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TRANSCRIPT: U.S. Africa Command Officials Interviewed during Roundtable in Brussels
Two top U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) officials discussed the command&#39;s activities in Africa in conjunction with a two-day visit at the European Union. <br /> <br />Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, deputy to the commander for civil-military
Two top U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) officials discussed the command's activities in Africa in conjunction with a two-day visit at the European Union.

Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, and Major General Richard Sherlock, director of strategy, plans and programs, met with a small group of journalists to offer their insight into the command's work in training and mentoring African militaries and other activities.

While in Brussels, they met with EU officials to gain a better understanding of the security assistance efforts of the EU in Africa and potentially look for ways where U.S. Africa Command could complement future activities.

Holmes emphasized how Africa Command's programs -- primarily focused on building capacity of Africa militaries -- must fit within a specific context. Africa Command's work is "not designed for us to do things for them (African militaries)," Holmes explained. "It's designed for us to engage with them, to train them, to mentor them, to educate them, so that they can better deal with their own security issues."

A good portion of the command's activities in Africa is realized through the small teams of U.S. military service members who travel to individual nations to conduct their activities. But on a broader scale, Holmes said Africa Command works to encourage regional cooperation to build the relationships needed for multinational efforts to respond to crises.

Multinational exercises held annually bring dozens of African nations together to get to know each other and share techniques to better work together in the future.

" ... we try very hard to get the nations of Africa to work with each other, to train with each, to exercise with each other because there are virtually no situations where one country can do it by itself. This takes a regional effort; sometimes it takes a continental effort," Holmes said.

The complete transcript follows:

(Off-side conversation.)

AMBASSADOR J. ANTHONY HOLMES: (cross talk) Thanks for coming. We're happy we're here to initiate discussions with European -- well, with the European Union, with the commission, with the -- all three, the commission, the council and the -- (two aspects of the commission, external relations and development)

AMB. HOLMES: All right. Right. And we work in the field, very closely together. Well, it's more than ad hoc, but I mean in Kinshasa, for example, with Congo, we work very closely together in -- you mentioned Somalia. That's an area where we're going to do a lot more. The European Union's already doing a lot and we'll be doing more and we'd like to harmonize what we're doing, to coordinate better, just to communicate, to listen, to understand and then begin working together as it suits both of us; to be able to more effectively spend our money, to have a result that is greater than the sum of the parts, to have interoperability; to ensure that there's the right balance between supporting the TFG and supporting AMISOM, to make sure that we get the right regional and other international partners involved; and that you know, that we do things in, for example, in the Sahel. There's --

Q: In Sahel?

AMB. HOLMES: Yeah, in the Sahel in terms of security sector reform in a lot of post-conflict states. We're heavily involved in Liberia. I think we will be working together under some sort of U.N. umbrella in Guinea. Wouldn't surprise me if something came out of Niger and they transition to democracy in Niger.

I mean there are so many weak, failing, reconstructing states that need security investment to permit the governments of Africa to provide the security that both their people need and that their economies need in order to be able to grow, to attract investment.

This is something that the United States only reasonably recently has come to fully appreciate. I think it's largely a phenomenon of the past 20 years since the end of the Cold War. It's something that during the 1990s, particularly with HIV/AIDS, penetrated our awareness, certainly with the bombings of the U.S. embassies by al-Qaida in 1998 in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.

And then, of course, the September 11th, 2001 attacks. That really brought home to us the importance of Africa in national security terms. I mean, since the end of the Cold War, I mean, this is the time of globalization. This is the time when the world shrank and in post-9/11 America, there's a wide recognition, both political parties, that we cannot afford to sit back and just take for granted that someone else will be dealing with the problems of Africa.

I mean, without having any former colonies ourselves, we have a special relationship with Liberia because of its origins. But you know, I mean, for us, it was largely through a Cold War prism that we viewed Africa for several decades after the end of the Second World War. But as well as a humanitarian prism and our approach was based on altruism as much as anything else.

There's still a lot of altruism there, but now, we understand that we have very real security concerns. So the creation of AFRICOM in 2007 and its formalization in 2008 reflects a much higher priority that we give Africa now than we have in the past and an understanding that what happens in Africa has implications for the national security of the United States.

