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TRANSCRIPT: Ward Discusses U.S. Africa Command With Journalists In Lisbon, Portugal
General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM),engaged reporters in Lisbon as part of the National Defense University's Africa Center for Strategic Studies' Senior Military Leaders Seminar, June 23, 2010. Ward
General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM),engaged reporters in Lisbon as part of the National Defense University's Africa Center for Strategic Studies' Senior Military Leaders Seminar, June 23, 2010. Ward discussed many of the benefits of AFRICOM and their African Partners efforts at regional sustained security activities on the continent such as counternarcotics and illegal trafficking. He then took questions from the assembled media representatives.

The following is a transcript of the interview with the media representatives.

GEN. WILLIAM E. WARD: (In progress) -- I say good afternoon. And it's a pleasure to be here this afternoon to spend time with you. I am happy to be back here in Portugal. And there are a couple points I'd like to make before I take your questions.

So first, my previous meetings with the government and military leaders here in Lisbon, I -- (inaudible) -- a better understanding of the defense and security issues in the community of Portuguese-speaking nations as they work together to help improve security and stability in Africa. We value the expertise and cooperation of Portugal as well who is an important partner in longtime national maritime engagements with African, European, U.S. navies and coast guards. We greatly value Portugal's contributions to the engagement activities of the Africa Partnership Station, which is a key program that we use to help strengthen our partnerships with training and other collaborative activities to improve maritime safety and security.

And this year, I'm also happy to be back to address the seminar that I talked about quite extensively my first time here, the seminar that is currently hosted by our National Defense University's Africa Center for Strategic Studies. This event has brought together senior military and civilian leaders from African nations along with Portugal and the United States. And I thank Portugal for supporting this conference.

This event gives senior leaders an opportunity to reflect collectively on African security challenges, promotes critical analysis and foster cooperation and partnership. It provides a forum to share their experiences and ideas to bolster security on the continent, security that affects not only their nations and their neighbors -- to include European neighbors -- but also Africa as a continent and indeed the world as a whole.

One recent example of a very positive story is the opening of the Counternarcotics and Maritime Security Operations Center here, correction, in Cape Verde. This is a great success for Cape Verde. The center is aimed at helping Cape Verdean government agencies and offices including their coast guard and law enforcement and military folks share information and coordinate their activities as they work to decrease the illegal trafficking that occurs in the Atlantic. This center is a first of its kind in Africa. And Cape Verde is setting the standard as a model for other centers around Africa.

I also would like to point out that Portugal hosts the European Union's Maritime Analysis and Operations Center for Narcotics, which shows Portugal's commitment to stemming acts of maritime drug smuggling into Europe. Now, we at U.S. Africa Command continue to seek how we can best partner with the MAOC to support European counternarcotics operations and collectively work to combat this very troubling problem that we face.

Illegal trafficking of all sorts robs Africa of its economic potential and carries with it scores of associated problems. And we are pleased to be a part of this collective effort to help our partners defeat this threat.

Now, U.S. Africa Command's focus is on sustained security engagements. We want to be there for the long haul. We want to do this with our African partners, with our international friends as well as other international organizations. Our approach is simple and it centers on a guidance and policies that are determined by our government -- the president, Secretary of State, our policymakers.

Our number-one objective is to assist our African partners with their desires to continue strengthening their capacity to provide for their own security and stability. And that indeed affects all of us. And we do this with a long-term sustained commitment, a commitment to our African partners, our European partners, and others -- all who play a critical role in this collective effort.

So with that, I'll be very happy to take your questions. And anticipating what might be your very first question, let me say this. The headquarters for U.S. Africa Command is in Stuttgart, Germany. There are no plans to relocate it anywhere for the foreseeable future. We have developed a program that will be focused on doing our best to help African partners and friends on the continent. And we do that through our security assistance offices. And so, for the time being, for the foreseeable future, the headquarters will remain in Stuttgart. There are no plans to relocate it anywhere else as far as I am aware.

