Arlington, Virginia — At a Senior Leaders Seminar in Arlington, Virginia, June 26, 2012, General Ham spoke of the existing and emerging threats from extremist organizations and discussed U.S. military activity and engagements across Africa.
Ham also touched upon the recently released U.S. defense strategic guidelines, explaining that though the guidance focuses primarily in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, African security issues are still a priority to "protect America, Americans, and American interests."
He stated, "When you read the document, you will find that the word Africa appears precisely once -- one time. And so some question that to say, well, does that mean that the United States military does not really think very seriously or is not very committed to African security matters? And my response to that is no, our view actually is quite different."
Countering violent extremist organizations, transnational threats, illicit trafficking, countering piracy, and building partner capacity, were among the areas Ham discussed as priorities for U.S. Africa Command.
The seminar, hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), brought together approximately 70 senior-level military officers, civilian security experts, and other government officials from 40 African countries, the United States, and Europe, as well as representatives from international and regional organizations, to review and analyze the evolving African security environment and to discuss strategies for addressing challenges and enhancing Africa's security.
The complete transcript is included below. See also: AFRICOM Commander Details Current, Emerging Threats and Security Leaders Briefed on New U.S. Africa Strategy at Africa Center Seminar. The video is available on the ACSS website.
WILLIAM M. BELLAMY: Well, good morning, everyone, and welcome to the second week of a senior leader seminar. I hope that you all were able to take advantage of the reasonably good weather and discover a little bit of our nation's capital over the weekend.
It's my great pleasure this morning to introduce our speaker at this special plenary session. General Carter Ham, in the course of his military career, has held many key staff and command positions. He was the commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe in late 2010, when President Obama named him to be the next commander of the United States Africa Command. And General Ham took the position -- took up his position as AFRICOM commander on March 9th, 2011. He is the second commander of this new regional command, U.S. Africa Command.
Over the past 15 months, General Ham has led this new command as it has continued to evolve and reshape its mission in Africa as the security challenges evolve and change on the African continent. He is frequently on the road in Africa overseeing exercises, training activities and operations; or meeting with senior civilian leaders, with military counterparts, with the media and with the general public. So I feel very -- we are very lucky and very grateful that he has consented or agreed to be captured today to come and speak to us at this special plenary session.
The rules -- the ground rules I think are familiar to all of you. General Ham will talk to us for -- I think he said about 30 minutes -- General Ham -- or thereabouts. And in any event, General Ham wants to be sure to leave ample time for questions and for discussion following his presentation. So after his remarks, we will then ask the press to exit and then move into the not-for-attribution portion of the program that is the questions and answers under the Chatham House rules.
So please join me in welcoming today our very special guest, General Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command. (Applause.)
GENERAL CARTER F. HAM: Well, thank you very much, Ambassador Bellamy. It's a good day to be back in Washington, though I have to tell you, I prefer days in Africa to days in Washington, DC. I do have to come back here, though, because I have a granddaughter who lives in Washington, DC. She's about one and a half years old, so she and I had dinner last night. And that's a nice thing for a grandfather to be able to do.
First of all, let me thank the Africa Center for Strategic Studies for organizing this seminar. Ambassador Bellamy, under your leadership and with a great staff that is at the center have collected not only a great group of partners and participants, but also have crafted a very meaningful and productive agenda for this conference. And I know you have had a very, very successful first week.
There is some danger in being the first speaker of the second week, because you've had now the opportunity to hear from some -- a number of distinguished speakers and panelists. You have had time to develop your thoughts and your questions. And so I am expecting that you -- that we'll have a very substantive dialogue when we get into the question-and-answer portion of this. But I very much look forward to that and will preserve time for those questions and hopefully some worthwhile answers.
I also know that last week you had the opportunity to meet with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Amanda Dory and with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson. And I know the two of them spoke at length about the newly published presidential policy directive for Sub-Saharan Africa, a very, very important and meaningful document which will guide my government's actions in Africa for many years to come.
Now, because you have had that opportunity to discuss the presidential policy directive with them, with your permission I won't spend a lot of time talking about that particular document but would rather choose to focus more specifically on the U.S. military activities and engagement and our roles across Africa. So we'll seek to do that.
