21 November 2012

Africa: Transcript - General Ham's Interview At the Chatham House, London


London — In an interview at the Chatham House, London, the United Kingdom, with members of various organizations November 16, 2012, General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, answers questions on protecting U.S. Interests and supporting African Capacity.

Of the various issues discussed are the current situation in Mali and the U.S. effort to help capture Joseph Kony. Ham said the effort to capture the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army continues, and he had no doubt that it will be successful.

"Kony's - if we knew where Kony was, if we had evidence of his location, I'm confident the Africans would go get him," Ham said. "There are lots of rumors of where he is and where he isn't. And that's why this effort continues. I'm confident it will ultimately be successful because it is Africa Union led and supported by particularly four other nations. And I'm convinced the effort against Kony will ultimately be successful."

The complete transcript is provided below

ALEX VINES: General, thank you very much.

GENERAL CARTER F. HAM: OK, thank you. Thanks, Alex.

MR. VINES: Please, if you'd like to sit down, then we can take questions.

OK, we have reasonable time. So are we having a microphone? Yeah - (inaudible) - coming. So let's start with the gentleman with the scarf. Please tell us who you are.

Q: Thank you. Richard Reeve (sp); I'm an independent consultant. Going back a few years to 2004, U.S. involved in the Sahel back then with the Pan Sahel Initiative. Of the four militaries that the U.S. partnered with back then, all four of them have overthrown or tried very hard to overthrow the civilian governments. What have you learned about partnership with African militaries since then?

GEN. HAM: One of the things I think we've learned is that it's not sufficient to focus exclusively on tactical activities. We're very, very good in training, tactical and technical matters. We have a lot of recent operational experience in our force, so we're very, very good about that. We've got to spend more attention at the senior-leader levels to talk more about the real role of militaries in free societies. And so what we - to - what we try to help African militaries build are security forces that are not only technically and tactically capable but that are also responsibly subordinate to legitimate civilian authority, that operate under the rule of law, are respectful of human rights and see themselves as servants of the population.

That's real easy to say; that's really hard to do. But I think that those have to be goals to which we strive. And I think, at least for those senior leaders with whom I interact, they understand that and will work in partnership to try to achieve those goals. But we won't always be successful, but we have to keep those goals in mind as we move forward.

MR. VINES: Thank you. Let's get another question - gentleman here.

Q: Good afternoon, General. Just - I'm going to ask your first Mali question, so I hope I win a prize.

MR. VINES: Could you tell us who you are?

Q: My name's - (name inaudible) - I'm a member of Chatham House. Just a few weeks ago, the undersecretary of state, Dr. Brigety, was here, and he was asked about Mali, about the post-conflict phase. And he stated that, as he knows, there is no plan for the post-conflict phase in Mali. So I'm just wondering, at this stage in military development - after, you know, the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia - you know, is it really feasible that the U.S. is going to go into an operation like this without having thought about the post-conflict stabilizations phase of the operation?

And just leading on from that, looking further into the Mali issue, a lot of the commanders and a lot of the towns that, you know, have been taken over by the insurgents are smuggling hot spots. And lots of the commanders are smuggling leaders or - (inaudible) - criminal leaders. So how much of the criminal - you know, that whole criminal investigation side of it is part of - part of your plan, and how much of it is going to be purely kinetic and purely military? Thank you.

GEN. HAM: Well, first of all, I would never contradict Reuben Brigety. (Laughter.) He's a good friend and very, very knowledgeable, and he's a much better dresser than I am. (Laughter.) I suspect he was here with bow tie and complete - before I answer your specific question, let me answer - let me - just make a brief comment. This is not a U.S. plan. It must not be a U.S. plan. This effort must be, in reality and in perception, an African-led plan.

And that's exactly what is being developed. Under direction from the ECOWAS heads of state, the ECOWAS planners met in Bamako to develop the plan that is called for by the Security Council resolution and called for by the ECOWAS heads of state. The United States and others did, in fact, have planners there in an advisory capacity at the request of ECOWAS as we move forward. But there should be no mistake: This is an - and must be - an African-led plan.

To that end, I think the plan that has been developed has a sound framework. I do believe, in my military judgment, that there are areas of the plan that require further attention. I think there is necessity to further define the logistics requirements. How do you sustain a force for an extended period of time over long distances in relatively harsh terrain, and a multinational force at that? I think the discussion of the nonmilitary aspects of the campaign need further explanation and addressing in the plan.

