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TRANSCRIPT: Ambassador Holmes Addresses Participants of Maritime and Coastal Security Conference in South Africa
<i>While addressing participants of the Maritime and Coastal Security Africa Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, U.S. Africa Command&#39;s civilian deputy, highlighted the historical context of the command,
While addressing participants of the Maritime and Coastal Security Africa Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, highlighted the historical context of the command, discussed AFRICOM's six areas of focus, and also touched upon budget concerns, October 27, 2011.

Holmes explained that when the command was established in 2007, there was an assumption that it would be most effective operating from a headquarters on the African continent, but that it was quickly decided to keep the headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, because of the backlash that resulted from that discussion.

"We decided immediately that we would retain our headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, where it is today and where it's likely to remain indefinitely. And the only way I can see that changing is if the congressional delegations from the states of Virginia or South Carolina or Georgia succeed in their multiple efforts to convince our Pentagon to relocate the headquarters of the Africa Command back to the continental United States," he said.

Because the challenges in Africa are unique, Holmes said they adopted an approach called "sustained security engagement," which takes a whole-of-government approach to partner with other U.S. and international government agencies and African partners to improve African security capacity. This mission, he explained, is second behind the "traditional regional command mission that encompasses all of the traditional military skills and operations."

U.S. AFRICOM's activities, Holmes explained, are focused in six main areas: peacekeeping, counterterrorism, defense sector reform, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, development of noncommissioned officers, and maritime security.

The complete transcript is provided below: J. ANTHONY HOLMES: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here. I would like to thank in particular South Africa incorporated, this very impressive amalgamation of government, the navy and business, which is hosting us today and tomorrow. I'd like to especially thank them for including the U.S. Africa Command. We don't take it for granted that we will be invited, and we're very pleased to be here. Now, I'm not a Navy guy. I'm not a maritime specialist. My focus is -- for the past 32 -- years has been on economic development, Africa, American foreign policy and foreign assistance, and generally how we as a nation can assist our friends, our partners, in effect, the rest of the world to contribute to an international community and, in this case, an Africa that is moving forward towards development and prosperity. So what I'm going to try to do in the next few minutes is give you a little bit of context, historical context, political context, foreign policy context as to why the U.S. Africa Command was created, who we are, why we exist and how we operate, and then at the end to use the maritime sector as -- to illustrate some of the points I've made, and then to finish it all in about 20 minutes or so to permit plenty of times for questions. The United States of America is a very -- it's very much a latecomer to this continent. Before the end of the Second World War, our engagement -- our exposure to Africa was really minimal. Setting aside the fact that 12 or 13 percent of our population has its origins in Africa and that there was a small number of American missionaries on the content, it was really only a result of the end of the Second World War and our emergence unscathed and de facto as a world power that brought Africa to our attention. And from then until 1989, we basically approached Africa as an afterthought, but along two lines. The first is as a remote battlefield in the Cold War, where there was definitely -- because of the resources of Africa, because of the potential of Africa, because of the number of sovereign nations emerging in Africa, Africa was not a prize, but Africa was a battleground for influence, ideological influence. Because of that, we made a number of pretty boneheaded moves, decisions about countries and governments and rulers to support that today we prefer to forget and never talk about. (Laughter.) At the same time, this second fundamental approach was one that I would call, in a word, altruism. We as a nation emerged after our own Civil War and rejecting a colonial power [the American War of Independence from Great Britain], now one of our very closest friends. But at the time, during the late '50s and '60s and early '70s, the United States identified with the emerging nations of Africa. And so we had this dual approach, not quite schizophrenic, but we wanted to help the nations of Africa follow in our footsteps towards prosperous nations with vibrant democracies and economies that could provide reasonable standards of living for their populations. Now, at the end of the Cold War in 1989, and particularly with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, things changed. The American electorate at home demanded a peace dividend. At the end of the Cold War, they wanted to return our focus, our investments, to the long-neglected internal problems in the United States. And so we cut our assistance and we cut our military budget just at a time when the world was changing and just at a time when what I would call globalization was beginning. The world is becoming much smaller, and Africa was becoming much larger both as a result of that and its own progress, albeit in fits and starts, towards those democratic, prosperous countries and economies that was our goal and Africa's