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TRANSCRIPT: Ward Discusses Roles, Mission of U.S. Africa Command with Al-Jazeera English
<i>General William E. &#34;Kip&#34; Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, described the command&#39;s role, mission and goals to Al-Jazeera English reporter Rageh Omaar, the lead presenter of the network&#39;s Witness program. <br /> <br />The
General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, described the command's role, mission and goals to Al-Jazeera English reporter Rageh Omaar, the lead presenter of the network's Witness program.

The interview took place before Omaar and a production team from the independent British production company Outsider Television Production traveled to Rwanda with Ward and a U.S. Africa Command delegation.

Al-Jazeera English will air a special Witness documentary on Africa Command sometime this fall.

In this wide-ranging interview, Ward explained how the command focuses on coordinating military-to-military programs and activities with African partner nations. Ward said U.S. Africa Command supports what African partners' desire--the capability to provide for their own security and stability.

Ward explained, "[U.S. Africa Command] makes no policies; we implement the stated foreign policy objectives of our nation."

Below is the transcript of the interview. RAGEH OMAAR: General Ward, could I start by asking you to explain to viewers to this program, many of them in Africa, why do we need AFRICOM? GENERAL WILLIAM E. WARD: Well, the creation of U.S. Africa Command reflects the Department of Defense's restructuring of how it does its military activities on the continent of Africa. It is a recognition of the importance of Africa. It recognizes the continent of Africa and the way that the Africans look at the continent in its entirety. Heretofore, three separate commands conducted military assistance activities in Africa, not always coordinated, not always synchronized appropriately. And so with the creation of Africa Command, it recognizes that importance and it changes how we have organized ourselves to conduct those activities, such that there is a single command created that will now pay its total attention to our African friends and partners -- the nations, also the regional organizations, the continental organizations -- so that those things that we do can be better harmonized with and reflective of the priorities, the interests, of the African nations in a very dedicated way, as opposed to, in the past, having it been seen through three separate commands, not always focused in ways that served the best interests of the nations of Africa and our interests. MR. OMAAR: So what was the spark that, you know, drove this decision to have a dedicated command for Africa? I mean, did it come from the United States government, or was it your partners and other countries in Africa saying, look, you know, hang on, we don't want to be split between these three different commands, we need a dedicated one? GEN. WARD: It's a reflection of years of discussion about that very thing -- those within our government who have said why do we do it this way, our partners on the continent of Africa, who would say, "I talked to this command this day; tomorrow, it's a different command -- why don't you figure that out?" So that discussion has gone on for some time. The fact that the decision was taken when it was taken doesn't reflect any particular catalyst or spark; it's the reflection of things coming together at a time and space that says now is the time to do it, which is just as about why not now? And so it was a decision that was taken, much like other decisions that are taken, not necessarily reflecting any particular point, but just a combination of factors. And the timing it hit -- now was the time to do it. MR. OMAAR: So, a very simple question that someone who's never heard of AFRICOM will want to ask: Who's making the decisions with regard to African policy, or policy towards Africa under AFRICOM? GEN. WARD: Well, the decisions regarding policy are being made just as they've always been made. The creation of the Africa command has no bearing on the policy decisions that are made. Policy decisions are made by the president of the United States, by our secretary of state, by our Congress, and just as policy decisions are made with respect to (what we do) all over the world. Africa is treated, now, unlike before, in that same way. And so the command makes no policies; we implement the stated foreign policy objectives of our nation. MR. OMAAR: The rollout, I think most people would agree, wasn't successful, or it wasn't what it could have been; why was that, and tell me a bit about it? GEN. WARD: Yeah, well, I was not involved in the rollout directly. I clearly was an observer. I saw how, in fact, it was misinterpreted. I think it was a reflection that the message that was posited, with respect to the command, didn't clearly enough define our purpose insofar as not changing what we do, but changing how we do that work to make it more cohesive, more coordinated and more coherent with the other elements of our government who have been conducting and still conduct activities on the continent. Our programs were the focus -- conducting those programs the focus. Not that we would change what we were doing, but that we did those programs in a more coordinated and cohesive way. And the idea of the announcement, quite candidly, took a whole different direction and dimension. And I think what we've shown over the past, now, several -- well, year-plus -- that things aren't different, and in fact, the attention, the listening that we're able to do in a more