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General Ham Discusses U.S. AFRICOM objectives and Africa security issues at the Sciences Po
HERVÉ CRÈS: (In progress) – to all of us – to all of you, sorry. Sir Ham, dear professors, dear students, it's a – it's a pleasure and an honor for me to introduce this conference with General Carter Ham. So my name is Hervé Cres, I

HERVÉ CRÈS: (In progress) – to all of us – to all of you, sorry.

Sir Ham, dear professors, dear students, it's a – it's a pleasure and an honor for me to introduce this conference with General Carter Ham. So my name is Hervé Cres, I am the interim director of Sciences Po, and I'm very, very pleased to welcome you today. General Carter Ham is the commander of the U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM, and I'm also very pleased to welcome his delegation here.

So please, Sir Ham, I'm going to introduce you to our audience, which is here composed mostly of students from our School of International Affairs, and the faculty that you already met during the small venue. We are very, very honored by your visit at Sciences Po. You know that Sciences Po is the leading global institution, and we created two years ago an important school, the School of – Paris School of International Affairs, and I'm sure that you can appreciate the commitment of our students, faculty and researchers to insightfully impact the international affairs at the local, national and global level.

I would like to emphasize the unique international dimension of Sciences Po. We have – I already told you – a network for 400 partner universities; among them, many in Africa. And every year, more than 4,000 non-French students come to our school, on our benches, to study. More and more of them actually come from Africa since we have been developing recently a special program in our college, which is a Euro-African program who welcomes 40 students a year coming from 20 different countries, and lots of them from Africa.

At the graduate level, we have this school, Paris School of International Affairs, that welcomes students from over a hundred countries. 70 percent of the students are foreigners, and we developed within this school an African Studies program with currently 150 students studying from all backgrounds. Many of these students are with us today, and are going to ask questions for that.

So dear students and faculty, some words, of course, on General Ham. General Ham has covered the world through his military service, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Italy and Germany, and of course, Africa and the United States. Throughout an accomplished career, General Ham has held many high positions, including commander of the Multinational Brigade in Mosul, Iraq. Prior to AFRICOM, which is your current mission, your most previous assignment was commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army for several years. Your command was characterized by nurturing close relationships with European allies and partners for over a four-year period.

Actually, I know that out of many appearances in the worldwide media, General Ham is perhaps most notorious for his appearing in advertisement for motorcycle safety, riding your Harley-Davidson.

General Ham began his career as first an enlisted soldier, and made his way through the ranks to the most senior level of the military. In addition to his many awards and decoration, including the Army Distinguished Service medal, the Defense Superior Service medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star medal, and the Joint Service Commendation Medal, General Ham has also been at the forefront of helping U.S. soldiers deal with the wounds both visible and invisible of recent conflicts.

We are most delighted to have you with us today, General Ham, for a vivid discussion which will moderated by an eminent but familiar face of Sciences Po and its School of International Affairs: General Vincent Desportes, who is associate professor to our faculty. General Desportes is teaching comparative strategy in SIA and also previously actually served as the military attaché at the Embassy of France to the United States.

It's a great honor, Sir Ham, to have you today at Sciences Po. We are looking forward to this unique opportunity for dialogue with you. Thank you very, very much, and I'm going to leave you the floor. (Applause.)

GENERAL CARTER HAM: Thank you very much for that kind invitation. So just check – there was the sound, I think – it is indeed a great honor and privilege to be here.

I've had a number of engagements over the past few days here in Paris. Yesterday was spent mostly with government officials, both military and civilian, talking about our shared interests and ways in which we might more effectively coordinate our activities. And today has been a day of talking with students, with fellows both military and civilian, and with researchers who focus on security matters on the continent of Africa. But I have been cautioned yesterday and today that they saved the most – the most difficult and the best audience for last, which is you. They said that, first of all – which is true, I can tell by your appearance – that significantly the youngest population that I have spoken with in the past few days, and I hope also the most inquisitive and most challenging, and I've been assured that I shall not be disappointed in that regard. So I look forward to that.

As you heard about the – a few of the things that I've done in my military career, one of the things you didn't hear about was any service in Africa, because for the United States military, unlike the French military, Africa has not been an area of significant concentration for us. We have focused on other parts of the world, certainly for the most of my military service. I grew up in the Cold War Army of the United States, focused here in Europe for the most part, in a dangerous but somewhat stable and predictable security environment. The security environment in which you will operate is far different from that, far more complex, far more uncertain, yet every bit as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than the world in which I grew up. So I think you have plenty of challenges ahead as you look to very bright futures.

What I would propose to do today is talk a little bit about who we are at U.S. Africa Command, what we strive to do, what we hope to do, a couple of contemporary challenges that we are – that we are facing. And then what I really would like to do is get to a point where we can have a discussion – your questions, your comments – because I think it is in the dialogue that we will have the greatest benefit of this discussion.

And what also I was thinking in my mind – I wonder if this is the first time that two generals have been on the podium before such an inquisitive audience. It may be somewhat unusual here at the university, but nonetheless, I think, important, because we are – oftentimes, find ourselves at the intersection between military and political affairs, and perhaps something – that is something we can talk about.

