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TRANSCRIPT: Ward Interviewed by All Africa CEO
<i>General William Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, spoke on the command&#39;s mission, programs, structure, and public perception during an interview with Reed Kramer, the CEO of All Africa Global Media, on July 13, 2009. <br /> <br
General William Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, spoke on the command's mission, programs, structure, and public perception during an interview with Reed Kramer, the CEO of All Africa Global Media, on July 13, 2009.

Comparing past and present public perception of U.S. Africa Command, Ward expressed optimism, stating he sees a change in how people view the command and its mission.

"[The perception] is changing because of what people are not seeing. All the things that were talked about that led to that criticism, none of that is the case," Ward said, emphasizing that U.S. Africa Command's programs and activities are reflective of his consistent message over the past year and a half.

"What they are seeing is what we have been saying from the beginning, what we have been consistently saying since my time as the commander of the command, now approaching two years, and the type of actions and activities that we are conducting." Exerts from the interview are featured on the All Africa website at The complete transcript is available below: GEN. WILLIAM WARD: It's certainly a continent that is rich and diverse and full of opportunities -- clearly has challenges. But, you know, as the president mentioned, something that I've been seeing all along as well, is the fact that, you know, the work of the Africans to take charge of their own destiny is something that I see, and that's what continues to give me optimism as we work our programs with the Africans in ways that makes sense. It's important work. It doesn't reap overnight results, but it's a thing that we have to be committed to, I think, sustained engagement, work with the Africans to help them be in positions to do a better job of providing and caring for themselves across myriad activities: development and security, social sectors, obviously matters of good governance, all that stuff. REED KRAMER: We've launched into the interview, so that's fine -- (laughter) -- because I wanted to ask you to give a kind of general mission statement. It's out there, but it will be useful in this. And a status report, because AFRICOM has now been operational for a while, and so I'm wondering what you've been able to accomplish so far before we talk about the future. GEN. WARD: Yeah, well, you know, at this point in time it's -- these are long-term missions. These are long-term engagement activities, and just as our mission statement indicates, you know, by providing sustained security engagement, working in cooperation and conjunction with our partners, friends, allies, both on the continent as well as our own governmental partners. We look to do our best to help Africans increase their capacity to provide for their own security, and we do that through this notion of sustained engagement, working with the African nations to help them build their structures such that they can in fact provide for their own security in the region as well as across the continent, and doing all of that clearly in line with our foreign policy objectives as opposed to things that any one of us wearing the uniform think might be a good idea. We aren't, you know, independent operators. We do things that are in line with our foreign policy objectives for the various nations, the continent itself, and how our efforts complement and support the achievement of those foreign policy objectives. MR. KRAMER: But one of those objectives clearly has to do with terrorism, trying to combat it, trying to remove the causes of terrorism. So what is AFRICOM's role in that? GEN. WARD: Now, you know, terrorism is something that certainly plagues many parts of the world and Africa is not immune from the continent. And so therefore, what we do is -- again, and it goes back to the central premise here that we are not there to eradicate terrorism for Africans; we are there to work with Africans as they attempt to deal with their own issues of terror, or violent extremism that's committed against innocent civilians. And so our role is working with the security structures of the nation, of the continent where we're asked, knowing what they ask us to do, to increase their capacity to deal with those terror issues and terror problems. And we have been doing that, not just with the creation of the United States Africa Command that was going on before the command was created. We've taken over those programs in a more, I think, cohesive and focused way by spending time with these nations, working with them in a very dedicated and collaborative way to do the sorts of things that increase their capacity to provide for their own security, from their borders to how they work together amongst themselves in a region, how they understand the environment, and then clearly the capability of their security forces to deal with the threat of terror and the threat of violent extremism. MR. KRAMER: So that involves training, for one thing. GEN. WARD: It involves training. It also involves equipping -- some equipment matters and issues, communications, ability to talk to one another, ability