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TRANSCRIPT: Ghanaian Journalists Interview AFRICOM's Deputy for Civil-Military Activities
<i>During a visit to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, members of a Ghanaian media delegation interviewed Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, February 23, 2010.
During a visit to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, members of a Ghanaian media delegation interviewed Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, February 23, 2010. Throughout the week, the group met with senior staff members who provided an overview of the command, highlighting its programs and activities, and answering questions. See related article at The complete transcript is available below: MR. FIDLER: Ambassador, if I may, we're very pleased that the delegation was able to make it. This is part of our APS public information partnership activities, and just to show -- this was printed in the Ghana Graphic yesterday, a little send-off story in the largest daily newspaper in Ghana, which we thought was really a nice thing to do. MR. FIDLER: Moses? (Laughter.) MR. FIDLER: This is Moses right there and this is Sandy Derka (ph) right over here. And they've covered APS previously. And I got word today from the embassy public affairs officer -- they just want to thank you, your boss, for the coverage you've provided for Africa Partnership Station in the past. So, and that's the reason why they're here, sir. So with that, Ambassador, sir? AMBASSADOR J. ANTHONY HOLMES: Good, thank you. I invite you to join me in taking your jacket off. I mean, you must be very warm with a sweater on underneath. (Laughter.) Let's go around the room, quickly, please, and tell me your name and anything about you -- we'll limit it to one minute per person -- but your name, who you work for, and what you're interested in. What brings you here? Q: MRS. JOYCE ASIEDU: All right, my name is Joyce Okyere-Asiedu (sp), and -- AMB. HOLMES: And if you're not from Accra, tell me where in Ghana you're from. Q: MRS. JOYCE ASIEDU: Oh, I come from Monse Iquiplem (sp), in the Eastern Region. I work for the public affairs section of the U.S. Embassy as information assistant. And my mission here is to escort all these people -- AMB. HOLMES: You're providing running commentary, huh? Q: Yeah. (Chuckles.) AMB. HOLMES: Good, good. Well, welcome. Q: MRS. JOYCE ASIEDU: -- at AFRICOM headquarters, here. And so far, I think, the trip has been good. We had briefings today and it has enlightened all of us. AMB. HOLMES: So this is your first day? Q: Yeah. AMB. HOLMES: And how many days are you staying? Today and tomorrow? MRS. DALRYMPLE: They leave Saturday morning for a full week. AMB. HOLMES: Oh, okay. A nice long visit. And we've warmed up the weather a bit for you. (Laughter.) Because for the last -- more than two months -- there's been snow on the ground continuously. But most Ghanaians have never seen snow, so that's not a bad thing. You've got a little bit left in some areas. And you're the radio man? Q: MR. SAMMY DARKO: Yeah. Well, my name is Samuel Appiah (sp), but on the radio I use Sammy Darko (sp). In most of my writings, if you want to trace it, you have to Google Sameda. AMB. HOLMES: Okay. So you write in addition to broadcast? MR. SAMMY DARKO: Yeah. Well, I work with Joy FM and I am the parliamentary correspondent. I'm here to learn about what AFRICOM is not. AMB. HOLMES: Okay. Well, to do that you have to know what it is. (Laughter.) All right, it's very difficult to prove a negative, but we've tried to show you the positive -- at least, the reality. MR. SAMMY DARKO: Well, I come from Kumasi, in Ashanti Region, so. AMB. HOLMES: Alright, good. Sir? Q: MR. MOSES AKLORBORTU: Yes, I'm Moses Dotsey Aklorbortu. I work for the -- (inaudible) -- private, but state-owned. AMB. HOLMES: Okay. Private but state-owned, that sounds like a contradiction. Q: We are -- AMB. HOLMES: Independent, you mean? Q: MR. MOSES AKLORBORTU: - independent, and we create and share -- (inaudible). AMB. HOLMES: But politically, did you endorse a presidential candidate in the last election? Q: MR. MOSES AKLORBORTU: No, we -- in the constitution, we are under obligation to give fair coverage. AMB. HOLMES: That's a very subjective consideration, there. What is fair and what is not fair is very subjective. Q: MR. MOSES AKLORBUTU: And I'm the regional correspondent in the western region of Ghana. (Inaudible.) I'm from the Volta Region. I speak Ewe, and a few other Ghanaian languages, and I write across board, anything newsworthy. AMB. HOLMES: Okay, thank you. Q: LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ADJOUANI: I am Lieutenant Commander Veronica Adjouani (sp). I'm in the Ghana Navy, but presently at