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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Deputy Assistant Secretary Dory and Gen. Rodriguez in the Pentagon Briefing Room

Presenters: Deputy Assistant Secretary Of Defense For African Affairs Amanda J. Dory and General David M. Rodriguez (USA), commander, U.S. Africa Command
April 08, 2014

MODERATOR: Everybody, thank you so much for joining us today. I'd like to especially welcome General Rodriguez from U.S. Africa Command and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Amanda Dory from the Pentagon. We're very excited to have both of them here briefing us on the current state of affairs in Africa, and we're glad that you could all join us for this.

I'd just like to say that when you ask a question, for their benefit, if you wouldn't mind just letting us know who you are and what affiliation you're with. General Rodriguez would like to call on the next questioner, so we'll do it that way. And we have almost an hour, so with that, I'll turn it over to the General, to Deputy Dory, and open for their statement and then your questions.

So, deputy?

DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY AMANDA J. DORY: Very good. I think I'll go first just with a little framing in terms of U.S. strategic approach to Africa writ large and DOD's strategic approach, and then we can dive into all of the activities underway on the continent.

I think you're aware of the Obama administration presidential strategy as it relates to Africa, so that's our overall frame. It's got four pillars to it. These include strengthening democratic institutions and governance at the outset, developing trade, growth and investment, advancing peace and security, promoting opportunity and development. And, of course, DOD pays principally in peace and security, but we have a role to play in the other -- other pillars, as well.

I think in times of fiscal austerity, some could ask how investing in African peace and security halfway across the globe is in our national interest. And I think the newly released 2014 QDR speaks to that critique very squarely, and I'd like to bring one piece of that to your attention.

It notes that in Africa terrorists, criminal organizations, militias, corrupt officials, and pirates continue to exploit ungoverned and undergoverned territory on the continent and in its surrounding waters. The potential for rapidly developing threats, particularly in fragile states, including violent public protests and terrorist attacks, could pose acute challenges to U.S. interests.

Additionally, the review speaks to the fact that while core Al Qaida has been degraded, Al Qaida affiliates have expanded into new areas to include in the Maghreb and the Sahel. In our globalized world, groups that are viewed as distant from U.S. territory are able to threaten our interests, citizens, and personnel in other regions, as well as those of our partners.

In response to these threats, the department's focus in Africa is to foster stability and prosperity. And in the security realm, this means a focus on building partnership capacity, both at the institutional level and the operational level.

And when I speak of partners, there are many of them. This starts with our African partners, individual African states, the many African regional organizations that focus on security and economic matters, the African Union, as well as European partners. And then here, within the United States, key partners for us include State Department and USAID. So sometimes when we talk about partnership, it's fair to ask us, which partners are you referring to? Because we have many.

The partnerships take lots of coordination, hard work, and patience to pay off, but they do. And I think in some cases, looking at the intractable conflicts of yesterday, they can become the success stories of today. So even as I imagine we'll spend a fair amount of time talking about today's challenges, you know, a decade hence, we may be sitting here citing those as success stories in turn.

There are two that come to my mind. The civil wars in the 1990s in West Africa and Sierra Leone, and Liberia in particular, where you've had the United Nations, the international community writ large, to include the United States, and the efforts of those countries themselves that have substantially recovered now to the extent that they are able to send peacekeeping forces to assist in exporting security beyond their borders.

The U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in fact, called Sierra Leone one of the world's most successful cases of post-conflict recovery. So I think it's easy -- easy to forget in the kind of impressive events that -- that there are some notable cases on the African continent of success across all of the different dimensions in -- in the strategy that I noted upfront.

We have slow, but steady progress underway, in our view, in terms of restoring governance and stability in countries today, like Mali, Somalia, and Democratic Republic of Congo, and the same model pertains here, the mix of regional partners, the United Nations, other external actors, and DOD playing our own role in terms of training for peacekeeping forces and providing key enablers.

Examples as enablers -- I know we'll spend a fair amount of time on this in the Q&A -- would include intelligence support, planners, or other specialized personnel and -- and capabilities. But our small footprint and targeted support, working with willing partners, fulfills both our own strategic approach and is the way our African partners prefer to work with us.