dedicated way is in fact producing a more coordinated and cohesive attempt to assist the Africans as they work to provide for their own security. MR. OMAAR: Some governments in Africa, I mean, weren't particularly pleased or weren't particularly enamored with the whole idea of AFRICOM when it first came out. Now, you described it as, you know, some misconceptions, but why do you think there were those misconceptions? GEN. WARD: There were ideas, certainly never stated by me at the command, but ideas that the creation of the command meant the establishment of bases in Africa, of the garrisoning of enlarged numbers of troops -- never was the case, but that was the perception. And that perception created the angst, the criticism that now, over the past year-plus, has been seen to -- well, that's not the case. Never was the case, but perceived to be, and therefore, the criticism, the angst, because it was not understood. MR. OMAAR: So what you're saying is that what you're seeing is a lot more positive reaction from a number of African governments towards AFRICOM and those misconceptions being gotten over? GEN. WARD: I see that there is a greater understanding that the creation of the command didn't mean what they thought it was going to mean, and so therefore that apprehension was baseless. What they see is the military cooperation, our programs that have been in place all along -- they see, now, a more coordinated and more dedicated and a more intention-based attempt to make those programs be as our African partners want them to be. And that is something that they welcome and they appreciate, and that's what they now have seen as we continue to move ahead. MR. OMAAR: Some of the critics of AFRICOM point to the fact and say, well hang on, this was just a fait accompli -- you know, it wasn't involvement or consultation with Africans -- this was a decision made and just presented, this is how it's going to be. What's your reaction to those? GEN. WARD: Well, the reality of it is, the decision was not a decision that reflected any changes in protocols or policies; it merely reflected a change in how we, internally, have organized ourselves. That was a decision that, quite candidly, results in what many organizations do all the time -- how you're organized and structure yourself to do the work that you're asked to do. And so it had no effect in a negative way on the nations of the continent; it was a reflection of an internal decision to restructure/reorganize how we within the Department of Defense have already been doing the business. So the programs that we were conducting had already been acknowledged, accepted and quite candidly, had been welcomed, as they still are. And the decision to restructure ourselves to deliver those programs in a more effective way was, in fact, the basis for the reorganization. Again, it was a reorganization of how we do our work, not a change in what we seek to do. MR. OMAAR: Speaking frankly, I mean America's engagements with sub-Saharan Africa going back, not just 10, 20, 30 years, has not been particularly great, has it? GEN. WARD: Well, what we've seen is episodic; what we've seen -- engagements that haven't been sustained over time; what we've seen are levels of activity that come and go that don't build the partnering that, in fact, the Africans have asked for so that, over time, there is a sustained aspect of this relationship. And so those conditions we seek to change, as we now have a command that, as I said, as opposed to having three separate commands, none of which provided their full attention to the continent. And so for those reasons, there have been episodic, sporadic approaches to what we've done. And this reorganization recognizes that we can do it better -- we can be a more focused, dedicated partner with our African nations, and so that's what we intend to look forward to as we move ahead. MR. OMAAR: Looking forward, as you say, but I mean, looking back at that period, where America's engagements with the African continent was, as you said, episodic and sometimes, I mean, lacked sort of clarity of purpose, what was the impact of that period of American, you know, engagement or lack of engagement, do you think? GEN. WARD: Well, I think it served to create an attitude or a perception that we didn't, maybe, care as much as was appropriate. And based on those sorts of things, again, the decision made to -- that's not the case, but the best way to demonstrate that is, in fact, to change our approach to how we interact with our African friends and partners. And the creation of this command does reflect, you know, that importance that clearly exists with our interaction with our African partners and friends. And to, again, I can't speak for the past; I can look ahead, so that we go forward in a more positive way, recognizing the importance of our African friends and, importantly, recognizing what the Africans have said as they attempt to build security activities/security institutions that, indeed, are capable of allowing the African nations to provide for their own security. MR. OMAAR: So tell me about the program: What is AFRICOM doing on the ground that marks this -- not only the reorganization of AFRICOM and what it's doing on the ground, but is actually providing benefits to African countries? Tell me in a practical way the kind of things that you're doing on the ground. GEN. WARD: Yeah, see, I think that's the absolute essence of what we do. The programs -- they include military assistance training programs; they include things that we do to assist in the work that we are conducting in collaboration with our African partners, but also our interagency partners. We have a program where we