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TRANSCRIPT: DRC Media Visits Command, Interviews Sherlock
Democratic Republic of Congo media representatives visited U.S. Africa Command headquarters July 26-30, 2010, as part of a public information outreach initiative that aims to provide in-depth information on the command's programs and activities
Democratic Republic of Congo media representatives visited U.S. Africa Command headquarters July 26-30, 2010, as part of a public information outreach initiative that aims to provide in-depth information on the command's programs and activities in Africa.

In addition to meeting with and receiving briefings from directorate representatives, media members also interviewed Major General Richard Sherlock, Strategy, Plans and Programs director, July 27, 2010. Below is a transcript from the interview.

(Note: Sherlock's responses were simultaneously translated to French; questions were translated in English.)

See related article: Congolese Delegation Gets AFRICOM Facts Firsthand
See related transcript: DRC Media Delegation Interviews Ward

Q: They've had a very full day so far. We talked about the U.S. military this morning, and also did the Africa Command brief. And then they met with Commander Vicente and Dr. Michele Wagner.


Q: And then just spoke with Angela Sherbenou.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, I cannot possible follow an act like Angela Sherbenou. She is very, very smart and very capable woman. We are interesting, how we are integrated with our other agencies, for example, the Ã? Angela comes from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, and some of the perspectives that she brings to our command, in many ways, broadens our view of things from more of a broader perspective than a traditional military view of things.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Okay. Again, I would like to express my pleasure and my thanks for you coming to visit Africa Command. I think that it's very important for us to be very transparent and to be very interactive with our African partners, and with many people in our African partnership nations.

And so I welcome your visit; I welcome your questions. And I don't have anything that I would say is a question not to ask, so please feel free to ask me what you wish and I will give you as complete an answer as I'm able. I have no opening remarks, so first question? (Laughter.) Please.

Q: (Via translator in French.) At what point, with the training in Kisangani, would you call it a success? And then, as a follow-on, how do you follow on with that to make it just more than just a short-term success?

(Cross talk, laughter.)

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, first of all, I think that our work with the light infantry battalion at Kisangani is very important as one of many steps, I believe, in what we look to as a long-term relationship between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We started this training at the request of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and we think that the template that we have taken with this battalion is different than some of the past training events, in that all of the soldiers who are part of this light infantry battalion have been interviewed and reviewed for past Ã? through their pasts Ã? so that they were not part of something bad in the past.

We have conducted not just unit training, but we've also conducted a variety of human rights training, legal training, sexual-and-gender-based-violence training, in an effort to show the military's relationship in a civil society. We also think that, when the training Ã? the initial training Ã? finishes in September, that we will maintain contact with the battalion through our normal theater-security cooperation activities, where we will visit the battalion a number of times during the year Ã? the number hasn't yet been identified Ã? to make sure that they continue to evolve and they continue to stay as a trained and capable unit.

Though our day-to-day contact may not be military after the training ends in September, there will be continued contact, day-to-day, with the battalion with a number of trainers who will be provided under a State Department contract that goes forward after the initial training is completed in September. We're still looking at a variety of options in order to do that. Now, what we would like to do, as we go forward, is to work with the ministry of defense to have them determine what they would like us to do, in a broader sense, to also continue our work with the FARDC in a way that helps them accomplish their goals, as well.

That may take on a different appearance, or a different flavor, if you will, of types of events than what we have done over the course of training the light infantry battalion. For example Ã? and this has yet to be determined Ã? we may work with NCO trainers to work on the FARDC non-commissioned officer corps. We may work with officer trainers to work on generating new officers and conducting some junior officer training at some of the FARDC's officer and NCO schools. But again, that has yet to be determined. I hope that answers your question.

Q: So if the MOD asked us to do a Liberia type of situation, where we do defense-sector transformation of Congo, would we be able to do that?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: We would have to see where our capabilities would fit with our other international partners, because there are many partners working with the government of DRC and with the ministry of defense. For example, the European Union has certain training that they undertake. So we would look to see what the ministry of defense would like us to do.

Because we are in a partnership with the government of DRC and the ministry, we're not proposing a U.S. or an Africa Command solution; we're looking at where we can be contributive to the government of the DRC's goals Ã? also, the ministry of defense's goals Ã? and then, where we could be a part of an overall effort. So we would look to how we could support that and then we would look to see where other partners were working in that project, and how we could fit in.

Q: Yeah, the desires have an important role in that part of Africa. In the time of Mobutu, the army was better-trained. There was more training involved and a better esprit d'corps. He asked whether it wouldn't be better to have just a single partnership country helping, as opposed to bits and pieces from different partners.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: I think that we need to coordinate our efforts, because there have been many training events in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are also many different organizations and countries that have conducted training in the past. And I think it would be a shame to not be able to take advantage of some of the training events that have already occurred, and to be able to move forward from there, rather than starting from a completely new effort.