With that, I'd like to turn it over to General Rod, who spends most of his days working with African partners.

GENERAL DAVID M. RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

Good afternoon, and thanks for the opportunity to update you today on the activities of U.S. Africa Command. I'm pleased to be here with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dory.

The African continent presents significant opportunities and challenges. Much of the continent is doing well, with six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies and many countries strengthening their democratic institutions, a growing and youthful population which can be an engine for positive change or a negative force if not effectively governed.

The picture in Africa is not all bright. In some regions, weak governance, corruption, uneven development, disease, food insecurity, crime, and violent extremism have contributed to instability and conflict. The network of Al Qaida and its affiliates (inaudible) in illicit trafficking networks that link Africa with North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia have taken advantage of regional instability to continue to expand their activities.

Africa Command is working with international and interagency partners to mitigate those immediate threats. We also advance enduring security interests by supporting the development of African security institutions and forces who serve their nation and their people.

Africa Command's efforts are always conducted in support of efforts led by the U.S. ambassadors and the country teams. Our programs, exercises and operations strengthen military-to-military relationships in a region where the United States has little forward presence. They make U.S. and partner forces more effective as we learn from each other and operate together. They also promote adherence to the rule of law and respect for human -- for civilian authority and human rights.

Let me highlight a few examples of progress in regionalizing and internationalizing security efforts in Africa. In Somalia, six African countries participate in the African Union mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM. And AMISOM is conducting offensive operations with the Somali national army against Al-Shabaab. AMISOM and the European Union are training Somali national army forces, multinational counter piracy operations, combined with industry best practices, have greatly reduced piracy off the Somali coast. Africa Command is supporting State Department-led peacekeeping training for AMISOM forces, and we are planning and coordinating with AMISOM and other partners in Somalia.

In the Sahel, we're building partner capacity and supporting regional, United Nations, and French operations. Across Africa, we continue to work with the State Department to protect U.S. personnel and facilities. The size of the continent alone poses challenges in this regard. And just to remind you, the distance between Tunis, Tunisia, and the tip of South Africa is the same distance from Washington, D.C., to Honolulu.

We're also working with regional partners to support efforts to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and reduce the threat posed by the Lord's Resistance Army in Central Africa. Africa's expanding security challenges make it vitally important that we align all our resources with our priorities, leveraging partnerships, and increasing our operational flexibility. We will continue to deepen our collaboration with international and interagency partners to advance our mutual interests.

Thank you. And we're prepared to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Okay.

Q: Yeah. I'm Paul Shinkman with U.S. News & World Report. I'd like to ask you about the military's posture in Africa. This week marks the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, and I wonder how that posture has changed in that time. If such a crisis were to happen today, what kind of options would you have available to give to the president or anybody else that didn't exist before?

And the second question. About a year ago, the State Department classified Somalia as one of the greatest success stories in Africa. Since then, there's been the Al-Shabaab attack on the mall in Kenya, and I wonder if you think that that appraisal is still accurate.

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: On the first question, as far as capabilities and forces, we have several forces out there in the continent and in the region to support our efforts. We have the East African Response Force over in Djibouti, and we also have the special purpose MAFTF up in Moron, Spain. And then we also have the special forces -- special operation forces commander's in-extremis force all forward.

We have a major forward operating site in Djibouti, where there are several thousand personnel, and then throughout the rest of the area, there are small pockets of temporarily placed organizations and people. And we are looking hard at trying to improve our posture in West Africa, which is really the toughest challenge for security. And then I think that some of the things that the Defense Department has done to speed our ability to respond to crises would help out in a situation as you discussed.

On the Somali issue, as you know, the AMISOM forces, when they became active, you know, really, a couple years ago, when they started taking offensive action against al-Shabaab, have done a good job of pushing al-Shabaab out of the many critical areas.

