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TRANSCRIPT: Stars and Stripes Interviews AFRICOM's General Ward
<i>General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, was interviewed by John Vandiver, a reporter with Stars and Stripes, August 23, 2010. The complete transcript is below:</i> <br /> <br />JOHN VANDIVER: So it&#39;s been a little over a
General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, was interviewed by John Vandiver, a reporter with Stars and Stripes, August 23, 2010. The complete transcript is below: JOHN VANDIVER: So it's been a little over a year since we last had a chitchat. I guess that was in May when I was traveling with you. And at the time, we talked I think quite a bit about AFRICOM still sort of explaining itself to the continent -- GEN. WILLIAM E. WARD: Has it been that long? MR. VANDIVER: It's been that long. I think we've bumped into each other a couple of times but our last sit-down. Yeah, it's been awhile. And at the time, we talked a little about your efforts to explain AFRICOM to the continent and sort of hammering home the message. At the time, it was basing and all of these things. And sort of, just as I've paid attention to the command over the past year, in my opinion, it seems like you guys have kind of turned that corner. I'm sure there's people with a lot of the same questions but the whole explaining AFRICOM, you've moved past that a little bit. And so I'm kind of interested in your views about the command, looking forward now. And there's been some talk -- the Air Force has talked a little bit about maybe assigning some troops to AFRICOM. The Marines have talked a little bit about this MAGTF, maybe some sort of assigned troops. And I know these are different components doing their thing, but I'm interested in your thoughts, looking forward, about AFRICOM and what its composition will be. Do you envision having some troops of your own or for the next AFRICOM commander to have some troops of his own at his or her disposal? GEN. WARD: Okay, well, that's good, and first of all, I would clearly agree with you that I think this business of having to always be in a position of explaining ourselves is -- now, that's history. We have turned a corner. I think it's something that quite candidly, for me, not long after our last engagement --because it was kind of the summer of '09 when I really began to experience attitudes as well as dialogue with others that led me to believe that, yeah, it's no longer a question of why is there an AFRICOM to now, the fact that AFRICOM is on the scene and it's, now, what more? What can AFRICOM do in ways of increasing the stability and doing what we set out to do in our mission? That is, to do what we can to help with this business of security stability through our programs of sustained security engagement. And so for the last -- really, for me, almost now, at least a year, I've also had that same understanding: Yeah, we have turned the corner and we're moving ahead. The command continues to mature every day. We're beyond this business of just standing up where we put our desk, discussions of what will phone numbers be here. That's all in the past now. We are looked at as a -- while we're still obviously growing, understanding more and more and more. But we're beyond the point of being a command that's only about standing up. We are, indeed, a command that is now really doing things, as reflected in a whole series of very successful exercises over the past year that really, I think, caused the AFRICOM brand to be seen. And importantly, it's reflective of what we've been saying all along. So that's why I believe the message of AFRICOM is now so widely received because what we have done has been reflective of what we have said we would be and what we would not be. And I think that has gained a lot of -- for us, a lot of support, confidence, trust; the relationships that we've built with our friends on the continent, our African partners; obviously, our interagency partners; obviously, with our international partners for a lot of these programs have included many international partners as well, from Europe, other parts of the globe, both nations as well as organizations. All that points very, very -- in my mind's eye, markedly to -- yeah, the corner has been turned. We are now there. We are accepted. We are seen as, okay, adding value to what we do and how we can be a part of a total effort of promoting additional stability in a part of the world that is vitally important to America, both in the protection of American lives as well as promotion of American interests. And what we use to do that with -- to get to your question of this issue of having folks assigned, quite frankly, I think we've probably been able to demonstrate that we can do that stuff without necessarily having to have troops assigned, forces assigned. So it's not a discussion of having assigned forces. It's a function of when there's a requirement, there's something that we want to do; are there resources available? Is there something in place -- systems in place -- that will allow us to be able to achieve -- correction: to attain the resources that we need to do what it is our African friends have asked us to do, to do what it is the nation asks of us and to do what we would do to help cause stability to be more realized than not. And so these -- that discussion about -- CENTCOM does not have assigned forces. So that does it. But you have access to -- would it be something that we would seek to have? Well, it's just a function of a lot of other things globally as well. And so we are where we are now. There will be continuing dialogues about that. Nothing is set, nothing is in place, and for me, for the time being, as long as we can have what we need to make a difference in the pursuit of stability on the continent of Africa that is in line with, one, the partners' desire and wishes, in line with our national policy objectives, in line with our security objectives, then we'll just keep working at that. And as we've demonstrated here and over the past now, we're