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TRANSCRIPT: Ward Emphasizes Partnership Between U.S. and Ghanaian Militaries at Press Roundtable
<i>General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), spoke positively about the bilateral relationship between the United States and the Ghanaian military, March 25, 2010, during a press roundtable in Accra, Ghana. <br /> <br
General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), spoke positively about the bilateral relationship between the United States and the Ghanaian military, March 25, 2010, during a press roundtable in Accra, Ghana.

"Ghana is currently the seventh-largest peacekeeping contributor of all peacekeeper-contributing nations," Ward said in his opening statement. "Ghana's military is supporting critical peacekeeping operations not only in Africa, but in other areas of the world, such as Lebanon and Kosovo."

He also clarified that U.S. AFRICOM is not seeking to establish its headquarters or any other base in Ghana or anywhere else in Africa, stating, "Germany is where we are staying for the foreseeable future."

The complete transcript is available below. Also see related transcripts with local Ghanaian press at: GEN. WILLIAM E. WARD: Ghana is currently the seventh-largest peacekeeping contributor of all peacekeeper-contributing nations. Ghana's military is supporting critical peacekeeping operations not only in Africa, but in other areas of the world, such as Lebanon and Kosovo. I am excited about the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and the Ghanaian military. The United States and Ghanaian militaries have a strong partnership, and have conducted numerous events and activities together through the years. In fact, this year Ghana is serving as the host of two activities: the Africa Partnership Station, or APS, which is going on right now, and an annual exercise known as Africa Endeavor, which occurs in August. With Africa Partnership Station, it is clear that a partnership of this scale is beneficial to the maritime countries of Africa to help decrease the level of illegal maritime activities. APS has established an enduring U.S. international commitment to our partners in the form of regular visits in an effort to bolster regional maritime safety and security throughout Africa's maritime domain. Looking forward to this August, I also thank Ghana for volunteering to host Africa Endeavor, which is the continent's annual communication exercise that focuses on command and control, interoperability and information-sharing among African partners. Africa Endeavor 2010 involves 30 African nations and regional organizations, six of which are new participants this year. As you know, it is a multinational initiative that encourages interoperability and information-sharing among African nations, and the ability of African nations to link their communication networks in the deployment planning for regional peace support, peacekeeping, humanitarian and disaster-relief operations. It also contributes and enhances the work of the African Union to establish its regional African Standby Forces. Now, while I'm here to deliver the closing comments today at the inspector general conference, I would also like to note that I have served in the United States military for over 39 years, and the importance of the inspectors general is something that our organizations take advantage of to help us be better at accomplishing the mission and taking care of people. Finally, it's important to me that our African partners understand our intentions. Our intentions are not to create arms of the U.S. military in Ghana or any other place in Africa. Our desire is to assist African nations in achieving a more stable and secure environment and to do those things they asked us to do as they achieve their goals. With regards to basing concerns that I know many of you may have, I also want to make it clear that we are not seeking to establish our headquarters or any other base here in Ghana or anywhere else in Africa. My headquarters is located in Germany and Germany is where we see it staying for the foreseeable future. The focus of our activities is to bring African nations together to help as they seek to build their capacity to work effectively together and to address common areas of concern. We are here to help because we have been invited and I reaffirm my commitment to Ghana and other partner nations to assist in their security endeavors. So with that, I'll stop and leave ample time for questions from you. Thank you very much. MODERATOR: We'll start with Reynold Herring (ph). Please. Q: Thank you very much. And welcome to Ghana. MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Q: I was one of the -- (iinaudible, off mike). I would like to know, what are your -- (inaudible) -- so far? (Inaudible.) GEN. WARD: I am satisfied with the progress so far. But could the momentum be increased? It could. But it's a result of a couple of things: first, our ability to do additional things, but also, it's influenced by what our partners would ask us to do. It is not our desire to impose anything. But where there are activities or other things that our partners would ask us to do, then we would certainly be willing to look at that and then take those additional activities as one, we are resourced to do and then two, as our national