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TRANSCRIPT: Libyan Journalists Interview General Ward
<i>General William E. Ward, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, is interviewed by Colonel Mohamed Aljale Mohamed Aljale and Colonel Abdelgane Mohamed, Al Musallh Magazine. </i> <br /> <br />A delegation of three senior Libyan military officers
General William E. Ward, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, is interviewed by Colonel Mohamed Aljale Mohamed Aljale and Colonel Abdelgane Mohamed, Al Musallh Magazine. A delegation of three senior Libyan military officers visited U.S. Africa Command headquarters as part of an orientation program to explain the command's mission, September 21-24, 2009. During their visit, two of the officers, both writers for Al Musallh, the official magazine of the Libyan Armed Forces, conducted an on-the record-interview with General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM). The officers talked with Ward about Libya's role in the security and peace efforts in Africa, asked about Ward's meeting with Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, and discussed the memorandum of understanding which was signed between the U.S. Department of Defense and Libya in January 2009. To read more about the Libyan delegation's visit to U.S. Africa Command, visit U.S. Africa Command waited to publish the transcript until the article appeared in Al Musellh magazine. The Arabic version of the transcript is posted at: The complete English transcript of the interview is available below: COL. MOHAMED: First thing I would like to ask you about: During your last visit to Libya, you have met with our leader al-Qaddafi. We would like to ask about, what's your impression of the leader Muammar al-Qaddafi? How was your meeting with him? And what are the results of that visit? GEN. WILLIAM E. WARD: Okay, well, during my last visit to Tripoli I had a very good meeting with the Leader. He and I were able to talk about my command; we were able to give him some thoughts on the United States Africa Command and what the command is about. And I think because of that, we gave him additional information that enabled him to have a better understanding of the command. It was explained to him that we were there not to threaten the sovereignty of any nation; that we were there to work in close cooperation but only among those things that the nations wanted us to do. And to all of those purposes, it was about trying to enhance the stability and the security of the nations that we work with -- North Africa, as well as the entire continent of Africa. I think the Leader was happy to hear that; I think he had a greater understanding following our conversation and he appreciated the information that I gave him about the command. And I think we also discussed issues that concern security matters in Africa and how we look forward to working together in ways that help us achieve those common objectives for peace and stability. And I think the leader was appreciate of that as well, and I told him that I was committing myself to working as closely as we could where our foreign policy permitted those relationships; working with the nations, working with the regions, working with the African Union. And the leader was appreciative of that, as well. So we had a very good meeting. It was a cordial meeting, it was a friendly meeting and it was one that I certainly appreciated very well to have the opportunity to spend time with him to talk about those things that were important to both of us in the cause of peace. COL. MOHAMED: Okay, because we see a deep understanding. Do you expect another visit to be done in the near future or something like that? GEN. WARD: Well, I don't know. In the last six months I've already had two visits to Libya, and you are here, and so I think that as we continue to move forward we will have the opportunity for more visits to be sure. COL. MOHAMED: How do you assess the military and security cooperation between the United States and Libya, especially after the visit of Libyan national security adviser Dr. Mutassim to the United States? GEN. WARD: Well, I look forward to increased engagement activities, though we've had the visit of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Boutwell; we've had a embarkation -- a shipboard visit -- to our carrier the USS Eisenhower; we've had several colonel-level dialogues that have occurred between our two militaries' discussions. And so I am optimistic that as we move forward, the level of military-to-military engagement will continue to increase. COL. MOHAMED: What do you see the role of Libya in the security and peace efforts in Africa? GEN. WARD: Well, far be it for me to say what Libya's role in peace in Africa would be. I think I would say that where nations, including Libya, have the hope for more stability and peace, they would do things that would contribute to that peace in working their neighbors, in working with their international friends who have common objectives for peace and stability. And based on my meetings with Libyan officials, I think that is something that Libyan officials have as a goal as well. So I think that the potential for Libya, as well as other nations who seek peace, to make a very positive contribution exists. And I was happy to have conversations where that was apparent to me as well. COL. MOHAMED: In a previous press conference in Ethiopia, you have mentioned that you are working to build a good relationship with the African Union and its organizations. What are the characteristics of such a relation, and is there a real understanding of the role of Africans on the continent? GEN. WARD: Yeah, that's a wonderful question. I think that our command -- U.S. African Command -- certainly recognizes the importance that Africans place on their regional organizations. It recognizes the importance that Africans place on their continental organization, the African Union. And so for us, our goal is to work with those regional organizations as they attempt to have capacity, capability to provide for peace. If there are areas where we can help, then our goal is to assist them in those efforts. It could be in the form of some military-to-military training, it could be in the form of some limited provision of equipment that might be helpful as they were increasing their capacity. We don't know this -- what all the activities may be -- because it would be based on what the regional organizations ask us. And then based on the things that they would ask us to do, where those activities are in keeping with our foreign policy objectives, we would seek to provide the resources to provide as we were being asked. So it could be material resources, it could be training resources, but again, it would be based upon the dialogue that we