But I'm also confident that that will happen. I think, again, the base plan, to me, is sound. It's workable. It needs some attention. I think now that, as the - in 10 days or so, as ECOWAS delivers the plan to the United Nations Security Council for consideration, these kinds of issues will be addressed, as will the types of support that may be necessary from the international community. So I think that will play itself out in the coming - in the coming weeks.

I think you are right to identify the presence of illicit networks, illegal trafficking in persons, in drugs, in weapons, financing. This is - this is certainly present in the same region. And the networks upon which that illicit trafficking is conducted are the same networks that support the terrorist organizations that are operating in northern Mali. One of the efforts that I think is important in an overall campaign plan, not just military, are to find opportunities to separate out the criminal aspects, to separate out the politically motivated entities and focus specifically on the terrorist presence and deal with criminal, deal with political in different ways.

MR. VINES: Thank you. It's quiet - that side of the room is really quiet. The gentleman there with the pen - you, sir. No, no, behind - no, no, TG (sp), behind. Next - there.

Q: Hi. Amar Outar (sp) Maseur (sp) Newspaper, South Sudan. I would like to ask about Joseph Kony and Mr. Bashir in Sudan. Do you think Mr. Bashir in Sudan is more dangerous than Joseph Kony because he help Joseph Kony himself to hiding in the border between Sudan and - between South Sudan and Darfur? And also he's - Mr. Bashir - he's sent weapon to many country - to Somalia and to another country. Why United States didn't help international community to arrest Mr. Bashir because Bashir is more dangerous than Kony?

MR. VINES: Thank you.

GEN. HAM: I would take exception with your - with you description. I think the United States has been pretty firm about President Bashir. He is under International Criminal Court warrant. The United States has imposed sanctions against Sudan. So I think the actions have been - have been taken quite strongly. And the United States has been extraordinarily supportive of the Republic of South Sudan, to include its move towards independence last year, a ceremony which I was privileged to attend.

Kony - there's no question but that Kony is an evil man. And those who -- those who are cognizant of his activities and those of his group are very supportive of the efforts under way to bring him to justice. Kony's - if we knew where Kony was, if we had evidence of his location, I'm confident the Africans would go get him. There are lots of rumors of where he is and where he isn't. And that's why this effort continues. I'm confident it will ultimately be successful because it is Africa Union led and supported by particularly four other nations. And I'm convinced the effort against Kony will ultimately be successful.

MR. VINES: Thank you. More questions? Sir.

Q: Harry Blaney, Center for International Policy in Washington, former policy planner at Department of State. I would like to ask whether or not your command has undertaken a long-term, kind of strategic view of where you are going long term in the - in Africa and the rising issues. You mentioned two documents. One you did not mention is the CIA one about the impact of climate change on the global security landscape.

And particularly, as you know, Africa is one of the more vulnerable places where that impact may grow and become a growing issue of both security - for both individuals and in many ways the environment. And I was wondering whether or not you could give us some idea of where all that - where all those issues are going, what you're focusing on within your command and in these -- and in what I'll call a macro-environment in Africa. Thank you.

GEN. HAM: My staff will be very glad that you asked that question because they are in the midst now of undertaking a study of what I call AFRICOM 2025. What do we think will be the future security environment and how will we be best postured, from a military standpoint, to operate in that -- in that changed environment? This is an undertaking, while focused specifically on the command, reaches out across the U.S. government to many international partners and many international and private organizations, think tanks and universities, recognizing that we need expertise from a broad array of subject-matter experts.

I think you are right to raise the issues of the potential impacts of changing climates, particularly for Africa where water and food security are so important and will significantly shape the future environment. So our work is under way. I think we are - we are several months away from a reasonable product. I'd like to finalize it probably by the spring of 2013. And it will not surprise you to learn that we're working this very carefully with the - with the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy as well as the two geographic branches of Near East Affairs and Africa Bureau within the Department of State.

MR. VINES: Question there? Yeah. All right then.

Q: Thank you. Knox Chitiyo, Chatham House. General, could you tell us a bit about the funding for AFRICOM, in the sense that defense budgets and so on are being cut or reduced across the U.S. and the developing world - developed world? Does this impact on AFRICOM?

GEN. HAM: To use an American term, AFRICOM is a cheap date. (Laughter.) We - our budget is - overall budget is less than $300 million. Most of that, unsurprisingly, will go to civilian pay. We will withstand some budget reductions, but I don't think the budget reductions will be so dramatic as to require us to make major changes, with perhaps two exceptions. We conduct and lead and resource a number of military exercises around the continent of Africa. Some of them are very large and principally military in focus, with military forces conducting training for a variety of contingencies. Some of them, exercises are more focused at the leader level, tabletop exercises to deal with the disaster relief and the like.