So first of all, a little bit about who we are at U.S. Africa Command. The United States military organizes globally with six regional commands that oversee U.S. military activities. The one which I'm privileged to lead has responsibility for U.S. military activities on the continent of Africa, its island nations, less Egypt. Egypt falls into the responsibility of another command that focuses mostly on the Mideast. But for matters of Egyptian engagement with African security matters, then we interact with Egypt in that regard.

Our – the purpose of our organization, of the command, is simply stated: to advance the United States' national interest in the continent of Africa. And we think that we do that best by strengthening the defense capabilities of African partners so that they are increasingly capable of providing for their own defense and contributing more broadly to regional stability and security. The reason that we're interested in that is that we are convinced that when African nations are increasingly stable and secure, when regions are increasingly stable and secure, conflict is deterred, the opportunities for economic growth, the development of good governance, the provision of humanitarian needs are best able to occur. And we think that that is best done not by U.S. military forces but by African forces as they work under legitimate control.

So a significant part of our effort is focused on, again, strengthening the defense capabilities of African militaries so that they are not only technically and tactically capable but that they are responsive and subordinate to legitimate civilian control, that they operate according to the rule of law, that they are respectful of human rights and that they are seen genuinely as protectors of the people of their nation. That's very easy to say, and it's extraordinarily difficult to achieve. But it is, in my view, a worthy endeavor, and not one that the United States takes on exclusively on its own. We do so in partnership with many others.

Our command is structured so that we are a joint military and civilian command. We recognize that the – a military component of United States foreign policy is important but must be supportive of the broader objectives of U.S. foreign policy. To that end, in our headquarters, located in Stuttgart, Germany, we have a broad mix of military and civilian capabilities. With me today, Ambassador Helen LaLime, a senior foreign service officer, formerly the United States ambassador to Mozambique, deputy chief of mission in South Africa, long service in Africa. Ambassador LaLime and her compadres from the foreign service provide us not only context and understanding from a U.S. policy perspective but also regional understanding because so many of them have long service in Africa and experience that most military officers do not have.

In addition to foreign service officers from the U.S. Department of State, we have staffing from the U.S. Agency for International Development, from our departments of Treasury, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Energy, organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency and many, many others. It is recognition that it is only through a comprehensive interagency approach, the so-called whole-of-government approach, that we can best interact with our African partners and best work collaboratively to achieve our shared security concerns.

Our activities in Africa are guided by a number of strategic documents issued by the United States, two of which I would mention specifically and commend to you for reading. The general has one, the United States – it's called the Presidential Policy Directive for Sub-Saharan Africa or U.S. Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa. This outlines in broad terms what it is that our president and our government seek to achieve. That strategy is based on four pillars: first, to promote opportunity and development; secondly, to spur economic growth, trade and investment; thirdly, to advance peace and security; and fourth, to strengthen democratic institutions.

It's interesting to me that strengthening – that advancing peace and security is third, and I think that is – unsurprising to you, that's the area, the pillar in which we concentrate our efforts. And to me, my interpretation of that direction from my president says that peace and security are necessary conditions for the other objectives to be achieved, but peace and security by itself is not necessarily a comprehensive end state. So we work – we – again, we recognize that the military effort is a supporting and enabling function to the broader U.S. foreign policy.

A second document that guides our activities was issued earlier this year in January, a 2012 document called the strategic guidance. In that document – it is in that document in which the president and our secretary of defense announced the so-called rebalance of effort toward the Pacific region, for understandable geostrategic reasons. When that document came out, many of my African counterparts were concerned because when you read that document, the word “Africa” appears precisely one time in the document.

And so our African partners, both military and civilian, became concerned and said, does this meant that the U.S. Department of Defense is no longer concerned about Africa? And I said, in total honesty, again, from an over-arching geostrategic viewpoint, it is understandable why we emphasize the Pacific. But when you look at the list of tasks which have been identified for the United States military, it resonates very clearly with our partners in Africa.

The tasks assigned to the armed forces of the United States – at the top of the list will not surprise you. It is the defeat of al-Qaida and other violent extremist organizations that threaten America, Americans and American interests, our allies and partners and – around the world. And certainly perhaps – or not perhaps, but – and unfortunately, we find ourselves engaged in those kinds of activities with African partners across the continent.

Secondly, America's armed forces are charged with ensuring access – global access for the conduct of free trade and commerce, and we certainly engage in those activities in Africa.

A third priority is building partner capacity, strengthening, enabling the capabilities of others so that they are able to deter and prevent conflict. If – should conflict occur, they're able to respond and handle those matters of conflict by themselves or regionally or cooperatively with others and not necessarily default to a position where American military intervention is required.

A fourth priority is the effort to prevent and be prepared to respond to mass atrocity – unfortunately, a mission set for which we must be prepared in Africa.

And lastly, military support to humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, wherever they may occur. And certainly we have a role in that in Africa.

So my message to my African partners is while, again, from a geostrategic location or point of view, Africa might not rank as high as the Pacific in the U.S. national interest, from an armed service standpoint ,when you look at the tasks that are assigned, very clearly, our efforts in Africa are quite important.

Let me talk very briefly about – just highlight three particular current activities in which we are engaged, and then – and then hopefully then some others will come forth in our discussion. I won't – I won't discuss Mali because I suspect you're going to ask me about Mali, so we'll leave that for the question-and-answer period, but let me focus on three others.

