Contact Us Press Releases AFRICOM Portal
TRANSCRIPT: Ward Discusses U.S. Africa Command With Journalists In Gaborone, Botswana
<i>General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), said he is "very pleased" with the strong military-to-military relationship the U.S. military has with the southern African nation of Botswana and reaffirmed the command&#39;s
General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), said he is "very pleased" with the strong military-to-military relationship the U.S. military has with the southern African nation of Botswana and reaffirmed the command's commitment to that partnership during his visit here April 28, 2010.

Ward and Ambassador Stephen Nolan, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, met with journalists in Gaborone, Botswana, to discuss Ward's visit and U.S. Africa Command's programs and activities.

Ward said the command seeks to continue to foster military-to-military cooperation with Botswana -- a Texas-sized nation of about 1.8 million people -- and partner nations throughout Africa. He noted the more than 40 activities the two militaries have conducted in the past year.

The U.S. National Guard State Partnership Program with Botswana is a "model" program, Ward said. This program has linked, since 2008, the BDF with the North Carolina National Guard to conduct training events, exchanges and other activities. Botswana is one of eight African partner nations who participate in the program, and one of 61 worldwide.

He also emphasized U.S. Africa Command has "no intention" of seeking bases in Africa, nor is it looking to move its headquarters to Africa.

See related article.

The following is a transcript of the interview with the Batswana journalists. AMBASSADOR NOLAN: Yeah. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Thank you all very much for coming. It's a great turnout. Hey, how are you doing? Good to see you. Sorry for starting a little bit late, but we just came away from a meeting at the ministry of defense. It's very, very good – it's my pleasure and honor – to welcome General Ward back to Botswana. This is his third visit here. And so he is no stranger to Botswana. As you know, General Ward is the commander of the United States Africa Command, based in Stuttgart. And the Africa Command works very, very closely, not only with the government of Botswana and the Botswana Defense Force, but with governments all across Africa, to really support and build capacity in militaries across the continent. So it’s a very, very important mission. He was the deputy [commander] of the European Command and he is the first commander of the Africa Command, so he is a man of immense experience, a great leader and it is my pleasure to introduce General Ward. And, I guess, General, why don’t you make a statement and then we can open to the questions. GENERAL WARD: Thank you very much, Ambassador Nolan, and let me again say good afternoon to each of you. And thanks for taking some time to join me today. First, let me say how pleased I am to be back in Botswana. And I just thank our hosts for their warm hospitality and their generosity on each of those visits. And I’d like to make a few points here before I take some questions from you. For me, visits such as this serve to highlight our continued partnership, and more importantly, we are able to discuss topics that have concerns for all of us. Additionally, I am able to gain a better understanding of the Botswana perspective on defense and security issues and to look for ways that we can continue to work together. It has been over two years since I was last here. As the ambassador pointed out, this is my third visit and so again, Sir, thank you for hosting this visit for me. And I’d also like to thank General Masire, who is commander of the Botswana Defense Force, as well as Brigadier Morake, who is the commandant of the Defense Command and Staff College, for their generosity in hosting me this time, on my return here, along with my entire team. The purpose of my visit is no mystery. Too often when we visit a partner nation, there is speculation that we’re looking for bases, or seeking a place to place U.S. troops here. That is simply not the case … has never been the case, as I’ve told a few of you before. U.S. Africa Command will be in Stuttgart for the foreseeable future, so there is no plans that we have to move the headquarters. I’m here to discuss our ongoing security cooperation programs, the great relationship, great partnership, and look for ways that U.S. Africa Command can work with Botswana and its regional neighbors as we pursue our mutual goals for stability. I’m excited about our bilateral relationship with Botswana. The Botswana Defense Force is a truly capable and professional organization. And I just visited the Defense Command and Staff College, which is in its third academic year, this time around, and serves as a model of professionalism for military leaders who are preparing to do the jobs that they are called upon to do on behalf of their people. So we are very pleased to have a very robust military-to-military partnership. It is exemplified by over 40 events having occurred between our militaries in the past year. Last month, we had a team here to talk about continued professionalization of the noncommissioned officer corps. I think this event directly supported the BDF’s desire to improve the capabilities of their NCO corps, so as we were asked to be here in support of that, we were pleased to be able to do so. In addition, our State Partner[ship] Program that exists between the United States, North Carolina National Guard and the Botswana Defense Forces is a very good program and a model one, one that the U.S. Africa Command is excited to see. This relationship has also shifted a bit – not just from a strictly traditional military-to-military