to see what's going on in their space, borders, territorial waters, maritime security safety sorts of things. So it involves those sorts of activities -- training, equipment provision -- to help them be able to have better control over their territory. MR. KRAMER: What about on-the-ground activities, pursuing terrorist groups, for example? Is that part of AFRICOM's mission? GEN. WARD: AFRICOM does not have, as its stated mission, to go out and pursue -- clearly, should we be directed to do something by our president, our secretary of defense, the we would do that, but as a part of our day-to-day activities, we are not on the ground pursuing terrorists, as you might find in places like Iraq and Afghanistan -- not the same at all. MR. KRAMER: And, as you know, there are those who believe that one of the goals, if not the central role of AFRICOM, is the establishment of U.S. bases in Africa. Now, in your congressional testimony a few months ago you talked about -- of course you said that that was not part of it, but you also talked about infrastructure nodes, and I wondered if you could elaborate a little bit. You talked about sustainment infrastructure, forward operating sites, en route infrastructure, and I think it would be useful to have a clearer explanation of what you mean by those things. GEN. WARD: Clearly part of the thought that -- when the command was established, that we would be establishing these bases on the continent. And as you've indicated and as I've stated over and over again, as President Obama restated, we are not about establishing bases and garrisons on the continent where there are battalions of soldiers and there are squadrons of seamen and airmen. That's not the case at all. What we look to do is work with our African partners and friends where there are requirements for infrastructure or logistics hubs or doing the sorts of cooperative activities we do, where we can stage supplies, if needed, for humanitarian -- natural disasters, locations that are suitable for those sorts of things, locations that could be used to add to our flexibility of working with our friends on the continent in various parts of the continent. It's a huge, huge continent. And so, having sites, locations identified from which, should an emergency arise, we can operate in partnership with the African nations for staging of supplies, for conducting training activities, for conducting humanitarian assistance sorts of activities, then identifying those locations is what that was about. I think, clearly, again, given the vast distances that you will require, places where you can use for your en route infrastructure, moving from place to place, that will be a logistics support -- logistics movement of various things as we would operate or conduct those sort of activities for the continent. That's what I was referring to, those sorts of sites and locations. MR. KRAMER: But not bases. GEN. WARD: Not bases. Obviously there is a base there that we have, and that's in Djibouti -- our combined joint -- that we inherited, were already there. The creation of the command did not put it there. It was already there. So we did inherit that as a part of our taking over responsibility for the conduct of Department of Defense activities on the continent of Africa. We inherited it. It was already there at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. MR. KRAMER: From your time with Operation Restore Hope, you know firsthand the impact that U.S. engagement in Somalia in the early '90s had on American policy. You know how the disastrous experience there made it politically unpalatable to commit boots on the ground. At least that's how it was seen by successive administrations, even when genocidal killing erupted in Rwanda, conflict turned to carnage in Liberia. With AFRICOM in place, won't there be expectations, in Africa and elsewhere, of significant U.S. involvement in the event of large-scale conflict or humanitarian disaster? How do you address those expectations? GEN. WARD: Well, again, you can't predict those sorts of things. It's kind of hard to determine or say what we would do or not do. Again, our actions would be a direct result of our foreign policy objectives that would come from one of those sorts of things arising. And in response to that and where they're within that broad foreign policy objective, there are some activities that have military or security features that would have to be performed, and it would be performed under the command and control and direction of my command. Again, we don't have standing forces, so it's not like I have forces that I would commit and dedicate to that. It would be a decision that would be made by our government to support some conditions that would exist, and that support, if there is a requirement for a military activity, then we would be the command responsible for the command and control of that military activity, after having been properly resourced by our nation to do that job. MR. KRAMER: Right. So if troops were called for, they would have to be found somewhere else. GEN. WARD: Exactly. MR. KRAMER: You don't have them -- GEN. WARD: We don't have them. Exactly correct. MR. KRAMER: Okay. GEN. WARD: Exactly correct. MR. KRAMER: Now, in some current crises, let's say eastern Congo now, what role is AFRICOM playing currently? GEN. WARD: Well, currently we don't have a direct role