First, Somalia. Somalia, in my view, is on a positive trajectory, but still lots of work to be done. The security situation is significantly improved but not yet where it needs to be. A president, a parliament, a constitution have been based. The capital city, the main port city of Kismayo now largely but not completely free from the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Shabab organization forge an opportunity for Somalis to move forward.

The next steps will be the establishment of effective local governance, economic development opportunities and, from a security standpoint, focusing more on helping develop Somali security forces more than our previous effort and current effort, which is focused on training and equipping other African forces to conduct operations in Somalia. But in my view, Somalia is moving in a positive direction.

Now, second contemporary area is Libya, and – Libya, very fragile and lots of challenges in the post-revolution era in Libya. There is some good news. There have been elections. There have been the establishment of a government. But there is lots of fragility. Libya does not have defense or other governmental institutions that are experienced and are capable of administering the country. That's work that requires attention. Border security is very problematic. The existence of very heavily armed militia, which operate outside of government control, is a lingering concern and a problem that must be addressed in the relatively near term. On the positive side, economic – the restoration of the oil industry is nearly back to pre-revolution levels. That's a positive sign. Air traffic, maritime traffic is returning to normal rates. So there are some – there are some good signs. Again, on a security front, worrying indicators as evidenced by the 11 September attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi of the existence of terrorist organizations, perhaps an extension of a violent extremist network that extends across North and West Africa. And we're looking for opportunities on how to work with the Libyans and others in the region to effectively counter that network.

A third contemporary issue is countering Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army, a long-standing regional issue in the four-country area of Uganda, Republic of South Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. I suspect many of you know about the Lord's Resistance Army and its horrific actions, murdering, torturing, raping, dismembering, terrorizing broad swaths of land, causing tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of persons to be displaced. And the U.S. effort as directed by our president is to support and enable an African Union-led effort to find – to protect civilians, to help them find Joseph Kony and the other senior leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army and bring them to justice.

To do that, we have about 100 U.S. special forces personnel operating in the region in support of our African partners. We help with the intelligence-sharing, with the tactical transportation, meaning helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft so they have mobility. We help with communications, with the extension of early warning systems so that towns and villages in the region have an ability to contact local security forces should they feel endangered. And we have seen in the past several months an increase in the number of defections, an increase in the number of escapees from the Lord's Resistance Army, an increased effectiveness by African patrols which have interdicted LRA movements in the region and bringing some of their senior and midgrade leaders in custody and moving forward.

So those are three among many, many issues that we find ourselves engaged with today. As we look to the future, an increasingly uncertain environment in Africa, but what I would tell you, as I travel about the continent, having been now to 40 of the African countries in the past year and a half, I find a very realistic assessment by African leaders, both military and civilian, of the challenges that they face. But I also find a very genuine sense of optimism that with a little bit of help, a little bit of assistance, they will be able to address the challenges that they confront.

As just one anecdote, not long after I arrived at the command in the spring of last year, I was traveling and I met with one of the chiefs of defense. We had our normal discussions about current operations and activities. As I was getting ready to depart, he said, typically, you know, thanks for coming. He said, listen, we're a big country in size; we have a small population. We have a small military; we have a small budget. We need some assistance. We need some help to achieve our security objectives. That made sense to me.

And then he said something that was very interesting. He said, more than assistance, more than you helping us with equipment and training, what we really want is partnership. I didn't really understand that day what that general was talking about, but I've come to better understand it over the time I've been in this command. What African partners, those with whom I interact – the chiefs of defense, the military commanders, the ministers of defense and heads of state – what they're looking for is partnership in the truest sense of the word, a relationship in which all parties benefit; that we work collaboratively to achieve our mutual objectives.

Frankly, to treat one another with dignity and respect, not, you know, the large, overpowering, all-powerful U.S. military coming in and saying here's what you should do, but to start from listening and to listen to our African partners, what is it that you would like us to do? What might be possible: What might be helpful? And it's been an interesting education for this old general. And I've learned a lot in the past year and a half. So I hope to be able to continue to apply that and continue to learn, as I do each and every day as I have the opportunity to work in this fascinating region of the world.

Again, I thank you for your attention. I very much thank you for allowing me to come speak with you. And I very much look forward to your questions and comments. Thanks. (Applause.)

GENERAL VINCENT DESPORTES: Thank you very much for your introductory remarks.

Now, students, the floor is yours. But you know the rules. I'll ask you to stand up, to line behind the microphone and to ask your question very precisely and briefly. I am sure there's a lot of questions to answer, too, and maybe to present yourself before asking your question. And I suggest that you take three questions by three questions. So please stand up and go behind the microphone to prepare your question.

To give time to the students, I would like to begin with a question about war. You are not only the commander of the U.S. African Command, but you are also a great soldier with a vast experience of war. You have been in Desert Storm. You have been in Iraqi Freedom, with one year in Iraq. You commanded Odyssey Dawn, and – the U.S. part of Odyssey Dawn. So you take – you took part of three very different wars. And my question is about the nature of war. Do you think that the nature of war is really changing? What could be war tomorrow? And what is the model for future war?