the general headquarters, public relations directorate. I am the assistant director of public relations in charge of protocol. I love swimming and horse-riding. I come from the Volta Region, specifically Aplauhi (sp). Thank you. AMB. HOLMES: Thank you, welcome. Sir? Q: Mr. Gordon Deku Zaney: I'm Gordon Deku-Zaney (sp). There is a lagoon in the Keta District of the Volta Region in Ghana. There's an island in that lagoon. I come from that island. I work with the information services department -- AMB. HOLMES: Of the -- Q: Mr. Gordon Zaney: Of the ministry of information. I'm a journalist by profession, and I'm information officer. I'm also a law student at the Ghana School of Law. AMB. HOLMES: Alright, interesting. Good, thank you. Q: MR. HARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, I'm Harry Reynolds (sp). I'm a journalist from the -- (inaudible) -- New Times Corporation. It is state-owned. AMB. HOLMES: Is it independent also? Q: MR. HARRY REYNOLDS: Yes, we are enjoined to be -- (inaudible) -- balanced and fair to all. I had a stint doing diplomatic reporting, Accra correspondent. AMB. HOLMES: Okay. So you live in Accra. Q: MR. HARRY REYNOLDS: I also live in Accra. But I come from the Central Region. AMB. HOLMES: Okay, good. Sir? Q: MR. GEORGE NAYKENE: Yeah, I'm George Naykene (sp). I work with Ghana News Agency. I'm from the Western Region, presently a student of -- (inaudible) -- University, doing business management in addition to journalism. I'm also a general correspondent. AMB. HOLMES: And what people forget is journalism is a business. (Laughter.) Okay, thank you. All of you work in English? No vernacular, no Ashanti, no other languages? Q: MR. GEORGE NAYKENE: (Inaudible) -- the official language, so. AMB. HOLMES: Now, you've been here three-quarters of a day. I mean, what do you want to hear from me? How can I help you? Do you have specific questions? Did you want to hear just, sort of, a general explanation from me? I'll leave it to you. I mean, I can do it either way, or both. I can say a few words, and then, if you have questions, I can answer questions. Q: I think that's what we'd prefer. Q: A general overview of -- AMB. HOLMES: Okay. How much do you know about AFRICOM? How much did you know before you arrived today, and how much, at this point in your first day, do you know? Do you feel comfortable, or are you still now quite sure? Q: We want you to add to what we already know. Q: (Inaudible) -- your perceptions before the trip. AMB. HOLMES: I mean, the one thing I can remember very clearly about Ghana is -- from 2007 to 2009, I worked in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations, an American think tank, and I was the director of the Africa program. And in February 2008, I spent a lot of time focused on the trip by then-President George W. Bush to Africa. I think he went to five or six countries. And before he departed, he brought with him a separate airplane of journalists. I think there were 70 journalists. And I and my colleague there, who was responsible for the global health program -- doing HIV/AIDS and other programs -- we had a press conference with all the journalists, and almost all of them who accompanied the president participated. It was a telephone conference, so we talked for a while and then answered their questions. And then the president departed. I forget where he went. He went to Kenya, and he went to several countries. And then he got to Ghana, and I got this call from the New York Times correspondent, saying, what is AFRICOM? And I said, wow -- because that's not something that ever came up in our discussions before he departed on his trip, because he'd just got sandbagged by a journalist in Ghana, who asked him why the U.S. was going to put a base in Africa. And so I gave her the background. But what was very interesting to me was the fact that, even though that was the fourth or the fifth country -- he want from Ghana to Liberia, and then came back -- but the issue had not come up in any of his previous stops, but that he was so well-prepared for it. And he said very categorically, emphatically, the United States will not create a base in Africa. The United States has no intention of creating a headquarters for AFRICOM in Africa. And that seemed to put an end to the issue. But even now, 2 years later, and 4 years after AFRICOM, sort of, was beginning to be talked about in Washington, every time I talk to a group of Africans -- sometimes, even when I talk to just one African -- they always ask me about this issue. So anyway, we can get to that. But, I mean, the basic is: AFRICOM is a reorganization of the U.S. military. Why? Several reasons. Because, I'll be very frank with you, Africa has historically been the least-important region of the