complement our greater program to help with the HIV/AIDS problem, where the program through the Department of Defense Health and AIDS Prevention Program (DHAPP) complements the greater program (Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR) with AIDS prevention and awareness, where we focus on the African militaries to increase their awareness, the education programs, providing testing facilities, equipment and providing antiretroviral medicines so that the scourge of AIDS can be reduced through this education program, again, working with our African partners. There are programs we have via training programs where African nations, as they attempt to perform peacekeeping operations, we support/augment the work being done by our Department of State through the provision of military trainers, providing logistics support when African nations endeavor to embark upon a peacekeeping endeavor, programs where the training of African nations -- correction, the militaries of the African nations -- are enhanced. Now, most of these militaries are attempting to cause their security structures to be seen as structures that protect their people as opposed to oppress their people. And so that requires a degree of continued professionalization of their military forces. And so through our military education and training programs that occur, through our training activities where we help the nations come together because of a common exercise that they can, in fact, participate in together, get to know one another better, understand how each other operates, their interoperability is enhanced. So exercises, health programs. We conduct, to a degree, programs that include -- we call them veterinary civic action programs, medical civic action programs. We have something called the Africa Partnership Station, which is an at-sea training platform. Again, that's a result of the desire of the African nations to come together and say how can we, better, in a collective way, deal with some things that threaten our common security. It's those sorts of programs that we have been engaged in and that we will continue to engage in. But through the creation of the command, we can be more focused and cause what we do to be, certainly, reflective of the desires of the African nations. (Cross talk.) MR. OMAAR: That's great. So it's about security, it's about development, it's about diplomacy, all through AFRICOM. GEN. WARD: Well, no, no, not quite. It's about how we, in AFRICOM, integrate our security work with those development and the diplomatic work being done by others. We don't profess to be responsible for, nor the lead activity for development and diplomacy. MR. OMAAR: Yes, because that's quite a key point of your critics, that this is about the militarization of aid, it's about the military, effectively, running African policy through AFRICOM. GEN. WARD: Which is absolutely not the case and never was the case. But, to be sure, it's seen as the case. And again, as I say, what we've done over the past year has reflected, well, no, they aren't in charge of policy; they aren't in charge of development. Do they do things to complement and to support? Yes we do, but in a very coordinated way so that what we do supports and complements. We know that those elements of defense, development and diplomacy have to be working together. And the distinction that I would make, when the command was created, while we talked about that and led to the perception that we were doing it, what we do is -- our part -- security, but we do it in a way that is more complementary to the developmental activities being done by our U.S. Agency for International Development, who is our lead for development. Diplomacy -- Department of State. So in a way, it reflects the defense piece being more in line with development and diplomacy, and not the other way around. MR. OMAAR: But why -- you're obviously very passionate about, you know, getting that straight -- I can tell. Why do you think those who criticize or are wary of AFRICOM are so passionate saying, well come on, the Pentagon -- well, someone in a military uniform is above, in the chain of command, to, you know, the diplomats. The diplomats aren't running the show. Why do you think they keep going on about that one criticism? GEN. WARD: I have no idea, because nothing that we say, but most importantly, nothing we do would, in fact, suggest that to be the case. All that we do is the opposite. I visit the nations on the continent; I talk to leaders; as importantly, I visit our missions in the countries. It is our ambassadors, our chiefs of mission Ã? we do nothing that is not taken through them -- that has their concurrence, their support -- and that is, in fact, reflective of our foreign policy that, again, I don't sit here in my office and make. That's a reflection of what's been made in Washington, and so it's -- I am absolutely -- I don't know, other than what someone has conjured up and thinks. But again, what we see in the programs absolutely reflects and demonstrates otherwise, because that is absolutely not the case. MR. OMAAR: Tell me why it is important for the United States to re-engage, if you can put it that way, with African countries in this way. What has changed to suddenly say look, you know what, we actually need to take a lot more care and focus on Africa. GEN. WARD: Well, I can't speak for the entire nation; what I can speak for is the work we do within the Department of Defense as a part of trying to help the African nations do what they have said they want to do, and then be in a better position to provide for their own security. What we do know, that the work that we conduct in that regard ought to be, as best we