relationship, but also military-to-civilian, where our state partners in the National Guard, bringing their civilian skills to bear, can be of assistance, as is requested by the government of Botswana. Again, our command’s focus is on our sustained security engagement, the programs that we, in fact, are able to conduct with our partners on the continent. And our approach is a simple one. We do what we do in accordance with U.S. foreign policy and we do things that we do as we seek to assist our African partners, based on the things that they ask of us, and in no way imposing our will anywhere. And so with that, I’ll stop and be happy to take a few questions from you this afternoon. Thanks very much. MODERATOR: I thank all of you for coming today. I just want to say we have another, maybe, 10 to 15 minutes before the next engagement. Maybe a little less than that. Please, who would like to offer the first question? GENERAL WARD: I can talk a long time, now. (Laughter.) MODERATOR: Please. QUESTION: During your interaction with government officials, which particular topics did you discuss? And secondly, apart from visiting Botswana, which other southern African country have you, this time around, visited? GENERAL WARD: I just arrived, so I haven’t had very many interactions with all of the government officials as of yet. But basically, the things that we discussed were issues of stability, security – how, as a partner for many, many years, we’ve been able to watch the Botswana Defense Force as a model of professionalism, as a model of discipline, as a model of the type of military that has operated now in a well-established democracy for so many years, and how impressed I am about that. And how that model of professionalism, how the years of democratic activity that’s been going on here in Botswana have served to illustrate that these activities are harmonious. They do work, and when they work that way, the people [benefit]. I know that in the last week or so, there was a Botswana Defense Force day, I believe, I heard about, where the defense force was able to go out and interact with the people. And as I’m told, the admiration and respect that the people of Botswana have for their military was something that was just so tremendous. And I think that is another very, very good signal that has been displayed in this country that is not the same in many places – where the military is seen as protectors of its people and not oppressors. And so I heard about those things. So I did a lot of listening, because it’s important for me to listen, to understand better from the perspectives here. So I was happy to participate in that discussion with the government officials. And then as I mentioned, I spent time up at the defense college, talking with the members there, again, talking about these same values – values of how professional militaries operate legitimately in civilian societies, respectful of the law, respectful of civil authority, respectful of the constitution. That’s a marvelous, marvelous example that Botswana has for all of us to emulate and take note of. And I just conveyed my support for that, as well as I talked about ways that we can continue to partner for our work in moving ahead. We talked about the importance of the work that’s being done to help create regional institutions that lend themselves to additional stability and security. And certainly offering our support in any ways that we are asked to help along those lines. AMBASSADOR NOLAN: And also, where you’re going. GENERAL WARD: Oh, I’m leaving here and I’m going to Namibia, for a visit to Namibia. QUESTION: Okay. I want to take your relationship with Botswana as like, let me say, wife and husband. Would you be, in any case, maybe be, I don’t know, jealous of any type of relationship in terms of security and otherwise that we might make with, you know, other countries outside, and especially Africa? Is it, like, a concern to you? GENERAL WARD: Absolutely not. I think in today’s global society, the more we are partners and act that way together in totality, the better off all of us are. So there’s no jealousy. I mean, sovereign nations have relationships with whoever sovereign nations agree to have relations with. I don’t control that, and I don’t have an opinion of it or not. I’m just very thankful and happy that the government of Botswana, the Botswana Defense Force, has a very good and effective partnership with the United States of America and the United States Department of Defense. QUESTION: The U.S. has a number of bases within different regions of the world, but the Africa Command is not located within the region of Africa. Is that due to the fact that there’s been a lot of resistance from some African countries who see the AFRICOM as something that might be used against them, or a divisive element within the continent? GENERAL WARD: Yeah, that’s a good question. First, you know, Africa Command is only a headquarters and so the notion of bases, in the sense that I think you may be referring to, is not a part of the command at any rate. My headquarters is a staff headquarters and our planning activities can be conducted from any place. We conduct it, currently, from our headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, where, as I mentioned, the headquarters will stay. The bases that exist in other places are there – many have been there for many, many years – but that in no way implies that my command will be setting up those same sorts of bases. In fact, we have no intention at all of doing that. Our activities are activities that we conduct through our programs that are done working through our friends at the embassies, working through our friends in the Department of State, programs that support our foreign policy. So equating bases with Africa Command is totally not the case. It doesn’t correlate at all. Our