world to the United States. Because we didn't have colonies in Africa; Africa was a long way away; Africa was an underdeveloped continent; it was the least important continent to the United States. But it's becoming more and more important, and has been since the end of the '50s, the beginning of the 1960's, when African states became independent, and they were no longer colonies of the European powers. But since then, because of globalization, because of the development of technology, because of what we call, sometimes, the shrinking of the world, increasingly, people in the United States know more about what's going on in Africa. And what's going on in Africa has implications for the United States. It's a small world now, and things trafficking -- problems in Africa present challenges to the United States. This was particularly brought home after the bombings of the U.S. embassies in 1998 in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. And then -- even though it had nothing to do with Africa -- after the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, people in the United States and the U.S. government became very sensitive to how things happening in other parts of the world present security challenges to the United States. Narcotics trafficking, weapons of mass destruction, nonproliferation issues, infectious diseases -- all of these things -- because you can get on an airplane and, within 12 hours, be in the United States from even East Africa, much less West Africa. In West Africa, it's just six-and-a-half, seven hours. The United States became aware that it needed to reorganize itself to put greater emphasis on understanding Africa. Now, we have an Africa Bureau in the State Department. We have various U.S. government agencies and departments with Africa programs, Africa offices that focus on Africa. But the U.S. military was very incoherent when it came to Africa. Most of Africa -- because Africa was under European colonial authority, most of Africa, after independence in the '60s, was part of our European Command, which is based here in Germany. And until the creation of AFRICOM, it covered 93 countries. It went from Portugal in the western part of Europe to Vladivostok in the eastern part of Russia, and down to Cape Town. Then you had five or six countries in the Horn of Africa that were part of our Middle East region, just because of their geographic proximity. And then the islands in the Indian Ocean were part of our Pacific Command, because it's basically a naval command -- because of the vast oceans, the Pacific and Indian Oceans. And I've spent 31 years, now, in the State Department. And most of that -- the majority of that -- working in Africa, or on Africa. And we always had programs of engagement between the European Command and the African countries. It was responsible for the Central Command, which does the Middle East, for the East African, Horn of Africa countries. And we would always hear: You don't respect Africa. What do you mean? Well, you don't have an Africa Command? You have a European Command, you have a Middle East Command, you have a Pacific Command, but you don't have an Africa Command. If you respected us -- if you took us seriously -- you would have an Africa Command. Well, eventually, the world had shrunk enough -- technology had evolved, so much development had occurred, communications, I mean, made Africa so close and so real that it made sense to create an Africa Command. And so that's what AFRICOM was. Now, the security challenges to the United States from Africa are very different than they are from the Middle East. They're not military threats. But our Defense Department is a military institution. So when AFRICOM was created, it was designed to be -- it was designed to reflect the realities in Africa, in which the security threats aren't necessarily military threats. In fact, they're probably not military threats. So the U.S. military didn't have very much experience in Africa. But our State Department, our U.S. Agency for International Development did. And so our government decided that the Africa Command has to be different than all the other regional commands. It has to be less focused on the military and more focused on engagement to help African nations deal with their own security threats -- basic ones -- control of the borders, control of the maritime space, if you're a coastal country like Ghana, control of your exclusive economic zones, which soon is going to be producing such wealth for Ghana, how to deal with narcotics trafficking, which in West Africa, even a little bit Ghana, but in, for example, Guinea-Bissau, a huge problem, trafficking in humans, which in West Africa, is a big problem. I mean, as you know, with Nigeria, with Gabon, with