And so what AFRICOM was -- or what the creation of AFRICOM was, was really a -- just an internal organization within the U.S. military and the U.S. Defense Department as to how we engage with Africa. And it unified the continent under one joint military command, whereas before, it had been spread out between three, most of the continent under Europe because the European Command based in Germany -- essentially established with the creation of NATO after World War II -- had responsibility for the colonies of the European powers that it governed.

So when these colonies became independent in the last '50s and '60s, it was just a natural extension -- expansion of the European Command. The six countries in the Horn of Africa were part of the Central Command in the Middle East just because of geographic proximity. And then the islands in the Indian Ocean were part of our Pacific Command based in Honolulu.

Now, to understand AFRICOM, to understand the way we approach Africa, it's important to realize that AFRICOM is just like all the other commands. It's just like the Central Command for the Middle East, the European Command, the Pacific Command, but it has an additional dimension that was front and center in the conceptualization of AFRICOM and is a major element of our engagement in our preoccupation with AFRICOM.

A normal command plans for -- prepares the U.S. military for military threats, national security threats, but with an emphasis, a focus on the military. But because AFRICOM was created later, decades later, because we were able to fashion it to deal with the Africa of the 21st century, Africa Command was created to be something else, in addition to the traditional functions of all of our joint commands.

We have an engagement function as well. And what that means is we are committed to a sustained engagement with Africa to develop African capacity. And we tried to do that in a variety of ways. What AFRICOM does is it tries to reflect the inherent long-term nature of the problems and challenges in Africa and to provide a sustained engagement by the United States to help these countries develop their own capacity to deal with these problems.

We'll give you some examples of how we do that. But the other important thing to understand about AFRICOM in addition to its traditional command plus engagement, is that AFRICOM implements -- it's the State Department and the administration that create policy. So this is not a militarization of our Africa policy. What this is, is a military organization that, in the area of military-to-military relations and in a few areas of civil-military relations, we support the overall U.S.-AFRICA policy.

Now, we tried to do that in a variety of ways. I mean, at its basis, a recognition that this is a long-term proposition. This is the work of generations. It's not something that's going to be done in a small project here or something that lasts a year or two. This is going to require -- you know, I mean, when I say generations, I'm speaking literally.

It's a long-term project and it can only be done by the Africans themselves and our intention is to support the African efforts. Support is a broad term. So that entails education sometimes. It certainly entails a lot of training and exercises. It entails working with the continent on three different levels.

One is bilaterally, of course, but also regionally and then at the continent-wide level. So we work very closely with the African Union in Addis Ababa to develop its peace and security architecture to allow it to confront, to manage, to frame the issues and make decisions and to reach out to partners like the United States or the European Union or all of the -- United Nations, all the other international partners.

But also with the five regions of Africa that the A.U. divides the continent up into. And so we have special programs, special relationships with, for example, ECOWAS in West Africa -- the nations of West Africa.

Q: So you've got ECOWAS, SADC.

AMB. HOLMES: Yeah, CEEAC -- CEEAC in the central.

Q: CEEAC.

AMB. HOLMES: Right, and then --

Q: The last?

AMB. HOLMES: The other two -- there's a mismatch between the countries of the A.U. region and the regional organizations themselves. So we have EASBRIG which is the countries of East Africa putting together a peacekeeping force that we worked with and provided assistance to when they had an exercise in the beginning of December in Djibouti. (Note: U.S. AFRICOM provided bilateral assistance to Djibouti to better enable Djibouti to host the exercise)

But there is -- I mean, it's the five nations of the East African community, but it's also Djibouti and Ethiopia that aren't in the East African Community. So for us that makes it a little awkward, but you know, there are various ways to work around that. But the important thing is that we're working with the regional standby force of East Africa to develop its internal capacity to, on the African Union's behalf, deal with problems in its sub-region. And then the North Africans as well, because the AU's [53] countries. Morocco has left.

So that's important. Another major focus of ours is peacekeeping training. I mean, we have trained 140,000 - 150,000 peacekeepers over the past -- since 1997. And again, we try to take a regional approach. I mean, the reality is there's a regional dimension to everything we do. Almost any security issue is regional in nature. No matter which one you name -- trafficking narcotics, human trafficking, terrorism, proliferation, climate change -- almost any security problem -- HIV/AIDS -- is not amenable to the efforts of one country, or one country in Africa with an American or international partner. It takes the region working together.

And so part of what we do in addition to professionalization is that we try to facilitate African nations working with each other. And often, our involvement will provide the appropriate context for two countries in the same region working together in ways that they would find very awkward and difficult if it weren't through our auspices, or with our mentorship.