goal. And during this period of time, the globalization of threats also emerged. And we were largely oblivious to the emergence of threats globally, including in Africa, that had profound implications for our own national security, as far away as we are. And that was brought home to us incrementally during the '80s and '90s with the emergence of terrorism, with the bombings of the U.S. embassies in 1998 in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and then of course with the events of September 11th, 2001. And the combination of those snowballing events led the United States to realize that what is happening in Africa has very direct national security implications for the United States -- not just for the United States, for the entire world. But after those attacks, our perspective on the world and what's happening in the world and its implications for us changed. Now, we have always covered Africa. It had been covered by -- the U.S. military had always covered Africa. I say "we." I'm speaking about the African Command. We covered it from Stuttgart, Germany, as part of our European Command due to the fact that virtually all of Africa was, at one time or another, up until the liberation period, a colony of a European power. So this was just natural. But in this globalized world, that wasn't sufficient. I've worked in a number of embassies in Africa, and we had routine engagements between the United States military and the militaries of the region. And I would often attend events. And occasionally an African military official, a senior one, would say to me, "You don't respect us." "What do you mean? We're here. We're working with you. What do you mean, we don't respect you?" "You have a command for Europe. You have a command for the Middle East. You have one for the Pacific. You have one for Latin America. You do not have one for Africa. You don't respect us." It's pretty hard to neglect that, to ignore that. Well, in the early part of the last decade we decided we would reorganize ourselves internally to cover Africa properly with a new regional geographic command whose focus was exclusively the African continent and its island nations. And thus in early 2007, the Africa Command was announced. It went into a year of transition on the 1st of October 2007. In the 1st of October 2008 it was created. And we made a disastrous, stupid mistake right at the beginning, in part because a lot of the people back in Washington had very limited or no experience at all with Africa, with its sensitivities, with its aspirations. And there was an assumption that we would be most effective if we operated from a headquarters on the African continent. And the discussion of that created such a backlash and aroused so much opposition that we very quickly backed off. And we decided immediately that we would retain our headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, where it is today and where it's likely to remain indefinitely. And the only way I can see that changing is if the congressional delegations from the states of Virginia or South Carolina or Georgia succeed in their multiple efforts to convince our Pentagon to relocate the headquarters of the Africa Command back to the continental United States. So we are here in Germany -- or we are in Germany focused on Africa, and that's the way it's very likely to remain. Now, there are certain advantages to creating a regional command in 2007 that didn't exist with the other commands in previous decades. And we had the opportunity to shape this command into something that was truly tailored for the realities of Africa. And we recognized that the security challenges emanating from Africa were not and are not conducive to traditional military approaches and solutions, that they are inherently related to the challenges of development -- economic development and political development, social development. And so we decided to adopt a different approach in Africa than our military commands in the rest of the world had done. We call it "sustained security engagement." Now, this is -- and let me be clear about this -- a second mission. The first mission is the traditional regional command mission that encompasses all of the traditional military skills and operations. But because of the realities of Africa, because of the sensitivities of Africa, we want to, and we have for the past four years, operated on the basis of consultation with African nations in what we call a whole-of-government approach. So that's why I exist. That's why my position exists. I have a three-star U.S. Navy admiral as my counterpart, the deputy commander for military operations. And my focus, at least in terms of my title, is civil military affairs. But in fact, the two of us range across the operations and exercises and security engagement that we engage in, and that is because we believe that a whole-of-government approach is the only way that we can be successful. Now, fundamental to our approach is what I would call partnership. This whole-of-government approach between U.S. government agencies is one form of partnership. The second form of partnership is with our European allies -- but more. We reach out and we do engagements with, for example, Brazil in the maritime domain. We work with, in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, in the northwest Indian Ocean, all of the countries that are part of the anti-piracy effort there. But we want to work with whomever is interested in partnering with us to most effectively combine our resources and to attract the participation of all African countries who are interested. So this concept of partnership is really important, because we believe that there's virtually no problem, maritime- or land-security challenge, in Africa, that can be solved by a single nation operating on its own. Virtually every problem can be solved best, if it can be solved at all, through multilateral cooperation. So we emphasize over and over and over