would have together; it would be based on what they would need, what they would ask us for in supporting those needs, and then how our foreign policy would commit us to become involved in providing some of those resources and training that might be asked for. COL. MOHAMED: In the last stage, we saw so many visitors, between so many communities, especially in the military sector. And also, we saw signing of MOU -- memorandum of understanding. According to the memorandum of understanding that has been signed between DOD and Libya, would you inform us about the progress of the issue, including the memorandum of understanding? GEN. WARD: I think the memorandum of understanding was a very good step that set forth the basic understanding that the Department of Defense of the United States of America and the Armed Forces of Libya would, in fact, have a relationship. That memorandum of understanding solidified that, it acknowledged it, and it said that our two countries will have a military-to-military relationship that would benefit both of our counties, that would serve to help enhance stability. And so we are very, very happy that that memorandum of understanding was signed. It has led to some of the things that we've seen so far -- my visits to Libya. It has led to the visit of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Boutwell to Tobruk; it has led to the ship embarkation of the Libyan officials aboard the USS Eisenhower. I think that that has opened the door for this engagement. Specific things that we would seek to do would, of course, come about as we continue to work together and decide and determine what specific activities we would continue to take. But I am happy that the memorandum -- the basic agreement -- is in place that says now we can move forward. COL. MOHAMED: One of your reasons for AFRICOM was listening and learning. And we listened so much and we are very fond of that. But we will ask, listening from who, and really, what? GEN. WARD: Well, that's a great question. Listening from those who are Africans. Listening to those -- COL. MOHAMED: -- the requirement, the impression, everything, yes. GEN. WARD: Yes, yes, we want to understand as best we can from the perspective of those who know it best. And so we have to listen. So we listen to our friends; we listen to leaders of the nations of Africa; we listen to the officials of the organizations in Africa. We learn from them about things that are important to them, but from their point of view, so that we see it's not just from our point of view but also from their point of view. That's how we learn -- COL. MOHAMED: Then determine the requirement -- GEN. WARD: Yes, so that we can then do the work that we do that is based on those perspectives that we get from others, based on what we learn from those with whom we work. But we also listen to other people. There are others who are there who we also want to listen to so that other members of our government who have activities, out at state department, our U.S. Agency for International Development, so that our work is complementary to the work being done so that things don't clash, in order to understand that we have to listen and we have to learn. COL. MOHAMED: And learning is even from the history, something -- GEN. WARD: And the history; to be sure, to be sure, to be sure, to be sure. COL. MOHAMED: I'll ask about your -- when there's intervention, just in case there's some of a crisis, such as genocide or humanitarian crisis on the continent, will the U.S. Africa Command intervene, and what would be the procedure for the intervention? GEN. WARD: Yes, that's a great question. First, decisions that are taken by U.S. Africa Command are not taken because Ward says so. These activities that we would get involved in would be the result of a United States policy decision being made to get involved or not. Those policy decisions are made by our president; they're made by our secretary of state; our Congress gets involved. And where there are military activities associated with those policies, then the United States Africa Command, as the Department of Defense geographic command with responsibility in Africa, we, then, would be involved in carrying out those activities. And so, that's the process for how we get involved. How much we are involved is determined by the Secretary of Defense and our President based on the resources that are then provided to the command to do whatever work we are asked to do. Again, as a unified command, I have no standing resources; I have no standing forces. So if I'm asked to do something, then our Department of Defense must also provide the resources in order to do that work that will be done -- for humanitarian work; for the prevention of violent acts being committed against someone else -- I would have to be provided the resources to do something to address that if our nation makes the decision that we would take some action. But that is not my decision to make. COL. MOHAMED: I want to ask another question: What's the road you will play for Africans combating piracy in the Horn of Africa, such as happening now. And what kind of assistance does the command provide? GEN. WARD: Yeah. As you know, combating piracy is a role that the entire international community has as something that they would want to pay attention to and do something about. And as a part of the international community, the United States of America has, at sea, naval ships participating in patrolling activities, participating in escorting activities; participating in activities that help safeguard free passage on the high seas. We know that the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia in the Western Indian Ocean is a result of the situation that exists in Somalia. Our government has taken the position that we are supportive of the transitional federal government in Somalia as they attempt to create systems that might help to bring back a governance; that might help bring back stability in Somalia; that might help bring back development to Somalia so that the people will have a better chance for peace and to provide for their well being. And if that takes hold, and if that gains momentum, that will be the long term activity that would address piracy; that would counter piracy efforts. And we are supportive of the international community's efforts to help the transition federal government be able to be in a better position to provide for security in Somalia; to take better care of its people in Somalia. And when that gets better, it will lead to a decrease, we believe, in the piracy activity. In the meantime, it's working with the neighbors there in the continent, so if pirates are apprehended at sea, they will be able to be taken to court, adjudicated, for the activities that they would have been participating in, the piracy