and foreign policy would in fact support. But it all starts with what we are asked to do by our partners and friends. MODERATOR: Now I'd like Mary from the Daily Graphic. Please – go ahead; go ahead and ask the question. Q: (Inaudible, off mike.) MODERATOR: Okay. All right; Franz (sp) will do it. GEN. WARD: Hello. Q: In your presentation, you did mention that you were invited. May I ask who invited AFRICOM in the first place? And this inspector general concept seems to be new. Is it an attempt to move the African military toward the American AFRICOM? GEN. WARD: I think I got the gist of your question. When I say we are invited, it's a result of a series of interactive activities -- conferences, seminars, meetings, engagements. And where there are activities that we can be supportive of in helping one of our African partners address an area that they have as a concern, then we seek to make that the case. For the inspectors general, as I have traveled around the continent and have spoken to various chiefs of defense, various ministers of defense, when they talk about how to make their orgnaizations more effective, more efficient when it comes to a resourcing level that's limited, these seminars help share ideas. Guest speakers make presentations, provide ideas and so these leaders take those ideas and then adopt those things to their particular case so that they can do, as only they can do, those things that will cause their organizations, their militaries to be more efficient, more effective and using resources in more wise ways. But that's help when they hear from others. You hear different perspectives -- not just United States, I might add; other African militaries, other international organizations -- and they take those ideas and then they adapt them to their particular case. So it's not at all an effort to make African militaries like the American military -- not the case, not the case. In fact, we, too, learn from what others are doing and we make those things that -- where we have areas that need to be improved upon, we get ideas as well. And so it is not a case at all of any one military trying to cause another to be like itself, but to take what others are doing and maybe apply some of those ideas to what it does, just like we take ideas from our African friends and apply them to how we do business, on many occasions. Q: If I may ask a follow-up -- MODERATOR: We're very short on time. If we have time for another round, I'll let you do that. I'd like to move on. Please, ma'am. Q: (Inaudible, off-mike) -- eliminating corruption is one of the main targets. GEN. WARD: I think, first of all, eliminating corruption is not something -- that's not my job. And so that's what governments do. What is done as a part of these seminars, from a military point of view, is when there are things being done where the militaries have funds, have resources, systems that can be put in place so that those who are charged with carrying out the expenditure of those resources are -- there's an oversight system in place, there's an audit system in place so that if you provided some funding, if you have to have an accountability system -- so helping them to set those systems up. But that applies to military departments and in the greatest sense, the broadest sense of governance and governing bodies, the same basic principles apply. But it's clearly not the military's job, and certainly not my job, to go to any government and tell them how to address issues of corruption. But certainly, be supportive of various efforts that are put in place to address corruption because corruption in the long run hurts the people of the country. And so when there are systems in place -- and it doesn't matter what branch of government -- where corruption is allowed to run rampant and the people of the country are the ones who are audibly hurt and disadvantaged by that. So when we talk about corruption and how IGs, the inspectors general, help address it here in the military, it's about how when, in the course of doing our military activities, when you are provided funding and you're provided resources, that those funds, those resources are used in the best possible way and that they are accountable. So that there are systems in place that say, when you are presented this amount, you're tracking it, you're maintaining it and people know where are those funds, those resources and how they're being used. So that's the purpose of this and these seminars. But that's only one part of what IGs do -- an important part, but only one part. Thank you. MODERATOR: Sir, right here. Q: (Inaudible, off mike) -- My interest here has to do with the -- (inaudible). And I want to point out that -- (inaudible). GEN. WARD: We're not considering, at this time, establishing a headquarters in Africa. The value of the command is our programs -- the things that we do across the continent. And as you know, it's a big continent. And so the headquarters is only a planning staff: a staff that we plan our activities from. But the great, important thing is how we are able to conduct activities around the continent. And that doesn't require the permanent presence of forces; it requires us to be there when our partners invite us in, say, we would like to conduct this activity, or this military-to-military event to help us with our capacity-building to increase our