So that's an important approach that we take and it's one that -- I mean, AFRICOM is by far the smallest of the U.S. geographic commands, and we have a very modest budget. Our (the United States Government's) USAID budget in Africa is many, many times greater than AFRICOM's budget. And so we have to choose very wisely and we leverage our investments, our projects, by getting multilateral participation -- or, I should say, multinational participation. Sometimes multilateral, sometimes not.

MAJOR GENERAL RICHARD SHERLOCK: Let me amplify some of Ambassador Holmes' comments with some examples. For example, we did mention that Ambassador Holmes and I were in Kinshasa and Kisangani two weeks ago for the opening ceremony of the train and equip effort that will be beginning outside of Kisangani, with the battalion of the FARDC.

That battalion will be trained over the next several months and will not just be trained on basic military skills but will also include, in an effort to make it, if you will, a center of excellence -- a pocket of excellence within the FARDC -- it will also receive training on the rule of law and how to operate within the rule of law. It will also receive training on how to address issues of sexual and gender-based violence.

It will also receive training on -- an example of training from our military mentors that are there on how to operate as a military within a civilian-controlled government, in a way that's responsible to the government and responsible and responsive to the security needs of the people of the Congo. And so what we are trying to do is produce a battalion that can be seen as an example to other units, and further training efforts of the FARDC to continue to develop and address many of the internal problems that they've had.

Second of all, we have other programs -- for example, the Africa Partnership Station. That has been a very successful program for us. And that's not just necessarily a ship that pulls into a port for a series of visits. It's really a floating university where we accept African officers on board the ship to conduct training in not just operations, but also in how to query ships in their maritime (exclusive) zones, how to conduct boarding operations, how to inspect ships that they might find in their (exclusive economic zones).

AMB. HOLMES: Exclusive.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Yeah, exclusive zones. How to -- in conjunction with our African maritime law-enforcement program, where we'll bring coast guard and law enforcement people from the host countries together to conduct training of that nature, so that they can then grow their own capacity to inspect ships and to conduct queries afloat of what's going on in their waters. And also, just to conduct basic operations and how to understand what's passing through their maritime zones, and what they didn't know was there before.

In fact, we have one ship, the USS Gunston Hall, that was leaving Norfolk in January to start our African maritime rotation this spring that was diverted to Haiti to support the disaster relief operations after the earthquake in Haiti. That had 10 African officers from eight different West African nations on board the ship. And all 10 officers volunteered to go with the ship to Haiti so that they could participate in that operation, and see how that's done from a firsthand perspective. All eight of the nations agreed that those officers should remain on board the ship, so that they could gain that experience and see how those different ships and different parts of that operation interacted.

And in fact the 10 officers were able to provide services even as basic as French-language interpretation services for us. They helped us enhance our operation on board that ship. They have since left and are en route to Africa to conduct the second and third stops along the Africa Partnership Station cruise this spring, and that has been viewed by both the officers involved and their nations as a big success for this ship.

We're also very proud of the fact that we have over 21 nations participating in the Africa maritime partnership program. Nine of them are European nations; 10 of which are African. For example, we had our first European ship from the Royal Navy of the Netherlands provide a ship, and lead an Africa Partnership Station operation, last year. We also, right now, have a Belgian ship, the Godetia, that is participating and leading. It is the second European nation to lead an Africa Partnership Station cruise right now. Right now they're in Cameroon and they'll continue through Benin, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal on their cruise.

In addition to our train and equip effort and APS, we also cooperate with a number of nations to conduct counterpiracy operations. Piracy is an international issue and we need to cooperate with a number of nations, and align our efforts with a number of nations, to address the problems of piracy. Not just off of Northern Somalia and the Gulf of Aden but also east of Somalia, in the Indian Ocean area. That's an area where we're working with a wide variety of nations to address those causes and also to look at what the root causes of those problems are, not just the specific issues of piracy.

We also have a defense sector reform project that we're conducting right now in Liberia. We just recently assumed responsibility for that project from our State Department that conducted a two-year security-sector reform project. It was largely contractor-led. We've now embedded 52 military mentors with the 2,000-man armed forces of Liberia to continue their professional development, beyond their initial training that they received for the last two years.