And in doing so, I'll refer to yet another document, a document that was released in January of this year, January 2012. And it's called the strategic guidance for the 21st century. It was a document approved by President Obama, developed by Secretary of Defense Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey, that outlines the global defense strategic guidance which will guide the U.S. military well into the future. The specific purpose of that document was to frame the critical tasks that the United States military will be called upon to accomplish over the next several years. It's an interesting document to read, and I would recommend it to you.
I got asked a lot of questions as that document was released. And I should be -- just to be very open and truthful with you, those of us who are -- serve as, as the United States calls us, combatant commanders addressing the six different regions of the globe but also our service chiefs of staff -- we all had plenty of opportunity to inject our thoughts and our ideas. And we were very much participants in the process that developed that document.
So why did I get asked a lot of questions? Well, when you read the document, you will find that the word Africa appears precisely once -- one time. And so some question that to say is well, does that mean that the United States military does not really think very seriously or is not very committed to African security matters? And my response to that is no, our view actually is quite different.
It is true that from a regional standpoint the emphasis for the United States military is in the Pacific and in the Middle East. But when you look at the list of tasks that are assigned to the Department of Defense, the tasks which my nation expects our military to accomplish, you will find some very consistent and very relevant priorities for those of us who operate with our African partners.
These include: countering violent extremist organizations; transnational threats; illicit trafficking; countering piracy; the phrase we use, building partner capacity -- I think it's better to say enabling the capacity of other states to be able to provide not only for their own security but to contribute more effectively to regional security as well; developing nations' capabilities to deal with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief materials; and contributing to regional security. All of those tasks are outlined in this document. And all of those tasks are the tasks that United States AFRICOM focuses on with you.
So with that, rather than talk about the presidential policy directive, let me talk about three broad areas and then look forward to your questions. The first is -- I think you've had plenty of discussion of why does the United States -- from a policy standpoint, why does the United States seek to be engaged in Africa? And these obviously range from political, diplomatic and economic matters as well. But we'll focus in a little bit more on the security aspects of that, which is what falls into AFRICOM's area of operation. So that'll be the first thing: Why is it -- what are the activities that we're engaged in and why?
Secondly, I think importantly, a brief discussion of what can we do for you? What do we offer to you that may be of assistance? And how do you access that? How do you -- if there is something that you would like some American help with in the military realm, how do you do that? And then thirdly, if you'll allow me to address some of these persistent ideas that one often reads or hears about it in the media about perceptions of Africa Command on the continent. And so we'll talk about those things as well. So with your permission, those three topics are what I'll focus on.
Let me start first with the activities that we're currently engaged in across the continent and why those are important to us and why the U.S. military is engaging. If I may speak initially as others have spoken with you about this -- fundamental to our efforts, our -- like all nations, the absolute imperative for the United States military to protect America, Americans and American interests; in our case, in my case, protect us from threats that may emerge from the African continent.
So that is, I think, the primary mission of all militaries, not just the -- not just America. But that's why militaries exist -- they protect our homeland, protect our citizens, protect our interests, and again, in my case, from threats that may emerge from the continent of Africa.
So what are some of those threats? Many of them you're quite familiar with. I will start in East Africa, where we see clearly and regularly the threat of al-Qaeda in East Africa and of its affiliated organization, al-Shabaab, which operates principally but not exclusively in Somalia. Why do we care about that? Well, al-Qaeda is a global enterprise. We know it has -- (inaudible) -- the undermining, in many cases, of legitimate governments and authorities. We know that they have espoused a viewpoint of violent and extremist views of imposition of their particular way of governing.
We also know that because, in Somalia especially, al-Shabaab's presence has denied the delivery of United Nations and other international organizations and nongovernmental organizations -- delivery of humanitarian assistance to a population that has been under some significant duress for a long period of time.
So in the case of al-Shabaab, I think we have a couple of different motivations. One is we think they very clearly do present, as an al-Qaeda affiliate, they clearly present a threat to America and Americans. Thirdly -- or secondly, they deny the assistance to Somali people who need it quite desperately. And thirdly, al-Shabaab very much undermines the efforts of the Transitional Federal Government to establish legitimate control throughout Somalia. So that, I think, is one of the areas that we're engaged in.