really -- to be sure, the last year, but even before that because even when we started, all the things that had been going on, none of those things stopped, which is another very important, important point. For three years now, since I've -- almost three years that the command has been in existence, as we transitioned from the EUCOM, CENTCOM and PACOM programs, those programs, none of them stopped. They kept going. And in fact, they have been getting better and better and better. And so I think -- and all that has happened without assigned forces. You know, we certainly had to work at it. We've had to do some creative things from time to time, to be sure. So I think that's the message. And to the degree that our services, the components will come back and have other ways of satisfying that requirement that Joint Staff -- then we'll certainly -- we're open to all that. But in the meantime, we'll continue to make it work. MR. VANDIVER: Right. Does it limit you in any way, though, or are you able to do everything you want to do? Or are there some things you'd like to do but you can't do because you just aren't -- the boots on the ground -- (inaudible, cross talk). GEN. WARD: I think there are two parts of that. First of all, the ability and the desire of our components to have all this engagement. So we just can't impose upon them. So there's some, I guess, limits on how much can be absorbed. And so it's not just a matter of just having everything because you may not be able to use everything. And so are there times when there are assets, resources that might be asked for that we don't have? Yeah, sure, but that happens everywhere. I mean, we're not the only ones who are -- I guess, face that dilemma. I mean, there's just a finite set of resources. And as the secretary of defense says, those resources that he has available are globally employable. It doesn't matter whose combatant command they may lie in. So ultimately, it's where the secretary of defense says, a force's -- or, resources will be applied where that application is made. So yeah, we face the same, I guess, limitations there but that's like every other combatant command, quite frankly. We're no different in that regard, so far as having all that we need every time. And it's something that we just didn't prioritize and we move ahead. MR. VANDIVER: Sure. Now, as you guys go about with all of your missions, you're tapping into this force pool that the past seven years or so, they've been engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan and fighting wars. And then so a lot of them will cycle through to these missions. How challenging is it to get them out of war-thinking into whatever mission they're focused on in Africa, where you guys aren't fighting the war? Has that been a challenge for the command at all? Or, how do you guys go about reorienting people? GEN. WARD: Right. We get better at that every day, John, because -- that's a great point. How do you cause -- and it's not just for those forces that were engaged. It's for everybody, really, because when you look back at where we've been over the last 20-plus years, no one was paying the attention to Africa that we think it justly deserves. So it's not just those forces who have been engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's also folks who come to my headquarters -- who go to the component headquarters. So we pay a lot of attention to trying to orient, to try to -- trying to cause an increased understanding of the environment, to be there so that anyone who comes into the AOR to work either at the headquarters of the components are exposed to culture, exposed to the history a bit, so that we know that this is a different place than the combat theater but also from those other parts of the globe where it's -- it's not South America, it's not Asia, it's not Central Asian nations; it's Africa; it's different. And so our challenge is a challenge that we have in trying to cause all of our people to be better -- to have a better understanding of what the African environment is like. And that is so diverse in and of itself. It's clearly -- Africa, as we've talked before -- it's a huge continent. And it's not the same in that they've divided themselves into five regions but there's a lot of crossover there. And so the geography, the culture, the history, the traditions, so we are not just the forces who we have coming into do work but everyone, quite frankly. We try to pay attention to giving them a better understanding of the environment so that when they go there, they are better able to get the mission done because they have a clear understanding of what this environment is as opposed to being different from other places they may have been. So we pay a lot of attention to that in the predeployment training, the predeployment orientation that's done when forces come to do -- conduct exercises, be they forces from the Marine Corps, the Army, the Navy, or when our own staff members go to the continent or even in the course of our work, exposing them to some of the history of the continent, the area they're going into. So yeah, this is the environment you're going in, which is different from what you may have been exposed to in the past either in the combat tour or in the course of your normal military duties up to that point. MR. VANDIVER: So it's kind of building up that institutional knowledge and doing that. Is there any way that -- and I think you guys obviously do this with the National Guard and the State Partnership Program with the regular Army and Marines where similar units come back and build relationships with certain countries. Is this something that could be possible or -- GEN. WARD: Oh, yeah. I think the notion that you build up relationships -- obviously, we do it very well with the National Guard in our State Partner Program, which is there. But again, I think it would not be unlike what's found anyplace else. And so to the degree that units that have been exposed, have participated in exercises, they can be the units who will come back again. And Services take