can make it, synchronized with, coordinated with and coherent with the overall work that goes on with our government as it works with the governments of the nations of Africa. And so our command, because we understand that, try our very best to ensure that those programs that we, in fact, are engaged in and involved in have been coordinated/synchronized so that those activities add value to the overall stability in a nation and a region, because it is that stability that we know that will then create the environment that development can occur, that the efforts to bring effective governance can occur -- not that we do it, but that those things that we do add value to the environment that will allow those things to occur and to happen. MR. OMAAR: I want to get on to two -- a number of countries -- and some themes, you know, involved in them. I mean, Cameroon, because obviously, that's where the APS platform has been recently, and I had a chance to sort of see it and go out on it. What kind of programs are you doing in Cameroon? What's of interest and importance to the United States, to AFRICOM, in Cameroon? GEN. WARD: I think what's important and of interest in Cameroon, as in all of the nations that the Africa Partnership Station has engaged, are those things that the nations say is important. We don't make those decisions. When a nation says we know we have this territorial water that we need some assistance in helping to secure, in helping to understand what's going on in that territory of water; can you help us, and in what ways? Well, maybe things such as our ability to see what's going on -- so those sorts of systems where you have a particular asset -- and I'll say a small boat -- that may have been provided through some mechanism, and the expertise to keep that vessel operational -- small boat repair, maintenance may have atrophied and may not be present any longer. So can you train our mechanics on how to maintain this equipment that we have? That goes on. Visit, board and search -- a vessel is in your territorial waters, you don't know what it's doing there, so how do you approach that vessel in a safe way for both your persons as well as the crew, that can lead to a safe look-see as to what's going on? So visit, board, search-type of training activities are conducted. So it's those range of activities, and again, it's an outgrowth of having met with the nations -- Cameroon and the other nations that the Nashville has visited -- and working with them, having them tell us the training that they would need to be more effective in doing their own security. And it is those training programs that we, in fact, then -- along with other nations who participate in this program -- provide that sort of training assistance for. MR. OMAAR: Someone who is a cynic might say what's really important in Cameroon is that there's quite a lot of oil there, and that that is a strategic interest of the United States, in keeping that oil going. GEN. WARD: Well, I think where you have natural resources of any -- oil, minerals and other things -- it is not in the mindset of the United States to take ownership, to have a monopoly over; it is the mindset that we have that those resources be used for the benefit of the people of the land -- country -- who owns those resources, and that those resources are available in an open and a free way for global consumption and use, the benefits of which are accrued by the nation. And so I won't deny that having access to those resources is not in our national interests, but it is not to monopolize, it is not to own, but it is to do what we can as the nations where those resources reside, can use those resources to the benefit of all of their people, to where those resources can be available in a global, free, competitive way around the world. MR. OMAAR: What does AFRICOM do, or how can AFRICOM prevent, the fact that when it is training security forces and militaries around Africa, that that training, that equipment, that know-how that you are giving them isn't used to overturn civilian governments and -- because that has happened -- or, for example, that security services are not used to crack down on protests, as did happen in Cameroon? GEN. WARD: We don't do it in a vacuum. Those training activities that we pursue are pursued in this whole process, if you will. And so it is not just my command, nor the Department of Defense, that determines who is trained. Our Department of State is involved. We have certain requirements or requests that we ask of the nation to be trained, for the personnel to be looked at and vetted to see if there have been past abuses of human rights and dignity issues that would say these individuals may not be appropriate candidates. And the work that we do has embedded in it, just as in our government and in our military, those values of how militaries perform in legitimate societies, where they are respectful of human rights and where they are respectful of the role of legitimate, representative governments in the nations. And again, where we go in and work, those decisions aren't made by me -- they aren't made by the military -- that is a function of our stated foreign policy. And so where that decision is then made, we would get involved. MR. OMAAR: But it is a problem, isn't it, because it can, you know, buttress those misconceptions you were talking about, about AFRICOM, if this does happen? And the thing that everyone points to is Mauritania, the example there. GEN. WARD: Well, I would say that there are certainly examples where things don't go the way as planned -- perfection doesn't exist. But what I will tell you is that there are safeguards that we adhere to that we pay attention