GEN. HAM: Well, I don't know how effective I've been, but – but I certainly have tried to learn about my profession, which is the profession of arms. A couple of – I would make a couple of comments, General. First, what I'm – what I am reminded of is that despite all of the technologies that apply today and our explorations and capabilities that are based in space and in cyberspace, war, armed conflict, is an inherently human endeavor. And we should not forget that, that war is undertaken by people for a variety of reasons, and trying to understand those motivations, I think, is a necessary component for anyone who would – who would choose a military profession.

So I've asked myself – as I've mentioned to the general – I've asked myself, has the – has the nature of war changed, you know, over the past decades or a generation? Again, the military that I grew up in the immediate post-Vietnam era principally focused on the Cold War, the (collusion ?) of large formations, the imminent threat of thermonuclear war, all of that. And we find ourselves now in a very different strategic environment.

But I think the nature of war, the very essence, in my view, still comes down to the point of the imposition of one's will, either individual or a nation's will upon another, in this case, through the force of arms. That to me says that this is a human undertaking with all of its faults and shortcomings. And therefore, just as the nature of war in my view is human, so too is the prevention of war. War is a decision. It is not unavoidable. I have taken the view in my – in my career that the – perhaps overly-simplified view – that the best way to ensure the peace is to prepare for war. I think unfortunately, in our uncertain world, there is – that is true.

The application of military force is rapidly changing through technology, the speed of information, the amount of information that is available, certainly, the emerging area – era of cyberspace, changes how we might conduct war, but I don't think it alters the very essence of war.

And lastly, let me simply comment on the interaction of military and political leaders. As you study international relations and political science – I was a political science major at – I went to a small Jesuit college, never thinking that I would actually apply the lessons that I was – that I was learning. I remember taking a course in international law, as I suspect some of you have, and learning about Hugo Grotius, and thinking, frankly, upon graduation, that I would never hear that name again. (Scattered laughter.) But that's not true, because we live in a – in a world of human interaction.

So as you think about preparing for the future, as difficult as it may seem, some of you are going to end up in positions where you are offering political advice. Some of you will rise to positions where you are making those policy decisions that are hugely influential for your countries, for a region. I certainly never thought of myself – and just one anecdote as we were – as the contemplation for military action in Libya was being considered, we got to one point in a very serious discussion.

And the president of the United States – the president of the United States turns to me and says, Carter, what do you think? My first thought was, what the hell am I doing in this meeting? (Laughter.) The second was – it struck me that at that moment, 30-plus years of education and military experience came to the point to prepare me to answer that question. Some of you will find yourselves in that circumstance as well. So perhaps as an encouragement from the faculty, study hard and be prepared to answer those kinds of questions.

GEN. DESPORTES: Thank you very much, sir. So the first three question, please present yourself.

Q: Good afternoon – good afternoon, General. Thank you for taking the time to come here and speak with us. I'm a student at the American University of Paris, studying international affairs. And the question I had for you deals with the Africa Partnership Station program. Specifically, I wanted to ask you, how effective would you say APS is at establishing relationships and how do you measure that?

GEN. DESPORTES: Thank you. Oh, we take three question at the same time.

Q: Good afternoon. My name is Michael Lerner (sp). I' m an exchange student from the University of Michigan. And I'm currently studying at Science Po for this year. My question is what are the effects of the upcoming budget cuts to the U.S. military and especially the U.S. military's operations in Africa?

GEN. DESPORTES: Thank you.

Q: Hello. Thank you to be here. I'm a student in second year in Sciences Po. And I would like to ask you about the real – (inaudible) – the efficiency of a military solution to fight nonmilitary force, because conflict have changed and there are more and more social conflicts in Africa, more than really conventional conflicts. We fight two armies. And so in what extent is really efficient – the military solutions? Thanks.

GEN. DESPORTES: Thank you very much.

GEN. HAM: Thanks. Three very good questions to begin with. The African Partnership Station is a program – a U.S. military program through which the U.S. Naval and Coast Guard ships operate in African waters alongside and with African maritime forces, and often European maritime forces as well. It is intended to be a program that fosters maritime security cooperation, recognizing that very few African countries have the financial wherewithal to provide for their own navies and coast guard, so a regional or cooperative effort is very necessary.

It has been somewhat successful, but not as successful as I would like – would like it to be. And that has principally been my inability to have U.S. Naval vessels available to conduct this training on a sufficiently frequent basis. That's because of other global commitments in the Middle East and in the Pacific that has made vessels not as available as I would like.

We also do training called maritime law enforcement program where U.S. Coast Guard and other law enforcement officials work with the Africans in real security undertakings to help them conduct fisheries enforcement, to combat piracy and to combat the illicit transportation of illegal narcotics. An exercise last year yielded – with the maritime forces of Cape Verde – resulted in a seizure of well over $100 million worth of cocaine in a single interdiction. So I think we are marginally successful, but there is more that we can do.

With regard to budget reductions, it's a very real concern. I don't think – the budget reductions will not have a dramatic effect on U.S. Africa Command because we are not a big consumer of large-scale forces, no aircraft carriers, no large land formations, those kinds of activities that cost a lot of money.

But nonetheless, we have a responsibility to use the resources we have most wisely. To that effort, we're looking at our exercise and training programs, which heretofore have been largely bilateral, and looking to say, is that really the best way, or is it more efficient – is it more cost-efficient and more productive to conduct multilateral and regional exercises? So I think that will be one effect of the budget changes.