that into account through the various structures. I think a part of the construct of our -- now, once things begin to change in Iraq and things change in Afghanistan eventually and there are additional forces that may be available for these sorts of engagement missions and opportunities, building up those habitual relationships will be a part of that construct and I talk to Service chiefs about that and they all understand the value of that. And to the degree that that's going to be possible in the future, I think you certainly will be more likely than not to see examples of that happening. MR. VANDIVER: Maybe going over now to the place that everyone always talks about first. It's on the top of everyone's list in terms of security issues in Africa, and it's Somalia. And going back last month, there was the issue in Uganda where I guess this is sort of the first time Shabaab has exported -- or supposedly Shabaab; they've claimed responsibility for this -- and they're exporting their terror. And how concerned are you about them destabilizing around the region, causing problems with their neighbors and whatever ripple effect that could be. How concerned are you about their taking it to that next level? GEN. WARD: I think our activities in East Africa predominantly recognize the destabilizing effect that al-Shabaab as well as other al-Qaida-affiliated units and al-Qaida could have in East Africa, so sure, we're concerned about that. And what we do design to help promote an environment where their influence and ability to destabilize is less. And so we pay attention to it. And our activities, our exercises, our bilateral engagements, our multilateral engagements, our mil-to-mil activities, our civil affairs activities, all designed to cause those countries where those factions operate and could have influence to have less of an impact, less of an ability to create instability and to be threatened by their existence. And so there's a concern and that's a part of what we do and why we do what we do, sure. MR. VANDIVER: Do you see any place where AFRICOM can get more involved there? I know you guys were involved in some training with AMISOM. Do you foresee possibly direct training of Somalian (sic) TFG forces or -- where are some areas where maybe you think you guys could be doing more over the course of the next year or two? GEN. WARD: Well, I think two things. First of all, as our nation -- as the international community continues to grapple with the question of Somalia -- you know, what is it that we would do as a combined group of nations and organizations that have a concern that what's going on in Somalia is something that is not in our best interest, not in the best interest of the Somalian people? First and foremost, establishing what that is; what that direction, what that strategy, what that policy is. That has to be accomplished. That has to be done. There is work ongoing in Washington right now to address that. Inside of that construct, are there activities that are military activities that we could obviously play a part in? And where that strategy, where that policy says these are the military lines of activity that we will pursue, then this command will be prepared to assume and do those activities. We know right now that there are many other nations in Africa who have said, okay, we want to also help AMISOM, we want to help the TFG. So a lot of what we are able to do is providing assistance to those nations as they work. It doesn't necessarily mean that you would have to have U.S. forces on the ground in Somalia to make a difference. And that determination is certainly not a determination that I make. And so for me, it's more about, okay, where there is a combined effort to make a difference, how do we provide the best help and support that we can to that? And we're doing that. We're working with the nations who have decided to contribute peacekeeping forces to AMISOM, how we can provide them with additional assistance in the form of training, in the form of equipment. Working with the Department of State -- they have the lead in that, but we clearly are a big supporting factor in the preparation, the training of those forces. And so we are asked from time to time, can you help us -- i.e., some nation is participating in AMISOM to be better prepared to conduct that mission. And we do that and we make recommendations so those nations -- not that we impose, but these are the things that we are prepared to do to help you as you are conducting this mission to the degree that the transitional federal government and its military structure requires. And to answer that same thing -- likewise. We are prepared to do that, given there's a policy decision that's made that would then say, yes, this is the appropriate activity for us to take. And so I think for us, training, leadership are the sorts of things -- small-unit training that causes us to operate cohesively; training that also considers the role, the proper role that militaries have in a society so that they're more supportive of the elected or the appointed legitimate government as opposed to working in a part of outside -- as a part of an outside force. We can certainly inculcate those sorts of things as we work them; a tactical-level training, a maintenance-level training. I mean, one of the things that we have learned -- as an example, maintaining weapons in an environment. What are some techniques and procedures for when you do that? So there are many things that we can do to help these nations, these forces, these entities in accomplishing their mission. And we're prepared to do all of that given it's aligned with our overall policy and strategy. MR. VANDIVER: Right. And I guess, if this training were to happen, Djibouti would be the place to do it, right? You guys have the resources there. GEN. WARD: Not necessarily. It could happen in many places. I mean, Djibouti is a place whereby there are resources but they could come from other places as well. And where it might be conducted wouldn't be our call. I mean, these are sovereign nations. And so a nation