again the importance of a regional or a continental -- of a continental, regional or subregional approach. And what we are trying to do, the reason AFRICOM was created, is to have this engagement occurring on a sustained basis. The real disadvantage of having the European Command cover Africa was that it was episodic. We just -- the European Command at the time covered 93 countries, stretching from the United Kingdom -- in terms of its area of operation -- Ireland, United Kingdom to Cape Town, to Vladivostok. That's just too much. So now, with the Africa Command -- it's a very small, modestly financed command -- we are able to devote full-time attention to Africa. But this concept of partnership is crucial. And fundamental to our approach is one of building institutions, enabling Africans to solve African security problems and meet challenges through the development of capability and institutions to permit that, to sustain that. And so we spend an awful lot of time working with the African Union and the subregional organizations that have been deputized, authorized by the African Union. So we work with ECOWAS and the Economic Community for Central African States and, to the extent that we're permitted, with SADC, with the East African Community, with IGAD in the Horn of Africa. But we try to do everything we can to bring Africans together -- African militaries, African governments, African institutions -- to promote interoperability -- a word that we've heard a lot this morning, so that African militaries -- for example in West Africa, across the Anglophone-Francophone divide; across the seams between organizations, for example in the maritime area, between ECOWAS and the Central African Economic Community -- to try to get used to talking to each other, working with each other, developing the relationships and getting to know each other, so that when small problems arise, they pick up the telephone and call each other, and things don't fester and get out of hand. And our experience the past four years has been markedly successful. Often, it takes a third party to bridge political sensitivities, regional rivalries; and we and the rest of the partnerships that we've created are happy to facilitate that. Now, I mentioned we were small. The total budget for AFRICOM -- headquarters, salaries, exercises, everything we do -- is almost $1 billion U.S. Now, that is out of roughly a $750 billion, broadly defined, defense budget. So about 0.15 percent of U.S. military expenditure is focused on Africa. That's very modest, indeed. And what we actually spend on the continent, in terms of exercises, in terms of engagements, in terms of the range of activities we undertake: In our fiscal year 2011, which ended the beginning of this month, it was about $515 million; in our fiscal year 2010, it was $389 million. And most of that in most cases is not U.S. Defense Department money. It is peacekeeping operations money, it is economic support fund money, or categories appropriated by our Congress to promote the peace and development in Africa. And AFRICOM is the implementing partner, because it makes sense that if you are a military you might have value to add in peacekeeping operations. Peacekeeping is probably the first and foremost of the six areas of focus that we pursue. It's the one we've been pursuing probably the longest. We've had a formal peacekeeping program since 1997, and during that period of time we have trained 204,761 African peacekeepers, 235 units from 25 African countries, to participate in United Nations and African Union peacekeeping operations. The second area of focus I would call generally counterterrorism. Our aim is to assist the countries affected by terrorist groups. And largely our focus is on Somalia and its neighbors in the Horn of Africa; and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, headquartered or based in northern Mali and the surrounding countries, particularly Mauritania and Niger, and increasingly and very worryingly, northern Nigeria -- to try to work with them, to sensitize them to the problems and to assist their own capability to deal with this threat themselves. So you don't find American troops fighting terrorists in Africa. In fact, that's why last week when we announced -- when the administration, the Obama administration, announced, as is required by U.S. law under what we call the War Powers Act, that it was putting a small number of special forces troops into Uganda to assist the UPDF in fighting the Lord's Resistance Army. that's why that created such a flurry, both in Africa and in the United States: because it's actually so rare, or basically unique. The third area, in addition to peacekeeping and counterterrorism, is noncommissioned officer development. We believe that an absolute pillar of American military success has been the empowerment of our noncommissioned officers: the responsibility that we give them; the training responsibility that we give them; the outreach and engagement responsibilities that we give them, both domestically in the United States and around the world -- absolutely crucial to our military, and we believe an area of great potential growth and development in African militaries. The fourth area that I wanted to mention was security sector reform and defense sector reform. By law, the U.S. military is not allowed to engage with police forces, gendarmes, wildlife services, or other important elements of the security sectors of virtually every African country. We limit our engagement to military-to-military engagement. And in that regard, we've taken on a couple of very large-scale projects, particularly in Liberia and very recently in South Sudan, in which we are committing ourselves to a long-term engagement to help one -- two countries coming out of civil wars to reconstitute their militaries, professionalize them and put them on a sustainable basis that they can afford and that will provide adequate defense and fulfillment of