The other effect will be seeking opportunities to work with other nations, to include France, who have significant engagements in Africa. Again, all nations, as they always do, act in their own interest. But we've been sufficiently resourced in previous years that each country could kind of do its own thing without regard to what the others are doing. I think as the United States and others experience some financial challenges, we need to find more cooperative and collaborative ways to combine the effects of multiple nations who are interacting with a single African country or regional organization. So I think that'll be another consequence of budget reductions.

If I understood the third question, the question was principally about the application of military solutions to nonmilitary or nontraditional threats, is that correct?

GEN. DESPORTES: Yes, exactly, sir.

GEN. HAM: Yeah. So I think this is a – this is a perfect question, because, frankly, the days of large military forces clashing in a – in a – in a classic, linear battlefield, those days are behind us. And we need to now be more innovative in how do we apply military force to contribute to stability and security. How do you apply military capabilities in a preventive manner, not only in an exclusive manner?

If we keep our militaries kind of behind a glass door and say, you know, break in case of emergency and that's the only time we employ our military forces, I think that's a wrong idea of the application of military capabilities. We have a lot of capabilities. We must always remain – retain the capability to fight and win our nation's wars. That's a – that's a non-negotiable agreement with the American people just as the French military has that non-negotiable agreement with the French people.

But military service today has to go far beyond that. We have medical capabilities. We have logistics capabilities. We have communications capabilities to enable international organizations and nongovernmental organizations. We have engineering that can – that can assist in humanitarian and disaster relief. We have to be agile enough and imaginative enough to apply military force in those nontraditional ways. If we don't, we will go the way of the dinosaur and make ourselves obsolete.

GEN. DESPORTES: Thank you very much. So we take the three following questions.

Q: Good afternoon, General. Thank you very much for being here today with us. My name is Artur Don (ph). I'm a French student at the master for national public affairs. And my question is about the American priority to establish democracy in Africa and whether this is a good strategy or not to bring the conflict to an end, because it appears to me that when the conflicts are not over, elections process and democracy has a tendency to stimulate the tensions between communities, populations, and specifically in the case of Congo, when I think of Kabila, for instance, having very anti-Tutsi statements, so I'd like to think what you think about that. Thank you very much.

GEN. HAM: Thank you.

Q: Good afternoon. My name is Antoine (sp); I'm from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States. I'm doing the International Security Master's here. I was just wondering – you mentioned, General, that the headquarters for AFRICOM were in Stuttgart, Germany, and I was wondering whether there were any plans to move them to an African country, and if not, whether there were any logistical or strategic reasons not to. Thank you. GEN. DESPORTES: Thank you. (Laughter.) Maybe we can do them next time. Q: Thank you, General. My name is Dina (sp); I'm from Lebanon. I'm an exchange student for one semester. My question is that why did the decision – why did the decision for – the decision for Libya came – come late. And do you think the African countries are really ready for democracy? Do you think they understand the concept of democracy very well to actually undergo this process right now? Thank you. GEN. DESPORTES: So two questions on democracy, sir. One on your location. GEN. HAM: My friends at the – at the Ministry of Defense were correct. You have hard questions. The – it is very clear that a high priority for the United States government is that people around the world should have the right to self-determination. We think that is – we just think that is an inherent human right, and so we do advance across the globe efforts that support self-determination, free and fair elections by people. But as we have seen in my own country during our revolution – which I should say to the French thank you very much. We wouldn't – we wouldn't – we wouldn't be America without your help, and we recognize that. But it was messy. You know, we get mad at the Libyans because they have – they had elections and they have – they don't have a constitution. It took us 13 years to write a Constitution. People forget that sometimes. So democracy is messy and it can be unstable and it can be costly in terms of life and treasure. But in the long run, it's my country's view and, frankly, my personal view, that people should be able to decide how they live and how they are governed, and you can't do that if you live in a – in a society where others dictate how you will – how you will conduct your lives. So I think that's a correct priority despite all of the challenges that are inherent in that. Having said that, we also recognize that we have to live and operate in the real world, and that sometimes means that we have engagements with governments that are less than free and open and fair. And it is that perfect -- in an ideal world would we choose otherwise? Yes. But I think we have to live in the free – in the – in the world as it is. But it doesn't mean that we relent. It means that we continue to advance our goals for democratization and self-determination while at the same time we can pursue many other agenda with a country, with a government which perhaps is not so liberal or democratic in its approach. We're sophisticated enough, you're sophisticated to do those things simultaneously, but I don't think we should let loose of the goal that people should choose their own determination. The second – the question about headquarters' location is a bit of history. Africa Command was born in 2008, and it was – Africa previously was addressed by United States European Command located in Stuttgart, Germany, which had that command and responsibility for Europe and Africa. In 2008, when the separation occurred, it made sense from a practical standpoint for Africa Command to simply exist where the people already were, where the facilities already were, so we remained in Stuttgart. There was, in fact, consideration for a headquarters or perhaps regional headquarters in Africa. In my personal view, the deployment of that idea – the rollout of that idea was done in a ineffective manner. And it created some political blowback from many African countries that made, frankly, the presence of U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Africa untenable.

