Africa Command Makes Steady Progress, Ward Says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2011 — U.S. Africa Com­mand has made steady, under­stat­ed progress with allies, region­al orga­ni­za­tions and inter­na­tion­al part­ners on the con­ti­nent, Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, Africom’s com­man­der, said in an inter­view last week.
Ward, who took the reins as the first com­man­der of America’s newest geo­graph­ic com­mand in 2007, will turn over com­mand to Army Gen. Carter F. Ham next month.

Africom con­ducts sus­tained secu­ri­ty engage­ment through mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary pro­grams, mil­i­tary spon­sored activ­i­ties and oth­er mil­i­tary oper­a­tions. The command’s aim is to pro­mote a sta­ble and secure envi­ron­ment in sup­port of U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy.

The goals are to help region­al allies build secu­ri­ty orga­ni­za­tions that per­form pro­fes­sion­al­ly and with integri­ty, and that have the will and means to direct, dis­suade, deter and defeat transna­tion­al threats. The com­mand also works to strength­en capa­bil­i­ties to sup­port con­ti­nen­tal and inter­na­tion­al peace efforts.

Estab­lish­ing the com­mand was an uphill bat­tle, Ward said. Crit­ics in the Unit­ed States assumed it marked anoth­er step in the “mil­i­ta­riza­tion” of U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy, he explained, and some on the con­ti­nent saw the com­mand as a new colo­nial­ist effort.

“Many thought that the com­mand would be the con­duit through which all activ­i­ty of the U.S. gov­ern­ment, con­ti­nen­twide, would pass,” Ward said. “It was nev­er the case, but that was the impres­sion, and since it was a brand-new com­mand, there was no basis for com­par­i­son.”

Until Africom stood up, three U.S. com­mands had respon­si­bil­i­ty for the con­ti­nent –- U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand, U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand and U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand. Africa Com­mand was to com­bine the mis­sions those com­mands were doing in Africa in a uni­fied and thought­ful pur­pose.

“Still, the way things were said in the ear­ly days lent them­selves to mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions” by crit­ics, the gen­er­al said.

Allay­ing the con­cerns of crit­ics in the Unit­ed States and, espe­cial­ly, on the con­ti­nent were the first mis­sions Ward set for the com­mand.

“I set out with a staff of folks to cor­rect the mes­sage,” he said. “Just say­ing we’re not going to be in charge of devel­op­ment wasn’t enough. We will be sup­port­ive of gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment, but we weren’t going to run the pro­grams. We repeat­ed that mes­sage to our friends, and it became what they heard from me, from my deputies, my direc­tors and from our senior enlist­ed lead­ers.”

That mes­sage, he added, was fol­lowed up by how the com­mand con­duct­ed itself. Mem­bers of the com­mand lis­tened more than they spoke –- in Africa and with inter­a­gency part­ners, he said. Soon, the gen­er­al added, all could see that the com­mand was not mil­i­ta­riz­ing for­eign pol­i­cy, but fur­ther­ing State Depart­ment or U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment pro­grams.

“Seen through the lens of the for­eign pol­i­cy per­spec­tive, we weren’t lead­ing -– we were, in fact, sup­port­ing the efforts of oth­er U.S. gov­ern­ment agen­cies,” Ward said.

Sus­tain­ing engage­ment in Africa was one rea­son the new com­mand was formed. The three com­mands that had respon­si­bil­i­ty before had oth­er mat­ters to address, Ward explained, their atten­tion to the world’s sec­ond-largest con­ti­nent ebbed and flowed. Now that has changed, he said.

“[Lead­ers] know our focus is always on the con­ti­nent of Africa and nowhere else,” the gen­er­al said. “It is a huge fac­tor, and they under­stood that we did care about them and we were pri­or­i­tiz­ing our work to con­cen­trate on what con­cerned them.”

African allies have accept­ed the com­mand, “and more impor­tant­ly, it is effec­tive on the con­ti­nent,” he said. Africa has many ungoverned or under-gov­erned areas, includ­ing Soma­lia, Dar­fur, Sudan and oth­ers. Africom cov­ers 53 of the 54 nations on the con­ti­nent — Egypt remained in the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand area of oper­a­tions — and the com­mand is work­ing with many to facil­i­tate peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions and human­i­tar­i­an relief oper­a­tions.

The command’s activ­i­ty is focused on three lev­els: coun­try-to-coun­try, region­al and con­ti­nen­tal, Ward said. Africom works with indi­vid­ual coun­tries to build secu­ri­ty capa­bil­i­ties and with region­al orga­ni­za­tions to strength­en African respons­es. Final­ly, it works with con­ti­nen­twide groups.

“One of our pri­or­i­ty objec­tives is to work with these region­al eco­nom­ic com­mu­ni­ties and their stand-by forces as best we can,” the gen­er­al said. “We also know that work­ing through these orga­ni­za­tions is ter­ri­bly impor­tant.”

The com­mand has worked with the Eco­nom­ic Com­mu­ni­ty of West Africa States, the East African Com­mu­ni­ty and the South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­ni­ty. “As they mature and as they ask for our sup­port,” Ward said, “we pro­vide it and encour­age them in that region­al approach.”