And so I think we have to recognize some of the training events that have already occurred, where those have been contributive to the DRC and the FARDC, and how we can look to moving those events forward, as opposed to starting completely over. So there have been several different training events. I think we have to be able to coordinate our efforts, not just internationally, but coordinate our efforts with the DRC and what the government would like us to do and what the ministry would like us to do, and then see how we can be contributive from there.

Q: Okay. Aside the problems of coordination, what other challenges do we face in working with the Congolese?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: I think that we are at the very beginning of our relationship, and so I think that part of working with the Congolese and working with the FARDC and the government is to show that we are looking at this as a long-term relationship. We are not looking at this as a series of short-term events.

And so where, before Africa Command was stood up and created, we had, in many ways, periodic events in Africa, and with the DRC, but the other commands Ã? European Command, for example, their main focus area was Europe; not necessarily Africa. And so our focus is in Africa and with our African partners. And so I think that part of our way ahead is to be seen as a reliable and trusted partner by the government of the DRC, by the people of the DRC, so that we can move forward and be effective together.

Q: The attacks in Uganda two weeks ago by al-Shabaab show the fragility of Uganda. Congo shares a border with Uganda. The training in Kisangani Ã? has there been any emphasis on counterterrorism or anything that would help Congo react to that type of crisis?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, our goal, again, is for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Democratic Republic of Congo, and to establish a long-term relationship, and to be seen as a trusted long-term partner by the Congolese. I think that, as you start training a unit, there is only so much training that can occur in an eight-month period of time, where you can create a capable unit, but not necessarily one that is capable of counterinsurgency types of operations.

And so as we look to what follows on and what we can do next together as partners, I think that we will continue to have those discussions. Certainly, the training that we are conducting at Kisangani is important, and it will produce a well-trained unit. But that is only a first step in what I think will be many steps together.

Q: When the training first started, there was a lot of people that were afraid, first of all, of creating a military unit that would be capable of overthrowing the government one day. And the other thing is, any American involvement perhaps pushing for a Balkanization or breaking up of Congo into smaller ethnic groups?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, let me answer the second part of that, first. Again, our goal is to have a peaceful, stable and prosperous Democratic Republic of Congo Ã? one that is capable of defending its borders; one that is capable of providing for its own stability in the future. And so that Ã? again, that has, I think, many steps forward in the process.

So there's no Ã? you know, I'm not sure where the concept of a Balkanization takes place, because what we would like to have is, again, a Congo that provides for its own stability. Because it is a very large nation in the center of Africa and stability for the Congo provides stability for that entire region. And so we think it's very important to be able to work with Congo as a very trusting partner, and trusted partner.

I think that, for the first part of the question, with regard to creating a battalion or creating a unit, one of the things that we have included, as I have mentioned just previously, we provide legal training. We provide, again, the training in, how does a military react in civil society, how does a military react to a civilian-controlled government, and how does a military serve the people of the nation that it needs to serve. And so we are very cautious, for example in other efforts and as we look to other efforts around the continent, that the military cannot be the only thing that gets trained or the only effort that goes on.

Training the military, or security-force assistance efforts with the military, must be accompanied by other portions of the security sector: the police, for example, the judiciary, for example, other parts of economic opportunities, other parts of governments. So that you don't create a single functioning institution in a country that then dominates the other portions of society. So again, we want to Ã? we realize that the military isn't the solution. It has to be one piece of a multi-pronged effort that can move us forward together.

Q: During the time you've been in Kisangani, what are the challenges that we've faced? And then what have been the weaknesses and the strengths of the Congolese officer corps and the military corps and the other people, the other Congolese citizens with whom we've dealt.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, I have visited Kisangani twice and Camp Base twice to look at the training, once at the very beginning and then once just a few months ago. And I have been very impressed with the training of the battalion and the way that the Congolese soldiers at all levels have taken into the training and have conducted their own training.

There are challenges with any unit of any army as it stands up from brand new. The experience level of many of the noncommissioned officers and officers is not significantly different than the experience level of many of the new soldiers. And so it will take time, I believe, to season that leadership over time. And it takes longer to grow a company commander and a company sergeant than it does necessarily to grow many of the individual soldiers, so that will be a continuing challenge over time. One of the things Ã? not that I'm saying that their development has been bad. It will just be continued development that will take some time to do.

I think that one of the things that we are doing differently in this unit than may have been tried in the past is we are also trying to work with the battalion so that they become more self-sufficient. For example, with the agricultural initiative that we're working with the unit so that they are able to grow many of their own foodstuffs, crops that will enable them to feed themselves and be more self-sufficient than many of the units in the past. And so we hope that will be something different that will be successful that we can then take forward as a lesson learned and continue if necessary in other parts of our interaction in the future.

TRANSLATOR: He said they could have more experience than that.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, they have, but not significant, so yeah, they will gain that over time.

TRANSLATOR: Right, because he had said that earlier.

Q: There are two questions: How long do you think that we'll be involved with the Congolese forces? How many battalions do you think we could realistically train? And the second, about the agricultural process: Where have they been growing it? He has never visited it and hasn't seen it. He's from Kisangani.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: It is actually being grown on Camp Base. There is an agricultural section, platoon of the battalion that is working, growing Ã? it's the Borlaug initiative is actually named after the Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M University. And so we have folks from Texas A&M that are there helping the unit to be able to become more self-sufficient by growing much of its own food there on Camp Base.