in any of those. We are obviously working with those nations that we have bilateral relationships with. I would note that the recent collaboration amongst some of the nations in the eastern Congo to address those common threats we would see as very positive. And so we encourage those nations who have those internal threats to continue to cooperate with one another, to continue to increase their capacities to deal with those situations that exist that bring instability to their borders. And to the degree, you know, our foreign policy objectives indicate a degree of support for that, then we would certainly be the ones doing that. We're working with -- again, we have bilateral relations with the central African nations as we do with other nations on the continent, and in our bilateral relations we work with them to help them increase their own capacities to control their borders, to increase the effectiveness of their military forces that are there, from command and control, to communications, to equipment, the training things. And so we have been doing that. We continue to provide that type of training assistance to the nations there in Central Africa. We are not directly involved in activities dealing with the insurgents or the rebel groups. That's for Africans to deal with. We are hopefully doing things to increase their capacity to more effectively deal with those sorts of things. MR. KRAMER: And piracy, another major problem facing Africa, both east and west Africa right now. Does AFRICOM have a role there? GEN. WARD: We do, but, again, it goes back to the basic premise of how the nations -- or these littoral nations, both east and west coast of Africa, know that their territorial waters, their ability to govern their shores, their borders requires them to become more proficient at that from how they can understand what goes on in their territorial waters. You know, obviously what goes on in the piracy or the east coast of Africa is largely a result of the just lack of effective governance in Somalia for so long. And so how, you know, that continues to evolve will in many ways portend the future for reducing the piracy threat that goes on there on the east coast of Africa. The west coast, with, you know, piracy, also other illegal trafficking of commodities, again, the ability of those nations to govern their territories, their borders is what will ultimately impact that illegal trading and trafficking and piracy. And, again, working with them to increase their capacity to deal with those threats, to be better able to secure their borders, their customs regimes, the capability, the capacities of their maritime forces, you know, their naval forces, increasing their training, their readiness through our programs that we have in place now, again, is how we go about our work with the nations of Africa to help them address those types of problems. MR. KRAMER: You mentioned, again, Somalia, and there has been a recent decision announced, or leaked, by the Obama administration to provide arms and ammunition to the transitional federal government in Somalia. Does AFRICOM have a role in working with the transitional federal government? GEN. WARD: Well, right now, as I stated, you know, our policy is to support the Djibouti process, and out of it the transition federal government, and to support the TFG as a part of our policy directive. We are not directly involved in working with the transitional federal government, you know, at this point in time. What we do, the nations of Africa, who look to work with them, that we are partnering with, we in fact look to do what we can to support those training efforts. But we are not directly involved with the transitional federal government at this time. MR. KRAMER: And you're not doing training yet as of now? GEN. WARD: We are not doing training, correct. MR. KRAMER: All right, just -- (inaudible). GEN. WARD: Exactly. MR. KRAMER: Okay. The thing -- perhaps the thing or one thing that distinguishes AFRICOM from the other commands is the civilian component. If I'm not mistaken, you're the only one that has a civilian component. Could you say a little bit about how -- what you've done on that side of the operations today? GEN. WARD: Sure. Sure. You know, the other combatant commands to have civilian components in varying capacities. You know, Southern Command, focusing on South America just as my command focused on the continent of Africa, has a civilian deputy. Our command was stood up with that in mind. There had been an evolution towards some of those things in some of the other commands, but our command was stood up with that in mind, to have a civilian component that's represented inside of our command structures -- our staff, the leadership. One of my two deputies is, in fact, a State Department ambassador who was my deputy for civil military activities, and that deputy is not there to do Department of State work from the commands but is there to -- the work that our command does is better informed because of the expertise that is brought to our planning, our execution from the knowledge that they have, their experience. Also, the U.S. Agency for International Development AID, other departments of our government, the Departments of Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture -- and, again, working with our interagency brothers and sisters such that the work that we do