Many of you know what our engagement is. And it is principally training and equipping and funding African Union Mission in Somalia forces from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, now Sierra Leone and Kenya. Ethiopia, while not specifically a part of AMISOM, has been quite effective in its role as well. And we think that's an ideal role for the United States. Not large U.S. military presence -- we think that would be counterproductive, actually, in Somalia -- but rather applying the resources that we do have to help those countries who are willing to contribute to this effort -- to help them with training and equipping and with some funding so that they can continue their operations.
And I think that's a pretty good model for us. And in fact, it is the model when I talk with secretary of defense, with other members of our government, about when we say building partner capacity or enabling our partners' capacity, what does that look like? The African Union Mission in Somalia, to me, is a pretty good model of what a specific and precise application of U.S. assistance can mean as we look at the future.
But al-Shabaab is not the only violent, extremist organization in Africa that we're concerned about. We're increasingly concerned about al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM or Akmee (ph), as many of you deal with this. And I think this is an organization of growing concern that now has Ã? as a result of the military coup in Bamako, AQIM now has essentially safe haven in a large portion of Mali and are operating essentially unconstrained.
And we have seen through media reporting, just as you have, in many cases a very harsh imposition of Shariah law throughout much of northern Mali. And again, I think AQIM is a threat because of their very clearly identified threat to -- not only to the countries in the region and their efforts to undermine legitimate government control, but very clearly a desire and intent to attack Americans as well. So that becomes a real problem.
Just to the south of that, we see the increasingly violent organization Boko Haram operating in Nigeria. Boko Haram, as many of you know, is a -- not a new organization. It's been around for a long time. And it's not a monolithic organization. There isn't -- you know, there -- everybody in Boko Haram doesn't feel the same way. It has many different factions. But of concern is the growing strength and growing violent behavior of what I would call the more extremist view of Boko Haram. And we've seen results of that to include just over the past few days, where numbers of innocent civilians have been targeted and killed.
As I talk about those three organizations -- al-Shabaab in the east, al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram -- each of those three organizations is by itself a dangerous and worrisome threat. What really concerns me are the indications that the three organizations are seeking to coordinate and synchronize their efforts; in other words, to establish a cooperative effort amongst the three most violent organizations. And I think that's a real problem for us and for African security in general.
Most notably, I would say that the linkages between al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram are probably the most worrisome in terms of the indications we have that they are likely sharing funds, training and explosive materials, which can be quite dangerous.
But even as dangerous as those three are, they're not the only ones that we -- the only threats that we deal with. There is a real concern in Libya. As Libya is coming out of the revolution and forming its new government, there very clearly are those who wish to undermine the formation of that government. And again, we see some worrying indicators that al-Qaeda and others are seeking to establish a presence in Libya.
Libya has a real challenge of many militia who fought very bravely and effectively during the revolution. But now how do you bring those disparate organizations under some degree of central government control? How do you use those organizations to the benefit of the people? How do you transform some of them into border police, into national police, into maritime police and other areas of government where they can continue to be valuable contributors to overall Libyan security?
From our standpoint, we're seeking to establish what I would term a normalized military-to-military relationship with Libya. We have now a defense attache -- and have had for the period of the immediate post-revolution period. I've been to Tripoli a number of times. We've had Libyan officials visit us in our headquarters in Germany, where we have started to map out what the U.S. assistance might be for Libya well into the future. And again, I think this is an area where some U.S. assistance, not U.S. necessarily -- certainly not a large military presence -- probably -- (inaudible) -- military presence other than the attache and the Office of Security Cooperation. But a genuine partnership is what we seek with Libya as well.
Last fall, many of you saw the news reporting about the deployment of about a hundred special operating forces advisers to help four African nations in their efforts to counter Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army. Our partnership with Uganda, the Republic of South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as those four nations work together to bring Joseph Kony and his organization to justice Ã? we think we have a small, again, enabling role in helping those nations.