Q: And then is it something that they will actually see the results now or is it for the following battalions?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: They should see the results there as they grow through the first season. And then hopefully we'll have consistent Ã? be able to keep that consistent with that unit as it stays there. What happens in the future if that unit Ã? if there's another unit, I don't know; that has yet to be determined.

With regard to your other question on how many battalions can we reasonably train or how many battalions or how long Ã? a lot of that has to be determined based on what the government of the DRC and the ministry of defense would like us to do. You know, the FARDC is much larger than one battalion. And we need to have a discussion in the future with Ã? obviously through our U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa Ã? but with the ministry of defense to determine a way ahead and how we can best fit that based on what the government of the DRC would like us to do.

Q: That seems like a strange way of doing things because it doesn't seem like there's a long-term plan. It seems like we're doing a battalion and then waiting for feedback from the government. Isn't there a more longer-term policy or plan or idea?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Africa Command and the United States can't develop a solution for the Democratic Republic of Congo that the Democratic Republic of Congo doesn't wish. And so the Democratic Republic of Congo and the government of the DRC and the ministry of defense has to develop a plan for what they wish to do.

And we will find where we can best partner to be contributive to that overall plan. This is not about what Africa Command is going to do; this is about what the government of the DRC wants to do in conjunction with Africa Command. It's not an American solution. This has to be a Democratic Republic of Congo solution that we can become value added to.

Q: How much does it cost to train a battalion like that?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, this battalion is probably unique in that we built Camp Base essentially from scratch. And many of the initial programs that we started, started from brand new. So while the training of this battalion Ã? and I don't know what the final figure was as far as what was spent or what will be spent.

The initial cost is probably slightly higher than something that would follow on because there are already now facilities that have been rebuilt; there are already things that can be done to do that on a more Ã? probably on a more efficient basis than starting something from new.

It depends. If the government of the DRC and the ministry of defense would like more of these kinds of training, then I think we would also have to discuss not just the cost of building more bases, but we would also discuss with the DRC how we could share those costs to make sure that this is something that the government of the DRC is committed to.

And again, part of our way forward would be to look how Ã? if that were something that the ministry of defense is interested in Ã? how we could best achieve that. I would probably have to get you a better answer as to what it cost exactly because I'm not familiar with that figure as to what's been spent to date.

Q: He got the discussion on the three D's this morning and understands that we're on the defensive part. But on the diplomatic part, a certain African leader made allusion to the United States of Africa. He didn't name them, but we know. The question he had is, is the U.S. Ã? on the diplomatic and on the defensive side, are we willing to engage on a continent-wide or something larger than just regional or bilateral?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: That's an excellent question. We are working with a variety of partners, both partner nations and partner organizations. For example, we also have officers that work with the African Union. We also have officers and offices that work with some of the regional organizations of the African Union, for example, ECOWAS.

We have officers at the Kofi Annan International Peace Training Center. We have officers at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia. We also have not put officers in yet the Central African community organization, but we have the ability to work with them and we're staring our discussions with the Central African community.

So in addition to our bilateral country-to-country relations with our partner nations, we also look to support ultimately regional identities within the African Union-defined regions and then also to work with the African Union to be able to provide Ã? you know, help our African partners provide their own stability, be able to then work on a regional basis to provide that stability on a regional basis.

And then ultimately hope to grow a more stable Africa in a greater-than-regional basis Ã? not as a senior partner, not as a uncle-to-nephew relationship, not as an older brother to younger brother relationship, but as a partner-to-partner with those, as we work with our African partner nations in the regional organizations and the African Union.

Q: Don't you think it would be more efficient, more effective to have a larger presence on the African continent as opposed to being in Germany? He understands that we're able to manage things from the States or from here. But wouldn't it just send a stronger signal to have a headquarters on the African continent as opposed to here?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: I would say in answer to that that it's not about Africa Command. It's about what Africa Command can do with our partner nations to be value added to our partner nations' goals. So it's not about where our command location is. It's not about where the headquarters is or isn't.

It's about what we can do with our partner nations to be value added because it's about African-led solutions for African regional issues and African issues. We do not have an American solution for that. So where we are located is, to my mind, not material to the discussion. What is material to the discussion is, what do we bring that is value added with our African partners?

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: We have no plans to move the headquarters anywhere in the near future. What may happen 10 or 15 years from now, I will be gone and I am unaware of. (Laughter.) But it's not about Africa Command; it's about how Africa Command can work with our partners to be value added.

MAJ. GEN. SHERLOCK: Thank you very much. I've enjoyed your questions. I hope you have a wonderful stay this week in Germany. And thank you very much for coming to visit us. Again, this, I believe, is very important for us because as much as you ask us questions, we also learn from you by your questions as to the things that we can do and how we are doing. So I have enjoyed your interaction and your questions very much and I thank you.