And as can be expected, al-Shabaab responded by not going toe-to-toe with them, and they have now, you know, focused on conducting asymmetric attacks. They first went into Mogadishu to disrupt the international efforts and the Somali national government, which was brand new at that point in time, and have also expanded those efforts out into Kenya, as you said, the Westgate Mall, and recently another significant vehicle-borne IED in Kenya, all focused at going after the troop-contributing countries.

So I think that it continues to be a positive effect. The government is recognized now, so that's been a step forward, as well as the ability of al-Shabaab to control large swaths and major cities, so that has decreased significantly. But there's -- as always, there's still a long way to go to get the Somali national army and police to the level that they need to be and then, of course, the development of the Somali national government.

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: Could I have just -- from a policy perspective, to the first question recalling the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, I think in addition to the response forces that AFRICOM has at its disposal, when you think back 20 years, at the time, from a Department of Defense perspective, we had multiple different combatant commands with responsibilities vis-a-vis Africa. So that's change when you think about the -- the clarity in terms of roles and responsibilities vis-a-vis Africa. So just a footnote, in terms of how an operational response would be led, for example.

I think in terms of the policy framework, as well, there has been a lot of work to say, as secretary did -- Secretary Kerry did yesterday, that genocide should never happen again. And the frameworks that have been put in place, there's been a fair amount of attention drawn in terms of the speech that President Obama gave that explained looking at genocide as a prevention of genocide and mass atrocities as a core national security interest and moral interest of the United States.

That's something in place in the terms of a policy statement. And then that's been further amplified in the establishment of an atrocities prevention board, which is chaired at the White House and meets on a regular basis to serve as an early warning function for countries around the world that are at risk in terms of the potential of mass atrocities.

So I think our system as a whole is much more attuned now to -- to that risk and is poised to act, if required. Even recently, in terms of concerns about the Central African Republic in December, for example, the concerns were sufficient that the president approved a drawdown of Department of Defense goods and services that enables Africa Command to move immediately to bring additional peacekeeping forces from Rwanda and Burundi into the situation to assist the French and Chad, at that point, who were seeking to stabilize Bangui.

So I think the -- from both an operational perspective and a policy perspective -- that we're in a very different place than we were 20 years ago.

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I'd just like to add just one thing. The African forces that now are available, that participate in these intervention and those type of things have expanded incredibly in the last 20 years. I mean, six nations in Somalia, nine going to 16 in Mali, are all African, you know, partners and their forces. So, thank you.

Yes, sir?

Q: Sir, Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. I would like -- I don't know if you could give us an assessment, how do you see the current situation in Libya? And also, if you could give us an update about the military-to-military programs with Tripoli and what about the training mission that is taking place in Bulgaria right now?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The situation in Libya, of course, is very, very challenging. The government, as you know, has just changed out the prime minister. The Libyan institutions across the board are very, very weak after the reign of Gadhafi. And then the security challenges, really, in the eastern part in Benghazi and Derna, and down the southwest, as you saw in the paper today, in the French perspective, is a very troubling situation.

It's going to be a long, hard road for the Libyans to figure out how to lead their way through this effort, to control the militias, and to continue to build the institutions that are required to run that country.

On the training mission, it -- we have two. First of all, we have a multinational effort that includes the Turkish military, it includes the Italian military, it includes the United Kingdom military, the U.S., as well as the Moroccans. Two of that -- two of those countries have started to training, the Turks and the -- and the Italians. And the first Turkish force trained has just returned to -- to Libya, but it's too soon to tell how effective they will be.

Between the four European partners, the U.S. and the Moroccans, they've committed to train up to 20,000 people in that force. And we're -- the U.S. right now is waiting on money coming from the Libyan government to begin to fund the training in Bulgaria.

Q: Just a quick follow-up. Have you seen lately any link between the Al Qaida or any other jihadist movement in Libya and the rise of extremist group in Mali?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes, the -- the challenges of security in Libya, as well as the incredible amount of arms and ammunition and explosives that are throughout Italy move throughout the region. And between northern Mali and southwestern Libya is a huge infiltration route that becomes a challenge for all the countries there.