And so we will continue over the next three to five years to be able to continue to grow Liberian leadership for positions within their military, but also to provide a training capacity within the Liberian armed forces, where they can train their own units themselves and grow that capacity over the next several years.

We also have a variety of other programs that, again, in the areas of counternarcotics, in the areas of how to address issues of trafficking and many of the problems that occur in Africa -- not to conduct those operations ourselves, but to be able to grow our African partners' capacity in coordination and in conjunction with many of the other international efforts that go on throughout Africa, so that they can provide their own security.

First, as individual nations, second, as regional approaches to it, as Ambassador Holmes said, and then to start to grow a capacity for the African Union to be able to provide -- through the African standby forces, the regional standby forces and the regional organizations -- African security solutions for African issues. So with that, I'd like to open it up for your questions.

Q: Yeah, my first question would be to -- when you talk about establishing relationships with the European Union, do you have any kind of specific ideas about where you're going to want to cooperate with the European Union on some of these programs and some of these ideas that you have?

AMB. HOLMES: Well, the first thing on our list is to understand what the commission's priorities are in terms of security-sector reform. We're AFRICOM, so we're Defense Department. We're military. And in the U.S. system, we have legal constraints on dealing with law enforcement. There's no problem with us dealing military-to-military, but we are not permitted legally. That's why the State Department gets involved in so many security-sector reform initiatives in Africa.

AFRICOM, the U.S. military, can deal with the defense aspect of that, but is not allowed to -- by our law -- train police, for example. So what we want to do is to find out, from the European Union's perspective, how we can work best together to complement each other in terms of our priorities, as well as, you know, our specialties, and what's legally permissible and what isn't. So for example, there's a security-sector reform initiative just beginning, starting to roll, vis-----Ã-vis Guinea, Conakry.

Q: Conakry?

AMB. HOLMES: Yes, Guinea, Conakry. And we will participate in that as part of the U.S. government delegation. And we're very interested in making a positive contribution. Somalia is extremely important to us, in supporting the Transitional Federal Government -- and, well, in addition to that we support the TFG, but also AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping mission there. (Note: Ambassador Holmes, in the previous passage, is articulating established U.S. policy) Working with, for example -- the European Union is involved in training Somalis in Uganda, and that's something we think we might be able to work closely with to support.

Q: The U.S. is already working with the Ugandans, I think, on a training scheme for the Somalis.

AMB. HOLMES: But that's at the AMISOM level because Ugandans and Burundians are the two countries providing troops -- so far, providing troops to AMISOM. So we've assisted in the training of Ugandan AMISOM troops, but not we're talking about Somalis who would be supporting the transitional federal government.

Q: So at the moment, the U.S. is not actually engaged in training Somali troops?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: No, we're not involved in the direct training of Somali troops.

Q: Not yet, but could you envisage it?

AMB. HOLMES: Well, we're not directly involved right now with Somalia, and Gen. Sherlock can expand on that.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: I mean, there are many areas that we would look to explore where our interests align, and where we could be contributing to each other. So in the example that was just cited, I think that there are ways that we could look to contribute to or to be a part of what would be an international effort to support the transitional federal government, in addition to our support for the African Union mission in Somalia.

And so again, one of the first things that we're here to do is listen and learn as to what is the European Union -- what is the commission's priority, and where our areas can align with each other, then to be able to explore areas where we might be able to work with each other, and work with a variety of our international partners to be contributing to an international solution.

AMB. HOLMES: We're already working very closely in Congo.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Right. EUSEC has a headquarters in Congo, and there's a French major general, Michel, that was at the opening ceremonies for the train and equip with us two weeks ago. So we think there's good cooperation on the ground, but we also think that there's room for more dialogue and to see where our interests are compatible, and where we can begin to cooperate more deeply on a variety of issues.

AMB. HOLMES: And relative priorities.

Q: Could you be a bit more specific on your Congo operations? So you are training for seven months -- what, a regiment?

AMB. HOLMES: No, a battalion.

Q: One battalion?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Light infantry, about 800 to 1,000 Congolese soldiers.

Q: Eight hundred --

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: -- to 1,000. Between 800 and 1,000. Again, this has been done at the request of President Kabila, at the direct request and at the request of the Congolese government. And these soldiers have been vetted, as they are joined -- this is a new unit, not one that's been existing before. It has been recruited from a variety of places across the country. All of the soldiers in the unit were vetted by the government of the DRC and by the United States to ensure that they were not involved in prior crimes or prior atrocities.