that would decide to conduct a training may have desires to do it elsewhere. So we would be prepared to go there and do it obviously at their invitation, their desire, their request, and conduct it. So Djibouti is not a location that is automatically seen as a training location now. MR. VANDIVER: How is the mission going -- I remember reading a GAO report a couple months ago -- Combined Joint Taskforce - Horn of Africa under review by AFRICOM to see how that mission aligns with AFRICOM's mission and it's currently at review. What are you guys looking at there? What are some of the issues? GEN. WARD: I think first of all, the mission there is aligned completely with AFRICOM's mission. And the review is a review that, quite frankly, goes on all the time in all military organizations. I mean, so it's not as if that was something that was -- it appeared to be something that was totally off and from (where you go ?) -- but military commanders always review what you're doing because the environment is changing. And so to be presented as if this is something really wholesale was a bit of a mischaracterization of what is going on. The military commanders review missions all the time so that the mission that you're doing reflects the environment. And that's what we're doing there. I do it throughout the entire AOR: What are you doing now that's reflective of your current environment and, more importantly, where you want to head in the future? And that's what we're doing for CJTF - Horn of Africa. It happens. It's not unique. It's an ongoing activity that, quite frankly, the president of the United States, secretary of defense expect me to be constantly reviewing what I'm doing to make sure what I'm doing is achieving objectives, is effective. And that's all that, that was about. It was taken to be something else but it wasn't. And we do that all the time and we're doing it now. We're doing it, as I said, across the continent. We're doing it in our OEF - TS mission, we're doing it in our CJTF HOA mission, we're doing it in our military engagements that we're doing and our activities in Liberia and what we were doing with our training in the Congo, so again, it's not that -- it was perceived to be something that was -- but in response to that particular activity, we have -- I mean, we've certainly taken what the GAO has said. Quite candidly, most of which we had previously identified. And a lot of it is already being worked. A lot of it were reflective of a conditions set that may have been two years ago that we've already moved well beyond. And we'll continue to evaluate what we do. But the big point is, what's going on in CJTF - HOA is absolutely aligned with the objective of this command. And that's not a question at all. Their mission of trying to -- in a very important part of the continent, that East Africa region, and to have a focused organization that's doing work to help stabilize and stabilizing through providing assistance to the sovereign nations of the region, not us there doing things for them but for providing assistance to the sovereign nations in ways that make a difference -- civil affairs work, military-to-military training, tactical assistance, advice on maintenance, advice on leadership, advice on how a military that is transforming performs and acts in a legitimate society. We're doing all of that but we're doing it in a very important part of the world where the threat of violent extremism and those who would want to foment that is very real. MR. VANDIVER: How about over in the DRC, you have some training going on now, I think, which wraps up maybe in September? This training of the -- (inaudible, cross talk). GEN. WARD: Light infantry battalion. MR. VANDIVER: Yes. How has that been going? What are some of the reports that you've gotten back on that and how hopeful are you that this could sort of be a step towards bringing some more order to that military, which has had some history of issues? GEN. WARD: Right, right. As that training started, the goal was that what we were asked to do was to train a light infantry battalion of the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo such that you would have, in this group, more unit cohesion, more professionalism, more discipline, such that it might be an example for other parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo armed forces. FARDC is their short name. But so that, that might serve as a catalyst for this activity or these sorts of things to spread in other parts of the army. It has gone very well. It's gone very well. Obviously, that is not just something that we are responsible for. I mean, the work that's done or the effects of that also requires things to be done by the Congolese institutions. Their ministry of defense, their defense staff and how it continues to treat this battalion in ways that will allow these lessons to really take hold. The things that they have done to care for this battalion are important. From the standpoint of our work, from the medical training -- we're training medical professionals to take care of their people in better ways so that the health standards are higher. All those things contribute to instability if the care of the force isn't there. There's a program that we put inside of it as well so that their feeding is more predictable, more stable, where they have been able to provide for themselves through a program of growing their food. Again, when those things happen, it reduces the need -- the temptation -- to go off and then take advantage of their fellow citizens. It's all about causing a force to operate in a way that is seen as a protector of its society as opposed to someone that would be a prey -- that would prey on its society but be a predator to its society. And we've done those things with this battalion from the work that was done to -- as an example, there were several medics in this battalion that were trained on the expert field medical badge. That gave them a sense of, one, if something were to happen to them, they have right close to them some ability to provide, first -- I