activities. It includes the work that we're doing in conjunction with our other friends in the at-sea activities to counter piracy through the patrolling, through the protection, of the shipping lanes, and things such as that. COL. MOHAMED: Africa became one of the commands for the American military. Is there a real intention to bring the headquarters to Africa -- in the state of Germany -- and what's the expected location here, especially in this time with so many -- (unintelligible). Even Italy -- (laughter) -- for you offered that to -- (unintelligible) -- your headquarters there can you offer some explanation about this. GEN. WARD: Let me say it very, very plainly: There is no intention to move the headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany, to Africa or anywhere else, as far as I know. There is no intention to move the headquarters to a place other than where it is right now. Now, down the road, 10 years, 5 years, 20 years -- might that change? Maybe. I don't know. But I assure you that -- GEN. WARD: the time being, for the foreseeable future, we're not moving it anywhere, I've not asked any government to locate my headquarters anyplace else and I don't intend to. It is not my intention to do so. So the headquarters is here in Germany, and it will stay here in Germany as far as I know for the foreseeable future. COL. MOHAMED: I think it's really comfortable place, here. (Laughter.) GEN. WARD: Well, it's a place that works well for a staff. Again, the headquarters -- which is what my command is -- is a staff headquarters, a planning headquarters. The work that we do with our partners on the continent is something different, and it's done -- as you know, Africa is a large, large continent -- 53 nations and its island nations. And so wherever the headquarters is, the work of the command is working with our programs, our exercises, our training, the visits -- like the Boutwell, like the -- that's on the continent. The headquarters location is not important to that. COL. MOHAMED: That's important, yes. GEN. WARD: (Chuckles.) The plan is for the force to stay here, yes. COL. MOHAMED: Based on some reports, Libya and other African countries -- a few, as you know -- according to them. And the presence of foreign forces in their territory, as in Djibouti, what is your policy to deal with this issue? GEN. WARD: Well, I don't know how a country could refuse when they have never been asked. So we have never asked. COL. MOHAMED: So we will not be there. GEN. WARD: No, no. It is not our intent to bring our forces and station them in any country in Africa. We do have a presence in Djibouti that we inherited; that was already there. And so when our command took responsibility for all of Africa, we also assumed responsibility for our Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, who was there doing the work that it has been doing all along -- working with the nations in the region to help them with their security capacity. But again, no stationing of troops in East Africa or North or West or Central or Southern Africa. And it was never the intent. A lot of things were said about that, but that was never the intent. Never the intent. (Direction.) COL. MOHAMED: About the African Union, there's a development of five brigades of rapid reaction -- standby forces. Do you have plans to assist and equip these forces? GEN. WARD: Yes. Our work with the African Union, our work with the African standby brigades is something that we have as one of our goals and objectives. Training is something that's important. You know, we have a training program that we have ongoing -- our Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, which is a Department of State program, but is supported by the Department of Defense, where African peacekeepers are trained and equipped. These African peacekeepers could be a part of the standby brigades; we also look to work with the regional standby brigades so that as they have training requirements, if they ask us for our assistance, we can provide that. That assistance could be in the form of training and, in some cases, limited material support as well. And we look to work with the African standby brigades to help them stand up those peacekeeping brigades that they has as their objective. And again, the extent to which we are able to do that is determined by our policymakers and our policies that are made with respect to the standby brigades. Our ability to work with them is something that our president says, through presidential determinations that he's signed, saying, okay, you can work with these brigades. And now, I think three of the five brigades have a presidency determination that permits us to work with them, as well as the African Union, that has a presidential determination that enables us to work with them. So, yes, we do look forward to working with the standby brigades as they increase their capacity in ways that we can. COL. MOHAMED: This is the last question to you -- last question. GEN. WARD: Okay, yes. COL. MOHAMED: As the time -- because we look to explain this . As the time is well enough to go to planning elements, and as the African leader as the president of the African Union, and with the coming of a new American administration led by Barack Obama, do you feel that we'll make new missions? GEN. WARD: Well, my mission is a function of our Constitution, its laws, its regulations, and the desire of our African partners and nations to work with us. We do the things that, as I mentioned, our political leadership indicate. I think there is support for a more stable Africa from our current administration, just as there was from our previous administration. And so I look forward to working with, and in support of, our current administration, its policies, that says a more stable Africa is in our best interest. And I think what has been said by President Obama, what has been said by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, what has been said by others of our political leadership has reinforced that we look to have a good relationship with the nations of Africa as we work together in the joint pursuit of stability and security on the continent of Africa. And to the degree that the nations of Africa want to work with us in pursuit of stability, that we stand ready to move ahead in positive, positive ways. COL. MOHAMED: Sir, I really thank you for these -- (Cross talk.) COL. MOHAMED: -- moments. GEN. WARD: Oh, you're very welcome. COL. MOHAMED: And we . we appreciate it. Thanks. GEN. WARD: Oh, it's my pleasure to spend some time with you. We tried to do this on my two trips to Tripoli, and the leaders' schedule -- we had to be -- we were "dis-scheduled!" (Chuckles.) COL. MOHAMED: Salaam; we promise in the future, on your visit there, Musallah will be with you. GEN. WARD: Shukran, shukran. (END)