Q: I'm working for French television, Laura Haim, Canal Plus. How do you see precisely the situation in Mali at this moment and the fight against jihadists? Do you think it's a challenge? And how the American forces are involved in that? And my second question is about Ebola. Ebola is (inaudible) at this moment in many countries in Africa. The U.S. forces, are they involved in any preparation if the situation gets worse?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: On the first part, ma'am, as you know, we continue to support both the French and the U.N. in Mali, the French with airlift, air refueling, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. We have several small teams embedded at headquarters to help that effort.

The biggest contribution we make to the rest of the effort in Mali is supporting the Department of State-led ACOTA training that trains all the troop-contributing countries. We have begun to do a small mil-to-mil relationship- and capacity-building things with the U.S. in accordance with the ambassador's desires. Most of those are in the medical and intelligence field at this point in time.

And the challenge that President Keita has is, you know, trying the figure out how to reintegrate and bring the north into a better place, more inclusive effort. Those -- those relationships and -- and negotiations are going back and forth like you could imagine, and we hope -- we're hopeful that that continues to move forward.

Q: And on Ebola?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: On the Ebola outbreak, the military has just taken precautions to protect ourselves. It seems, with all the international effort, the medical efforts there, that they're not as concerned as they were a week ago about how was that would spread and how bad that could be. So they've done a pretty good job isolating that, based on our sources.

Q: Back on Libya for a minute, given the security challenges and the situation that you outlined there, how has that affected the ability to go after the perpetrators of the Benghazi attack? Have you just basically had to give up on going after them at this point? Or is that even still feasible in your minds?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I think that the -- the effort to go after that network, which has been led by the FBI, continues to -- to continue to pursue those personnel, it is made -- made more difficult, obviously, by the security situation, but there's still a lot of focus on getting those -- bringing those perpetrators to justice.

Q: And do you think it's feasible to actually go after them?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: It depends, you know, on the -- the situation and the risk that people want to take. Obviously, as you can imagine, most of those would be pretty significantly high-risk operations to do that.

Q: Can I just follow up for one last thing?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes, ma'am.

Q: (inaudible) it suggests that in your minds -- and the FBI -- you have a pretty fair idea at this point of who they are and where they are. If you can say that they're high risk, you must have a good sense of who...


GEN. RODRIGUEZ: They just know the general area. And because the distance away from Tripoli and the location of (inaudible), which is in the eastern part, in a very tough situation, it's very secure, but that's really the challenge. It's not about -- we don't have everybody identified and located at all, ma'am.

Okay?

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: It might be worth adding, just in terms of operations in Libya (inaudible) for official Americans, the challenges that our embassy faces and the threats that it faces, as well. It's very difficult to move around within Tripoli, much less beyond -- beyond Tripoli. So it's -- you know, in terms of high risk, I think that's a fair characterization for movement throughout the country at this point.

Q: General...

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, George?

Q: ... recently, you added some air assets to the counter-LRA mission. Wanted to see if you could talk a little bit about that. Is this moving up as a priority for Africa Command? How close are you to getting Joseph Kony? Or do you think that you've made significant progress so far against the LRA? And is this going to improve with the new assets?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The new assets, they're temporarily -- in fact, they've just begun to move back out, and we'll do it as the -- the Nigerians and -- I'm sorry, the Ugandans -- but, really, the African Union regional task force, which is led by the Ugandans, desires those capabilities.

The biggest challenge that the African Union regional task force is having is light mobility, to -- to get after Kony and his leaders. So we'll -- we'll, again, support those efforts as -- as required.

For the -- as far as the Lord's Resistance Army itself, it's really been a good success story. The defections are way up and continue to, you know, go higher. There are less of his forces that are committing the humanitarian, you know, crises that is part of that -- part of his modus operandi. And then there is a huge NGO effort that has continued to take care of the people very, very effectively who were negatively impacted by Kony and his army.

So I think that's a very positive story. They continue to get weaker every day. And we're going to continue to support the efforts of the African Union regional task force to finish this off.

Q: Just a clarification on that. Are all the assets out now? Or is it just -- is this going to be -- how quickly will they -- when are they expected to -- to leave? And about when would they come back? Would they come back later this year? Or...