MODERATOR: Okay, we now will open up to your questions. We will alternate back and forth.

Q: Okay, thank you very much. First Portuguese speaking African nations. African supports for the fight against trafficking in Cape Verde. This support will also be given to Guinea-Bissau, specifically, this support in combating the drug traffic.

GEN. WARD: Oh, you're asking, if that will? Well, again, where we provide our support is among two things. First, a government that is a willing partner and then two, a foreign policy that says our type of support will be provided, if it is in fact something that we can in fact do. In the case of Cape Verde, you have a government there who has committed itself to addressing this problem. And where that government is taking that step and where our government -- the United States -- has said we will assist our partners in combating these threats, then we certainly get involved. So those conditions have to exist before I or anyone else from my government would just automatically get involved.

The situation in Guinea-Bissau is one that we all know is a situation that is certainly not good at all. And so as things continue to evolve, where Guinea-Bissau makes a commitment to address and reverse those problems, those conditions, then I would think that they would be partners that would be an assist to them in taking steps to counter those activities.

Q: This support would be in which areas. Can you --

GEN. WARD: I can't determine that at this point because there's been no policy determination made that would say -- that would lay out the framework, the parameters in which it would occur. For me, as a military man, my role would be providing security-type assistance. But we know it's a range of activities. I mean, the judiciary, rule of law, laws, and so there are a range of activities. And right now, I don't have any information about what Guinea-Bissau, one, would ask to have happen to help and then where nations would in fact go in and provide that type of support.

Q: Okay, and regarding Sao Tome, Sao Tome, is AFRICOM planning the construction of deep water ports in Sao Tome to support US naval projects?

GEN. WARD: No. No. I've not heard that one before. I hear -- for the first time I've heard from you even a rumor about that. There are all kinds of rumors out there. This one, I've not even heard that one before. So no, there are no plans to -- there are no plans to construct a deepwater port anywhere in Africa.

Q: Going back to the first question, the one you answered in front of our questions. Don't you think that it's important to know deeply the culture and all the way of life in those countries to act properly, even military, even in -- (inaudible) -- and that moving maybe the headquarters to one of those countries would help in this -- (inaudible).

GEN. WARD: You know better than I the size of the continent of Africa, absolutely huge. And so, I do agree with you that understanding as best we can is important. But the function of a headquarters location is not the determinant of that. It is determined by our level of partnership and engagement.

And quite frankly, that happens throughout the continent, all over the continent. It's done through our offices of security cooperation that are part of our embassies, where we have those offices of security cooperation to reinforce the efforts. It's done through our programs, our activities, our exercises that we conduct throughout the continent doing that in ways that reinforce our understanding.

So the headquarters location, that's a staff planning function that will be in one particular place and no idea where it might be -- but clearly because of the very diverse nation of the continent of Africa, we best understand what goes on when we are conducting ourselves in a dispersed way throughout the continent, through our offices of security cooperation, work with our embassies. Building relationships through our programs, our activities -- our sustained engagement not just in one place but throughout the continent to include bilaterally but also with the regional organizations in east, north, south, central west Africa -- the African Union, which is the continent's continental-wide organization out of Addis Ababa, what we do there.

And so, we see our better way of getting increased understanding is by being dispersed in as many places as we can be and by reinforcing our presence in our security assistance offices that are part of these embassies that exist around the continent. The headquarters location, that staff, support personnel, those are the people who engage with our partners on the continent. It's through our partnership activities, our programs, our exercises, work that we do in our military-to-military cooperation. It's done by those who come in to conduct those, sustained activities over time for the long term.

Q: Now, the Horn of Africa, you already know Somalia, I think?

GEN. WARD: I don't know if anyone really knows Somalia.

Q: Yes, I believe you. I believe you. And is it a deep threat to world security? And if it is, how big is it?

GEN. WARD: What's going on in Somalia is a threat to global security because of the lack of an effective government, because of what that lack of government then promotes in the form of piracy, in the form of threats to its neighbors in particular, in the form of threats to the people of Somalia who are leaving Somalia and going to the surrounding countries in huge numbers because of not being able to be provided for in their country. So I think Somalia, because of the lack of an effective stable government is something that we all share concern about internationally.

