Skip Global Navigation to Main Content
Skip Breadcrumb Navigation
General Ward’s news conference and visit to the African Union

General Ward’s news conference and visit to the African Union

United States Africa Command Public Affairs Office 

Transcript 

News Conference by General William E. Ward

November 8, 2007

African Union Building

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

 

STUTTGART, Germany -- Making his first official trip as commander of United States Africa Command, General William E. "Kip" Ward visited the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 8, 2007.

 

During a 40-minute news conference at the African Union Building, Ward responded to questions about consultations with African nations and his plans for U.S. Africa Command. Topics included:

 

-- The AFRICOM headquarters location and structure – Ward said consultations are ongoing and that the headquarters is a work in progress.

 

-- Concerns about militarizing U.S. foreign policy in Africa – "Absolutely false," Ward replied. "Not the case."

 

-- How AFRICOM will conduct activities and exercises – Ward stressed that military-to-military cooperation activities take place at the request of African governments and organizations. He stressed that creating AFRICOM does not mean there will be an increase in peacekeeping or other military related activities.

 

Before his news conference, Ward met with African Union (AU) Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré, former president of Mali. In a press release from the African Union, Konaré thanked the U.S. commander for seeking to partner with Africa on security issues. Konaré recommended that such partnerships be done with Africa as a collective entity. He also recommended that the operations of Africa Command be carried out in a peaceful manner while taking into account the respect of the African people and the sovereignty of African nations.

 

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT:

 

Press Conference by General William E. Ward

November 8, 2007

African Union Building

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

 

STAFF: So at this time, I'd like to turn it over to the commander of U.S. Africa Command, William E. Ward.

 

GENERAL WARD: It's early afternoon, so good afternoon to all of you. And I thank you for being here today.  And it's a good pleasure for me to be here as the first commander of the United States Africa Command.

 

And I think it's important for you know that it was not by coincidence that my first trip to Africa as the commander of U.S. AFRICOM brings me here to Addis Ababa – which is obviously the home of the African Union.  And I have two goals in coming to the AU headquarters.  I came to explain what U.S. AFRICOM is; our principles; and my vision. And I also came to listen so that I gain a better understanding of the proud traditions of this institution, and what is also means to the peoples of Africa, its nations and its island nations.

 

I've met with many leaders, and during those meetings they have come to know who I am.

 

Over the last few months, many things have been written about U.S. AFRICOM. Until I was confirmed by my Senate, I was forced to be silent on this issue because of the notion that, until I was confirmed by the Senate, I was not in a position to make public statements.

 

Today I am here to talk to you about the command from my perspective. To give you what General Kip Ward sees as his vision for the command, and to explain to you how we will set about continuing the great work that we have already been doing here on the continent and with its island nations.

 

I just completed a very good meeting with AU Commission Chairperson [Alpha Oumar Konaré], where we discussed many of the points I will mention here.

 

I have been given what I call "the opportunity of a lifetime."  I have the distinct privilege to lead an organization that works closely with the military and civilian leaders of Africa and its island nations. 

 

I very much look forward to developing a relationship between the African Union member nations, its regional organizations, and our command, that is built on trust, confidence, and understanding.  Fostering this relationship begins with dialogue.

 

I will work hard to listen and understand.

 

And I believe that this is the right time for U.S. Africa Command.

 

The United States is linked to Africa by history, culture, economics, and a respect for human dignity.  Africa and its island nations comprise a continent full of promise and unlimited potential. 

 

My goal as commander of U.S. AFRICOM is to build an enduring organization – our efforts are committed to sustained and focused engagement that benefits both the citizens of the countries of Africa and the United States.

 

Following my confirmation by the U.S. Senate at the end of September, U.S AFRICOM became what I call a command under construction.  We are constructing this command using what I call some enduring themes:

 

First, we must build the team, assemble our folks and create a command that will allow the Department of Defense, for the first time, to organize all its activities in Africa under one command, allowing one commander -- me -- and my staff to focus entirely on all of the important activities, programs, and exercises we undertake in our military cooperation efforts together here in Africa. 

 

U.S. AFRICOM will be innovative by including personnel from other U.S. government organizations, such as the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and others onto my staff.  Now, while this innovation occurs, it is not unique and it is not totally new.  We in the Department of Defense have over time established what we call joint interagency task forces.  Many times we have established these organizations out of necessity, based on how we have done our work.  U.S. Africa Command has the opportunity to create this efficient type of organization at the outset.