guess, immediate, first responder care -- immediate care because they have trained medics that could care for them. For us, knowing that you've got qualified medics, you know if you get hurt, someone that's going to be there to take care of you is a big deal to us insofar as how our service members do their job. Well, the same is true for these African forces. So we did those sorts of things that contributed to their becoming a more professional battalion. And to the degree that, that then serves as an example for other parts of that military, that was the objective. And we have done our part of that. Now, the story to be told will be how that continues on. How the additional piece continues. And there are things that we are doing in conjunction with the Department of State that will hopefully help put that in place. Again, not that we're doing it all but then those things that are done by the Congolese government itself to then carry on the work that we've begun as they look to professionalize the force. So it does come to an end in September. MR. VANDIVER: Will it pick up again? Will you do more? GEN. WARD: Don't know. Don't know. I mean, that's, one, the function of what the Congolese asked of us; and two, if our foreign policy says, okay, we think this is a good thing to continue. Because, again, it's also -- we have to see are the Congolese doing -- is that government doing its part in this whole thing or not? So it's all -- that has to be assessed and observed, and then the decision to make, or, what you've done is enough and now you may want to do it in a different way. As I mentioned though, we are in a constant business of assessing to see if what we're doing is making a difference. And then we will alter it and change it based on our understanding of that as we move on. And so potentially, we may. But again, we don't know that just yet. We'll see how it evolves over time. These are long-term endeavors. These are not things that you do today and then tomorrow you see the immediate benefit. These are sustained -- these are long-term activities that we have to go about in a sustained way in order to see the effects because what this command is about is, quite candidly, doing things today that will look to prevent things down the road, to help create a more stable environment. And that's a long-term investment. That's a long-term requirement. MR. VANDIVER: Right, and -- MR. : John, let me just cut in here. One of the things -- you talked about successes there. These medics Gen. Ward was talking about, they start on a -- most of them start off as just stretcher-bearers. No medical experience. And they were trained to the point where all 14 medics actually accomplished the field medical badge and finished a 12-mile road march through the jungle. And that's measurable progress where you have people that started with that and then the pride of actually finishing and now they're really excited about going back and doing things. That's progress. And then, we had a bunch of journalists come in. And these journalists were all very complimentary of what we're doing in the transparency of showing this kind of -- GEN. WARD: You should have gotten John some of the articles written by those journalists who came here. MR. : I'll get you that. MR. VANDIVER: Local guys? GEN. WARD: These were local Congolese guys who came here and had us explain to them what we were doing from our point of view and then they were able to translate that back on what they were seeing there. And the result was, they said, wow, what you've got -- first of all, the fact that we were so open to them and we were telling them what it was, they went back home, wrote about this, and then they saw that same thing going on there. So that is what we do and it's those sorts of things that get into the psyche, the way you do your business, your job. And the idea that it's not something wholesale but you begin to think about what you in a different way. You act more professionally because you now have training. There are standards that you want to maintain. That's what our association with these militaries is proving to accomplish. And it's the type of thing that does last over time, over the long haul, that causes a behavior -- a change in behavior, a change in how they operate. And that spreads through the force. It doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen overnight. I mean, in 1986, you know, we had the Goldwater-Nichols legislation. And, I mean, and how long were we -- how long does it take for those things to take hold? So these are the sorts of things that we see as important to do now that if we are concerned that 20 years from now have the prospect of being something that is more stable, has -- is an environment that is more likely than not to be something that our national interests can be satisfied. And so that's the mission. And it starts with, you know, just professionalism, training, you know, discipline and a force, you know, the NCO training that goes on, the leadership training. But it happens across the echelon. Not just in those small units. It's also a function of what the, you know, the government does; its institutions. That's all a part of it. MR. VANDIVER: And as you said it's a long process to do this. Does it worry you at all; I mean let's just take as an example the DRC. Where you've worked with this battalion and you've had progress and you've seen good results. But somewhere within the military some terrible thing happens: six months down the road some terrible instance of pillaging and doing something in the village. And then it may be causing the question the U.S. involvement in this area and should we be helping these people? I mean, do you ever worry that some incident like this can undermine everything that you've done? And, I don't know, do you have to understand that this is part of doing business in this neighborhood? And do you have to not tolerate it but continue with the mission despite some of the -- I mean, how do you balance these out? GEN. WARD: It's a great question because you do worry about