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TRANSCRIPT: Ghanaian Journalists Interview General Ward
<i>During a visit to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, members of a Ghanaian media delegation interviewed General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, February 26, 2010. <br /> <br />Ward provided
During a visit to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, members of a Ghanaian media delegation interviewed General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, February 26, 2010. Ward provided an overview of U.S. Africa Command and answered questions. He was also able to clarify misunderstood issues about the command, such as the command's role in working with African militaries. "We recognize, we appreciate and we respect the sovereignty of our partner nations," Ward explained. "In no way do we envision directing the navies of Africa, the armies of Africa, the air forces of Africa, the governments of Africa to do anything that they would not do for themselves. We have no design, no intent of telling you what to do, absolutely not." See related article at The transcript of the interview with Ward is provided below: GEN. WILLIAM "KIP" WARD: As I understand it, you've had a good visit thus far, and I hope that I'm not disappointing to you as we do my part of it. But as I understand it, you've been here, and have been able to meet with members of my staff, and see various things, and have your questions taken, and provide input and comments to my staff so that we can hear from you too. So wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Well, let me say at the outset that I'm really, really happy that you are here -- happy that you have taken the time to come to Stuttgart, to visit the United States Africa Command, AFRICOM, to hopefully get to see it, so that you can talk about it from a point of view of having been here. And if that objective has been accomplished, then the visit has been very successful, because it's, for us, a command that we want you to know. We don't want you to be wondering about it. We don't want you to be -- what is this? Is it this, or is it that? We want it to be very well understood, so that whatever you write, it's because, yes, I've seen it. I've talked to the people there, and this is the firsthand impression I have about the command and what we're doing. And so I think by now you've been thoroughly briefed on our mission. You've been briefed on our programs, our activities, our objectives, what we seek to do. So as opposed to me telling you all of that again, maybe it's just best that I listen to you and answer any of your questions, and go from there. Is that okay? COL FRANKLIN CHILDRESS [Public Affairs Officer]: The first question we're going to have is George. He's going to ask the first question. GEN. WARD: Where's George? COL CHILDRESS: George is right here. GEN. WARD: Well, you get the first question, George. Q: Yes. I'm privileged. (Laughter.) General, there is a perception that AFRICOM, after training our navies, will make them appendages -- where they go, go to Somalia and help us. Go to Liberia and help us. Go to Nigeria and help us. Is that very possible? GEN. WARD: Absolutely not. We recognize, we appreciate, and we respect the sovereignty of our partner nations. In no way do we envision directing the navies of Africa, the armies of Africa, the air forces of Africa, the governments of Africa, to do anything that they would not do for themselves. We have no design. We have no intent of telling you what to do. Absolutely not. COL CHILDRESS: Moses, you get the next question. Q: I think my question has been answered already, so. COL CHILDRESS: So Sam? Q: Gen. Ward. GEN. WARD: Yes, sir? Q: I was on Facebook this morning and trying to tell people that I'll have the chance to speak to you. What's on their mind? And people still are wondering what is AFRICOM all about. And if AFRICOM, they are to embrace it, is there a possibility that you're probably just using it to take away our resources, and also probably setting up a base in Africa. GEN. WARD: Yeah. We have been, as a command now, in existence for 2 years, over 2 years. And in that period of time -- because, over 2 years ago, that same thing was being said -- we have done absolutely nothing that would substantiate that impression. And we're not going to do anything. We have no intention of setting up bases, permanent bases, in Africa. You know we have a base in Djibouti right now, that we inherited when we stood the command up that was a part of then-Central Command. So that was already there. And now that one belongs to us as well. But there is no intention of setting up bases in Africa. Africa is a continent that is rich in natural resources, to be sure. It is not our intent to dominate, to take control of those resources. Frankly, we would prefer to see those resources that the people of Africa, the nations of Africa, can use to help them improve their lot. And that happens when those resources are available to the global community in free, in open -- and in ways that allow for the peoples of the nations where those resources reside, to be able to become better, insofar as their standard of living is concerned, because of those resources being competitively available globally, for everyone. Now, we have no designs on being the dominating force. We have no designs on being the controlling force. We would like to see those resources available in free, open, competitive ways, where their availability is open to the global community, and where they can be used to the betterment of the people of the nations of Africa, where those resources reside. And I think, over these past -- now, over two-and-a-half years -- everything that we have done has pointed to that, and not to the perception that we want to dominate, and not to the perception that we want to establish bases. We've done nothing that would suggest that. COL CHILDRESS: Harry, you have the next question. GEN. WARD: Hi, Harry. How are you, sir? Q: Fine, thank you, sir. I want to know whether the U.S. interest in Africa has anything to do with China. You are afraid of China coming in with Venezuela, the Russians, to forge more friendships. And then I also want to know, what is the U.S.