 

The expertise gained from having staff from other U.S. agencies, that have decades of working with you here in Africa, will allow AFRICOM to work smarter. The sum of our efforts as a whole will be greater than the sum of our individual parts.

 

This inclusiveness is an admission on the military's part that we are just one part of a larger effort to advance common African and United States interests.  In many cases military activities should be in supporting roles to the roles of others in bringing stability and development to the continent and its island nations.

 

U.S. AFRICOM will endeavor to bring added value to all of the security cooperation endeavors that we under take at the request of our African friends.  And in so doing, do no harm to the collective and substantial ongoing efforts on the continent today.  We will add value by helping to harmonize U.S. efforts to maximize the effectiveness of our nation's resources that are being dedicated to stability here in Africa.

 

Let me be very clear in stating that the U.S. Department of State will stay in the lead of our nation's foreign policy, as it has [in the past]. The creation of AFRICOM in no way at all changes that.  We will do everything in our power not to disrupt or confuse current and ongoing U.S. government or partner nation efforts on the continent.

 

Our intent is to make as seamless as possible the transfer of activities from the U.S. European Command, the U.S. Central Command and the U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. AFRICOM.  We will accept missions that we see belonging to this command in a very deliberate process.

 

AFRICOM's success and credibility on the continent has been seen in the programs that currently go on, and it will be seen in the future in terms of how it directly contributes to the stability, security, health, and welfare of the nations, the regional institutions, and the peoples of Africa.

 

Again, this is why the dialogue that we want to engage in is so critical and so important.

 

AFRICOM will build partnerships to enable the work of Africans in providing for their own security to be enhanced.

 

It begins with listening and understanding our African partners' definitions of your environment and interests.

 

Now, through sustained communication with you, U.S. AFRICOM seeks to understand your perspective on what is important to you, and to be helpful in us jointly identifying ways and means that address both African and American interests. 

 

Our intent is to build mutual trust, respect, and confidence with our partners on the continent through sustained engagement to increase security capacity that can serve you at home and also be exported across the continent.

 

To be sure, strong bonds of friendship and a common vision for the future are critical to understanding each other's challenges and opportunities. 

 

U.S. AFRICOM will strive to build strong and lasting relationships. We intend to reinforce the good things that are going on.

 

I intend to lead a learning organization that will evolve through sustained interactions with you -- with our African partners.  In my mind's eye, teamwork is a key ingredient to the work of U.S. AFRICOM. 

           

Before closing, I would like to reaffirm that U.S. AFRICOM will sustain the activities that the three commands and our African friends are already conducting together. 

 

We will also look for opportunities to assist you in ways that expand on these efforts and address important regional challenges.

 

Some of the past activities such as medical exercises, known as MEDFLAG and MEDCAP; the communications interoperability exercise Africa Endeavor; disaster preparedness exercises, NATURAL FIRE and GOLDEN SPEAR; capacity building exercises, FLINTLOCK; security sector reform in many locations, including Liberia; work to increase the training capability of African nations destined for peacekeeping missions and operations such as in Rwanda and Uganda; all of those activities that have been conducted in the past will continue, but in more effective ways because now there will be a single command responsible for the military cooperation on the continent, conducting that military security cooperation.

 

U.S. AFRICOM will continue to work closely with the State Department to train African peacekeepers under the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, commonly referred to as ACOTA.

 

We will also look to expand the very successful State Partnership Programs that we have with eight African nations.

 

New United States initiatives such as the upcoming African Partnership Station demonstrate the types of activities U.S. AFRICOM will seek to promote as "forces for good."

 

This maritime initiative will not be a one-time ship visit.  Instead, it will work on and off-shore in the Gulf of Guinea over a period of months to build capacity and long-lasting human relationships.

 

Working with other U.S. agencies, international partners, African partner nations, is an example of the emphasis U.S. AFRICOM will continue to provide in the future.

 

And so, as we go forward as a team, let me reiterate my pledge to you that we are here to support you, to listen. We want to learn from you so that we construct AFRICOM to be complementary to African efforts on the continent.

 

Again, thanks for being here, and I look forward to taking any specific questions you might have about the command.

 

Thanks you very much.

 

QUESTION: Hi. Jason McClure from Bloomberg News. Earlier this year, in rolling out AFRICOM, the Pentagon was quite clear that they wanted to locate the headquarters for AFRICOM on the continent. And since then we have seen a number of countries have expressed the idea that they didn't think this was a good thing. Is it still the case that the U.S. wants to locate the headquarters of AFRICOM here in Africa? And if not, why not?