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: They're leaving now, and it'll depend on the intelligence and the -- that the African Union regional task force and their partners develop. And they'll come back, as I said, at their request when they need it.

Q: Missy Ryan from Reuters. I'd like to try to follow up on the mention earlier of Al Qaida-affiliated groups in the Maghreb and Sahel regions. Speaking of these Al Qaida-affiliated groups or, you know, extremist militant groups in general in that region, can you just tell us a little bit more about the nature of the threat that they pose? Are they growing stronger? Are they growing weaker? Are they growing -- are they growing strength at all from returning jihadis from the Syrian conflict? And do the local governments in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, even in elsewhere, do -- are they capable of combating these threats on their own?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The expansion of the Al Qaida, its adherents and affiliates includes Ansar al-Sharia, in both Benghazi and Derna. It also includes the (inaudible) Battalion, which is the MBM-led unit in northern Mali. And then, of course, Boko Haram and Ansaru, who's also added to the foreign terrorist organizations.

The linkages -- the best example to show the linkages is the Al Amenas attack, where, really, three of those groups got together, trained, and they took the best people and executed that attack, so that's the type of collaboration they're doing. They're also transferring things that are very worrisome, like the IED technology and tactics, techniques and procedures.

The -- as you know, a significant number throughout the region have headed to Syria, and not many have come back yet. But, yes, all the governments are concerned about that, because they'll come back, you know, with experience and better trained from the jihadis' perspective.

The governments have a wide range of capabilities. For example, Libya would have had a tough time doing too much with those people returning just because of the current security situation. Algeria and Tunisia are much better. And, in fact, there have been some good things in Tunisia where they've prevented people from leaving. So they are all concerned about this throughout the entire region.

Q: And are the groups becoming stronger, weaker? What's the tendency there?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The -- it depends where you talk about. Up in Libya, I think they're getting stronger. In -- in the eastern part, where al-Shabaab is, I think their tactics are evolving. Not sure they're getting stronger, but they are having more sophisticated-type attacks. And, again, the IED tactics, techniques, procedures is what we really worry about.

And then as you head over to Mali, I think they're weakened a little bit in Mali, but between the northeastern part of Mali and the southwestern part of Libya, we're really concerned.

Jim?

Q: General, in Libya, could you describe how these militant groups are getting stronger? Are -- is it simply through intimidation and force? Or are they actually providing some kind of government -- governance, rule of law, organization? Are they -- is it a charm offensive, in some respects?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I think, as always, it's a -- it's a little bit of everything. I think mainly it's about intimidation at this point. And they have a significant amount or have access to a significant amount of arms, ammunition, and explosives that makes it really tough.

The oil challenges in the eastern part of Libya are a little bit different, because that's about economics. And they do have the resources to take care of some of their people and replace the government in certain situations. But I think it's a complex situation and has all the ranges that you mentioned there working. But I think it's those two things that are making the worst impact.

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: (inaudible) seen the way in northern Mali where you saw AQIM really seek to govern cities...

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Right.

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: ... at this point, so the -- it's slightly different business model, in terms of the way southern Libya is operating. But clearly, the displacement of groups across porous borders is very challenging, just in terms of continuing to (inaudible)

Q: (inaudible) follow up. When the international community decided to force Gadhafi out of power, overturn that government, did they -- did the international community, the U.S., not foresee this outcome, given the fact that the Libyan government really had no reach, much reach beyond Tripoli?

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: I think it would be hard from the outside, given the state of our relationship that pertained then with Libya, to understand how devoid Libya was of institutions to be able to recover after Gadhafi's departure.

So I -- my sense is that the amount of information available, as far as the ability of Libyan institutions to continue without Gadhafi, I think that that was underestimated, in terms of kind of the ability to proceed forward without his, you know, very personalistic style of power.

So I think some of this was certainly foreseeable and was foreseen, but the kind of continuing factors of the -- the work across border between northern Mali and southern Libya and the continuing destabilization there, my sense is that that's -- that's worse than would have been anticipated at the time.