-Ghana collaboration with regard to the oil fight vis--Ã-vis AFRICOM? GEN. WARD: First, U.S. Africa Command's interests in Africa are not at all related to trying to do something to counter China's interest in Africa. First of all, the nations of Africa are sovereign nations, and nations have relationships with whomever they would care to have relationships. We cannot control that, nor do we seek to control that. It is our interest in pursuing the United States' objectives in Africa because of the importance of stability on the continent -- because of the importance of a stable Africa -- that contributes to global stability. And in turn, that leads to a more stable America, as well. And so for us, it's not about trying to compete with China. We don't compete with China. We don't seek -- in fact, where we can cooperate, we would seek to do that. So it is not about the competition with China. With our relationships with Ghana, is a relationship in the military arena that we see whereby whatever assistance that the government of Ghana asks of us, that we can provide, that helps Ghana be in a better position of providing and caring for its own security and stability, we want to be a partner in that endeavor because as Ghana is better able to protect its territorial waters, to safeguard its borders, that contributes to a more stable region, a more stable continent, a more stable world. And when that happens, the interests of America are better realized because you have a more stable, a stronger, more secure Ghana; a more secure subregion. And so that's what we do. The Defender-class patrol boats that are coming to Ghana here in the future, where Ghana will have an increased capacity to patrol its territorial waters, to deal with illegal fishing, illegal trafficking and other things that would serve to disrupt a society. That is what we seek to do, and not for any purpose other than by doing so if Ghana, as other nations of the continent and the region, are able to provide for their security in greater ways, that leads to a more stable and more secure world. Controlling illegal trafficking, drugs, weapons, people; that's what we seek to do. And the nature of our bilateral relationship from a military point of view is, in that regard, to assist as best we can where the government of Ghana asks us and where our actions are in accordance with our United States foreign policy objectives. And the central part of that is our ability or desire to work with the nations of Africa as partners to include Ghana and providing a level of sustained security engagement where we are doing it at a pace that makes sense to you; doing those things that you would have us to do to increase your capacity such that in the long term, the ability of Ghana and the ability of other nations of Africa to provide for their own security is increased. But it is not about competing with China. COL CHILDRESS: And, next, I think Veronica had a question. GEN. WARD: Yes, ma'am. Q: Sir, what is the future of AFRICOM? What are your long-term plans? GEN. WARD: It's bright! It's wonderful! Because we see long-term partnering with the nations of Africa and we see it being done in ways that increases our capacity to be better understanding of the requirements and the things that you would ask us to do. We see it as a journey, if you will, that we are undertaking now; that you have confidence in, that you have trust in; that you know that we will be there for the long term; not to dictate to you but to listen, to understand better from your perspective, so that where we can provide assistance in helping the nation's security structure become more professional, become more able and ready to perform security missions, to participate in peace-keeping operations, that we can be there to be a help in doing that. And so for the long term, the creation of AFRICOM was designed to do that so that it wasn't split between three separate commands -- EUCOM, CENTCOM and PACOM -- but a single command that was focused, that was coming to the continent, listening to the leaders, listening to the leadership of the organizations -- the regional economic community, the standby brigades, the African Union -- so that we get to know as well as we can know your desires, your priorities. And where we can be supportive of you achieving those priorities, we will do that in a sustained way over time. And that's what our long-term vision is because when that happens, quite frankly, the continent becomes more secure, the development that would accompany long-term stability can occur, the economic development, health development, social development, so that the people see improvements in their situation. And we think that a more developed security structure helps support that. And we know that if it only happens today and tomorrow, we don't show up again -- in a year from now, we don't come back again; that that's not the way