I should be clear about this. Again, this is an African-led effort -- it is those four countries. It is the African Union now increasingly taking a leadership role, with a little bit of support from the United States military. And again, we think that's the right approach. It's not the right approach to have Americans out trying to track down Joseph Kony throughout the vast area in which the Lord's Resistance Army operates. The forces of the four African countries involved are much better able to do that.
But we can help in terms of logistics, of some information and intelligence sharing, of communications and a little bit of mobility. And I think that's the best way, again, for us to provide what I would term unique U.S military capabilities to assist our African partners as they seek to counter this very, very real threat in that part of the continent.
Other threats are present. We have a very robust maritime security program, and it focuses, again, around the continent. We have efforts in partnership with individual African states, but also with regional organizations, to counter the threats posed by piracy, both in East Africa and in the Gulf of Guinea. The amount of global trade that transits African waters is pretty extraordinary. And the interruption of that trade by pirates, the demanding of ransom, the increased cost to the shipping companies and to others is quite substantial. And you know, consumers globally pay the price for that. We have seen indications where pirates have either attacked or pirated or impeded the movement of World Food Program and other deliveries of humanitarian assistance, specifically, into Somalia and to other areas, which we think is obviously contrary to any of our international efforts to get assistance to those who are very much in need.
But our military assistance also addresses more mundane or law enforcement issues. And many African navies and coast guards are committed to countering illicit trafficking. We seek to partner with our African friends in the same way, in helping build capacity -- what we call maritime domain awareness and understanding where these illicit trafficking or illicit activities are occurring, ranging from narcotics that come from South America into West Africa in an onward movement to markets in -- particularly in Europe, where the consumers are.
We deal with our African partners on countering illicit fishing, which is a major source of income for many African countries, and also weapons and human smuggling as well.
So all of those threats that we Ã? that we deal with, ranging from a very significant military threat and specific threats to American interest to more routine matters of maritime and air security, are areas that U.S. Africa Command seeks to partner with our African -- African nations as we move forward. And some of those areas that I've addressed that cause us to be keenly interested in Africa.
The second point, then, is so how does that help you? And more importantly, how do you access any help that you might need? Well, I would say we start with a principle that was espoused by President Obama in Accra, 2009. And you've heard this statement before. Where my president made it a policy of the United States that in the long run, it is the Africans who are best able to address African security challenges. The shorthand for that is "African solutions to African challenges." That's a fundamental guiding principle for us. I understand and those of us at Africa Command understand that we do not have the same depth of understanding of the security challenges that you face that you do. So for me to come to you and say, this is how you should solve this problem or this is how you should address this threat, I think, is not the right way to proceed. You have the better understanding.
Rather, what I would like to do is to say, we have some capabilities; if you think those capabilities may be useful to you, then let's have a discussion about how U.S. military capabilities may be useful to you as you address the concerns that you have, either on a bilateral basis, nation to nation, or increasingly on a regional basis, because the threats that we face together, the threats that emanate from Africa, typically are regional or transnational threats. And I think that necessitates a regional or transnational approach. But it's got to be your approach. It can't be my approach. I can help, but I can only help in ways that you would like to be helped, and so that's what we try to do.
So what are some of these capabilities that we have -- well, we do -- as I mentioned with the African Union mission in Somalia, we have a capability of partnering with our Department of State to provide specific military skills training, whether that's peacekeeping, whether that's peace enforcement, whether that's preparing for an operational deployment such as in Somalia. But we have the capability to do that, again, in partnership with our Department of State. Over the past several years, that program has trained about 200,000 peacekeepers and other deployers from 25 different African nations. So we have a pretty good track record, and we know how to do this. So that's one area where we can partner with you.
We have some medical, dental and veterinary capabilities that we can -- (inaudible). These fall into a number of different capabilities. One is a specific and direct partnership with the medical, veterinary and dental capabilities of your militaries, but another is, more broadly, a humanitarian assistance program or a civic works program to partner with your medical, dental, veterinary capabilities to go work to the benefit of the local populace. And some of those programs have been quite beneficial as well.