to that we take from our foreign policy decisions that are made that address that. We take safeguards in the training that we perform. There are elements of the military training that we provide that always push and highlight and emphasize the legitimate role of a military in a society as opposed to not, and that is a role of being protectors of their people and not oppressors. MR. OMAAR: And that's very clear -- you're very clear with the governments you're dealing with that that is core? GEN. WARD: Absolutely. Absolutely. And as I said, is it always perfect? Perfection does not exist. But that is not to say that we don't always lead with that and cause that to be a benchmark, a bottom line, for what we do and how we do it. And we -- this sustained approach to that part of development, where as we go back and continue to reinforce that, over time, we see that as a way -- not the only -- but as a way of then, potentially, changing those sorts of situation, so that we get -- so that we do not get the type of situation that you described. And the good news is, while you cite examples of where it has not gone right, there are many where it has gone correctly, whereby the military has been apolitical, has been seen as protectors of its people. And I think that, too, is something that ought to be understood and known because it has been, we think, a result of the type of interaction, over time, that has been created in an environment that causes militaries to act more appropriately, as protectors of their people, as to not. MR. OMAAR: I would just want to move on to terrorism and counterterrorism. How extensive is the terrorist threat in the Sahel? GEN. WARD: I take folks like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb at their word. When they operate there and they conduct activities -- bombings and -- well, I say I see it, and when they say that they are there to disrupt, to -- so I think it's extensive. The Sahel -- vast, vast territories, sparse populations, providing the type of opportunity for those who would wish to do those things to gather to conduct activities against innocent people. And so I think it is a problem, and the nations of the Sahel recognize it as such, as well. MR. OMAAR: It's a vast area, though, if you look at it, that al Qaeda, under its different names operating in the Maghreb, you know, could be based. I mean, can one really, seriously believe that they cover a vast area like that? GEN. WARD: Well, they don't need to cover a vast area; they just need to be able to move throughout a vast area, and move throughout at liberty, undetected, to do what they want to do. And it is those sorts of things that the nations of the Sahel say they would like to have a better ability to deal with -- to govern -- so that their sovereign lands cannot be used by those who would wish to do harm to innocent civilians. MR. OMAAR: How much of the operations, with regard to al Qaeda and Islamist groups, is about U.S. military taking action, and how much of it is about those governments, whether it's Algeria or Morocco -- whoever it is -- taking action themselves? GEN. WARD: Our activities are focused on the assistance that we can provide to the legitimate governments of a nation so that it can take care of its own problems. MR. OMAAR: There has been a lot of criticism, particularly with regard to Algeria and your partnership with Algeria on this question, and what people are saying is that there is a bit of over-egging the pudding when it comes to the threat of al Qaeda in Algeria, for obvious reasons -- that it's within the interests of Algeria and many other countries to say, there's terrorism, there's terrorism, there's terrorism everywhere. Can you understand those criticisms and those views? GEN. WARD: What I see are any single incident of an innocent civilian being killed through a terrorist act is an innocent civilian being killed by a terrorist act. And when a government takes action to try to prevent that to protect its people, then I see that as a legitimate activity for a government, as it is established to safeguard and protect its population. I can't speak for governments, I wouldn't speak for governments, but what I know because of reports and physical actions that occur -- bombings and other things -- when innocent civilians are killed, governments, I think, have an obligation to try to do something about that to protect their people. MR. OMAAR: But you will be aware as well, General Ward, that I mean, in the post-9/11 world, that there are governments out there, whether they're in Africa or elsewhere, that know how this question of, you know, Islamic terrorism, as its called, is to the United States. And by saying we have a problem here, we need help, we need assistance, that there is playing the game, if you like, in order to get American assistance one way or the other on a threat that actually may not be that big. GEN. WARD: Again, I can't speak for a government. And I wouldn't even characterize it as a particular this or that. You know, violent extremism, regardless of its source, that threatens innocent people -- the innocent civilians of a nation -- in my mind's eye is something that a government is obliged to try to bring under control. MR. OMAAR: I want to move to Somalia: You served in Somalia, didn't you, in the early '90s? GEN. WARD: I did. MR. OMAAR: What did that experience teach you? GEN. WARD: Well, it taught me how complex, how diverse and how complicated the society is. It also taught me -- it showed me how terrible conditions exist when you don't have a viable government that is doing what I just said with respect to protecting its people, to helping its people achieve a better life