. There's 600,000-plus people in Benghazi who, had we not taken action, would be in a very different circumstance today than they are. MR. BURNS: Right. GEN. HAM: We forget about that. MR. BURNS: Yeah. Right. GEN. HAM: So I think there are some good successes. But we shouldn't kid ourselves. And Ajdabiyah and Misurata and certainly in Zawia and Zintan, there are some very significant problems. What we're looking at is how can we most effectively counter these regime forces that are threatening civilians, attacking civilians, without causing more civilian casualties? MR. BURNS: Right. GEN. HAM: I mean, Ajdabiyah is a great example. It's a small town and, you know, as the regime forces go in there, the fact of the matter is, we could easily destroy all the regime forces that are in Ajdabiyah. But we would destroy Ajdabiyah. MR. BURNS: Where is that again? GEN. HAM: In Ajdabiyah. We could easily - MR. BURNS: Oh, Ajdabiyah, or whatever the - GEN. HAM: Yes. MR. BURNS: The place south of Benghazi? GEN. HAM: Correct. Yeah. MR. BURNS: Oh, okay. GEN. HAM: Yeah. Yeah. So we could do that. But we would -- first of all, we'd be -- we'd be killing the very people that we're charged with protecting. So that doesn't advance the cause much. So what we are doing is that -- you know, it's also important to remember, this is but day seven of this effort. We know a lot more now than we did on day one. We are able to target more precisely. We have an increasing understanding of his command-and-control networks, of his supply networks and we're attacking those nodes to not only disrupt his ability to conduct -- to attack civilians today, but also to degrade his ability to attack civilians into the future. MR. BURNS: Okay. Admiral Gortney also mentioned that -- in that same context of dealing -- well, more precisely, in dealing with those Qadhafi forces that are already inside urban areas, that he said it's being considered to bring in aircraft like AC-130s and drones that can apply more precision with less collateral damage. Is that something you're planning on doing or thinking about? GEN. HAM: Yeah, I think I'd talk to Admiral Gortney and say, we might not want to talk about specific capabilities that we might want to bring to bear in the future. But that is the - but that's the challenge. How do you -- how do you more precisely target these regime forces without causing civilian casualties? MR. BURNS: Right. GEN. HAM: So you know, our more precise weapons systems is what we're looking for. And it's not just us, by the way. I mean, it's French and U.K. and Canadians and Danes are doing this as well. And they've been -- they, too have been affected. MR. BURNS: Now, the command arrangement is apparently about to change. GEN. HAM: Yes. MR. BURNS: Is there going to be a period of time when there's going to be essentially a split command between you and -- is it going to be Admiral Locklear on the NATO side or is it going to be General Bouchard or who? GEN. HAM: Yeah, let me try to explain this as best I can. So we started this on the 19th and I was the overall commander. Locklear was the joint task force commander in exercising the three missions of [UN Security Council Resolution] 1973 - arms embargo, largely maritime, no-fly zone and protect civilians. MR. BURNS: Right. GEN. HAM: NATO has already accepted the arms embargo. That's today under NATO command of an Italian admiral. He -- that Italian admiral reports to Locklear, but Locklear, as commander, Joint Force Command Naples, his NATO role, and then of course Locklear reports to Stavridis. MR. BURNS: Right. GEN. HAM: On the no-fly zone, currently Locklear owns that mission. He has an air component commander who's U.S., and she reports to him and he reports to me. NATO has agreed to take that mission, and this weekend, I suspect on Sunday, Lieutenant General Bouchard will take responsibility of that mission. And then he, too, will report to Locklear in his NATO role, Locklear to Stavridis. And my role at that point will be only to support the air component, which is still U.S.-led but increasingly coalition, to support the no-fly zone. And then I still run the protect mission, and Locklear runs the protect mission, but this time with his U.S. Joint Task Force hat on. But -- yeah. MR. BURNS: Okay. I think I got all that, but I do have one question on that note. Why are they making Bouchard the guy when Locklear's already there in that same command, that joint NATO command as the commander? Why -- Bouchard is the deputy commander. Why don't they just say Locklear's in charge? GEN. HAM: Because Locklear has broader responsibilities. So Bouchard I think -- I think -- we think, U.S. thinks that the decision will be that Bouchard will also take the protect mission. So he'll own both of those and then report to Locklear, because Locklear has -- Locklear's got a -- he's got the NATO training mission in Iraq, he's got Kosovo, he's got a number of other missions of the - and antipiracy and a bunch of other things. So Bouchard would be another one of his NATO subordinate commands for that - for the Libya mission set. MR. BURNS: Okay. Will you still -- at that point, if those -- if all of that happens over the next several days, will you still be involved then? GEN. HAM: U.S. Africa Command will always be involved because Libya's in our area of responsibility. But I would -- but if this plays out the way I think it's going to play out, then I would no longer have a direct command relationship for the forces exercising this mission. MR. BURNS: Okay. Would Odyssey Dawn then -- the sun would have set on Odyssey Dawn, or what -- GEN. HAM: Correct. Yes. MR. BURNS: Okay. And you said Sunday. Is that because you think the NAC is going to make that decision on Sunday? GEN. HAM: Well, my understanding is, they've already -- they've already made the decision on no-fly zone. MR. BURNS: Oh, right. GEN. HAM: Yeah. It is my understanding that they have agreed in principle to take the protect mission. And they're going to discuss on Sunday the specifics of how they would do that, who is going to contribute forces, what the rules will be, and the timing of that. And so we'll see that play out. And I think there is -- there certainly is an expectation, I think, on the U.S. side that there will be a NAC decision on Sunday. But you never know. STAFF: Bob, this is Vince. We need to wrap it up soon. MR. BURNS: Just one last point, yeah, to clarify that then. On Sunday, with regard to the no-fly mission, that Bouchard would take responsibility on Sunday. GEN. HAM: Yes. Yep. MR. BURNS: That's your interpretation? GEN. HAM: Well, I think that's a - I think that's a done deal. I think Bouchard taking the no-fly zone is a done deal. MR. BURNS: Right. But the timing of it -- I mean, the transition. GEN. HAM: Yeah. So what -- essentially, what happens is, on the no-fly zone, is that Bouchard becomes the commander. And so he'll oversee and make the decisions about the air tasking order and the conduct of the no-fly zone. Those missions will -- their mission will still be coordinated by the -- by the Air Operations Center in Ramstein. But we are in the process of - which is U.S., but has pretty large coalition participation. As -- MR. BURNS: But General Woodward would still be doing the air tasking? GEN. HAM: Yeah. She's doing that now. What we -- what we are already in the process of doing is transitioning from what is currently a U.S. command-and-control system -- the communications, Internet that we use -- we're today establish -- putting in NATO computers and NATO networks to facilitate that. We brought in officers from the Air Component Command in Izmir, Turkey, and the -- and the place I can't pronounce in Italy, the Combined Air Operations Center. They're today sitting side by side with Maggie Woodward's folks. U.S. Air Forces in Europe have sent a number of planners to the air operations center in Italy to help them get stood up, and to accept this mission. So we're not -- I mean, we're doing a lot of things in advance of an anticipated decision, so that when the decision is made, we can make this transition seamlessly and with no disruption to the mission. MR. BURNS: Okay. So Sunday, we should expect NATO to be in charge of the no-fly zone, and then -- GEN. HAM: Correct. Absolutely. MR. BURNS: Okay. Alright. Okay. Well, you've got to run. Thanks for taking the time out - (inaudible, cross talk). GEN. HAM: Okay. All right, Bob. We'll see you down the road. Okay, thank you. (END)
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