own security activities. We do things such as logistics support training, NCO professional development, officer professional development, officer training courses, courses or exercises where nations of a region can come together and determine how they can collectively best respond to a natural disaster, creating those sorts of things -- but that happens all over the continent, not necessarily designed to only be something that a single nation can use, but something that's to be used by the region. We work with the African Union, the regional organizations. But again, that work is most importantly in our programs, our activities, the exercises, and that happens across the continent. So there is no intention that I have, nor that anyone has told me about that, says we are looking for a headquarters in Africa. Not the case. MODERATOR: Sir, go ahead. Q: (Inaudible, off mike) -- are you increasing the confidence in America, especially when AFRICOM started -- (inaudible) -- especially in the Gulf of Guinea. (Inaudible.) GEN. WARD: I think we are, because all the things that were said about the command when it started have been proven to be not true. And because of that, the confidence is increasing. The Africa Partnership Station that is moving not just here in the west coast of Africa but also the east coast of Africa -- as it moves from country to country with not just U.S. staff aboard; also African staff, European staff, other international staff -- spending two, three weeks in a particular area, working with a country, but doing those things that the country has asked it to do. As an example, maritime security -- in the territorial waters, illegal fishing, illegal trafficking of various things. It is in the best interest of the nations -- of the littoral nations to have a better capacity to provide for their own maritime security. It's not the United States seeking to be patrolling African waters; absolutely not. But when nations say, we are having problems, because illegal fishing is abundant in our territorial waters -- when they say there's illegal trafficking of goods, from drugs to weapons -- can you help us with the training of our people, to deal with that? Can you help us with the maintenance of our equipment so that we can do our own patrolling? Programs such as -- a vessel is seen in your territorial waters and you want to go see what it's doing, so how do you board and search that vessel to keep your people safe? Can you give us training on how that's done? When you have a coastal patrol craft that has -- and you know so well – outboard motors that have to stay operational, electrical systems that have to stay functioning -- can you provide some technical training so that we can keep these motors running? So that we can fix electrical systems, so that when we have to go out we have equipment that can do that. Those are the programs that we do as a part of this Africa Partnership Station. And again, those things that we are doing are things that -- we haven't said, we're going to come here and do this. These are things that the participating nations say, these are the things that we would like to have you come and provide some assists for us. Sometimes it's done by other African nations who have staff members on the platform. Sometimes it's done by other members of the international community. There was a ship that was even a Dutch ship that served as a platform for one of these Africa Partnership Station iterations. We're right now on -- we say the fifth, but it's more than that -- where a ship has gone around with various staff aboard that can address training activities across a range of areas, from maintenance to professional development, NCO development, professionalism courses, physical activities in some cases, to how to properly -- when see a vessel, how do you approach it so that you maintain the safety of your crew as well as the safety of the vessel? So these are the sorts of things that we do and, again, it's not that we're doing it. We are helping, and it's being done in a regional way because, as you know, that's a big coastline. And so to the degree that the nations in the region are also working together -- our support to ECOWAS as an example. Again, we don't want to be here doing it. I kind of use what -- and you all know this well -- what Nelson Mandela said in, I believe it was 1996. He said: We, as Africans, want to provide for our own security, but with the help of our friends. And so this that we do is reinforcing the notion that we see our sustained security engagement as a means of helping Africans increase African capacity to provide for their security. But where we are asked to help, we are happy to provide that assistance. Q: Yes, General, thanks for your visit, and the seminar and the training program and all that stuff. We all -- (inaudible). There's a risk -- (inaudible) -- are you going to be -- (inaudible)? GEN. WARD: That's a great question. It will be if the partners want it. And if the partners want it and I can go to my Congress and convince them to provide the funding for it, then it will, but I don't know. It's a function, again -- we don't impose these things. These are the result of -- if, at the conclusion of this, those who were here as participants say: We like this; can we do it again? Then we will look to try to do our best to do it