By U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentJanuary 17, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan 12, 2009 -- In the following question and answer piece featured in the December-January 2009 edition of USAID's monthly publication "Frontlines," General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, answers questions on U.S. Africa Command's military-to-military programs and its role in supporting and cooperating with USAID in achieving its development objectives.
The new U.S. Africa Command works closely with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the latest example of increasing civilian-military cooperation in foreign aid.
General William E. "Kip" Ward is head of the sixth and newest U.S. military regional command--U.S. Africa Command--which is based at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany. His tasks include coordinating military policies with African countries, promoting stability, and working closely with USAID to promote their development. On October 23, 2008 he met in the Pentagon with FrontLines Editorial Director Ben Barber.
Q: What will the main tasks of AFRICOM be'
WARD: Our main tasks are military-to-military programs with the African nations and their regional organizations. We also support the efforts of other elements of our government.
Q: How much attention will AFRICOM devote to military efforts vis---vis assisting and working with USAID on development and humanitarian assistance'
WARD: The majority of our effort involves military-to-military activity: training missions, conducting exercises, and helping to professionalize the militaries of the continent. These activities have an impact on humanitarian efforts and we recognize the importance of "smart power," or soft power activities.
Administrator [Henrietta] Fore, who was present at our [inaugural] ceremony here in Washington, D.C. on 1 October, and [Assistant Administrator for Africa] Katherine Almquist in Stuttgart, said that U.S. Africa Command is focused on helping improve security and will be very important in helping to ensure that developmental work done by USAID can be carried on as effectively as it can be done.
Q: Will AFRICOM be delivering some assistance on its own through CERP [Commander's Emergency Response Program] funds'
WARD: We have no CERP funds. We provide support and humanitarian assistance through traditional military mechanisms, but also we have a humanitarian program, which is quite small compared to USAID's programs. We would in all cases coordinate that through the U.S. Embassy country team, so that those activities are complementary to what's already occurring.
We know that our piece is only a very small part of the totality of humanitarian assistance that's being performed by USAID and other agencies. We would not look to take those roles over.
Q: Would you be in some cases providing military security for civilian humanitarian missions in the country'
WARD: Not that we see right now, to begin with, on the continent of Africa, given the environment.
Q: Would you be providing air or sealift for humanitarian operations'
WARD: Absolutely. We clearly see providing assistance in disaster situations and crisis situationssairlift, sealifttwould be something that we would clearly look to do.
Q: What are the resources that you have at your disposal in terms of ships and planes and helicopters'
WARD: The command has no assigned forces, and so we request forces as required to support missions we are given. If there was an ongoing exercise in Africa, and some humanitarian situation developed, we could then shift those forces to immediately address the problem.
Q: Can you tell me which countries you've cooperated with, or have asked for training or ship visits'
WARD: The U.S. military works with dozens of countries and has some kind of cooperative relationship with nearly every nation in Africa. Some of the more active include Senegal, Gabon, Liberia, Angola, Ghana, Morocco, Tunisia, Botswana, Uganda, and Rwanda, as well as the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.
Q: Some critics say that Africans don't want AFRICOM in the region. But you are saying that these countries have requested cooperation with AFRICOM'
WARD: There are clearly interests, both our national interests as well as the interests of the African partner nations. Our providing a degree of support to our African partners helps them achieve a level of greater capability to provide for their own security. Where those lines of interest merge, where we can provide assistance and we are asked to do so, should our foreign policy support that, then we try to do our best to assist.
Where we can provide assistance in conjunction with the militaries of Africa, we're demonstrating that the militaries can be a part of the society to help promote the people as opposed to being an oppressor of the people.
Q: How is it working with USAID civilians who don't necessarily have a military background'
WARD: I think it's working out very well. I mentioned the very fine support that the senior echelon within the USAID has provided to the command. We have within the command senior personnel assigned from USAID that help ussnot do AID workkbut help us plan our own military tasks supportive of USAID efforts.
We are learning to understand one another better and truly, as Administrator Fore and [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates said, we are seeing with greater clarity the importance of all of these efforts working as cohesively together as they can. Security and development go hand-in-hand to produce stability that we all seek.
Q: Will AFRICOM work in cases of failed states or conflict'
WARD: That will be a function of our foreign policy objectives. We don't see the command as a command that would intervene inside of these sovereign countries. Our main purpose is to work to help the Africans increase their capacity to take care of their own security needs the training and logistics and professionalization of their militaries and so we don't see direct roles in those cases.
Q: Are you working on post-conflict reconstruction'
WARD: Post-conflict reconstruction is a major responsibility of USAID. We would clearly want to support USAID's effort where we can and would certainly look to USAID and the Department of State as the lead for how we might get involved to augment their efforts.
Q: What are the major places where you are involved right now'
WARD: Well, you know that as of 1 October when we became a unified command, we took command and control responsibility for our operations that are being conducted out of Djiboutiiat Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. And so that is the most substantial ongoing presence that we have on the continent. We also are involved in exercises and programs in North Africa with Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara. And we also have programs throughout the continent for example, our security assistance programs that we are engaged in, training exercises with the host nations, and partner nations.
Q: Will you be involved in development projects'
WARD: Yes, we will be involved, Ben, but not as our primary focus and task. We would get involved where those development projects complemented the work being done by developmental agencies, USAID, in very close coordination with the country team, the ambassador, and representatives from USAID that are there on the ground. We want to ensure that we don't do things that conflict with the work being done by others. This might include a school being built so we can complement each other's efforts.
Or, at the request of a country, we might conduct an exercise and we may need to build a road to get to a training area. And if building the road in one place or another could help the population, then we would look to work with the country team and the ambassador so it provides benefits to the population.
Q. Any final thoughts for USAID readers'
WARD: As Secretary of Defense Gates has said, we clearly recognize that stability and security is more than just military elements at work; it's these elements of development that are the purview of USAID that we know are such an important part of long-term stability. We want to do our best to support those efforts through a good understanding and good cooperation.
So I think, I'd just end by saying that I just really appreciate how this has evolved and the level of support and understanding that we have seen from USAID. We are committed to work in support of USAID as they seek to achieve their developmental objectives, as our prime agency responsible for development in the U.S. government.