 

GENERAL WARD: The location of a headquarters serves many purposes. In each instance, the location ought to be determined based on a combination of factors. I said we are a learning organization, and we listen. So, as we continue to evolve our thinking, our thought on – in this particular instance – location, we take into account various factors that will impact that.

 

And so the thinking has evolved. There have been no decisions made. Any decision that is made will only be made in consultation with our friends, our partners. And based on those consultations, we will make a decision as appropriate. A very deliberate process. It will take time as we move ahead. And so at this point in time there has been no reversal of that. But at the same time, understanding all the dynamics associated with it are being investigated and looked at. And once all of that is complete, then we will be able to make a determination with respect to the headquarters and its location.

 

QUESTION: [Inaudible] Reuters … Can you tell us how he accepted the meeting [INAUDIBLE] … How was it accepted? [Inaudible]

 

GENERAL WARD: I'll let the Chairperson tell you how he accepted it. But what I will say is that during the conduct of the discussion, what I expressed to the Chairperson was the value-added that this command will bring to the continent, the peoples of Africa, the African Union itself and its regional economic communities and its organizations. All of those things are things that the Chairperson, that the commissioners, that leaders in Africa continue to value, continue to look forward to, and the creation of Africa Command will only serve to reinforce the delivery of those programs. And in every instance there is anticipation with respect to the increase delivery of those programs to the continent. I won't characterize the reaction. I think that's, again, the question that I think you can pose to the Chairperson. But I will say that when it comes to providing military cooperation and assistance to the African Union, the RECs [Regional Economic Communities], the nations of the continent, there's absolutely no one who does not want that to continue. And they all see that the construct of this command – as opposed to having to deal with three separate commands to bring those same capabilities to bear – that's now being done through a single command, which recognizes that the U.S. Africa Command serves as its single point of contact for these military matters. And for all with whom I've spoken, they see that as a positive thing, a positive development as it pertains to how the Department of Defense has reorganized itself to more effectively deliver security cooperation to the African continent and its island nations.

 

QUESTION: [Inaudible] … I've got a couple of questions … You mentioned that you met some leaders [inaudible] The second thing, I believe that some offices of AFRICOM will be represented in different regions of the continent. Can you mention where?

 

GENERAL WARD: When I mentioned that I met leaders, I was specifically referring to leaders within the African Union. I have met leaders over the continent of Africa in my previous capacity [as Deputy Commander of U.S. European Command] in over 25 African countries. And I would have to go through a list, but leaders in Uganda, in Rwanda, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, North Africa, all over. But on this particular trip, leaders within the AU up to this point.

 

Just as the previous question that pertained to a headquarters, there has been discussion again about how the command might be organized to stay in tune with activities on the continent. One of those concepts does include the notion that portions of the headquarters might be distributed in various places on the continent. But again, there have been no decision taken on any of that. Again, a very deliberate process. I take into account the many factors and variables that would influence it. And until that very deliberate process has occurred, and the associated dialogue and consultations, there have been no decisions.

 

QUESTION: [Inaudible] BBC. Does the setting up of your command reflect an added importance of Africa to the United States at the moment? And if so, in what way?

 

GENERAL WARD: I thank you for that. The setting up of this command reflects the fact that our nation has understood that as the developing democracies on the continent have taken hold, as Africans themselves, through institutions such as the African Union and its Regional Economic Community organizations, have demonstrated a very sincere seriousness to bring stability and development to the continent, the creation of this command likewise represents and increased level of attention and prioritization of our efforts on the continent so that what we do is better coordinated, more cohesive in the delivery of security cooperation, less fragmented insofar as having to deal with multiple headquarters to deal with the delivery of that security cooperation, and reflective of Africa as a continent and its islands as it pertains to our unified command construct that currently has a U.S. European Command, a U.S. Central Command, a U.S. Pacific Command, a U.S. Southern Command. Africa has that same status with the creation of U.S. Africa Command. And I think all of those factors continue to signal the evolving activities that go on in Africa that clearly, in the global economy, in the global environment in which we live today, indicate the importance of this fantastic land and this region of the world.

 

QUESTION: I'm Peter [INAUDIBLE] from Voice of America. Just to ask if you could explain how much more military, U.S. military activity will this mean on the African continent? And to what extent will it lead to militarization of U.S. foreign policy toward Africa?