the countries of the Sahel -- I spent 3 years in Burkina Faso -- in Mali, in Niger there's human trafficking, trafficking in children. So we have created AFRICOM so that we could engage with the African countries. But because the military has had so little experience with Africa, this meant that we had to have a joint civilian-military Africa Command, that we had to bring expertise in Africa from the civilian agencies -- State Department, USAID and we had to bring technical expertise in areas that our military has not traditionally had -- so humanitarian assistance, food security -- lots of energy, lots of areas that aren't directly military in nature. Now, what that meant was a serious of negotiations between the Defense Department and the other, State Department, and other parts of the U.S. government to get them to agree to join together to work on this strategy of engagement with African countries. And so in doing so, they decided that instead of having one general, four-star general, as the commander and then one three-star military person as the deputy commander, they would have two deputy commanders. We would have one civilian, from the State Department and one military from one of the military services. And so that's the way AFRICOM is. So I'm the deputy from the civilian side and I'm a career State Department employee since June of 1979. And so what I do is I try to lead the civilian agencies to identify both how they can help our military in providing expertise on both subject matter and on Africa and how they can identify ways the military can help them in advancing their agendas in Africa, non-military agendas -- humanitarian agendas, development agendas, diplomatic agendas, counter-narcotics agendas, nonproliferation -- many, many -- whatever it is. And so, you know, we're a very new organization. We constantly confront the realities that our military has traditionally been very well resourced by our Congress. They've been given a lot of money, they have a lot of people, they have big program budgets. Particularly, since the end of the Cold War, the last 20 years or so, the civilian agencies have not been so generously funded by our Congress. So what we have is a huge imbalance, disparity, between the number of civilians and the number of military. But that's something that over time should be reduced as civilian agencies get more funding and are able to devote more people to AFRICOM. Now, all of the material you've gotten from the public affairs office will talk about the programs and the Africa Partnership Station you know because of its experience with Ghana. You know, I mean, we do a variety of things. In Liberia, we work on defense-sector reform. In Congo, we work on defense-sector reform. I would imagine, in six months in Guinea, we'll be working on defense-sector reform. So what we try to do is go in and professionalize a military and teach them the role of a military in a democracy. We get very upset when we have coups like in Niger last week. We want militaries to be apolitical and we want militaries to understand that they're there for the benefit, for the provision of security to the people of their country, not to exploit the people of their country. So in a country like Congo, the military is a huge part of the problem, not the solution to the problem. Just last Tuesday I was in Kisangani, Tuesday/Wednesday, Kisangani, Central Congo, to inaugurate the beginning of a six month project in which we're going to train one light infantry battalion -- almost a thousand soldiers -- how to be guardians of the security and providers of security to their country. Not a menace, not a threat to their population. We do -- in fact, in practically everything we do, there's an element of rule of law. I mentioned the role of a military in a democracy. Human rights, what human rights are, how they should be protected. So we try to initiate long-term engagement. You know, most projects are short term. But we try to do is remain engaged through our embassies in these countries to provide a coherent series of programs and joint exercises to the benefit of the country and the benefit of security. Another area where we work extensively throughout Africa, and Ghana is one of our best partners, is in the training of African peacekeeping troops. I mean it's -- conflict resolution is a pillar of American African policy, it has been for many, many years. You know, 15 or 20 years ago we realized that we couldn't do it for Africa, we needed to help Africa do it for itself. And so all of the things that President Obama talked about on his visit to Accra last year are things that we try to follow up on with our practical, on-the-ground programs and exercises and training engagements with the militaries of