again. But that's how these things come about, so it may be there are other areas that we look to support and cooperate with. But again, these are a result of us being asked to do things and then my job to go back and try to get the resources to be able to conduct the activities. Thank you. Q: From what I saw of your itinerary, this is not -- (inaudible) -- what's some of that? And then, I was talking about this piracy issue in Somalia. Is it part of your -- GEN. WARD: The piracy issue in Somalia, we are not directly involved in. The Central Command has the afloat counter-piracy mission, in conjunction with the European Union, other members of the international community. Other international nations participate in that patrolling that goes on at sea. You are aware of the support that my government, along with other governments, give to the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia, trying to -- because we know that the piracy that goes on off the coast of Somalia is a result of the fact that there's been no government there. We don't build governments, so we don't get directly involved in it, but our government supports the Transitional Federal Government. Our government supports the AMISOM -- the African Union mission to Somalia. So where nations have volunteered to participate in AMISOM and they've asked for logistic support, training support, transportation support, we have provided some of that support to some of those participating nations. But we are not directly involved there. But other activities that we do -- I mentioned humanitarian assistance, disaster relief. We have an HIV/AIDS program that we work in conjunction with USAID that is focused on militaries because we know the importance of militaries and their health status. And HIV -- it would not necessarily contribute, but be a factor in helping to reduce the incidences of HIV and AIDS. Malaria activities -- again, not that we are primarily responsible for that, but where we can be supportive of those efforts. Some of the military-to-military training activities -- I mentioned logistic support. Nations have American C-130s, transport airplanes. They ask for assistance from time to time on helping to maintain their repair parts system, maintenance systems and procedures. So we can send one, two, three people from time to time to visit them and help them with their maintenance activities. So those are the sorts of activities that we're doing and we're doing that all over the continent. And so there is a willingness and we are being asked because, again, those things that were being said about the command when we stood up have been devastated and shown to be not the case, not the case. MODERATOR: Sir, you had a question? Q: Yeah, thank you very much. You touched on -- you said -- (inaudible) -- strong military basis for African -- (inaudible). I just want to go to your mention of the -- (inaudible). We don't really see that -- (inaudible). GEN. WARD: Yeah, again, you know, how a country organizes its military is not my decision. You are right there. The air forces in Africa are in varying stages of maturity. Where there are air forces that exist and where the nations come and ask for assistance in increasing their air capacity, we do have in my command an air component that can provide assistance in helping do that. But again, you know, it's -- I would be guilty of what I was accused of two years ago if I were to do that, if I were to dictate that you will staff -- so we don't do that. It's not my -- that's for a nation and the people of a country to decide how they will organize their defense. To be sure, to be sure, just as maritime domain security is important, so is air security and air domain -- international travel and all those things. But many of those activities are for the civilian aviation sector, not the military aviation sector. MODERATOR: Sir, we're going to finish with this. Do you have anything you want to close with? GEN. WARD: Other than what I've already said, the command is a command that was misunderstood at the beginning. And over the past two-and-a-half years, by what we have said, but more importantly by what we have done, it's been shown to be a partner who listens to our friends, who does activities that support the capacity-building activities of African nations, so that they are in a better position to contribute to peacekeeping operations, to provide for their own security and to provide for the regional security as well. I'd say that in closing, I'm asked: Well, what's in it for you? Why is America concerned? Well, in today's global environment, great oceans and great deserts and great mountain ranges no longer separate us. And so to the degree that we work together, causing all parts of the world to be as stable as they can be, where development can occur so that the people of a particular nation can feel as if their social progress, their health progress is on an upward incline -- that's what we are interested in doing. And when that happens, all of our interests are better served -- in America, in Europe, in Asia, and in Africa. And so our purpose is to work to help create a more stable Africa that is, indeed, in the global interest -- to include the interests of the United States of America, but also, most importantly, the people of the African nations. MODERATOR: Thank you very much. (END)