Heretofore, our exercises have been principally accomplished on a bilateral basis. That's not particularly efficient. And I think it is also not reflective of the current operating environment, where we must find ways to operate more broadly and with more partners, both state and nonstate actors. So the budget reductions actually will drive us to a policy that I should have made anyway to focus more on multilateral exercises than on bilateral exercises.

The second area I think where budget reductions will have a bit of an impact is in how the international community, the non-African community, if you will, engages with African countries. As most of the non-African militaries like the United States will see some changes in reductions in their budget, we've got to find ways for us non-Africans to be more collaborative, more imaginative in our approach, in our interaction with African countries so that we collectively, we non-Africans collectively can coordinate our resources in a way that is most beneficial to the country in Africa in which -- in which we are working. So I think that will be the most - the ways that we must feel the budget change.

MR. VINES: Thank you very much. OK. So the room has warmed up. You, sir.

Q: (Name inaudible.) General, there are certain concerns about the growing Chinese influence in Africa. How does AFRICOM view the current Chinese influence in the Africa, competitive?

GEN. HAM: Good. Thanks. Again, as a - as a newcomer to Africa, I will admit to some surprise, in my initial trips around the continent - China is everywhere, really everywhere. And that's - and that's probably a good thing. I don't in any way - would not in any way characterize the U.S.-China relationship in Africa in any way adversarial. There - certainly there is economic competition, and we say that play out. That's probably healthy for both China and the United States and probably healthy for the African countries where we work as well.

But I would say that in my view, China and the United States have taken different views in - with regard to our interaction in Africa. China, as many of you know and have seen, and I have seen, is very good at infrastructure development - roads, bridges, airports, government buildings and the like - constructed by the Chinese in - which greatly benefits the African people. And I probably left off the most important thing they do is build football stadiums. (Laughter.)

The United States has taken a different approach. We don't - we don't focus much on building stuff. We've chosen a different path, which is primarily investment in human capital. So overwhelmingly the U.S. assistance and support that is provided to Africa is in the area of health care, which is by far the most significant; education, specifically women and girls' education, agriculture and the like - so perhaps not as visible as a football stadium, we believe very - nonetheless, very, very important.

On the military front, again, not adversarial. But I think we need to look for ways where we can work more collaboratively with the Chinese in the military domain in Africa. And let me cite two examples. In Tanzania, the Chinese built the national -- the facility for the National Defense College. Good facility, they did that, and I'm sure the Tanzanians are very appreciative of that. The Tanzanians asked us for a little bit of help in the curriculum development, for the programming at the - at the National Defense College. Well, maybe that's an example of the kind of collaboration we might be able to do in the future, where we focus on areas where each can apply their strengths to the benefit to a particular African military, or more broadly, across the region. So again, I'm realistic in my approach, but I think we should -- we should explore opportunities to work more collaboratively across the government.

MR. VINES: Thank you.

Gentleman in the back there. You, sir. No, there. Yeah, please. Tell us who you are.

Q: General Ham, Greg Calcott, Fox News Channel. I wonder if you could speak a little bit about al-Qaida in the Maghreb, specifically what role you think it might have played in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, what kind of a threat you think it poses not just to Africa but to the West and the United States, and how important that mission being discussed is in routing it out of Mali.

MR. VINES: Thank you.

Q: There are - in my view, getting in discussions with senior military and civilian leaders across the region, there are -- while there may be some differences in the approach to Mali, there are two larger issues on which there is universal agreement. The first is the necessity to maintain the territorial integrity of Mali. There's no support for any separatist movement. And the second area of broad agreement is that the continued presence of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in a safe haven in northern Mali is unacceptable to the Malians, unacceptable to the nations of the region, unacceptable to the international community.

The truth is though, that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is stronger today than they were a year ago. They have safe haven, they have funding, they are -- they are al-Qaida's best-funded affiliated organization, moneys that they get through kidnappings for ransom, through their association with the narcotics, illegal narcotics trade, and other illicit trafficking. They have lots of weapons and lots of fighters, many of whom came either back to or to northern Mali in the aftermath of military operations in Libya. They have very -- al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has clearly espoused their very close allegiance with al-Qaida ideology, with al-Qaida senior leadership, and their intent to establish a caliphate and to export violence, not only in the region, but more broadly across the globe as well.