that. But at the same time you worry about it, you must remain committed to it because you can't let a very potentially very tragic anomaly to change long-term goals because that -- that happens. I mean, nothing is perfect and nothing is 100-percent guaranteed. And so the point is, do you stop what you're doing because of the fear of, the threat of something tragic happening when that is only an anomaly, only an aberration as opposed to something that is reflective of the entirety? And so every now and then, things do go in a way that you would not have planned, that you would not have hoped, but does that stop what you do when you see other indicators of things moving in the right direction? The answer is no. At least, I hope not because I think it is about a long-term commitment, long-term sustainment, long-term engagement and when things happen from time to time as they may -- may -- does that then cause you stop all that you're doing? You have to look at it. And if it's, yeah, this is an aberration, it's not something that we see as typical, there are other indicators that they have moving -- move forward in a proper way; let's continue; let's not stop. And so do I worry about that? To be sure. But is it something that I would say that would keep us from doing what we do? I don't think so. MR. VANDIVER: And now, I guess, foreign policy is still sort of forming in this complicated neighborhood where you have the LRA still operating. And, I guess, there is this legislation that essentially mandates the president to form a strategy for trying to eliminate this threat. Where do you see AFRICOM coming into play here? You've had some involvement in terms of providing assistance and -- GEN. WARD: Yeah. I mean, first of all, the fact that the nations in this region, here in Central Africa, have come together to go after a threat -- an internal threat that is something that is destabilizing -- is something that we absolutely applaud and that we think is a very substantial step. And just like the presidential legislation that talks to our support to that, I think that is something we certainly would want to do to the best degree that we can. And that is what we're doing: providing training assistance, providing equipment assistance to these nations that have come together to work. I mean, the Ugandans are clearly taking the lead in this. But also, how these nations continue to work together to understand the environment better. What information they have, how they share that information, how they work together insofar as their techniques and procedures are concerned, to where we can provide assistance in all of that from training to equipment to providing assistance in their techniques and procedures. We are doing it and we are looking at additional ways of doing it -- working with the Department of State, working with the nations themselves. Because again, these things that we do with them are things that they see also as important from their point of view. And so as we continue to work with them, understand them better, we continue to put together a program that addresses these requirements. And I think we'll be doing that as long as they want us to and long as our national policy says, yes, what's happening here is a positive thing. MR. VANDIVER: If they asked for actual U.S. troops -- I don't know, Special Forces units to come and do a joint operation; they say they have good intelligence on where Kony is -- would you consider saying yes to that? Is that something you think U.S. troops could actually get on the ground and provide support for if the requests came in and they asked for it? GEN. WARD: Yeah, but it's probably not my decision. That's a decision that's made by the president, our secretary of defense. I would clearly provide input to that decision if I thought that it would -- based on the situation or circumstance. You know, whether my input would say, yep, I think we can be a value added if this were to happen, or if they were to say I think we can be a better value added by doing it a certain way. But again, I would have to have all that in place before I could make a recommendation to either the secretary of defense or the president on that very thing. But is it something that's in the realm of the possible? Sure it is. But it's a function of, again, all these other factors. And, again, the decision is not mine. But certainly, I could be in a position to provide a recommendation to that. MR. VANDIVER: Now, so we are coming up on two years now, officially activated. GEN. WARD: Three. MR. VANDIVER: Three. GEN. WARD: For first year as a subunified commanded. The last two years as a -- but even as a subunified command, we were beginning to take over some functions and activities. And then as a unified command, full responsibility. MR. VANDIVER: Right. So you have 53 countries, essentially, under your responsibility. What do you think most about? GEN. WARD: Well I'm responsible for the conduct of the DOD activities in those countries. Right. I'm sure those sovereign countries don't think that I'm responsible -- MR. VANDIVER: No, no, absolutely not, absolutely not. GEN. WARD: Right. (Chuckles.) MR. VANDIVER: Absolutely not. But in that context, DOD activities in all of these countries, what do you think most about? What takes up most of your thoughts? GEN. WARD: Obviously, we don't have activities in each of those countries. But again, our military activities are a function of our military -- of course, our national policy that applies to each of these countries. And there are certain ones that we -- because of whatever our national policies are, military activity either exists or doesn't exist. So we don't have activities in every 50 -- every one of the 53 nations to be sure. Most of them, to some form. For me, a couple of things that I'm always thinking about, one is stability. Stability on the continent of Africa. And that stability -- we talked about Somalia. I mean, Sudan is coming up here. There's a referendum potential for what goes on there. You know, we just had, two years ago in Kenya, another very