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TRANSCRIPT: Ward Addresses Maghreb Academic Symposium
U.S. Africa Command and the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies hosted the first Maghreb Academic Symposium April 12, 2010, at the Millennium Hotel and Resort. <br /> <br />General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command
U.S. Africa Command and the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies hosted the first Maghreb Academic Symposium April 12, 2010, at the Millennium Hotel and Resort.

General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), provided opening comments to symposium attendees, starting off the event.

Ward emphasized the importance of partnering with NESA to reach out to academia and to better understand the environment where U.S. Africa Command operates.

"We seek your perspectives so that we can better understand the challenges that are faced in north Africa and seek potential avenues to improve our ongoing activities to meet those challenges and to take advantage of whatever opportunity that exists to support both our partners needs and, as I've mentioned, U.S. foreign policy," said Ward.

The complete transcript of Ward's opening comments is provided below.

WARD: First let me add my warm welcome to those you have already received from my colleagues here. And let me say how pleased we are that each of you took the time to spend with us here at this first annual symposium that U.S. Africa Command is hosting jointly with the Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies.

And I might add by the way that my association with and understanding of NESA goes quite a while. I have been very, very fortunate to have the privilege of working with many of our regional study centers obviously the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, but the Near East South Asia Center, the Pacific Center, the center that's here in Europe the Marshall Center. And each of these academic centers provides absolutely, from my point of view, a fantastic venue for us as partners to pursue solutions, to pursue the sort of understandings as we do our collective security-related work in hoping to make this world a more stable place for, not for us, but quite candidly for our children. And so this venue that I'll talk about a bit later on and that you have so willingly agreed to spend your time to participate in, is a venue that we will gain from and you being here is something that is richly, richly appreciated.

I'd like to thank my director for Outreach, Mr. Paul Saxton and his team for bringing this together then obviously Larry Velte and I guess Lt. Gen. retired Dave Barno will be here later on as well, the director of the NESA center for the collaboration in sponsoring this event.

It is an honor for me to be here to address this esteemed audience and you're going to spend with us the next few days examining those potential areas, the roles and the mechanisms for engagement between academia and the U.S. Africa Command. You might ask "Well, why is a geographic combatant command concerned or soliciting input from academia?" The simple answer is we get it. We get the fact that we just don't know everything. We don't know very much at all about those things that are very important to the people who live in the area of the world that the Department of Defense has given us responsibility for, the conduct of its military activities.

This, in a simple, simple nutshell, the purpose of this event, is our great hope that you will help us understand better so that when we do what we do, we do it a bit more informed, a bit more understanding of the various complexities of the environment so that our efforts add value and have a far less potential of doing harm to the work of helping to build a more stable region. That's what it's about. And your presence at this event is testimony that we do value the relationships. We value open communications between the Department of Defense and academia.

I look forward to engaging in lively dialogue where we get to hear from you and to gain your perspectives on how we can best work together to approve stability as I mentioned. You have a great deal of esteemed colleagues here so since I've not gotten the opportunity to meet all of you just yet, I'll use that very traditional African phrase and render to you all protocols observed for each of you being here. So let me just mention that.
I mentioned the work that's done by the Near East South Asia Center and I know that that's been 10 years of very successful and worthwhile engagements, promoting of military professionalism, advocating regional cooperation and building and maintaining networks and relationships among a very diverse group of nations in the region.
Thank you all for your superb support for making this first annual U.S. Africa Command and NESA Center academic symposium happen. Our focus for this symposium is important because it helps us further identify those things about our security interests that are important and where a significant amount of U.S. military engagement occurs on the continent of Africa.
Historic linkages go in many directions-east to the Arabian Peninsula and beyond, north across the Mediterranean into Europe, and south into the Sahel and Sub-Sahara Africa. Those linkages have manifested themselves in the modern security environment that the U.S. Africa Command faces on a daily basis.

There is the Kingdom of Morocco, the first nation to have recognized the United States' independence from Great Britain. I've personally been to the kingdom more than once, have seen their troops on operations in Bosnia, where I was the commander of the stabilization force, have walked through some of their facilities, including an eye-opening visit to a depot maintenance warehouse where they were rebuilding and modernizing their various pieces of equipment as part of their transformation effort. Morocco is an important strategic partner. With issues associated with the Western Sahara, still not settled, and impacting its relationship with the African Union. We have exercise AFRICAN LION, which is mostly bilateral and we are trying to cause that to be more of a multilateral exercise as well.

There's Algeria, a nation also embroiled in the Western Sahara issue and who was among the nations most effected by the emergence of Al Qaeda in the land of the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM. They want to rid themselves of AQIM. The Algerians are also seeking greater cooperation with their neighbors in the region, all in acting against Al Qaeda and the Islamic Maghreb. Now given our shared interests, they reached out to us through several recent senior military and political engagements. These signal a growing strength in our relationship, which I personally welcome.

There is Tunisia, which has been a long-standing close friend of the United States, a strong ally in the fight against terrorism, a strong ally in the fight against violent extremism and the site of the only major U.S. military cemetery on the continent of Africa, a place where I've visited on several occasions.

There is Libya with its ability to influence on the continent, led by the brother leader Moammar Kaddafi, whom I've had the opportunity to spend time with personally, not too long ago a nation that has potential to make contributions to security and stability over time.