And they will be receiving training over the next several months, until about the end of September. In addition to basic military skills, they will also then receive training on the rule of law, how to operate as a responsible army unit within the rule of law, that's responsive to a civilian government, that is responsive to the needs of the people of the DRC -- and also how to be responsive to the security needs of the people.

And what we are looking to do is, again, create a unit that will stay together. We've received commitments from the government of DRC that they'll keep this unit together, that it won't be split up after the end of the training, that it won't be used as a presidential guard back in Kinshasa, or for some purpose other than to be there in the Kisangani area and be able to address the security needs of the people in that region.

Q: There is a delicate issue that has been dealt with by the Europeans. One of the reasons -- I mean, military observers have assessed the troubles you have in the DRC, that guys go on the havoc -- and one of the reasons is that they're not paid. That's why -- you know about the EUSEC program. It's to establish the security of the chain of payment. And I mean -- (inaudible) -- because you may have to train guys. Okay, they may be technically reliable, but at the end of the day, when you leave the area and they are left on their own, will you make sure that these guys will be properly paid in order to behave as soldiers?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: The people you should ask that question to, actually, are the government of DRC. What we're trying to do -- as we've started our training program, we've received certain commitments from the government of the DRC, that they would pay the battalion, that they would continue to support the battalion.

We're also taking several efforts to try to make sure that this government -- or, that this battalion is actually more self-sufficient. For example, we have an agricultural effort to have this battalion be able to grow much of its own food. The government would provide for the families of the soldiers. They would be able to provide housing and a variety of things that would make this battalion not fall into the problem of requiring them to live off the land, or forage from the local communities.

And so we are going into this effort, we would like to think, with our eyes wide open. We are trying to -- we have received assurances from the government that they would commit to certain things along with us for the training of this battalion. Again, we undertook it at their direct request, at President Kabila's direct request. So this battalion will not fall into that trap. Now, the only people that can really guarantee that would be the government of DRC.

AMB. HOLMES: So ultimately it's a question of political will, right?

Q: But assuming it goes well, you might duplicate the experience?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: I think that there will certainly be things that we will continue to do. I don't know what that is right now. I believe we will have continued contact with this unit to continue to grow its professional capacity. Whether that results in another battalion in the future, or something else -- again, we have to take a look at how well the government of the DRC lives up to their commitments in support of this battalion as we make further agreements, to be able to continue this training or other training processes.

I think they would like to grow the capacity to train their own units. I think they would like to grow the capacity to be able to sustain their own units. And again, what we want to do is look at this as a partnership where we don't commit unilaterally to things without also gaining commitments from the government of the DRC to be able to make sure that they're used as a military in support of the people, and not as a military that preys on the people.

Q: You were referring to trafficking, Ambassador. I understand that there is -- in United States, the Congress is looking at legislation curbing the illegal traffic of minerals that can finance war, namely, coltan, cassiterite. I know it's in the pipeline, but is that part also of your rationale?

AMB. HOLMES: Well, that's part of our broad policy program, but it's not an AFRICOM issue. This is the State Department, this is our Africa policy. We support the military-to-military elements of that, but something like that is going to be a regional initiative through the secretary of state and the assistant secretary of state for African affairs. We'll obviously have to be reaching, because the avenues for export are through the east -- to Rwanda, to Uganda, Kenya, even some in Burundi.

But yeah, I mean, there's no military solution to any of Africa's problems. The military part of the solution has to be in the context of a multifaceted effort to deal with the underlying causes of the problems. So without that, then what we do is primarily symbolic. We don't want to waste our money, so we will have complementary political and economic initiatives that will be joined with our military ones.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: The military-to-military efforts that we conduct are one card in what must be a deck of complementary and parallel efforts for governance, for economic growth and for other development, for which we are not the lead. We operate in support of our foreign policy objectives. We don't create those objectives.

Mr. Fidler: (Inaudible) -- did you have a question?

Q: Yeah, could you be more specific on how, exactly, you could contribute to the training of Somali forces in Uganda?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: I mean, we could do a variety of things. I could give you lots of examples. I mean, we have the capacity to train on a number of levels, but again, we're at the very beginning stages of discussions to see what all is going on, and what all of the efforts are, and where we can be compatible and contribute.