significant country, an election that resulted in some very disturbing things that went on with respect to the people of Kenya. But the good news is, last week, a referendum in Kenya for a new constitution that was overwhelming positive. And so for me, it's the threat of instability posed by a couple of substantial locations and what we do there. But as importantly it's the reinforcement of those successful activities that are going on in many other parts of the continent so that, that success can continue to grow and lead to increased stability. And we talked about what's going on in Central Africa, what's going on in West Africa -- with the cooperation going on in West Africa among the states there -- that we want to continue to reinforce. In all of these places, when I have U.S. personnel, I worry about them just as I would -- as any combatant commander would worry about them. And so it's that type of scenario that, to me, I think about all the time. What is it that we can do to help promote stability where there is instability or where there is a fragile stability that we want to just reinforce and make better? I'm always thinking about that. Always thinking about it, but also doing it in a way that tries to take into the account what the Africa partners are doing. We are doing things with our African partnership station, which is our training-at-sea platform that is really, really, really, I think just positive. It's going off in just a fantastic way as, you know, this African partnership station concept is growing in its importance in producing maritime security and stability to these littoral nations both in West Africa but now also spreading throughout to East Africa. The participation of European partners -- beginning with them being ship-riders onboard our U.S. vessels, but now, next year, to include vessels from Europe carrying the APS banner doing this work. That's really, really -- it's significant; that's important. And you get African nations who see this as a good thing for them and want to be more involved, want to be more included in what goes on. So the program continues to expand. You know, I see it in things like Africa Endeavor, which is a communications exercise that just concluded in Ghana. It had grown since my time at EUCOM when it was started with 18 nations now up to 35 nations from all parts of the continent to include, you know, two of its regional organizations. To include the African Union, to include the participation from our European partners as well. I mean, that's huge, that's huge. And it's all because we pay attention, we focus on the continent, we listen to what the Africans tell us and we try to do what we do because it reflects what they want us to do. And therefore, they take ownership of it and they see that in the program. And in so doing, it just adds value to a more secure, stable environment. We have been paying attention what goes in these other parts of the continent where, you know, things are happening. We did an exercise in the Sahel where the threat of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb exists where we conducted an exercise over a part of the continent of Africa that is about size of the continent of the United States. And four different countries with eight African nations represented, two European nations participating, where they come together to work together to try to determine better ways of defeating their common enemy, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. And so how do we reinforce those sorts of things? And in this case Flintlock was -- it was a huge operation. I mean over a thousand -- so I was looking at -- pointing to the NOAA side, too. But that didn't matter. I was able to get what I needed to do that exercise. Just as is in Morocco when we did African Lion with the Moroccans, over 700 Marines participating in African Lion in Morocco, I mean, working with the Moroccans. They are North Africa; you know, just a hugely big deal. Just recently concluded Shared Accord in Mozambique; another five, 600, you know, forces involved, all the logistics movement that is involved in that. They are Mozambique. We are working with them as they prepare to go to a peacekeeping mission: their training, receiving on tactics, techniques, procedures; you know, just huge, huge, huge benefit to the Moroccans as well as to the Mozambicans. But also their ability to do their mission enhanced because of that training, that relationship. And, oh, by the way, through all of that, you know, they see that America, America's young men and women, which is always, I think, what gives us our biggest push because they let you actually see our men and women side by side working with them. And also us learning from them because you asked this point before, about how do we transform this mindset of our young men and women to the mindset that's there? Well it doesn't take long when they get there to see, hey, this is not Iraq; this is not Afghanistan; this is Africa; the partners are willing, they want to be there. What they do matters and so it's a two-way street. You know, we learn from them, they're learning from us. We are getting know one another better. The relationships are being built. And even if next year or two years down that same individual is not the same person that's there, they've been associated with our culture, our way of doing business and it doesn't change even if it's a different person. You know, those relationships are built because of on, you know, what we are and who we are as a people, as institutions, you know, also to a very high degree. So the next time one of these groups either in Mozambique or Morocco or there in the Sahel they work with Americans, they will have a sense of who we are as a people because of what they've experienced in the past. And that's -- you know causes all of us to be able to move forward in some pretty good and productive ways all again towards building or leading towards the more increased stability on the African continent. And when that happens that's in our best interest because then, you