headquarters is where we plan our activities that we conduct bilaterally, that we conduct regionally with regional partners, that we conduct with the African Union. And that planning functions, quite frankly, in today’s environment – with automation and all those things, it can be done from any place. We currently do it from Stuttgart and that’s where it will continue to be done for (inaudible) as far as I can tell, but there are no plans to move it anywhere else. AMBASSADOR NOLAN: That’s one thing to keep in mind. For all the various regional commands that the United States government has, there are only two that are not in the United States: its Africa Command and the European Command. European Command is in Stuttgart for historic reasons flowing out of World War II. But the Pacific Command is in Hawaii, on U.S. territory. Central Command is in Florida. Southern Command is also in Florida. So in fact, the trend is to have our commands, our regional commands, within the United States – because, just, communications, logistics, a whole host of reasons. So the location of Africa Command in Stuttgart really is – because it was – in many cases, many of the resources came out of the European Command, and so it was quite logical to establish it there, where the people were and where the facilities were. QUESTION: So there’s no resistance to the command headquarters moving to Africa? GENERAL WARD: Well, I haven’t asked anyone, so how can there be resistance? I mean, I haven’t asked anyone. I don’t have any intention of asking anyone. It’s not something that’s – I mean, resistance to it … it hasn’t been asked. I’ve not asked. I mean, you know, is there speculation out there? But there’s no resistance, because we haven’t asked to move it any place in Africa. AMBASSADOR NOLAN: I think whenever we talk about the Africa Command, whenever the subject comes up, people focus on the Africa Command as where, where will it be? Well, it’s everywhere. Because what the Africa Command is about is programming and interacting. It’s not about a physical presence. It’s about working with the militaries across Africa to increase their capacity, to give African militaries the experience of working with a world-class institution and learning new skills and applying new skills. And that’s what it’s about. So where Africa Command is, is not the issue. It’s what Africa Command does across the continent. That is the important thing. So the programmatic side is really the heart and soul of what the Africa Command is about. GENERAL WARD: And quite frankly, it’s no different. I mean, when I was the deputy commander at EUCOM, we were doing the same thing. Central Command from Tampa, Florida, was doing the same thing in the part of Africa where it was working. Pacific Command from Hawaii was doing the same thing in the part of Africa that it was working. All we did was created a single command to better coordinate, to better be able to listen, to be able to be more focused, pay attention to our African partners. So it didn’t change that at all. It didn’t mean that there would be establishing any bases. But what it did mean was Africa had a more dedicated partner than ever before because in the past there were three commands that were dealing in a separate way and it wasn’t always joined up appropriately. It wasn’t always coordinated appropriately. We weren’t listening as well as we could. So this now has created a single command that is now dedicated to our military cooperation, our programs that exist all across the continent in the previous time, in the past, done through three separate commands. And quite frankly, it wasn’t done as well as it could have been done and helping to work as effectively as we could work with our African partners and friends. AMBASSADOR NOLAN: I think what Africa Command is about is about helping African countries deal with African problems. The [Africa] Partnership Station, the assistance in the Gulf of Guinea where there are problems with bunkering of oil and just a lack of controls – fisheries control, controlling your resources, controlling – giving African countries the capacity to guard their coastlines, to protect their resources – is a very important part of what we do. Building capacity is at the heart and soul of what the Africa Command is about. And east – off the Horn of Africa, there are issues of piracy. Helping countries to come to grips with those problems and deal with them is really the most important part of the work that Africa Command has been established to do. GENERAL WARD: I think you see in your – I see you see my little handout there, the little tri-folds. But the work of the command is about helping Africans increase their capacity to deal with their security and be better able to provide for their own stability. And then the ways that this command now does it – as a single, focused command, we can be more focused and dedicated in asking for the resources that we are asked to provide as we work with our partners and friends. And so it adds value to what has already been done, not changing what was already being done, but adding value to it, making those programs more effective. MODERATOR: Another question? QUESTION: But then how much has really gone into, you know, with our military and maybe some intelligence staff, the common person usually has speculations and maybe they don’t really understand the language and stuff. How much is really going into the efforts of making a common African understand that it’s about protecting and increasing capacity, not the other usual speculations that were around, like maybe it’s looking for bases, trying to do this – GENERAL WARD: The last time I was here I told you guys the same thing. (Laughter.) Did you print it? (Laughter.) QUESTION: I’m – GENERAL WARD: Did you? I mean – QUESTION: I’m just the guy in the field. (Laughter.) GENERAL