 

GENERAL WARD: Thanks for that. First, it means absolutely zero with respect to the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, because it does not at all imply that. It does not necessarily imply increased military activity on the continent. What it does imply is that the military activity that was being conducted in the past by three separate commands – sometimes not coordinated as well, sometimes confusing to our partners; do we deal with European Command? Do we deal with Central Command? Do we deal with Pacific Command? – that confusion is taken away. There is clarity of purpose now because there is a very defined line that says: Where it comes to military cooperation efforts, there's a single command responsible for that. Does that mean that there will be more? Not necessarily so. Because, again, what we do, what we have been doing, is the reflection of what our African partners ask of us. We don't come here and just do things because we want to do things. We come here and do things to assist our African partners in increasing their capacity, their capability to provide [a] stable environment here in Africa. This command's creation allows that to occur -- without ambiguity with respect for who is responsible for doing what, when our nation is asked. And again, I would point out that those activities themselves are only done in response to a national policy decision, not made by Ward, not made by Africa Command, but made by our national policymakers -- the president, the Department of State. And so we only execute those policy decisions that have been determined as appropriate as it pertains to our security cooperative engagement activities.

 

So again, any notion of the militarization of the continent as a result of this: Absolutely false. Not the case. 

 

A notion that increased activities will occur, I don't know. It's a reflection of what we are asked to support, then a policy decision being made to support, and then the resources being available to implement. What the creation of Africa Command does in that regard is, that when we are asked and where there is a limit on the resources as opposed to the request of those resources being made by now three separate commands -- and that may not be the primary emphasis for them, given the other parts of the world that they also have activities occurring in -- it now becomes the primary focus for U.S. Africa Command, as it now is able to work side-by-side with those other geographic unified commands.

 

QUESTION: [INAUDIBLE]

 

GENERAL WARD: I'm sorry. Would it be what?

 

QUESTION: [INAUDIBLE] … exercises conducted , will it be [INAUDIBLE] of the need of African countries?

 

GENERAL WARD: Every exercise that we conduct in Africa is conducted based on the objectives, the goals that are mutually set by the partners with whom we're exercising. And so each of those exercises is in fact tailored to the objectives, to the goals of the African partner with whom we deal. And each has a flavor, has a character that's reflective of what's important for the African nation or in the case of some exercises, the African institutions that are part of the exercise scenario, so that it is enhancing their ability to be more capable in providing security and stability, either in their area or as part of an African peacekeeping solution. And so they all have that unique flavor of being cognizant of the goals, the objectives of the nation with whom we partner.

 

Again, I think it can't be overstated that we conduct our various exercises, training activities, they're all done because we've been asked to provide that degree of cooperative engagement with our African partners, and thereby tailoring it. Again, the creation of this command will cause less confusion in that, because of our current situation, those exercises may be being done by three separate commands. And now we have a single command who will look at Africa as Africans look at Africa, and make those ambiguities far less – far less.

 

QUESTION: [INAUDIBLE] My question is regarding to how you operate … [INAUDIBLE] Do you divide your presence based on a billets[?] committee, because we have a quota of some sorts [INAUDIBLE]. And … will you be meeting with other heads of states? [INAUDIBLE]

 

GENERAL WARD: Thanks for that. I have no quota. The limiting factors are essentially two. One, who is requesting assistance. And secondly, our ability to provide that assistance based on a policy decision that's taken to support or not to support.

 

The work that we do with the nations of AFRICA is in support of their role in many ways, but one very significant way is in their role as members of their regional organizations as well as the continental organization. And so, as we go forward and do the sorts of things that we are asked to do, there are clearly three levels of interaction that we pay attention to: obviously at the African Union level, at the regional level, and to be sure at the individual level.

 

Regional organizations gain their strength from their members, their member states. And so when the AU or any other regional economic standby organization or force is asked to do something, well, it does it through its member nations. And so we do work with member nations to divine programs for training and assistance that meet their needs as they work towards accomplishing the goals that they have set for themselves in a collective environment through their regional organizations. But we do work at all levels so that as we put those programs together, it takes into account those various perspectives. We do that.

 

I won't go into my very detailed itinerary here and afterward. But I will say that part of my personal engagement plan is to get out and talk to and to meet heads of state, chiefs of defense, prime ministers, parliamentarians, so that there is no misunderstanding about what it is the command is about. You know, the questions of militarization, the questions of taking over foreign policy, the questions of becoming the main and primary deliverer of humanitarian assistance. Not the case.