know, American lives are probably better protected and American interests are better promoted. And all of that happening because there is also -- Africans to act in their interests as well. So you have a coming together of these interests both on a part of our African partners and friends, our part and also our international partners who participate in these same activities. MR. VANDIVER: I'm curious of your thoughts a little bit. We've been talking a lot about what you guys are doing individually, troops on the ground doing training and all these things. And, I guess, probably young soldiers and Marines are the best representatives for America and they can do this. But another challenge in Africa is getting regional countries to communicate. And I think that's been a little bit of an issue in Northern Africa. And I think they are trying to do this joint command center in Algeria. But you hear mixed results and there are suspicions in the region. So, I mean, what are you guys doing to try and promote other people working together, other nations? GEN. WARD: You know, I talked about Africa Endeavor: 35 nations, all five parts of the continent. Flintlock, you know, brought together eight nations. So in all of that we are promoting multilateralism. We are promoting regionalism. I talked about the fact that you had, you know, two of the continents, sub-regional organizations participating, both the East -- no, no it was the West Africa forces. You know, ECOWAS: the Economic Community of West African States as well as the Central African community of states all participating. We are very cognizant of the importance of regionalism. The Africans want to do that. You know, we've held a series of conferences. This past four months we had there, well, you take our African Land Forces Summit where our Army component brought in, you know, all of the land forces commanders to come together. Many of them, you know, oddly know each other but coming together and work. We conducted a pandemic exercise where you have these nations in the same region coming together to, one, look at a common problem and then look at the capabilities that each of them might have so that if there is a situation in one -- (inaudible) -- another, how could they be mutually supportive of one another? So the notion of the regionalism; we support each of the five nations, correction, five regional economic communities have this goal of a standby force. We are promoting that, you know; they are in East Africa when the East African brigade, now called the East African Standby Force had its exercise. We supported that through equipment; we supported that through training assistance. So, you know, the importance of the regional element of this to us is not lost at all. And we promote it in the things that we do, our activities and our programs. And to the degree that we can cause that to be -- we can facilitate that in its being something that the Africans can participate in a more holistic way or more realistic way then we do that. And so we certainly push the regionalism; it's important. The African Union, I paid attention. I spent time with the African Union in Addis, understanding their goals, their objectives. So what we do, hopefully is supportive of and reinforcing the goals that they have established for themselves both in a continental perspective, but also in a regional perspective. So it's a big deal and our strategy reflects that in the work that we do. MR. VANDIVER: Yeah, last question. Maybe we will finish up then on a personal note. GEN. WARD: Oh yeah, you get two more questions in. MR. VANDIVER: Two more questions? (Laughter.) Curious, curious you've been here for quite some time now. How much longer are we going to have Gen. Ward in Stuttgart commanding AFRICOM? GEN. WARD: I don't know. I've been here for, in Stuttgart now, almost four-and-a-half years. A year-and-a-half at the EUCOM, I was the deputy at EUCOM and now almost three years out here as a commander of AFRICOM. It's great, I love it, but I don't know. It's obviously -- I serve at the pleasure of the president, the secretary of defense and my wife. (Laughter.) And at this point in time all three are supportive of what we're doing and where we're going. But I do know that transitions happen and so at some point in time I will leave this command. But when that is I have no idea. It's not something that's on the horizon, to be sure. MR. VANDIVER: And could you characterize "horizon" then? Not on the horizon being? GEN. WARD: The near horizon. What do you have in mind? MR. VANDIVER: I don't know. I'm just trying to forecast here. Are we talking a year? Another year here or -- GEN. WARD: Well, what I know it won't be is at my three-year mark in October. And nothing being said, so I'm sure nothing, at least, through the end of this year either. So maybe sometime in 2011, but when? No idea. MR. VANDIVER: There was a rumor that you will still be having your Christmas party this year. GEN. WARD: That's probably more than a rumor. (Laughter.) MR. VANDIVER: Very good, very good. All right, General, that's great. GEN. WARD: I'll invite you to it, too. You can come on back down or something. MR. VANDIVER Perfect, there we go. GEN. WARD: That will be my -- our -- that will be our fifth one. MR. VANDIVER: Wow. GEN. WARD: Yeah. It will be our fifth one. MR. VANDIVER: So are you itching to get back to the States? Or are enjoying life here in Germany? GEN. WARD: No. I'm enjoying life here in Germany. But I've been out of the States now for over eight years. MR. VANDIVER: That's a long time. GEN. WARD: Yeah. So it's a long time. So, yeah, we will see how that moves on ahead. You know, I don't rush anything because each day is a great day and I'm thankful for every one of them so I don't rush them along. But whenever it happens I'm sure that will be fine, too. MR. VANDIVER: All right, great. All right, Gen. Ward, thank you very much. GEN. WARD: Okay, buddy. All right, John, thank you. Good to see you, buddy, thank you. MR. VANDIVER I appreciate it. (END)
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