There's Egypt, an important player on the world's stage. Some of you are aware, as Mr. Saxton pointed out, I served in Egypt there in Cairo as the chief of our Office of Military Cooperation at our Embassy. It's hard to believe that was almost 11 years ago, but it was one of my first assignments as a general officer and it had a profound impact on the way I approach joint and combined engagements over time. As many of you know, the United States is aware that Egypt has a vested interest in the Middle East situation as well as in other parts of Africa, especially as related to the headwaters of the Nile. I visited Egypt as one of my first stops as commander of U.S. Africa Command as they wanted direct linkages with the command for issues related to the continent of Africa and we welcomed that linkage as well.

Then there is our work with the Operations Enduring Freedom Trans Sahara, which is a part of the Department of State's Trans Sahara Counter Terror Program. Those linkages, in addition to the countries I've previously mentioned, also impact our relationships with the countries of Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria among others as I've mentioned.

Now later this morning Mr. Jim Hart who is one of my deputy directors in my strategy directorate will follow me after the break and go into details about the command its mission, its organization, its activities. You'll get a full briefing on that. What I'd like to do is provide a broad picture of key themes about how we approach the continent of Africa as an integral part of the U.S. government's effort as we focus on implementing the defense aspects of the U.S. foreign policy.

The foundation of our approach: sustained security engagement. We seek to help build partner security capacity through a consistent and comprehensive application of engagement, programs, activities and exercises over time. We focus on the long-term needs of our partners as they relay to us-important, as they relay to us, not as we determine, so that they can gain the capability to provide for their own security in a self-sustaining way. Building partner security capacity is what we do on a day-to-day basis. This is done in all the maze-in maritime, land as well as air, and it looks at the capabilities across a range of venues, operational, institutional and human capital. Our programs go beyond training and equipping formations. They include developing enablers, logistics capabilities, reinforcing civil authority and effective civil-military relations and instilling leadership attributes and ethics that make the military a viable and honorable contributor to stability and their societies.

We promote strategic relationships with our friends, allies and partners at the national, regional and theater levels. In other words, we seek to engage at echelon, bilaterally, regionally with the regional organizations, and to be sure continentally as represented in the Africans' membership in the African Union, the continental organization. As I said this includes the regional economic community. We also seek to work with international actors who are engaged in Africa such as our European partners, United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and others. It includes other international organizations. It includes private enterprise. It includes non-governmental and humanitarian organizations, obviously academia, and others who are engaged on the continent and pursing interests that we share. But as we do across Africa, we recognize that there is a lot about the region that we don't know.

We recognize that the continent, the various regions, are diverse, complex. We recognize that the cultural, political and economic diversity of Maghreb Africa and the vast array of challenges and opportunities that it possesses. But we don't see it all as I've said. I've mentioned that we strive for programs that add value to the peace and security of our African partners for the peoples of the continent. And that often means we have to get the perspective of others to understand the environment well enough so that our programs, as we design them and as we implement them, can be as effective as they possibly can be. And that is why I'm excited that you're here today and the rest of this week, to help us better understand, to hear from you to gain your perspectives so that as we move forward we have a more complete understanding from a very substantial and important segment of our society.

Since I took command I've said that we are a listening and learning command. We seek your perspectives so that we can better understand the challenges that are faced in north Africa and seek potential avenues to improve our ongoing activities to meet those challenges and to take advantage of whatever opportunities that exist to support both our partners needs and, as I've mentioned, United States foreign policy. To this end the NESA Center for Strategic Studies and the U.S. Africa Command are partnering together to reach out to academia.

NESA helps define research assistance requirements and areas for academic advice and helps to extend the dialogue by engaging Maghreb African and European scholars, institutes as well as other think tanks. I assure you this command relies very heavily on the center's expertise and ability to provide for the exchange of useful information and guidance to help shape our efforts. Similarly, we are exploring opportunities to initiate research through third party foundations and institutes as well as to tap into existing research programs being conducted by various African study centers.

Now with the assistance of NESA we maintain a list of research topics that are priority for U.S. Africa Command. We provide military education institutions as well as other non-governmental institutions and organizations with lists of research topics and we would look for those results to help further our understanding of the continent and improve our activities and our programs.

As I've mentioned, in conclusion, the purpose of this symposium is to discuss ways in which the command can best support security and stability in Africa, the northern region of the Maghreb. To identify appropriate and effective mechanisms, for partnering to access existing knowledge, establish relationships that will foster development of new knowledge that are required to advance our future efforts. I'm convinced that your discussions will be enlightening and I assure you, you will see further consideration and action of those points that you bring to our attention.
At U.S. Africa Command we pride ourselves on being a listening and learning command.

What you have to say to us is important. We solicit your suggestions, your comments, on how our command can best contribute towards the goals we share. And again that goal that I'm sure we all share is a goal for a more stable Maghreb Africa. That's it. So thank you for letting me join you this morning.

Thank you for your presence here. Thank you for I know what will be a very worthwhile and participatory conference. And I'm just excited and happy that you've taken the time to be here to help us in our understanding of this so very important part of the world that you have paid so much attention to. So as they say, we are here to suck your knowledge, to get from you what you have, so that we can be better postured to do common work for stability and peace. That's the bottom line. That's the purpose. And our ability to do that more affectively will be enhanced by the information, by the perspectives, by the understandings you will help bring to us.