I think that one of the things that European and Western armies do very well is noncommissioned-officer training. I think that there are very few parts of the world that have noncommissioned officers and warrant officers that are as strong as many European nations and the United States. That's an area I think we can be contributors to that will help grow their professional capacity. I think there are many other areas, even more basic than that, but we need to have those discussions and find out -- primarily, we need to learn what all of the efforts are, and how we can be compatible with those efforts at this point.

AMB. HOLMES: Another example is how to counter IED's, improvised explosive devices. That's where most people are killed -- most peacekeepers, most TFG troops are killed by IEDs, car bombs, roadside bombs. And because of Iraq, because of Afghanistan -- not just the United States -- for example, the United Kingdom has a lot of expertise in this area as well. And we can provide training to both the TFG forces as well as the AMISOM forces on how to negate the threat -- how to reduce the threat of the IED's.

Q: Is there some scope for cooperation with the European Union also in some of the counterterrorism aspects of your work?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, certainly, we conduct a number of programs in the Sahel to grow our partner nations' capacity, again, to reduce many of the undergoverned areas, or to grow the capacity of our African partners to address the security issues in what have been many undergoverned areas of the Sahel. I think there's certainly potential for cooperation there.

I think we have to grow and foster a regional dialogue among many of those countries. I think that the European Union will play a big part of that. I think that there's a number of efforts where we're cooperating on the ground. But again, I think that as we look to align our interests or see where our interests do align, I think that there's a lot of capacity, a lot of potential for cooperation there as well.

AMB. HOLMES: So we work bilaterally with France, in addition to multilaterally through the commission.

Q: But especially Burkina Faso, Mali -- I think you are there --

AMB. HOLMES: Well, it's Mauritania, Mali --

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Niger. There's --

Q: Mauritania.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: That's right, there are very --

Q: And I mean, your assessment of the threat, of the menace -- is that serious business? This Salafi, or --

AMB. HOLMES: Oh, yeah, very serious. I mean, with the kidnappings -- with the ransom payments that they've received. It's not a huge number of people, but it's a very well financed organization, and it's operating in very remote areas. So I mean, it's difficult to find them. And they move big distances in areas where there are very few people, if any people, around.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: And I think we also have to take people at their word. You know, if AQIM or al-Shabaab or other groups claim that they are going to do certain things, we have to take them seriously. I think they're serious organizations, and we have to look at how can we address that. The way we are trying to address that in the Sahel is by growing the capacity of our partner nations to address those problems for themselves, to start to be able to control their borders, to be able to control and patrol areas where there are undergoverned spaces. But I think we have to take those groups that are serious groups seriously when they make certain claims about what they intend to do.

MR. Fidler: Gentlemen, we have time for one more very quick question before they have to get on to some meetings. Or not. (Laughter.)

Q: You mentioned France, and in the past there has been a certain rivalry -- a certain, maybe, reluctance to see the United States get involved in certain parts of Africa. Is that still a problem or is that something that's --

AMB. HOLMES: Oh, I think that was the -- distant past.

Q: Well, they're -- (inaudible). (Chuckles.)

AMB. HOLMES: Well, I mean, France's role in the world, the world of French language -- the French are in the best position to discuss that with you. But we do, and have for a long time, worked very closely with France. Particularly, I mean, we look to France to take the lead in the former French colonies, in the Francophone areas of Africa.

I mean, we are willing to help and we have active programs -- with, for example, Senegal, with Mali, with Benin. But I mean, we've got an embassy virtually every place. We don't have one in Guinea-Bissau, but that's covered from -- in 43 out of the 48 sub-Saharan countries we have embassies. One we don't is Somalia, for security reasons, and then a couple of the islands in the west -- Sao Tome is covered out of Gabon.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Seychelles and --

AMB. HOLMES: Yeah, Seychelles is covered out of Mauritius, but I mean, we're everywhere. We work closely with France and the Francophone countries.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: We've also had good discussions with France and the U.K., for example, and also other nations of the EU. I was in Finland last week to talk with the Finnish director of operations, Gen. Rattu (sp), about their battalion in Chad, and some of the things that they're involved in with regard to peacekeeping operations, and where they are interested in partnering. So we're interested in a variety of discussions with a variety of our international partners, and our African partners, to see where we can learn and see where our interests are aligned.

MR. Fidler: Thank you very much, gentlemen. Thank you, Gen. Sherlock. Thank you, Ambassador Holmes.

(END)
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