Today we operate effectively from Stuttgart; we have great hosts in the German people. It's a – it's a – it's an effective place for us to operate; reasonable access to commercial air travel; our families are well-cared-for; we have good facilities. To replicate that facility in Africa would be extraordinarily costly. And in this era of financial restraint, I just can't see myself going to Mr. Panetta and saying, hey, Mr. Secretary, could you – could you give me an extra billion dollars to build a headquarters in Africa? So I think we'll stay right where we are.

Libya decision timeline – I would – I would say, having been in the midst of all that, the Libyan – the decision to conduct military operations in Libya – led by France, joined soon thereafter by the United States and many others – was not late, but it surely was just in time. The Gadhafi regime forces, as you will recall, in those days was postured on the outskirts of Benghazi. And Mr. Gadhafi had uttered words which the world has heard before. Think back to those days a year and a half or so ago. Remember what he said: We will hunt them down like rats. We will exterminate them.

The world has heard these words before. We heard them in the Holocaust. We heard them in the Balkans. We heard it in Rwanda. These are words that have meaning. When that meaning and that intent is matched with the capability that the Gadhafi regime had on the outskirts of Benghazi, the international community, in my view, made exactly the right decision. And France and others made exactly the right decision to say, we will not let this happen.

And so I think that – would it – would it have been better if there had been a possibility for a negotiated solution, a peaceful solution? Absolutely. In my professional military judgment, that moment had passed. There was imminent threat to the civilian population – 700,000 people in Benghazi. And while I do not take lightly the responsibilities that I and others were entrusted to in the execution of operations in Libya, I am confident in my heart of hearts that if the international community had not acted, there would be thousands – thousands of Benghazi citizens who would not be alive today.

So no, I don't think the decision was late. I think it was just in time. Africa is ready for democracy. All people are ready for self-determination. Are the situations stable and secure? Probably not to the level that we would like, in some places. There are always challenges. Libya's a great example of that. South Sudan is a great example of that. Somalia will become an example of that, where the conditions are never quite right for the establishment of self-rule. But I don't think it's something that you can wait for. We've got to help these fledgling democracies find their way, support them at – recognizing that it's their – these are their decisions – but support and enable them as they – as they find their way. It's a tough undertaking, and it's sometimes very problematic. And it is often the proverbial two steps forward, one step back. But I think we have to continue in that vein.

GEN. DESPORTES: Thank you very much. We are going to have some question from the left-hand side.

Q: Good afternoon.

GEN. HAM: No political inference from the side.

GEN. DESPORTES: (Chuckles.) (Inaudible.)

Q: Good afternoon, General Ham and General Desportes. I'm an American student pursuing a degree in international security with a concentration in Africa. And my question is: What would you say are the greatest lessons learned from the 1993 intervention in Somalia? And how are the lessons learned from that experience being applied concretely to current U.S. military involvement today, for example, in a possible regional intervention in Mali. Thank you.

Q: I'm Yannik Ingrani (sp), I'm a peace and security adviser for the World Bank Africa Vice Presidency and a lecturer here at Sciences Po.

I'm just going to piggy-back off this last question. Given your background and career history, I'm interested to know what lessons can we draw from counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for dealing with the situation in Northern Mali, recognizing that we're looking more at an African intervention and less an American intervention at this stage?

Q: Hi, my name is Thomas Gilchrist (sp), I'm an American pursuing a masters here at PSIA with some experience in West and Central Africa.

My question is about Uganda and Rwanda. How are the negotiations going with them and their militaries about their important involvement in peacekeeping operations, given that they have serious track records of human rights abuses?

GEN. HAM: The last time in early '90s when the United States deployed large forces into Mogadishu, you all know how that ended, and not well and not positively. I think that was an instructive opportunity for us. We've tried to learn from that, and I would say that Africans have learned from that as well, and from some subsequent African deployments into Somalia. The Ethiopians, for example, in a deployment in 2006, did not go well. And they've learned from that, and their recent deployments are much more effective. I think we must remain a learning institution, so that we don't repeat the errors of the past.

The principal lesson I think that we've learned – that I've learned – from Somalia is that in the application of a principle, which President Obama talked about in Accra in 2009, in a speech in which he highlighted that in the long run, it is Africans who are best able to address African challenges, that often gets – into the shorthand, African solutions to African problems. This time in Somalia, I think we adopted that principle. The African Union said, we'll take responsibility for this, but we need some help. And the neighboring countries, or near-neighboring countries collectively took – what is in my view – a very courageous decision to say, we will deploy our military forces to help the people of Somalia, but we need some help. We need some money, we need some logistic support, we need some training, we need some equipment. And the international community responded, to include my own country.

And I think this is – perhaps an instructive model for the future. In Somalia – the United States supports the African Union mission in Somalia through the provision of intelligence, logistic support, we conduct training and we provide equipment for the African forces who are operating with increasing effectiveness inside Somalia. That's a pretty good model, I think – not American boots on the ground, African boots on the ground, America doing what it does best perhaps, in a – in an enabling and supporting role.

While the conditions are significantly different in Mali than they are in Somalia, that model might not be a bad model for us to think about. Are there ways that the United States and others, the European Union, France and others, could contribute training, equipping, financial support, intelligence, logistical support, to an African-led force to be ready, should there be need for military intervention in Mali?