we want to do it. We want to be doing it in a sustained way that doesn't mean living with you, but it does mean a sustained engagement. You know, we've planned something today and, yes, and eight months from now we will do another exercise. We will have another training seminar. We will conduct another set of activities together. Or at whatever frequency Ghana or any other nation would desire. As the example, we assist in some maintenance training. And we have some maintenance trainers arrive in a country to do some training on, I'll just say, aircraft engines or small boat motor repair. And you teach and you train on, okay, this is how you repair this motor so that when your boat needs to go out and patrol your waters, the motor works. And then they said, well, now, can you come back in four months because we will have another group of soldiers that we want to receive the same training? I want our answer to be yes. If you want us to come back in four months to train some more soldiers, then we will come back for that training as well. And if it's to your degree of liking and satisfaction -- you say, no, no, no. I don't want you to do what you did four months ago because we now have that. Our guys can now do that same training. But we now have this next level of training requirement. Can you come back in two months and do that? I want our answer to be yes. And not with squadrons and big formations -- two, three, four, 10 -- whatever the requirement is to satisfy the request that you make. That's what we want to do and we want to be able to do that and continue that over time. And the need for that doesn't go away because even as old as I am, I still go back to school and receive training. I attend seminars. So this is an ongoing requirement because as you continue to be professional, you continue to learn. And so from your noncommissioned officer professional development programs to upgrading your maintenance readiness, to upgrading how you understand how a military performs in a society. And in your case, Ghana -- I mean, Ghana serves as a model for the world, quite frankly. As you've successfully transitioned power and how your military has been a part of that process in appropriate and proper ways. And basically that is staying away from it. That is not the business of the military to be involved in these transitions of government. That's for your civil authorities to do. And I think professional militaries understand that, as opposed to what happens -- or what has happened in other parts of the continent when you have had these extra-constitutional means of government transition that no one is in favor of. So it's sustained over time. And that's the long-term vision. It's not about moving the headquarters and plopping it down somewhere into Africa. No, that's not the vision because with this headquarters, this is only where plans are made. Only where we sit and we try to get the resources. The work of the command is when we are out with you in Ghana, with our friends in Senegal, in Rwanda, in Uganda, in Morocco, in Mali, in Botswana, in the Comoros, in Mozambique, in all those places trying to help them become more able to provide for their own security and participate in the security of the region in legitimate, cooperative ways that leads to development, better situation for the people of their nations. COL CHILDRESS: Okay, I think Mr. Lazani (sp) had a question. GEN. WARD: Mr. Lazani, sir, good to see you. Q: Yes. Before I go to my main question, I want to know why one of your names carries a quotation. Excuse me -- it's in quotes. STAFF: Kip. Q: Kip. Yeah, thank you. GEN. WARD: Oh. Q: Why is it in quotes? (Laughter.) GEN. WARD: It's in quote because it's only a nickname. It's not my real name. My real name is William. But Kip is a nickname -- a nickname that was given to me by my mother's youngest sister when I was born. And for some reason, she looked at me and she started calling me "Kip". I don't know. (Laughter.) Has no meaning, but one that -- now, there are those who have a given name that's Kip. In fact, I was just in Washington, D.C., last weekend. And as I was leaving my hotel, there's an automobile dealer -- a Ford dealership that's owned by Kip Allmon (sic), so Kip is a real name -- there are those who have a name that's Kip. We have in our government the secretary of -- one of our homeland security secretaries -- his name is Kip. On 9/11, when the airplane flew into the Pentagon, there was a major whose name was Kip. I happened to be in the Pentagon on 9/11. I was there. And so there were those who saw this Kip. And although I was a major general, this guy was a major, they were -- in the confusion, they just see this Major Kip but they didn't know -- but there was a thought that that may have been me as well. So there are -- but for me, it's only a nickname. And it's in quotations because it's not my real name; it's only a nickname that I use that was given to me by my aunt, my auntie, my mother's baby sister. And she and I are not too far in age. We are only about 10 or 12 years -- she's about 12 years -- 10 or 12 years older than I am. So when I was born, she started calling me Kip and I've had it all my life. (Laughter.) Q: All right. This engagement will be to increase trade, and I foresee an extensive arms sales to Africa. True or false? GEN. WARD: Not necessarily. I don't know. I don't know. For me it's not about arms sales and arms trading. That is not the priority. What it is about is increasing the capacity of the security structures to provide for themselves, to secure your borders, to do