and the shame of that situation existing where innocent people suffer. MR. OMAAR: It was a traumatic event, though, for the United States and for the American military, though, wasn't it -- in the whole engagement with Somalia? GEN. WARD: I wouldn't call the whole engagement, because when I initially was there -- when we went there and were providing a very needed humanitarian assistance to suffering Somali citizens, those activities were making a positive difference in the life of Somali citizens. And I saw that. So I knew that was -- I knew that was working. MR. OMAAR: What kind of interests or challenges does Somalia present the United States today? GEN. WARD: Well, from the standpoint -- seeing innocent human beings suffer I think for all of us around the world -- not just Americans -- the international community, the global community -- something that we would all look at in a way that -- wow, we wish that -- it's (a) tragedy; we wish that was not occurring. Where it exists -- we know that in the globalized world in which we live today there are things that have impact -- shipping lanes, the lack of effective governance that the provision of a support network to the people of a nation that doesn't exist -- those are clearly factors that are there that have an impact on global trade, on global commerce, but most importantly on the impact -- impacting -- and the ability of the people of Somalia to be able to achieve what for them leads to a better tomorrow. MR. OMAAR: We see on the television news, I mean, the whole issue of piracy and the capturing of commercial ships off the coast of Somalia. But if you turn it around, I mean, Somalia would say, well, look, the whole world is, you know, up in arms about that, but what about -- we're victims of piracy, because there's been people dumping toxic wastes and fishing off our coasts. Isn't it important to focus on building Somalia and some kind of governance as much as it is trying to focus on the security aspects, whether it's piracy or terrorist groups? GEN. WARD: I think it's important that the Somali people are involved and engaged in building their society in an effective way. To be sure, that would then translate into things that would need to occur for addressing all of these issues. I talked about nations and their concern for having the ability to control their territorial waters. And so when something is happening illegally or otherwise inside of their territorial waters, to be sure, nations would want to do something about that. But the first step, I think, is to also recognize that the people of Somalia -- as they would want to come together to build for themselves a viable structure that could, in fact, deal with that issue as well as the other issues that in fact would be anyplace when the government is not in a position to take care of its people and safeguard its sovereign territory. MR. OMAAR: Very briefly, I now move onto a few other sort of questions. But I just want to ask you one more thing about Somalia: Do you think it was a mistake for Ethiopia to have invaded and overthrown the Union of Islamic Courts, who themselves now are being targeted by al Qaeda-associated groups? GEN. WARD: Well, I'm not an expert. I wouldn't -- I'd be the last to characterize the actions of a nation. What I would say is that an environment that is not stable is an environment that serves no one's interest. Creating stability is in the best interest of all of us -- a nation, its neighbors in the region and the world. And so what we see is an effort -- attempts to help create stability. And I think where nations can come together or a nation can muster the resources it needs to help create stability -- that is in my mind something that we all can agree on -- having a stable environment that will, in fact, allow the conditions for the development to mature and move on. And one of the first steps in having stability is having the secure space that will allow that development and consequently, the diplomacy, the governance institutions to be established that make sense, that are important for the people there in the nation and region. MR. OMAAR: Uganda was one of the first scenes of -- well, in fact, the first scene of AFRICOM's military operation. GEN. WARD: AFRICOM hasn't done any military operations in Uganda. MR. OMAAR: Well, what I mean is in terms of supporting the actions against the notorious, sort of, LRA group. How do you think that went? GEN. WARD: Well, I think I would -- that's not for me to say either. I think the nations that came together -- in this case the Ugandans, the Congolese -- they are the judges for how that went. What we did was what we do not do just in Uganda, but we do in other nations on the continent as well -- provide assistance and helping them have the capacity to deal with their own security challenges. And so to do the provision of logistic support, training support from time to time, the information that they would have, how then they can use that additional capacity -- working with their neighbors -- to help solve a problem. What I do know is that the LRA for years has been killing and raping the people of that part of the continent -- those countries -- and that was a condition, as I said, created nothing but instability. And where governments have a capability to do something about it -- to help protect their people - and then they take that, I think that's a part of what they would do. MR. OMAAR: Is AFRICOM here to stay, because that is one thing that lot of Africans will be asking? How serious, how committed and how long term is the United States about Africa through AFRICOM? GEN. WARD: This reorganization, reflecting the restructuring of how we