So I think that's the greatest lesson I learned, is encourage the Africans to take responsibility, help where we can, where our assistance is desired and helpful, and provide capabilities that the African nations in some cases are not able to provide themselves; pretty good way to think about things.

With regard to counterinsurgency lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, it has been pretty interesting because we have, not surprisingly, had forces with recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan come to serve in Africa. And the primary lesson that I think we have to learn is that – is that each individual circumstance, each condition which necessitates the deployment of military forces is at least a little bit unique. And what worked in Iraq, what worked in Afghanistan might not and probably won't work in Africa. The threats are different, the cultures are vastly different. The climate, the topography and all are significantly different.

What doesn't change between counterinsurgency in those two other theaters and applies also in Afghanistan, is the first thing we have to do is listen to those with whom we interact – whether they're African military leaders or civil leaders or nongovernmental organizations, those who have broader experience, we are well-served if we listen first and try to better understand, going back to a previous question, how we might then apply military capabilities in an innovative and imaginative way to address nontraditional threats. So I think that's what we've learned from our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Uganda, Rwanda, the Great Lakes region and the Kivus – a particularly challenging issue. Most Americans – not you – but most Americans have no idea of the loss of life that was incurred in what many call Africa's world war, from the mid-'90s to the mid-2000s – early 2000s. When I – when I talk with American audiences and talk about the loss of 5 ½ million lives, Americans are in disbelief because they have no knowledge of that conflict and the scale and the scope of the wars that have been fought there.

So that's my real concern, is that the current conflict with M23, the border uncertainty, could expand more rapidly into a broader regional conflict, creating increased numbers – hundreds of – and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, and then expanding to a broader and more violent conflict. In the Great Lakes, the presence of organizations that operate outside the rule of law, militia, the weakness of governmental institutions in the region, all contribute to instability.

The MONUSCO, the United Nations presence is helpful. The African Union is trying hard to have a helpful role there. But it is going to be a very, very difficult situation. For the United States' standpoint, we have taken the position that Rwanda's support to the M23 rebel group is unhelpful. We have publicly criticized the Rwandans for doing that. We have otherwise in many other areas a very strong and fruitful relationship with the Rwandans, but in this case we think that their efforts are unhelpful.

And because of that, we have limited and reduced our military-to-military engagement with Rwanda until such time as the conditions improve. Now, we have with – looked with great interest on the United Nations Group of Experts Report that also identifies Uganda as being a supporter of M23 and others. That's not evidence that we have, but we're further exploring the Group of Experts Report to see what we may have.

Just to show the interconnected nature of things on the continent, in the aftermath of the attack on the Benghazi consulate, the United States looked at its posture – security posture of its diplomatic posts around the world. And a determination was made that the U.S. post in Goma was overly vulnerable. So at a very critical time, we've, for security reasons, withdrawn our presence in Goma at an extraordinarily important time. It just goes to show the interconnected nature of this global environment. We wouldn't – you wouldn't think that – for the United States, that an incident in Benghazi, Libya, would have a near-instantaneous, direct effect in Goma and thereby make it far more difficult for us to understand and assist in a – in a – in a worsening situation.

GEN. DESPORTES: Thank you. I'm sorry, but we just have time for one question, and I'm going to ask it. (Laughter.) OK, I think – I think we have to talk a little bit about Mali. So can you – what can you say, sir, about your assessment on the situation, about the future ECOWAS operations, about the help you are going to bring?

GEN. HAM: OK. OK, and do we want to take one more?

GEN. DESPORTES: If you have time, sir. We can stay as long as you can.

GEN. HAM: I – well, so I'll look at somebody who knows. Can we – can we take one from each side? Would that be –

MS. : (Off mic.) Let's take one question here, and then we'll have five minutes till the – (inaudible) – next speech.

GEN. HAM: OK, perfect. OK. Yes, ma'am.

GEN. DESPORTES: So one question for you. Ma'am, now you can ask your question.

GEN. HAM: Ah, so he's giving her the second question. (Laughter.)

GEN. DESPORTES: Yeah, the second question.

GEN. HAM: That's right. (Inaudible.)

Q: Good afternoon. Thank you for gracing us with your presence. I'm from the Europe-Africa Program, originally from Ethiopia. So my question to you is: In 2006 there were elections in Ethiopia, followed by repression from the government. Your – the Bush administration, as well as the president, condemned the violence. But the attitude shifted as Ethiopia became a strategic ally in the war against terrorism in Somalia.

So my first question would be: Do you not think that often the ideals of democracy are overshadowed by your interests in Africa? The second question would be: Do you think it is legitimate to support the Ethiopian army's engagement in Somalia to install a democracy when it itself is not a democratic state? And the final question that was supposed to be this one – (laughter) – is about U.S. and – U.S. and China relationships in Africa. Do you think that your presence is also a means to control the Chinese presence in Africa? Thank you.

GEN. DESPORTES: OK. The last question is not the easiest, sir.

GEN. HAM: No. (Laughter.) We could – well, in one sense it's the easiest question. The United States nor anyone else is going to control China; China's going to control itself. But we – but I'll talk a bit about that.