WARD: But no. No, we certainly recognize that these are continuous and constant messages. Hopefully that through the various media that exist, you know, some of this will get out there so the common person will understand. The biggest thing that I would offer to you that would allow the common person to understand is by what they don’t see – because two years ago, all of these things were still being said then. None of that has happened in two years. None of that exists. So why does it keep on coming? It hasn’t existed and it won’t exist, because it’s not the plan, it’s not the intent. In fact, quite frankly, many do now understand it because I don’t get asked so much why the command was created. Now it’s about, “what more can you do,” as they see these programs going on around – because they haven’t seen all the myth that was kind of out there: We’d be creating bases and we’d be stationing large troops all over the place. None of that’s happening and it won’t happen. And I think one of the biggest reasons why now the common person says, well, okay, that’s only noise because they don’t see any of that going on. MODERATOR: We’ve got time for one final short question. QUESTION: Yes. Since the establishment of the command in 2007, what would you say have been the major achievements and challenges? GENERAL WARD: The major achievements have been, I think, in adding value to our security cooperation with our African partners. We have been able to take the work that we had in place to begin with and increase its value by being able to provide additional resourcing to it. We look at our programs. The Ambassador mentioned a few. Africa Partnership Station, where we’ve been able to, in a more systematic and sustained way, provide assistance to the nations who line the coastlines of Africa as they have attempted to increase their maritime security and capacity so that they can have a better ability to take action against those who would do illegal fishing, illegal trafficking in their waters. AMBASSADOR NOLAN: Drugs. GENERAL WARD: Drugs. Programs that we have now been able to conduct in East Africa, as an example, where five countries were able to come together and participate in an exercise that helped them better able to deal with a disaster relief scenario and how they would work together. Before, we didn’t have the resources to bring – to help those bases come together. We were able to do that. And in North Africa, as the nations in the Sahel – as they have identified a common threat from violent extremists against innocent people, how we have been able to provide certain capabilities to them from some equipment, to training, so that they are better able to govern their sovereign territories, their lands. In East Africa, again, as the East Africans have attempted to create [an] East African Standby Force, and they have required some logistics assistance, we were able to provide that to them as they were working together to create their own security force as a part of the East Africa Standby Force setup. So it’s those sorts of things that exist that – in addition to that, we’ve been able to provide support to varying nations, as their noncommissioned officer corps has attempted to become more professional. The sorts of things that lead to a more professional force – a force that is respectful of human rights, a force that is respectful of the people that it is designed to protect, a force that has the type of values that makes it understand the legitimate role that a military plays in a civilian society: being respectful of civilian law, being respectful of its duly elected leadership. And so we’ve been able to do much of that in ways that before didn’t occur. And the thing that’s been so substantial is the fact that it doesn’t happen just – we do it today and three years from now it doesn’t happen again. This requires a sustained level of engagement. So the creation of the command, now that there’s a single command focused on the continent, we’re able to do that in a sustained way, doing it ways that make a difference to elevate stability on the continent. And I guess the final thing that I would say is this: Because we know that our activities don’t exist in a vacuum; they exist in coordination with, complementing things that are being done by others – our Department of State, USAID, other international partners, so we’re able to focus and work with them so that we can do a better job of ensuring that what we do supports and complements those other activities as opposed to countering them. And not that we are doing their work, but we listen to them so that our work complements the work being done by others as we work together to help build increased stability, which is a common goal that we all have. (cross talk) QUESTION: The last question that I would pose is to whether these partnerships do extend to all African countries, including the war-torn countries and politically unstable countries? GENERAL WARD: Yeah, the partnerships that we engage in aren’t partnerships that I determine. You must know that our military-to-military engagement is a function of our U.S. foreign policy objectives. And that where those foreign policy objectives have a component that would include military-to-military engagement, that’s when we get involved. So those partnerships are partnerships that we undertake based on our president, based on our secretary of state having determined, from a foreign policy perspective – our Congress – that having a relationship is one that we would seek to have. And so that’s where we have our partnerships and those are the ones who determine where those partnerships are – not me. AMBASSADOR NOLAN: Okay. Very good. MODERATOR: Thank you all very much. We appreciate your time. GENERAL WARD: Thanks very much. Thank you. AMBASSADOR NOLAN: Thank you. (Off-side conversation.) (END)