conduct our military assistance programs with Africa, was a reorganization that I think most see as sensible, most see as reflective of the importance that we ascribe to helping to have a secure and stable continent of Africa. And so I think that commitment, that understanding then does translate into the reaction to the command that says -- because the command is established to do that, it does make perfect reasoning and rationale to sustain this and move it along. One of our guiding principles is to be persistent in our engagement, meaning that we will be reliable, we will be sustained in what we do as we seek to work with our African partners and friends at the bilateral level but also at the continental level -- the African Union, the regional organizations -- as they attempt to provide for their own security. And so I think it will stay. It doesn't exist as something different from so many other things. The United States Africa Command is one of six geographic commands -- U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. Northern Command. So it's not as if we are doing the type of work that's not being done elsewhere. But as opposed to the past, when you had three different commands coming in doing things, we reorganized ourselves so that the continent of Africa and its island nations are being recognized, looked at and treated with the same level of importance as we have been looking at and treating -- insofar as military-to-military activities -- the rest of the world. And so -- and that is recognized as a positive development. It's an evolutionary step -- not revolutionary -- because we're not doing such different things. Those programs I talked about? We've been doing those programs all along. But your point that you made -- well, have they been as effective for the past 25 years as they might have been? We think probably not. And a part of that is because we haven't been organized in a way to help promote that effectiveness in a coordinated, coherent, cohesive way and one that is sustained. And so for all of those reasons, I think most will see that the creation of the United States Africa Command is a good thing because it allows the focus, the attention that our African partners have not been receiving to now be received. And not that we will be there doing, doing, doing for them, but we will be listening, learning from them, better understanding through the relationships we develop and then doing those things -- this is critical piece -- doing those things that we are asked to do on their behalf as they attempt to seek to enhance their own ability to provide for their own security. MR. OMAAR: Finally, why has it been so difficult to find a home on the continent for AFRICOM, because one of the odd things is that we're sitting here in Germany talking about Africa. GEN. WARD: Well, I think firstly, I haven't looked for a home in Africa, so I wouldn't say that it's been difficult -- I haven't looked for a home. The important thing about this command -- it's not where its headquarters is located, it's where it does its programs to help our African partners and friends. Africa is a huge continent. So wherever the headquarters is, the work of the command is being done someplace else. We stood the command up here at this location. Facilities existed. We've assembled a staff. But it's a planning staff; it's not an operational staff. So the activity that we plan can be planned in today's era of it-doesn't-matter-where. Headquarters conduct activities all over the world, but they might be located in a single place. Within our structure, we have other unified commands with headquarters in one place, but their activities are in another place. U.S. Southern Command, dealing with South America -- it's headquarters is in the United States. So that is -- MR. OMAAR: You think it's a red herring somewhat when people sort of -- (Direction.) MR. OMAAR: So what you're saying is that it's a bit of a red herring -- the fact that, you know, AFRICOM doesn't have a home, because -- GEN. WARD: It does have a home. MR. OMAAR: Well, in Africa. It's a red herring that AFRICOM isn't headquartered in African because governments, you know, are working with you and cooperating with you and dealing with you. GEN. WARD: Right, there's no immediate reason why having the headquarters in Africa would make a difference as we continue to work our programs with the nations of Africa, because the headquarters' location is not where the work of the command is being done out in the nations and we are focused on our programs that we want to do in cooperation with the nation. We work with our embassies and that work is being done all over the continent, not from a single location. MR. OMAAR: Some of the critics of AFRICOM point to specific examples of how things can and have gone wrong with the kind of training programs and assistance that the United States -- you know, with good faith -- has given. I want to start off with Mauritania: How significant and difficult was the fact that the military that was trained under and with the assistance of the United States ended up overthrowing a democratically elected government? GEN. WARD: Well, I think that anytime that happens, we all look at it as an illegitimate way of transitioning power amongst governments. As you know, that happened before the creation of U.S. Africa Command. So it reflects the fact that we weren't looking at the continent in this coherent, focused way. And we all deplore those methods for transitioning governments. MR. OMAAR: And with regard to Cameroon and the training and assistance that AFRICOM is giving there -- I mean, the special forces, which are part of the training -- the BIR -- have