is work that better supports and complements the work that is being done by other parts of our government so that the whole of the effort is more coherent from our perspective, i.e. the military security perspective. Again, not that we are doing their work from the command, nor are we directing their work, but we are better understanding of their work because we have, inside of our command, that level of expertise that they bring to our staff processes, our planning processes and our execution processes. MR. KRAMER: And what are you -- what's going on now on the civilian side? Is there a lot of activity to date or is it still gearing up? GEN. WARD: No, it's still -- it's gearing up. It's certainly not complete. Its activity is, I think -- you know, I'm satisfied with it. Clearly, you know, part of what goes on in other parts of our government -- just as our secretary of defense has said, you know, we look for our interagency partners to be more robust as well -- the Department of State, USAID in particular. And so, some of the things that they would probably like to do inside of our command, their capabilities aren't where they need to be, just resource-wise. And so, until they have additional capacity to have persons assigned to our command, that will be something that won't be realized to its fullest just yet. But in the meantime, you know, there's a very healthy exchange. Persons are inside the command at some number, and we look for those numbers to continue to grow over time, over the coming years as their capacity to participate is strengthened. MR. KRAMER: By undertaking civilian tasks like building schools or drilling wells, how do you, at the same time, instill in the soldiers your training in Africa, the concept of separation of military and civilian roles, because this has been a problem in Africa, in the military taking on civilian tasks that would not be acceptable in the United States, for example, and probably not acceptable in Africa. GEN. WARD: Well, we clearly recognize the distinction between the role of the military in government as opposed to the role of the military in support of its government. And in our case, you know, the things that we do, you know, these humanitarian projects are projects that are done by a military member who have skill sets calling for that particular activity. And so where those things can be done in support of our foreign policy objectives, where they can be done in support of the partner nation, then we all benefit from that. You know, soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen get valuable training in their construction skill requirements. And, oh, by the way, while they get that valuable training, they're also helping out a partner nation. And, as a part of that work project, side by side with them are the militaries from the nations so that the people see their military working for them and not against them, doing things on their behalf as opposed to not. And I think that model is a great model that really exemplifies and illustrates how militaries in fact do work in support of their people, and only doing those things that have been determined by -- not by us but by the local civilian administration, also by our country teams, our Department of State representatives in country, our ambassadors, the USAID program managers. So we are doing things that wouldn't otherwise be done. So filling voids, adding to what's already there. So we aren't doing things in place of someone else; we're doing things that would not otherwise be done. They complement, they support, and we do them in a way that highlights this very important distinction that the military works in support of its people, in support of its government, and doing those things that the government has in fact indicated are appropriate to do. And because of the nature of the task being done, they also support the military skill set from those that are involved in doing the projects. And so, those things are pretty important. You have those sailors or soldiers who are construction engineers drilling wells. Again, those are skills that we need in the military for operating in various austere environments as opposed to just going up and doing it in the place where it doesn't matter -- enhance that skill in a place where it's also mattering for people of a nation that have a need for that particular service to be provided, and especially when it's not being done by anyone else and being done in conjunction with the host government and our country team there in the partner nation. MR. KRAMER: So the way you avoid either supplanting or replacing, for example, USAID activities is through the coordination that you talked about. GEN. WARD: Exactly right. Exactly -- coordination with the USAID construction team, but also the host government. You know, where do you have a need for something that's not being satisfied by anyone else? Now, are we always perfect? No. But that's the goal and we're getting better at that because we're more and more understanding of that's how we do these things. And, as I said, when people see their soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines working side by side with our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines to bring them something good, it begins to change that mentality of soldiers or militaries who may have been considered as oppressors of their