And I think the work that's being done in support of the Djibouti peace process to help deal with that, the work that's being done by the African Union and through its AMISOM mission, the African Union Mission in Somalia are all efforts that we support to help reverse this trend of nongovernance, of a state that doesn't have an effective government, as well as those things that we are doing as a part of the efforts at sea to help deal with some of the effects of not having a stable government in Somalia.

So yes, I think Somalia is an international issue that has impacts not just on security but also on commerce, on world economic activity and other things because of the fact that in this location you have a substantial population, substantial part of the continent that is not being governed. And when it's not being governed, it's being exploited, taken advantage of by those who would seek to do harm to many, to include most probably the people of Somalia who suffer because of this lack of government.

Q: What can African states expect from AFRICOM?

GEN. WARD: I think African states ought to expect from themselves an effort to help address this. What they can expect from AFRICOM is a commitment to partner with them as they seek to find solutions to deal with that situation in Somalia. And so as African states, as African organizations make decisions to do the best they can to help rectify, to correct a situation of no governance is where AFRICOM -- and it's very small because it's not just about Africa, it's about the United States of America but also other nations.

This is a matter for all of us that have a concern where African states determine that we want to do something about it, for providing security. And it's kind of as we do now where African states such as Uganda, such as Burundi, have determined they will contribute peacekeeping forces to try to bring stability to Somalia, as they do now with their support to the Transitional Federal Government. AFRICOM, but more importantly the United States of America has said we will provide support to those efforts in the form of logistics support, training support, equipment support. And we will continue to do that as other nations step forward to provide the same sort of assistance in helping to create security there in Somalia.

Q: Okay, finally from me, speaking of cooperation, would AFRICOM be interested in strengthening cooperation in other areas beyond military ones?

GEN. WARD: We are a military command. So my role is in fact the military one. We don't do that other work.

However, we understand the criticality and the importance of those other efforts -- the developmental efforts, economic development, social development and enhancement via education and health, advancement in issues of good governance where governments are in fact doing things for their people. But where we can be a support to the efforts by those governments by other parts of our government, our other interagency partners, we look forward to supporting those efforts as well and we actively do, because we want to better understand. And we find that through our associations, our relationships, our staff composition, we have an ability to better understand what's being done by others so that our activities complement and support what's being done by other partners.

But it also includes our international partners. You know Portugal, Portugal has been a very valuable partner as we have tended to work on various things, from the work we've done with our maritime security initiatives, where we partner with Portugal, other European partners, to include providing cadre to some of our various programs as we do some training. Those are all ways that we in AFRICOM look to partner with others, not that we want to be the ones responsible for doing it all. We know we cannot be.

But we want to be a good reliable partner who can be depended upon doing that part of it that makes sense for us in support of these greater efforts to bring stability for the good of the people on the African continent, but also for the good of the people in Europe, in America, and indeed in a global way because of how we know that it all has global impacts and global effects. And we seek opportunities to do that all the time.

I'm here listening to these various participants of this conference as they provide their thoughts about what is going on. So as we listen to them, it does provide us a better opportunity to understand from their perspective so that the work that we do is work that is making a difference, not just from our point of view but also from the point of view of our friends who have a deep understanding, deep awareness, just as Portugal does in the work that is being done with the Lusophone countries.

So we value that relationship. We value that understanding. And we value the input and knowledge, the understanding that we can get by listening to our partners and then doing our work hoping that it will cause the effort to be more effective because we have put it into a better perspective. We understand better because we have listened to others.

Q: Okay, thank you.

Q: Just two questions, I know that Guinea-Bissau is a small country. And it may be not very important. But the lack of stability there might be a problem for the region. Did you discuss this issue with the Portuguese authorities? And what is your view of this situation?