what most nations what have their militaries do and that is protect their people. To do the degree that that requires arms -- and that's for me to say. That's for the nation to say, its leadership. I have no -- I don't push that. That's not for me to say. What it is about for me as I mentioned is it's for Ghana the defender class patrol boats. That's there. But again, that's something that the nation decides. It's not about weapons sales in my mind's eye. Nations make those decisions as sovereignties. And obviously based on the requirements that they have. But it's not about that from my point of view. And in fact, that in some part, when you have an increased capacity to protect yourselves and secure your borders, you can help guard against illegal trafficking in weapons and other things. COL CHILDRESS: I'd like to offer Moses, if he's come back for questions. Q: Yeah. COL CHILDRESS: (Laughter.) So we can close up with those. This is the last time, one more question. And then we'll get a group photo. Q: Yes. Sir, what I want to know is all this things have been to increase -- if you have the stability and trade improves, there will be income. And most of our problem happens to be with corruption. And I haven't heard anything in that direction. And it's said that since the Western world have so much taste for the resources of Africa, they find it very difficult to tell them to -- GEN. WARD: Stop being corrupt. Q: Exactly. GEN. WARD: Yeah. Sir, I don't have a problem saying that. Corruption needs to be dealt with. Now, will it ever totally be eradicated? Because human nature is human nature. But I think it is important to deal with corruption. It is important that -- it's not something that we do. I mean, it's -- you would not want me as a soldier coming to your country and dealing with corruption. It's not my job. It's not my business. That's for your government to do. That's for diplomats to do. But what I do know is that corruption is not good in a society, especially when it is at levels that causes normal function of government to be ineffective. And the normal delivery of services and advancements to the people of a society are severely undercut and hampered. And so I think dealing with corruption is something that is very important for governments to do. No, we don't -- you would not want me to have a part of my job to come to your country and deal with corruption. Q: No. GEN. WARD: No. So and that's why it's not there. But to recognize that it is something that is negative in a society, absolutely it's negative. And I think steps that sovereign governments take to address corruption are important and necessary steps that ought to be taken. COL CHILDRESS: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you to move outside. We're going to take a picture next to a big map. Q: Yeah. GEN. WARD: Was that okay? Q: Yeah, sure. GEN. WARD: Well, tell me. Now, what's -- you've been here two days? COL CHILDRESS: Three actually. GEN. WARD: Three days. Q: No, more than -- five. STAFF: It's four days. GEN. WARD: Four days. STAFF They arrived Monday. GEN. WARD: Whoa. Arrived Monday? COL CHILDRESS: Yes. GEN. WARD: Oh. Fantastic. Oh. Well, you brought some warm weather with you. COL CHILDRESS: Yes. (Cross talk.) GEN. WARD: Yeah, you're taking it -- yeah. (Laughter.) Wonderful, wonderful. COL CHILDRESS: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.) GEN. WARD: Oh, it's great, it's great. Really, really happy that you're here. And we very much appreciate you taking some time to come here because it is important because we don't want to be a secret. What we do is not a secret. We want to be transparent and so that you know where we are. You know the things that we do. You know why we do them. And you know how we do them. Not out there by ourselves, but listening to you, understanding from you and doing things that make sense to you from your point of view. And I get asked, oh, then -- well, yeah, but you have an interest in that. Yeah, what's really in it? Well, yes. Yes, we do have an interest in it because when Ghana is stable and it's society is productive and markets are flourishing, that does have a positive effect on us in America. And so we want that to be the case. It has a positive effect on the global community. And when you can participate in where there are problems and you have capable and professional forces that could participate in peacekeeping, then that's positive as well. That when your forces that are professional when they go to an area to help bring stability are doing it in professional ways, providing good example for those others to see around them, that produces stability. That's in our best interest as well. And so that's the motive. That's the motivation. It's not to come in and take charge of your resources. (Laughter.) That's not it. It's not to come in and establish -- we're going to put a big naval base here. That's not it. That's not it. That's not it. No desire to do that. No intention of doing that. I sure don't. And as long as I'm the commander, it's not going to happen because if someone told me to make it happen, then I would quit. (Laughter.) That's not the case. And I know my political leadership does not -- you heard President Obama when he was in your country talk about that. Africa Command is about assisting the nations of Africa and enhancing their capacity to provide for their own security in a sustained way. And that's what we do. And that's what we're trying to do. And that's what we have shown to be the case. So yeah? COL CHILDRESS: Thank you, sir. GEN. WARD: Thank you. (END)