We have a unique program with the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we have piloted a program where an infantry battalion of the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo is trained on some agricultural programs so that they can sustain themselves. What we have seen, what you have seen -- in many cases, for African military forces to operate some area away from their normal base of operation, they become wholly dependent upon the local populace to sustain themselves, and sometimes that is not very welcome. But we've partnered with the Democratic Republic of Congo to find a way where perhaps the military forces can sustain themselves. They do this through crops, through livestock, through fish ponds, that they are able to feed themselves and therefore not place a burden on the neighborhood, the communities where they find themselves operating -- so a number of capabilities there.
In the maritime domain, we have a couple of programs. The African Maritime Law Enforcement program -- those of you who know us, we always have to have an acronym, so AMLEP -- is a program that is specifically designed to help create and enhance the maritime capability of African partners. It's a cooperative effort with the Department of Defense -- us -- with the United States Coast Guard, with our Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security. So it really is a whole-of-government approach to help make -- inaudible -- with maritime law enforcement, where they had some particular successful efforts in West Africa in that area.
The threat of mines is real in many places in Africa, and we have the capability to organize humanitarian mine awareness programs in parts of Africa, again, if it's something that you're interested in.
Even though we are, the United States is, and many of you are in a period of some significant financial constraint, we still do offer foreign military financing and what we call International Military Education and Training. That program, IMET for short, is, I think, one of the most important programs that we work with in partnership with you. It is through this program that leaders from your countries are able to participate in U.S. training programs. Some of them are short-duration, a couple of weeks. Some of them are as much as a year long at our staff colleges and war colleges. We also have -- a number of African nations have young cadets at our military academies.
And I think this focus on leader development is perhaps one of the most important areas in which we can work together. This is not a one-way relationship. When an officer from your country participates in a U.S. training program, this is beneficial to all. It is my hope and my expectation that your officer gains some insight, some understanding into how we operate, who we are and how we do business. And I think there is benefit to that. And I also know that your officers participating and training in the United States come to us as -- really as ambassadors. For many American officers, that opportunity to interact with an African officer in a training program may be the only opportunity that they will have to meet an officer from your country. So I think there's great value and great benefit in this International Military Education and Training program and would ask you to think about that and help us find ways to strengthen that partnership.
Now, let me talk about -- since the -- a couple of the programs that we can do. Let me do a little bit of expectation management. We are nothing if not a very large bureaucracy. We can do a lot of things very well, but we don't do things very well quickly. (Laughter.) So if you would like assistance in any one of those programs that I just discussed or any other program that is of interest to you, the most important ingredient to us is time. Many of our programs, many of our assistance efforts are regulated by U.S. laws and policies, which require a fair amount of collaboration and coordination, in many cases, requires consultation with members of our Congress, sometimes necessitates a specific ruling by the Congress in order to execute a particular program. So speed is not our strength. So if you can give us time and if you can give us prioritization of what are the most important things that you would like us to help with, then I think we can find mutually agreeable solutions on the way ahead.
But it all begins with your request. We don't know -- I don't know what it is that you need most. And it would be wrong for me to come to you and say, you should do this or you should do that. Again, what I think our responsibility is, through our attaches, through our offices of security cooperation, certainly through our ambassadors -- to make sure that you know the menu, you know the array of capabilities that might be available to you and then for you to consider those and say, this one, I think, might work; could you help us with this; this one is not of any interest to us for whatever reasons -- it's either too costly or too time-consuming, or may not just be -- may just not be a capability that you're interested in. But the conversation has to begin partner to partner, with mutual trust and respect. And if we do that, I think we will continue to develop and grow this relationship.
The third topic I'd like to talk about very briefly are some of these persistent reports that we tend to see that I think in some ways mischaracterize United States Africa Command and our mission. As some of you have -- you've seen this in the reporting over the past few months. It shows up in international publications and sometimes on the TV, sometimes in blogs, the Internet; it's alive with a number of these issues. So let me take out a couple of these, and perhaps we can go into further discussion during the question-and-answer.
Let me answer, first of all, the question of where the United States Africa Command headquarters is and where will it be. We are in Stuttgart, Germany. Many of you know the history of that. The United States European Command until 2008 had responsibility for both Europe and Africa. That headquarters, European Command, is in Stuttgart. When the decision by the U.S. was to stand -- to establish a separate command to focus on Africa security matters. It made sense to keep the headquarters in the same place because it was the same people, just divided a bit.