GEN. WARD: Yeah, well, first, I have not discussed this with the Portuguese authorities on this visit. But I know that this is a concern that we all share. Guinea-Bissau, because of what goes on there, does threaten its neighbors. It threatens the region. The thought of a state that is so perceptive and accommodates drug trafficking to that degree is disruptive to everyone -- its neighbors.

And I think for us it's a concern that we all share to the degree that when you have that type of activity occurring it runs the potential of clearly destroying the institution of government. It destroys the ability of a government to operate in effective ways. And so I think these are clearly concerns that we have. And as the efforts are being undertaken by the United Nations, other organizations and groups to address this business of security in Guinea-Bissau, the trafficking of drugs, I'm sure the United States will be a willing partner as steps are taken to try to address that condition.

Q: Okay, you mentioned the center in Cape Verde as an example of a project that could be coming -- other countries. Would you like to talk about some other projects that you have in mind right now?

GEN. WARD: Well, quite frankly, it's not a project that I might have in mind. These are activities that nations -- sovereign nations -- that we have to help to support.

GEN. WARD: And so those occurred in many places. They go on in the Gulf of Guinea and other countries as a part of our Africa partnership Station, where we are working with 10 or 11 Gulf of Guinea nations, helping to increase their maritime security capacity. It's happening in the Sahel, where we're working with 10 of the Sahelian nations as they attempt to address the threat from violent extremism and terrorism that they face.

It's happening in East Africa as the drug trafficking is increasingly becoming prevalent there as well. They are having to deal with -- develop programs that will help them address that situation. In Central Africa, as nations there in Central Africa are addressing a common threat, the Lord's Resistance Army as an example, where we have programs assisting those nations as they address that common threat.

And so these are examples of our activities in many places around the continent of Africa. West Africa, North Africa, East Africa, Central Africa -- to help deal with security challenges that these nations face, that these regions face. But clearly a challenge that no single nation by itself can solve, working together in a regional collective way with the help of supporting friends. And not just the United States; we have other international friends, so that those challenges can in fact be dealt with in more effective ways so that the people of these countries, these regions can have a better chance of realizing some prosperity and hope for the future.

Q: Besides this drug problem, which would you say are your priorities while you are in this command of AFRICOM?

GEN. WARD: Well, I think for me it's an issue of where we can be a best -- we can do our best work in helping nations bring security. To be sure, places like Sudan, Somalia present problems, challenges that we want to work together with. But there are also many places where there are great opportunities that we would like to see reinforced. To the cooperation that is going on in Central Africa right now between those Central African states -- working with them to help reinforce their successful efforts; we see that as an important priority.

But we see priorities when it comes to reinforcing the work of African states to build professional militaries so that their militaries are seen as protectors of their people and not oppressors of their people -- providing support for those efforts is a priority. And we are doing that. To be sure, where there are places or instances of innocent people suffering, being taken advantage of, that is a concern. And we do what we can within our policy constraints to certainly address those things.

But that's the range of priorities that we look at. Most of those priorities follow the line of our national policy objectives. These aren't priorities that I didn't come up with by myself. These are priorities that follow from the priorities that have been established by President Obama, Sec. Clinton, Sec. Gates that say that these are how the United States is pursuing its national security interests on the continent. And by doing these things, the first and foremost of which is working in a collaborative way, supportive way with our partners and friends on the African continent and also, with all others who seek to have a more stable and secure African continent.

Q: Thank you.

GEN. WARD: Let me say that -- before I leave -- that I came here yesterday. And I am on the heels of a very impressive victory during the World Cup. So let me congratulate Portugal on its victory in the World Cup. And as these games continue, I just look forward to continued -- a good success and a good time. And just the fact that Africa is hosting these games on the continent for the first time, I think, is a great, great step and signal. And I'm very happy for how things have been progressing to this point.

Q: The United States are playing now?

GEN. WARD: You know how important you are. I give a talk -- (laughter) -- my team is playing there.

Q: Okay thank you.

GEN. WARD: Thank you.

MODERATOR: General, thank you very much. We have copies of your statement that we'll give to the journalists.