the missions they are given. And fundamental to this, and something that gets very little attention, is our efforts to help these governments develop a ministry of defense and the institutions of successful ministries and successful militaries -- things like military police and military justice systems and inspectors general and procurement systems, and all of the fundamental things that we never think or talk about, but take for granted, that are required for achievement of something that is inherent in every one of our engagements and exercises, and that is the role of the military in a democracy. And we actively promote respect for human rights and rule of law, and the subordination of militaries to elected civilian authority. And this is something that is fundamental to our approach; it's something we work on everywhere. And occasionally, we will add to this things like a module on countering sexual- and gender-based violence, for example, in Congo. But we try to do this in such a way that what we in AFRICOM do is part of the broad range of activities that comprise United States Africa policy. AFRICOM does not set policy; we implement policy. We go where the White House and the State Department tell us to go, and we go there only with the full support, concurrence and coordination of the U.S. embassies. And that working through the embassies ensures that we have complete support, concurrence and, hopefully, partnership by the militaries where we engage. I mean, I can tell you as a former ambassador, no ambassador would have us anywhere near coming into the country unless this had been coordinated with and embraced by the military of the African country in question, and this is something that we hope contributes to the broad development of relations between the United States and the individual countries, the subregions, and the regions. Now, we're getting close. Let me say just a bit about maritime and open the floor to questions. MODERATOR: You have five minutes, sir. AMB. HOLMES: OK, hopefully I'll finish in three or four. We have a signature maritime program we began in 2006. We call it Africa Partnership Station. Last year, 26 African countries, 10 European countries, Brazil and the United States participated with several U.S. frigates running largely in a hub-and-spoke fashion on both the east coast and west coasts of Africa. Much of our focus is on the economic benefit to be derived by African countries through maritime security awareness. I mean, our focus -- we're very cognizant of piracy. We're very concerned about piracy. We're concerned about trafficking as well. But our focus is on educating, creating an awareness of what's going on, what the implications are for the country involved and how to begin exerting state sovereignty over territorial seas so that the nation as a whole can benefit. And that is primarily economic. Now, if we can deter trafficking, if we can deter terrorism, if we can reduce environmental pollution or degradation, that's all important. But our focus tends to be economic. And this requires this whole-of-government approach that has been mentioned several times. I mean, it just can't be the Navy. It just can't be law enforcement. It has to be both the Navy and law enforcement, and then the judicial system, because if you seize an illegal fishing vessel or a small boat laden with cocaine, you've got to be able to deal with these people in this vessel and what you have confiscated, not just stop it. And there are very few African countries that have fully thought through and integrated the various elements that comprise maritime security. And so we operate in addition to the Africa Partnership Station called -- something called AMLEP, the African Maritime Law Enforcement Program, which is more law enforcement-oriented, as its name would imply. But it's a holistic approach that involves active participation by representatives of multiple African countries with the view of both expanding their horizons literally and figuratively, as well as providing hands-on experience with the basics -- the mechanics. We also will work bilaterally with countries, and increasingly there's a demand for this: Ghana is a good example, as it has just commenced the exploitation of its significant petroleum reserves. Virtually, perhaps literally every African coastal country is exploring for -- exploring or already producing hydrocarbons. And the need for them to be able to ensure the security of those operations is very important to them. And again, the best approach is for a regional approach and cooperation with their neighbors and with their subregional organizations. And so I was delighted to hear the recent progress in SADC. And we are particularly pleased that SADC decision to move forward aggressively with a maritime strategy is one that permits the partnership and participation of non-SADC members. So we are prepared to do that. So let me close by giving a note of caution. I mean, in the United States, we're facing a pretty grave budget crisis. Actually, it's not quite that grave. But what really is grave is the political crisis that's come out of the budget crisis. And so it's virtually certain that AFRICOM's budget and the budget for literally every agency of the U.S. government is going to begin declining, nothing precipitous, but it means that we've got to spend our money more wisely and we've got to focus -- target it -- more effectively. And then also as a diplomat, as a career State Department person, I was alarmed -- in fact the reason I'm in my position now is because of my concern about the potential for the militarization of U.S.-Africa policy. In fact, now that I've been here, now that we've adopted this whole-of-government approach, I think based on 27 months in this position what is most remarkable to me is the diplomatization of the U.S. military. Anyway, thank you very much. We're delighted to be here. (END)
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