Thank all of you for coming today. And a special thanks to Administrator Fore and all our distinguished guests – in particular the members of the diplomatic corps from many African nations who are with us today.
It’s a real pleasure to be here on the occasion of AFRICOM’s operational activation as a unified command. I would like to start by recognizing those who have put in so much hard work over the last year to make the command a reality. General “Kip” Ward’s strong leadership has been matched only by the efforts of his tireless staff in Stuttgart. The result is a combatant command stood up in record time.
Over the past few years, the Defense Department has taken a number of steps to modernize America’s military arrangements abroad. Beyond moving and realigning troops and bases, we have also been reconsidering, on a more general level, the nature of the kinds of threats to our nation and all our friends and partners and those threats that people face together. At a time when crime, terrorism, natural disasters, economic turmoil, ethnic fissures, and disease can be just as destabilizing as traditional military threats, it makes sense to fuse old understandings of security with new concepts of how security, stability, and development go hand-in-hand. In this respect, AFRICOM represents yet another important step in modernizing our defense arrangements in light of 21st century realities.
It is, at its heart, a different kind of command with a different orientation – one that we hope and expect will institutionalize a lasting security relationship with Africa, a vast region of growing importance in the globe. The focus is on the three Ds: defense, diplomacy, and development.
On the defense side, AFRICOM’s mission is not to wage war, but to prevent it – not to show United States military presence, but to enhance the security forces of our partners. In carrying out these goals, the Department of Defense will support the State Department, which has the expertise from a long history of working with African nations – and is the lead agency responsible for foreign policy and development on the continent. The Department of State’s Africa bureau, for example, was established five decades ago last month. They know the continent and the people – and they know the best and most effective ways that we can help our African partners on a number of fronts.
The unique, interagency structure and purpose of AFRICOM is reflected in its organizational structure. The Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities, Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, is a foreign service officer – and a number of billets will be filled by other civilian officials. To be sure, AFRICOM is experimental in some respects, so we know it will evolve over time. As we work with African governments and their militaries to preserve peace and stability, we also expect to learn from their experiences about the best way ahead. At the end of the day, we hope that AFRICOM will come to exemplify the kind of civilian-military partnership needed to address the complex security challenges we all face – and that the nations of Africa face.
The leaders of this new command are committed to working with African governments and the African Union to preserve peace and stability. General Ward and his team are working hard to complement existing efforts by international and non-governmental organizations while growing our military-to-military programs, in areas such as training and military education.
AFRICOM will continue the process of building lasting ties with our African friends and partners – and helping them secure and develop their own nations. All of this contributes to our overall goal as a nation: to be a trusted, reliable partner for all of the nations of Africa.