So we are in Stuttgart. Though there was some very early discussion about the possibility of establishing the headquarters in Africa, General Ward addressed that as early as 2008, 2009, to say that's not -- again, not the right thing to do. A large, permanent military presence in the continent of Africa, I think, is not what any of us desired. And the reality is in this period, again, of fiscal constraint, simply the cost of establishing a new headquarters would be extremely high and not a cost, I think, that I could recommend or would recommend to the secretary of defense. So we are in Germany. We're well-served there. It's a good platform from us to operate. We're generally in the same time zones as most African countries. We have ready access to commercial airports that allow our staff to travel to you and for you to travel to us. And we find that to be a good place for us to operate.
But we do have presence in Africa, as many of you know. The largest presence is in Djibouti, where we have a headquarters in an organization with the consent and support of the Djiboutian government, and we have -- the numbers vary, but about 2,000 U.S. military personnel who operate at the base in Djibouti. It's a strategically important location for us. It supports not only U.S. AFRICOM, but also the United States Central Command, which has responsibility for the Mideast and the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden the Indian Ocean responsibilities. It's an important node for our Transportation Command as well as they conduct business globally and through that area. So we have a very good and very meaningful and workable arrangement with Djibouti, and we do have a significant presence there that I think will probably stay for the foreseeable future. That allows us to have military personnel who have access -- ready access to the training missions, particularly in East Africa, and partnering activities with many of our East African partners as well.
Other than Djibouti -- (inaudible) -- really only small, temporary presence of U.S. military personnel, other than the attaches and the offices of security cooperation, which are resident inside the U.S. embassies. So I already mentioned that we have about a hundred special operating forces that are supporting the foreign nations in the counter-Lord's Resistance Army effort that is a temporary deployment. I don't know exactly when that mission will end. I'm very confident of how it will end; it will end with an African force bringing Joseph Kony to justice. My crystal ball isn't clear enough to say exactly when that's going to happen, but I'm confident that it will happen.
Tomorrow you will hear from Minister Samukai from Liberia, and he'll talk with you about, again, another temporary deployment of U.S. military personnel who are helping the Armed Forces of Liberia grow in capacity and become an independent operating force.
And then we will temporarily have personnel in many other places throughout Africa. For example, this week there's a large communications exercise occurring in Cameroon, so we'll have about a hundred or so U.S. military persons there, along with the representatives from -- I think this year -- I think 37 or 38 African nations participating in that exercise. And we'll periodically have regional exercises Ã? a few months ago, a large military exercise in Morocco that had about 2,000 or so U.S. military personnel there for a few weeks for a training exercise, and we do that periodically throughout the year. But we are not seeking, other than Djibouti, any long-term U.S. military presence on the continent.
The last issue that I would talk about is that there's -- some have speculated that the U.S. military is establishing, for lack of a better term, spy locations around the -- you know, around the continent. First of all, I would say that we obviously don't deploy military forces anywhere in Africa without the consent of the host nation. So if we perceive there is a need for or a desire for a military -- U.S. military presence, it's a dialogue with the host nation government to make sure that they're in agreement, that we operate under their rules. So occasionally we do in fact have deployments, the short-term deployments of capabilities throughout the continent of Africa.
So an example: Again, on the issue of countering the Lord's Resistance Army, I have some intelligence collection capability that has the ability to monitor the areas in which we believe the Lord's Resistance Army is operating and to be able to see, to be able to listen, to be able to collect information, which we then pass to the foreign nations or African nations, which are participating. I think it's a good way ahead. So, you know, do we collect information across Africa? Yes, we do. But we do that with the consent of -- first of all, with our ambassador, and secondly, with the consent of the nations that are involved.
So with that, I'll just -- let me just pause there and hope I've given you a little bit of insight into the areas that we are interested in from a military and security standpoint; a little bit about how you can access the assistance that we can offer, if you're interested in having that type of a dialogue; and thirdly, to address a couple of the persistent reports that arise every now and then about U.S. military presence in Africa.
Thank you very much for your attention. Thank you very much for joining us -- (inaudible).