So for those reasons, I view -- and I think many others view al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb as a -- as a very significant and growing threat, and if left unaddressed, will present an increasing risk to the nations of the region, to the peoples of the region, increasingly to Europe and to the United States as well. And for those reasons, I think the activities by ECOWAS and others to address this problem require our support and our attention.

Q: Thank you.

Q: And General, just a -

MR. VINES: No - no, that's enough, thank you.

Lady here.

Q: Thank you very much.

General, you mentioned -

MR. VINES: Could you tell us who you are, please?

Q: Oh, yeah, sorry. My name's Anna Nabiva (sp).

General, you mentioned that you had to promote regional solutions to security problems. How exactly is it you envisage that working. And sort of use an example of that in the African Union Task Force that's going off to the LRA, the Congolese forces are reportedly not allowed to declare -- to declare LRA fighters in the Congo, because they'd ideally like the UPDF forces out, because they're accusing them of looting minerals. How would you go about dealing with competing interests in these kinds of regions?

MR. VINES: And Elena (sp), which organization are you with?


MR. VINES: OK, thanks.

MR. VINES: University College London.

GEN. HAM: The -- while regional cooperation and coordination is important, and I think a necessary goal, it doesn't mean it always works well, and it doesn't mean it's always successful. I think we have had some success, but not all the success that we need with the African Union Regional Task Force in the effort to bring Joseph Kony and the other senior leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army to justice. But there are certainly frictions amongst the four primary countries that are engaged in this. We try to use our good offices and opportunities for dialogue with the four participants to try to work through those regional efforts. We've had a number of meetings with the African Union's special representative for LRA, Ambassador Madeira, as well as the chiefs of defense of the four countries. We've met a number of times; we'll meet again next month at a very senior level to try to focus on this problem.

In a - in a - in an example of what I think is a pretty good example of regional cooperation, certainly more work still to be done, but is in the - in the area - in the area of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, where we have been working not only with the nations there, but with the -- with the economic community of West African states, and the economic community of Central African states to craft policies and, in some cases, laws that allow the sharing of law enforcement intelligence, that allow cross-border operations in hot pursuit, cooperative arrangements between security forces that's starting to have some positive effects. Still lots of work to be done.

And then lastly, I would comment - we recognize, and I think the African Union clearly recognizes the necessity of having regional standby forces, and we would like very much to participate in the preparation of those forces in any ways that the African Union or its regional economic communities may find helpful.

MR. VINES: Thank you. More questions? (Laughs.) Right here in the front, please.

Q: Thank you.

MR. VINES: It's working.

Q: Thank you very much.

General, I do very much appreciate seeing -

MR. VINES: Can you tell us who you are, please?

Q: Sorry. My name is Hu Jiang Liao (sp), from the Chinese Embassy here.

Thank you very much for the remark on China-U.S. relations with Africa. I do share with you that the external partners, either U.S. or China or any other countries, their priority should be to help African develop their own capacity, not there to compete for sphere of influence or country - (inaudible) - resources. So I don't think - I share the general's view that we don't have any strategic competition in Africa. And the other thing is that in addition to what the general said, I think that China and the U.S. has a lot in - have a lot in common in cooperation with Africa. For instance, in the long run, we have also paid a lot of attention to the cooperation in health and agriculture education and environmental protection essential.

My question is, with regard to your African strategy, which are the - besides Somalia and Lord's Resistance Army and Libya, what are the other primary concerns of AFRICOM? And which are your priority partners in Africa?

Thank you.

MR. VINES: Thank you very much.

GEN. HAM: The priority tasks for - as outlined in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance - tell us that countering al-Qaida and violent extremists remain our highest priority, and that's understandable, I think, for a military organization. So those places in Africa where violent extremism exists or seems to be emerging are the areas of highest priority. I mentioned Somalia and the presence of al-Shabab, Mali and the presence of al-Qaida in the - in the Islamic Maghreb, a growing network of variously named organizations across North and West Africa, and I would include in that Boko Haram and their presence in Nigeria as an area of increasing focus.

What we would like to do -- I mean, obviously these are pressing and current issues, but we also recognize that these are not -- these are not challenges that can be addressed exclusively through military means. While there may be a military component of a strategy to address violent extremism, military action in and of itself will not be successful. So what we really try to do more broadly across the continent with a regional focus is ensure that our military efforts are fully coordinated with a broader comprehensive strategy that addresses the underlying issues of instability. And those tend to focus on economic development, good governance, education - but those are - those are programs that require a degree of security in which to flourish. So, that's kind of how we focus on a longer term.