So first, General, to the question about Mali, an extraordinarily complex environment. From a U.S. government perspective, we look at four interconnected problems in Mali. And we think each one, if they were – if they occurred in isolation, each problem would be significant. When they occur simultaneously, it creates a very grave situation.

The first challenge – and we think the highest priority – is the restoration of a constitutionally based government in Bamako. We think this is a necessary precondition for any meaningful progress to address the country's problems. The military coup which occurred in march of this year is unacceptable. And the continued presence by the military coup leaders in the government, influencing the government, we think is most helpful in – as we – as we look to the future. So we think that's the first problem, obviously a political – a political problem.

The second challenge is the need to address the legitimate concerns of the disaffected populations in the north portion of the country – mostly but not exclusively Tuareg, a population that has not received fair representation in the Malian government, has not received adequate education, health care, economic opportunities. And we think that that is also largely a political matter that must be addressed – to discuss in – the legitimate political concerns of that population.

Thirdly, there is, in fact, a terrorist problem in northern Mali. Al-Qaida in the lands of the Islamic Maghreb, perhaps with other associates, have established a safe haven in the northern portion of Mali. That is – that is of real concern to the Malians, to the region, to France and the Europeans and to the United States. We know that if left unaddressed, that organization will grow in strength and will soon create the capability of exporting violence more broadly across the region, ultimately into Europe and the United States.

Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, we believe, is al-Qaida's best-funded affiliated organization – mostly through kidnappings for ransom, but also through the drug trade. They have lots of weapons, many of which came from Libya. They have many fighters, many of which came from Libya once they recognized that Mr. Gadhafi was either not going to pay them, or certainly after he was killed. We see recruiting efforts from around the region. So there's a genuine terrorist problem that must be addressed.

The fourth problem set is humanitarian assistance and the worsening humanitarian situation across the Sahel, where the provision of water, foods, medicine, medical supply is in jeopardy. So that problem must be addressed as well. As I said, those four problems – each individually would be significant, when confronted – combined together, very significant.

We believe – the U.S. believes that in order to address those problems, it must be Malian and ECOWAS or African-led. And it must be a comprehensive strategy that addresses all of the issues, both near-term and longer-term that exist in Mali. Those who would immediately leap to military solution, in my view, significantly underestimate the complexity of the challenge that is – that is present in Northern Mali.

A military – there must be, in my view, at least a preparation for a military component of the strategy, but it must be supportive of a more comprehensive strategy that addresses the other concerns. We have had planners, as has – as France has had planners, alongside the ECOWAS military staffs in Bamako as they've developed their plans. I think the framework of the plan that has been proposed is sound. There's more work, in my view, that is necessary in logistical support and more work that is necessary to address the nonmilitary aspects of the – of the overall campaign. I suspect that dialogue will occur next week or soon thereafter, when ECOWAS delivers formally its plan to the U.N. Security Council.

With regard to U.S. military support, we've not been asked anything specifically. We do expect, as I mentioned, to be asked – likely for intelligence, logistics support and the like. So I think we have a lot of work to do in Mali.

And Ethiopia – so great questions, and Ethiopia is a country where we find ourselves with, from a U.S. perspective, some competing narratives, if you will. We do believe that democratization, free and fair elections are important. And we think Ethiopia should move in that direction. But on the other hand, Ethiopia has demonstrated progress in other areas. And they have been a good security partner. We can – we are good enough to establish a continuing, meaningful security dialogue with the government of Ethiopia and at the same time continue our dialogue for human rights and democratization and continued efforts in economic development and the like. It's not easy, but I think we have to and must continue to do so.

Our – I think, in my view, the Ethiopian army – the Ethiopian National Defense Force's activities in Somalia have been helpful. They've been very cautious. They have enabled local security forces as they have established a buffer – oh, OK, so I'll come back to that. Did you say it? All right. The – I think the Ethiopian National Defense Force presence has been helpful in Somalia as they move forward.

With regard to U.S. and China, we could spend a day, couple of days, talking about that. China is everywhere in Africa, in a – in a – in a good way. They build roads, bridges, airports, government buildings – they built the African Union headquarters. They're economically engaged across the continent, and I think that's a good thing. From the United States, certainly our relationship with China in Africa is not in any way adversarial – probably economic competition to be sure, but not adversarial.

What I look for in the security front is, are there some ways in our engagement with African militaries that we might be able to combine our efforts with the Chinese to achieve a good effect, to take advantage of what each of us does pretty well? The Chinese do equipment; they do facilities; they do that all exceedingly well. We think we do leader development and activities like that pretty well. So maybe in the future, there might be some areas for future cooperation with China.

So my aide just sent me a note that said I screwed up – (laughter) – and I – and I – and I misstated. So let me go back to Mali and – with regard to the presence of the military coup leaders in the government. I think what I said was that the presence was helpful. Their presence in the government is exceedingly unhelpful – (scattered laughter) – if I – so I'm sorry if I – if I misstated that and gave you the wrong idea. We think that the presence of the military coup leaders remaining influential in the Malian government is unacceptable and most unhelpful. So I'm sorry for that – for that mistake. If that's the worst mistake I make today, it'll be a pretty good day. (Laughter.)

So once again, thank you all very much for your attention, for some great, great questions. Thank you.

GEN. DESPORTES: Thank you very much, sir. (Applause.)

(END)

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