From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Feb 09 2009 - 16:07:03 EST
Seven Questions: Gen. William "Kip" Ward
Posted February 2009 http://www.foreignpolicy.com/images/spacer.gif
The general in charge of the U.S. military's new Africa Command says his
mission is peace, achieved without war.
FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
The new U.S. face in Africa: Gen. William Ward's Africom will operate from
Germany until it finds a permanent home on the continent.
As if Afghanistan and Iraq were not enough trouble for the incoming Obama
administration, another operation is drawing some attention these days.
Since the February 2007 decision to create the U.S. Africa Command
(Africom), the venture has drawn some praise and a lot of criticism from
leaders on the continent. Almost immediately, the Southern African
Development Community, a group of 14 regional countries, discouraged its
members from hosting any base or troops, claiming that the U.S. military's
presence could be destabilizing. Western and northern African regional
organizations issued similar declarations. Although Africom insists its
mission will be largely nonmilitary -- training African soldiers, delivering
aid and resources -- fears about the militarization of the continent
continue to simmer.
On the two-year anniversary of the decision to create Africom, resistance
remains -- but acceptance is also growing in places such as Liberia,
Madagascar, and Senegal. At the front of the operation will be Gen. William
"Kip" Ward, who heads the command out of Germany. Freelance journalist John
Perra spoke with General Ward on behalf of Foreign Policy:, asking him about
Africom's mission, its operations, and controversies.
Foreign Policy: As I understand it, Africa used to be divided between three
commands -- European, Pacific, and Central. What has changed such that
Africa warrants its own command?
William Ward: The fact that a decision was just taken here recently does not
reflect the fact that it's been discussed for many years. It's something
that I think reflects an increasingly different global environment and an
ever increasing appreciation for the role of the continent of Africa in this
global environment -- from its sheer size, its population, and the tension
that it has. Now's the time to reorganize the Department of Defense and its
approach to delivering security assistance to Africa to make it more
coherent -- as coherent as we can make it.
FP: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has warned in recent speeches against
the militarization of U.S. foreign policy. Africom, and you know as well,
has been called "neocolonialism"; it has been called a militarization of
U.S. foreign policy --
WW: Operative word: has been. That's exactly right, because we've spent the
last year reversing that and I think that we've been pretty successful with
that. Now you don't hear those terms being bandied about any longer.
We had a ceremony in Washington in October, where we had the administrator
of USAID [the U.S. Agency for International Development] talking about how
[US]AID looks forward to working with us. We've had members of the
Department of State participate in the same forum. We've had the African
Union and leaders from the African Union saying that, we look forward to
working with the command in helping us increase our capacity to provide for
our own security. And we've had governments of the continent of Africa
saying the same thing. What has occurred is an explanation of what the
command is as opposed to the misperceptions that were initially out there.
[African resistance] is something that was reflective of a misunderstanding
-- reflective of a thought that this headquarters means there will be large
garrisons of soldiers, squadrons of airmen, squadrons of naval presence in
[African] ports. And none of that was the case. But because none of that was
understood, that was the perception. I'm not asking any African nation to
host any part of the command on the continent.
FP: Where will Africom then be located? Will there ever be a host nation?
And if so, what would Africom need in terms of a partnership from a host
WW: [With] U.S. Southern Command, after about 19 years in existence, we
finally made the determination where it would be located. We don't need to
make that decision now. The important thing for the command is to be as
effective as we can be in delivering our programs in support of African
desires and requests, and consistent with our national security and
foreign-policy objectives to help Africans to be more capable in providing
for their own security. The continent of Africa is over three times the size
of the continental United States, so we've got to go to these nations from
wherever we are, and so the priority for the time being is not finding a
headquarters. The priority is causing our programs to be as effective as we
can and to start building that capacity to do those sorts of things.
FP: Does the mission of Africom include the hunt of al Qaeda? Is this then a
new theater in the war on terror?
WW: A new theater? We've had activities on the continent of Africa for quite
a while. We inherited the work of three different commands: U.S. Europe[an]
Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. Pacific Command. The counterterror work
that was being done on the continent heretofore will continue to be done
under the auspices of my command.
FP: China and Russia have made their presence felt in Africa recently,
negotiating energy deals, for example. The United States is also expected to
get 25 percent of its oil from West Africa by 2015. Is Africom a
counterweight to other nations' exploits in Africa?
WW: We're not. Our work is not to compete with any other nations'
activities. Our effort is to do what I said: As the nations of Africa seek
to be able to have better control of their borders and their resources, [if
they] ask us for help in that regard, and where that help is consistent with
our national security and foreign-policy objectives, we want to be a factor
in that. [Africom] is not a counterweight to China, Russia, India, France,
Japan, Britain, anyone else. In fact, we look at certain situations now
where there are cooperative efforts being undertaken.
FP: For example, what will your approach be to the perfect storm of crises
such as the political and economic crises and cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe?
Or what about Somalia, where the United States has recently suggested
sending peacekeeping troops? Or the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
WW: It's probably not my decision. Those decisions are made by our
policymakers. Where there are, as I said, military aspects of those
decisions, then we would have a role. And we would then go back to our
various processes for resources that would support carrying out whatever it
is we will be asked to do to bring it into effect.
One of the things that was out there initially was the notion that U.S.
Africa Command was taking over development or taking the lead for diplomacy.
Not the case. Development, diplomacy, defense, and security are integrally
linked programs that all need to be working in some harmonious way. We are
only one part of that. Now, where our other partners have things that they
do in the form of development and we can assist, complement, support, then
we would certainly look to do that as those situations might arise. But we
do not take the lead. Do we get involved from time to time? Yes, we do. But
it could be in a location where there is a void. Or, in working with those
who are responsible for development, say, hey, can you do this part of this
in conjunction with what we do?
As an example, [take] the Department of State's and USAID's program for
helping bring medical assistance to rural locations, training local medical
personnel, providing medical equipment, sometimes providing educational
equipment, developmental things. Sometimes everything exists other than
maybe some small structure. Again, not something that we would typically
build but something that makes sense to those people where they are. So
where those things are complementary, then we want to be a part of bringing
coherency to the effort.
FP: Could Africom be used to improve infrastructure in a nonmilitary
WW: It's probably something that theoretically is possible. Where it does
[make sense] and there's a requirement and all agree, then that's something
we could in fact talk about to be sure. But it goes back to the point that
we don't do this because we think it's a good idea; we do it because it
meets the overall foreign policy, national security objectives that, again,
are made by persons other than us. So how do we fit in to support that? So
if there's a void, if there's a vacuum, no one has the capability, it
doesn't exist, then certainly we look to be a part of a discussion, and if
we could add value to what's going on, then we seek to add value. We go
where we're asked to go.
Gen. William E. Ward is commander of U.S. Africa Command.
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