been involved in suppressing demonstrations against the president as he tried to extend his term. And a lot of innocent people ended up getting killed. GEN. WARD: I think the same thing applies. Some of those elements that may have been trained in the past; those are all conditions that existed before the creation of the United States Africa Command. With its creation, we can now be focused on that to a degree unlike before, so that when there are training opportunities that exist, we can be very specific and very focused on doing our best to make it very clear that those acts are indeed improper and we do not support at all. And when they occur -- if they should occur, we immediately stop the relationship that we have with those elements and those type units. And I think the creation of this command does, in fact, provide a safeguard to a degree that didn't exist before because of our ability to pay attention to it on a very sustained and concentrated way as well as go back and reinforce those things that we try to do as we work with the nations of the continent -- their militaries -- of how militaries perform in legitimate ways in society as opposed to ways seen as illegitimate pertaining to the transition of power. MR. OMAAR: One of the problems that is going to happen is that the United States could easily -- or AFRICOM could easily -- get sucked into conflicts and fault lines which exist right away through the continent. I mean, you look at Northern Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony. And one of the operations that, you know, AFRICOM -- you know, or the United States -- certainly had an interest in and supported was the operation against the LRA, again, in which, you know, the Ugandan forces and others ended up killing a lot of people, and tens of thousands were displaced. GEN. WARD: I think the role that my command played in that was, again -- was not a reflection of a command decision; it was a reflection of a foreign policy decision. And where that foreign policy decision has military components, then that's when we take the actions that we are directed to take. What I will say -- that reflected a realization by the nations of the region to try to do something to stop years and years and years of killing, raping of a group that was doing nothing but wreaking havoc on African people. And when two nations came together to try to do something about that in a positive way, very unfortunate that in that situation, you know, innocent civilians were able to suffer. But the -- wasn't the operation that the Ugandans and the Congolese jointly decided to occur that created the problem. It was the fact that all along Joseph Kony and that LRA element have been killing, raping innocent people for years and years and years. And that is something that could not be tolerated without doing -- trying to do something about. MR. OMAAR: Sudan has been a huge issue -- one of the biggest countries on the continent. Obviously, the conflict of Darfur has been significant internationally. But what, on the one hand, you know, the United States' government has been criticizing the Sudanese government on Darfur, there is obviously a very important intelligence relationship that the United States does have with the government of Sudan with regard to al Qaeda. That's a bit of a difficult one to balance out, isn't it? GEN. WARD: Well, I'm not the proponent for the intelligence relationship that we have with Sudan, so I can't speak for that. What I can say is that when we look at Sudan and the comprehensive peace accord that was reached and the provisions of it that attempt to bring stability to that country so that the suffering of those people can be abated, and how the processes that need to occur for that to happen, by helping to build viable structures of governance that, in fact, take care of all of the people of Sudan, that help prevent the innocent killing of Sudanese that, for no reasons of their own, are subjected to this violence and displacement and other things, that's what we see as conditions that something has to be done to alleviate. And so the relationships are indeed complex, complicated. I'm not involved in them all. But what I see is a policy that we have embarked upon whereby this comprehensive peace accord that was reached can be implemented in ways that will help bring stability to the country of Sudan. And that's in the interest of the Sudanese people. MR. OMAAR: And when critics point to, I mean, AFRICOM or the United States' involvement with Sudan and they say, uh-uh, it's all about oil, your response is? GEN. WARD: It's about trying to provide or help provide a degree of security and stability that, indeed, can cause the nation, the region and today's globalized society to include the rest of the world, and we, the United States, a part of that globalized world, to be able to develop in ways that make sense and a difference for us all. Again, we in the United States Africa Command are one of the elements involved in trying to bring stability where we are asked to help to do that. It works in conjunction with and is a part of an overall system that includes development as well as those aspects of diplomacy that we don't control, that we are not in charge of. But we clearly want to understand those as best we can so that what we do can be as supportive of and as complementary to those additional works as they can effectively be. MR. OMAAR: Ã?.. thank you very much indeed, General Ward, and I look forward to traveling with you. And hopefully, we'll a get a chance to ask you some other questions. Thank you very much, indeed. GEN. WARD: Yes, thank you. (END)
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