Africa. Now AFRICOM focuses on military-to-military engagement. And sometimes we do civilian-military activities as well, particularly, when they relate to crises, disasters, humanitarian relief and that sort of thing. But the fundamental orientation of AFRICOM is in support of broad U.S. government Africa policy. AFRICOM, the U.S. military, doesn't create policy. We implement a small part -- well, I don't want to downplay it -- an important part but a relatively small part of our overall U.S. government policy in Africa. And the operational budget of AFRICOM is quite modest. It's only a tiny percentage of what USAID spends every year in Africa. But nonetheless, we think we have a reasonable impact and most importantly, we think there's a real need for the provision of security in Africa because social and economic development, even political development, cannot occur in a security vacuum. There must be a basis of security in a nation to attract investment, to create jobs, to develop. And so we in AFRICOM try to play our role in a broader American and more broadly, multilateral, international community effort to work with Africa, to be partners with Africa, to assist Africa help itself. So that's the framework. Now, what specifically would you like to ask me? MR. REYNOLDS: I would to find out -- establishment of AFRICOM, which, like we stated, on the three D's? AMB. HOLMES: Yeah. Right. Okay, that's -- I didn't use that term but that's a good one. We sometimes talk about whole-of-government approach or three D -- diplomacy, development and defense. But the term I used a few minutes ago which meant the same thing was civilian-military. But it's all the same. I mean, it's a holistic approach that's not just military. But please go ahead, yeah. MR. REYNOLDS: Yeah, my point has to do with the three D's, that the development, it was not the focus; like we were told that a chunk of the budget goes to the other side and the military just uses, I think, 10 percent or something of that budget. But it look as if the issue with regards -- because until we were brief, I didn't know that. Diplomacy and development is actually running alongside AFRICOM defense so -- AMB. HOLMES: It's actually intertwined. MR. REYNOLDS: Yeah. Actually, until we were briefed today, I didn't know they were running side by side. So how come the other focus on the issues of defense -- because the fear, if you read most of the people agitating and those writing against AFRICOM, they were actually talking about militarization, these blah, blah. Which I think it's a, as I said, a welcome, something, for you to deal with other issue and people are afraid that the victims of militarization is democracy and civilians. AMB. HOLMES: Well, I mean, if you look at our activities -- and you can look any place -- I mean, you could look on the Internet, you can look at other countries, you can look in Ghana. I mean, the nature of our activities are, even our -- the nature of our military activities are not militaristic. What people were referring to, what the concern was -- and this was a concern shared equally in the United States by Africa experts was that during the course of the past decade, particularly in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11th and the Iraq War. And then, you know, we've until recently had a low level engagement in Afghanistan but now that's really become much larger that the amount of money that the U.S. was spending on military around the world every year was growing, growing, growing and the number of people was growing, growing, growing but that wasn't the case for the diplomacy and the development. In fact, in development it was but it was in a couple of very large scale, what we call signature programs by the Bush administration. The PEPFAR HIV/AIDS relief program was, I think, $39 billion over 5 years? I mean, a lot -- and then the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which has been, I guess, probably about -- on average, it's varied from year to year -- but probably about two to $2.5 billion dollars a year. So because of our intense investment in Iraq and Afghanistan, the percentage of the U.S. foreign assistance budget, aid budget that went to the military to spend in Iraq and Afghanistan because they were warzones and you couldn't have a lot of civilians doing development work rose to, I think in 2006 or 2007, 26 percent of the total. And so there was a concern about the military getting a hold of all of this development money when, in fact -- I mean, it was for stabilization and reconstruction. Development is too broad a term to really use. But what we wanted to make sure or what we want to make sure but, you know, we are sure. But what the concerns were by critics was that this military -- (END)