Q: Could I ask you about the special forces, the role of special operations forces? As it -- the U.S. pulls now from Afghanistan, your continent -- one of your goals is to keep a small U.S. footprint. Do you see a greater use of SOF there for foreign internal defense for anti-poaching kind of training and exercises? You know, what's the role of SOF going to be in Africa as the U.S. draws down from Afghanistan?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: They're a big part, obviously, of the small teams and the right places that have a tailored approach to what our partners need most. And the foreign internal defense and the training of small units is at the head of that list, obviously.

On the poaching piece, we don't get directly involved in that. We do provide some training. Some of the ministry of defense forces are a part of that, so we help train them, but we don't have a direct role in that, unless, of course, it's a nexus between that and the counterterrorism. But there's a large role for special operations forces, as well as the conventional forces who can do the same thing at different levels.

Q: What's this extremist force you mentioned, special operations extremist force, when you were laying out...

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Commander's in extremis force. Each of the combatant commands has one. It's about a company level. And all of us have one of those in our areas.

Q: What are they for? What -- how would they be used, like in a Benghazi situation?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Well, they could have been used in a situation like that because they're well-trained and able to move quickly and, again, one of our response forces for any situations that occurred in there.

Q: And, Ms. Dory, I want to ask a -- the Rwanda 20 years later question. In layman's language, would AFRICOM had been in a better -- is it in a better position now to mobilize evidence of atrocities as they were ongoing -- just kind of serve as a conscience of the nation, in terms of forcing -- forcing NATO or other nations to respond more rapidly than -- than happened 20 years ago?

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: AFRICOM certainly has a conscience, but I think in the scenario you're laying out, really, that's more the intel community, with the function to warn, based on, you know, kind of the continuous assessments and monitoring of situations that are viewed to be tenuous. So I think, in the first instance, that the warnings tend to come from the intelligence community, although it's entirely possible, you know, that there could be indications that would be picked up by the command.

But the point I wanted to make is, in terms of the kind of policymaking apparatus, I think we're in a much more robust place now to -- to recognize a situation that's tenuous and respond to it, and then the command itself has now -- has response forces available for different purposes that could be moved quickly in extremis.

Q: Quickly is the issue, because, you know, President Clinton said later he wished he had moved more quickly until -- before all the people -- the killings were done. You're in a position where the United States could move more quickly or the world, you know, could move more quickly now, not to put words in your mouth, but 20 years later, you're in the position of a push for action more -- more quickly.

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes, and so are the Africans. You know, that -- that response that the Africans have done, even in the -- in the Central African Republic, is significantly different than 20 years ago. I mean, that's -- that's really the strongest difference between now and what happened 20 years ago.

Q: How many (inaudible) forces do you have, sir, in Africa?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Day to day, between 5,000 and 6,000. And it fluctuates based on exercises and training and, you know, the time of year.

Q: Sir and ma'am, do you have all that you need? I mean, I know that's probably a leading question, but specifically, I'd like to talk about, you know, among the problems of Africa are corruption, are ungoverned spaces. These are not typically a military organization's place to solve or to work on.

So when I say do you have what you need, are you getting what you need from across the river or from international organizations? And how do you characterize that partnership with these folks? Ma'am, you spoke about the partnership earlier. I was just wondering if you could expand on that a little bit.

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: Sure. Thank you for the opportunity, with your leading question.

Q: That's my job.

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: We appreciate it. You do it well. I think from -- I know General Rod has a wish list, so he does not have all that he needs, but I would say kind of strategically, when we look at the situation on the continent, one of the areas where I think we, the U.S. government, don't have the resources that we need are the types of resources that State Department and USAID use for their democracy and governance programs.

Those -- those resources are minuscule. I would probably misquote the amount available this fiscal year, but it is in the tens of millions, maybe on up to 40, if we're lucky, to stretch out across this vast continent, where you have probably close to 40 different countries now who do -- you know, have bought into democracy, have elections, but the -- but the quality of the elections is something where there is room for improvement.