At the con­ti­nen­tal lev­el, the com­mand works with the African Union. “The first trip I made to the con­ti­nent when we stood up the com­mand was to [the Ethiopi­an cap­i­tal of] Addis Aba­ba, to the African Union head­quar­ters, to rein­force our sup­port to the Africans’ con­ti­nen­tal orga­ni­za­tion,” the gen­er­al said.

These capa­bil­i­ties have grown, Ward said, adding that he is pleased at the will­ing­ness of these region­al orga­ni­za­tions to work togeth­er.

“We see nations who are now part­ner­ing who 10 years ago were ene­mies,” he said. “I give them the cred­it. They have made the deci­sion. We are there to rein­force this and pro­vide the sup­port they ask for.”

The Inter­na­tion­al Mil­i­tary Edu­ca­tion and Train­ing pro­gram prob­a­bly is Africom’s sin­gle most impor­tant tool, Ward said.

“I’ve been going to Con­gress and the Depart­ment of State, say­ing we ought to be doing all we can to rein­force and to enlarge and enhance our IMET pro­gram,” Ward said. “That is the long-term div­i­dend in our engage­ment — when offi­cers, [non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers,] and war­rant offi­cers from our part­ner nations can come to the Unit­ed States, sit side by side with our men and women, and in addi­tion to learn­ing about the art of mil­i­tary sci­ence, also under­stand Amer­i­cans as humans, the things we val­ue, the role of a mil­i­tary in a democ­ra­cy.” The Unit­ed States has seen the edu­ca­tion and train­ing pro­gram pay off in Egypt, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire, Ward said.

“This long-term sus­tained engage­ment has caused the mil­i­tary to behave in ways that shows their neu­tral­i­ty, their impar­tial­i­ty and their role as pro­tec­tors of their peo­ple and not oppres­sors of their peo­ple,” he added.

Ward stressed that the com­mand fol­lows the for­eign pol­i­cy direc­tion of the State Depart­ment, not­ing that he con­struct­ed and staffed the com­mand to mir­ror that pri­or­i­ty.

“What we want­ed to do was have rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the inter­a­gency [rela­tion­ship] as a part of the com­mand -– not in the tra­di­tion­al sense of the inter­a­gency as mem­bers who sit off by them­selves, but inte­grat­ed mem­bers of our staff,” he said. The Africom staff includes a State Depart­ment deputy and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment, the Agri­cul­ture and Ener­gy depart­ments, and oth­er U.S. agen­cies.

“Their involve­ment in all our activ­i­ties clear­ly lent itself to the notion that what we were doing was off by itself, but was being informed by our for­eign pol­i­cy and the range of activ­i­ties that we were involved in -– be it State or the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment or the Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment,” he said.

The command’s inter­a­gency aspect also serves to inform the agen­cies’ head­quar­ters in Wash­ing­ton as the men and women there use their con­tacts and skills to help the com­mand, and vice ver­sa, Ward said.

“Hav­ing those inter­a­gency part­ners on our team, they could see how we were doing and were clear­ly there to help us do our plan­ning and our work,” the gen­er­al said, “but they could pro­vide that input back to their depart­ments.”

Chal­lenges exist on the con­ti­nent, Ward acknowl­edged. Soma­lia, al-Qai­da in North Africa’s Mah­greb region and, ille­gal traf­fick­ing of peo­ple and drugs and weapons through porous bor­ders are among the chal­lenges the peo­ple of the con­ti­nent must deal with, he added.

“It’s rein­forced when you have chal­lenges in devel­op­ment in infra­struc­ture and ener­gy and water, [and] when you have issues with gov­er­nance,” he said. “All these chal­lenges have to be looked at in a com­pre­hen­sive way. This means the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty also has to play. They have to work togeth­er.”

But in addi­tion to the chal­lenges, the gen­er­al said, Africa also presents vast oppor­tu­ni­ties. The con­ti­nent has seen small but steady eco­nom­ic growth, even through the down­turn in the Amer­i­can and Euro­pean economies, Ward not­ed.

“The oppor­tu­ni­ties are great,” he said. “We are see­ing more region­al coop­er­a­tion. With secure struc­tures oper­at­ing in more appro­pri­ate ways, we take advan­tage of those oppor­tu­ni­ties to rein­force suc­cess and we work as a glob­al com­mu­ni­ty on these chal­lenges.

“How we rein­force and sup­port the African Union mis­sion in Soma­lia is impor­tant,” he con­tin­ued. “How we rein­force and sup­port the work being done by region­al part­ners in East Africa is impor­tant.”

The com­mand is “mov­ing out smart­ly, and at a pace com­pa­ra­ble to oth­er geo­graph­ic com­mands,” Ward said.

“But we haven’t been at it very long,” he added. “What we have done is chart­ed a course where our work is seen as pre­ven­tive. Our work will pre­vent a cri­sis, as opposed to [hav­ing] to respond and react to one. We think that is the best result for our nation — if a cri­sis nev­er gets start­ed.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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