 

And so, as I go about defining that to various heads of state, they appreciate it. I always make a case, when I visit a nation, to if possible pay a courtesy call on heads of state to, if nothing else, thank them for allowing me to visit their country. As I've said, I'm here in Addis with the primary purpose of meeting with the African Union to lay out my vision for the creation of U.S. Africa Command.

 

STAFF: We have time for one more question.

 

QUESTION: That's too bad, because I have two. [INAUDIBLE] AP. Number one, [INAUDIBLE] U.S. military involvement in African peacekeeping missions, and will you establish an office here at the AU. Number two, what do you see as the biggest threat to peace and security on this continent? And how do intend to address that?

 

GENERAL WARD: That's a good question. Our involvement in peacekeeping missions, again, is not the direct reflection of having created Africa Command. Our involvement in peacekeeping operations and missions is the reflection of a U.S. policy decision having been made to get involved in that. Africa Command doesn't portend more or less of that. Africa Command says that when that decision is made, our ability to deliver it will be more effective and better coordinated.

 

The role that we play in peace and stability reflects what I just indicated here. And I think it is a stretch if there's an assumption or presumption made that there is an automatic infusion or increase of additional forces or personnel. Not the case. The notion that we will establish military bases and garrison large numbers of troops, it's just not true. That is not the purpose, not the design. Nor is it the intention for what we have done with this command.

 

There already have been occasions where forces come to the continent, assist in training, and then we leave. Might there be more of that? Potentially. But again, it would only be a reflection of a policy having been made, and then resources available to come in and implement that policy as we were asked to do. So I don't necessarily at all attribute the creation of the command to an automatic assumption that they'll be more of anything. In fact, what it could do is provide an opportunity to be able to do the things that we are asked to do in a more effective way.

 

Again, the goal is to assist Africans in their stated goal – in your stated goal of providing for your own security. But with the help of others where that help can be provided. And what U.S. Africa Command will do, as it has been doing in the past through three separate commands, to make that effort more effective by consolidating that role under a single unified command that's focused on Africa and not dealing with Africa as part of its other duties and activities in other parts of the world.

 

He said one more question, but we'll give you another one.

 

QUESTION: [INAUDIBLE]

 

GENERAL WARD: I don't know if you can nail it down to a single biggest threat. I mean, there are threats on the continent. There are threats that deal with poverty. There are threats that deal with terrorism. There are threats that deal with illegal activities of all sorts – illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons, people. There are threats associated with uncontrolled borders, where the inability of a nation, a sovereign nation, to control its borders is a factor. There are threats to the economic advancement, where you have illegal fishing going on, where nations cannot take their richness and use it for its development and for the prosperity of its people. There are institutions that are fragile, that are young, that need time to mature. And there are active influences that would come in and destabilize those. There are many, many threats to this. But we know that if there are capable security structures that have as their core focus the protection of their people, then that goes a long way into helping development to occur that will lead to economic advancement, thus reducing the potential for that instability. So that's out there. And probably many of those are well known by the leaders of the nations of Africa and its island nations as well.

 

QUESTION: General, what will be the relationship between [INAUDIBLE]

 

GENERAL WARD: It's a great question. But again, I don't make those decisions. Those decisions are made at our national level. Those decisions are made by the secretary of state, the president, our Congress. Those decisions are made, and where there is a military assistance component to that decision, then we are directed to do things. And so again, the relationship, it's kind of hypothetical. It doesn't exist. And if and when it does exist, it will exist because there's been a policy decision made. But again, I can't answer that question because I don't make those decisions. So that's the point that I think is important to hear. That's a decision made at the national level, at the policy level. You know, Kip Ward doesn't go around making policy decisions. And neither does Africa Command.

 

One more, and this will really be the last one, I guess.

 

QUESTION: [INAUDIBLE] … if so, how do you visit or convince a country that's so hostile?

 

GENERAL WARD: I visit countries where we have military-to-military relationships. Because that's my lane. I provide and deliver military assistance. So when I have a reason to visit a nation, because we have a relationship that's mutual, that the policy decision says we want to work in a cooperative way together, I go and visit. Absent that, I have plenty of others that want to see me, and my schedule's always full.

 

So thanks very much for that.

 

END OF NEWS CONFERENCE.