population to being more of protectors and providers for their population. MR. KRAMER: The administrations FY 2010 budget has a large increase for AFRICOM. I understand you don't know how that budget process is going to come out. GEN. WARD: Not yet. MR. KRAMER: That's all up to Congress. GEN. WARD: It's all up to Congress. MR. KRAMER: But assuming you get additional funds, whatever the amount, does this mean you'll move into new areas? Will this change anything you're doing now, or would you just be able to do more better? GEN. WARD: I think it probably does not mean a change in what we do. It means we can be more focused, can be more consistent. We can sustain our level of effort to a greater degree. Again, these are not short-term requirements or endeavors. These are long-term activities that, over time, through sustained engagement -- you know, being there as a partners who listens, who understands from the perspective of our African partners -- and, again, given the fact that they have by and large said, you know, we know that these are things that we must do for ourselves; we need the help of our friends to get there. And so it's not doing for the African nations; it's assisting them as they try to do for themselves to increase their capacity to do things. So as we get additional resources that we can commit to that, it just makes those efforts more stronger -- a bit stronger and makes them more relevant to providing the sort of training assistance, the developmental support that we can provide to the overall developmental effort in ways that will matter to the African people. And so it's that -- the magnitude of the projects can be enhanced. The type of projects and activities remain basically the same. MR. KRAMER: Finally, as you move around and interact -- I know you were in Dakar last week or the week before -- you've visited a lot of parts of Africa. GEN. WARD: I have. MR. KRAMER: I wonder what your readout of the perception is. By all accounts, the start -- AFRICOM start was a bit rocky. And, as you know, there were a lot of even governments and institutions that spoke up in opposition and criticism of AFRICOM. Is that changing? Is the perception of AFRICOM changing as you get up and running? GEN. WARD: The perception is changing, and it's changing not because of anything in particular. It's changing because of what people are not seeing. All the things that were talked about that led to that criticism, none of that is the case. And what they are seeing is an enhanced, more dedicated approach to our working with them as true partners, listening to them and doing things with them that clearly are in our interests, because having a stable continent of Africa is in our national security interest. But also, having Africans be responsible for that likewise is in our security interest, not doing for them; helping them do for themselves. And over the past year, year-and-a-half now, what the Africans are seeing is not something that they were at least led to believe by some that might be the case. What they are seeing is what we have been saying from the beginning, what we have been consistently saying since my time as the commander of the command, now approaching two years, and the type of actions and activities that we are conducting, all reflective of those sorts of things that we have been saying. And so I think it's a combination of that that has caused a change in the perception, clearly an increasingly level of acceptance of who we are and what we are. And, again, as is mostly reflected in all the things that were said that we would be doing, that's not the case, namely coming to the continent with huge numbers of forces, establishing bases, and all those sorts of things that just were never the case and now folks say, well, gee, that's not happening. And so, the welcoming of our work with them to assist them in creating additional security capacity to care for their own problems, as that complements other things that need to be happening in these societies, from the developmental side, from the area of -- you know, the governance side, things that the president talked about as well. MR. KRAMER: Will AFRICOM, for the foreseeable future, operate out of Stuttgart? Are you looking at having more operational capacity on the ground in various parts of Africa? GEN. WARD: No, Stuttgart is a planning headquarters, so there is no operational capacity in Stuttgart at all. That's our planning headquarters. Our capacity to do our work resides in our security assistance apparatus on the continent that have already been there. And we do look to increased -- but they operate out of our embassies by and large. And what the ambassadors have said, what the host nation officials have said, you know, these programs are that we want to have occur -- helping manage those programs is what we need the help in. And so the headquarters -- where the headquarters is located, that plan -- as far as I can see for now, it's going to remain in Stuttgart. Where we do that from is kind of not the issue with this. How we conduct and execute our programs on the continent, that matters to our partners there, and working with them in ways that can clearly benefit the overall security situation from their perspective, and from ours. And that's what we see as our predominant way ahead. MR. KRAMER: Thank you. GEN. WARD: You're welcome. Thank you. ###