MR. VINES: Thank you. We're now getting short of time; gentleman there - right there with the red shirt. You, sir.

Q: Hi, thanks. David Edwards from SOAS. I was just wondering, do you think there's a potential for contradiction between two of the U.S.' aims in Africa, mainly democratization and increasing the capability of the military in African states - such as, perhaps, in the case of Museveni, who is heavily reliant on his military to remain in power?

MR. VINES: I'll take a couple more as a cluster, because we're almost finished in time. Right here.

Q: Walid Khalife (ph) from African Energy. General Carter, I want to ask you about the military partnership with Algeria, and in relation specifically to the conflicts in Sahel and northern Mali. Algeria, as you well know, has been firmly opposed to any military intervention. Now that is happening. What is your management with the Algerian military and the Algerian civilian leaders who are, of course, very reluctant to any intervention south of their borders? Thank you.

MR. VINES: Thank you very much. And I'm going to add - use my prerogative for a final question, because I haven't heard it. General, when AFRICOM was created, there was a whole hullabaloo about location. Should it be in Africa? Should it be in a variety of different African states? Currently you're in Stuttgart. Where is this debate now about location of the command? Thank you.

GEN. HAM: The balance - the balanced effort of U.S. emphasis on achieving its goals is always a particular difficulty. In some countries in Africa where we have a very good security relationship, the other objectives of respect for human rights, democratization, are not fully consistent with our objectives. We think that our government is sufficiently sophisticated that we can manage a good, sound security relationship with a country and still continue to focus on democratization and human rights, respect for the rule of law in a different - in a different vein. We don't see them necessarily as mutually exclusive.

It doesn't mean we abandon one for the other, but it does mean that we have to live in the real world, and I think, in the cases of one of the countries that you mentioned, it is an ongoing balance. We have legal protections in our own government that - for example, for military engagement that preclude us, under matters of U.S. law, from engaging in military training with individuals or units who have been found to have committed human rights violations. We think those are good protections to have.

So again, our goals don't change, but just because a country doesn't yet meet the goals we would like doesn't mean that we will necessarily suspend activity in another - in another domain. But we can. So an example of that would be the current circumstance with Rwanda, where the United States government has made it clear that we believe that the government of Rwanda is supporting the M23 rebels in the Great Lakes region. We think that's unhelpful, and because of that, we have reduced some of our military-to-military engagement.

With regard to Algeria - I just came from Algeria a few days ago and had a very, very good visit. I'll - I won't attempt to characterize the Algerians' position; that's for them to say. But I have found a very - a very deep and comprehensive understanding amongst Algerian military and civilian leaders of the challenges that are faced in northern Mali and more broadly across the region. What I have found is Algerians absolutely prefer a negotiated settlement. All of us, and certainly those of us in uniform, prefer a negotiated settlement, and we think all effort must be expended to seek a negotiated settlement for the north.

But while that occurs, I think - and many others think - it is prudent to prepare for the potential military intervention that may be required. And so I think that's what we see playing out at present. Specifically, I think - I have been pleased to see Algeria's increased effort on border security so that - particularly with the border with Mali so that there cannot be, to the degree that is controllable, free movement by al-Qaida and others across the border, and I think there have been some good improvements in that regard.

Finally, Alex, to the location of the headquarters. We are in Stuttgart as a - as a consequence of practicality. The staff - the staffs were together, European Command responsible for Europe and Africa. When they split out, it made sense for the people to remain in the same general location. In my view - I was at the Pentagon during the birth of AFRICOM, and I think we did a poor job, frankly, of articulating the mission of the command and how it would operate on the continent. And in that process, we alienated some countries and some organizations and created some antibodies, if you will, to AFRICOM that persist today.

Because of that, and frankly because of the cost - the financial cost of relocating the headquarters, I think it is impractical for us to consider Africa. We will continue to operate from Stuttgart, where we are well-hosted by the German government and postured well to interact with our African partners.

MR. VINES: General, thank you very much. This is where the meeting ends. I'd like to ask the audience if you can remain seated when the general leaves; I know he's got an urgent appointment to go to.

I'd also just like to remind those of who you are interested that we're holding an international conference here on the 6th of December on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. (Cross-talk)

General, thank you very much for spending this afternoon with us; let's give the general the customary appreciation. (Applause.)


Source: AFRICOM Public Affairs

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