These are the types of resources that help in terms of promoting civic action, freedom of the press, independent electoral commissions in various countries, and they are absolutely under pressure. And I think from a DOD perspective, we understand that elections, good elections, serve as a conflict prevention mechanism, in a sense, and where you don't have that kind of ability for the people to have a voice and for change of power on some basis, that's where the tensions seem -- seem to build and occasionally explode.

So if you were to ask for my wish list, at the top of that list, I would be advocating for additional resources for the democracy and governance accounts. I know...

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, and as she said, you know, the comprehensive approach that's going to solve this long term and everything is -- is a challenge for everybody to -- to resource. So we're working very, very closely with our multinational partners, because nobody has enough resources to do it themselves, so that's why we have the effort, as we have in Libya, where all the partners are working together as close as they ever have in phase three, when we're in combat, right? We're trying to do that in a shaping phase, to be able to better spread the resources where they need to do. The synchronization of that, as you can imagine, is a challenge sometimes, but we're working with our partners to -- to best get -- get the most for our buck everywhere we are.

Q: And you're working very closely with the French...

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

Q: ... across the whole continent.

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Uh-huh.

Q: How -- how do you plan that?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: We have people from -- we have French people in our headquarters as liaison officers, and we have French -- we have U.S. liaison officers in their operations center. We work combine planning efforts about once every month, and we continue to synchronize our efforts to best, you know, accomplish the overall common interests we both have.

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: I would say, to our headquarters, as well, it's the French, but the UK is present. There are liaison officers from -- I don't know how many different countries...

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Nine different European nations.

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: ... from -- so it's -- you know, Portugal, Italy, Spain, UK, France -- I'm going to forget a few and make a diplomatic faux pas.

Q: (inaudible)

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The African nations are not in our headquarters. We work most of that through the country teams when we coordinate those efforts. But they're doing the same thing. And, again, rather than have an individual response in a bilateral fashion, they're working together, and that's why we're really working hard to regionalize and internationalize the effort so that everybody's working together.

Q: Luis Martinez with ABC News. Can I go back to your answer to Tony about not getting involved in poaching unless there's a nexus to counterterrorism?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

Q: What links are you seeing between illicit wildlife trafficking and extremist groups? And what are those groups? And is the AFRICOM command making illicit wildlife trafficking an intelligence priority? Because I think there's a presidential executive order that does that. So what are you doing to...

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, so like -- so we don't directly do it, but we do training for a couple things. One of them is in the -- the intelligence arena, and we do not see a significant amount of direct linkages right now between most of the extremist groups where that is for -- for livelihoods, but that's what we work on. We work on training the security forces mainly in the intelligence function to improve their capabilities to combat that illicit traffic.

Q: So you're not really seeing links with funds being funneled into other groups...

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, no. Not like -- like one would think. Most of it is done by -- most of the funds come from selling of illicit material, like the arms, ammunition and explosives, mainly. It also comes from taxation and kidnap for ransom. And it all comes from local taxation. That's where most of it comes. There is some drug interface, obviously, with the networks to generate some funds that way.

Q: What kind of intelligence training do you do with local governments when it comes to wildlife?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: We talk about the intelligence fusion of their multiple agencies, because, for example, their park rangers don't share with their minister of interior and the police forces, and we work with that, as well as how to analyze the patterns that those people demonstrate. Okay?

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: Our intel colleagues are tracking -- you know, are aware of the -- the kind of information that says, for example, that LRA is involved in working with poachers or, you know, that -- that there's type of collaboration. So there is an effort to try to dig into those allegations to see if there's something there.

Q: (inaudible) spike in poaching in recent years. Was this generated in part because of the fundraising efforts? Or more, like you said, livelihood?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I think it's been more as livelihood, pretty much (inaudible)

Q: (inaudible) wanted to go back to the -- the tracking that were sort of based in Central and South America. Do you see those ties have -- strengthening over recent years? And also, too, with the flow of narcotics through Africa, are you seeing also a counterflow of weapons, arms, ammunitions back across and possibly to different areas in the world?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Most of the arms ammunition, explosives (inaudible) stays on the continent, does not go outside the continent. The South American network that comes up through West Africa is probably pretty close to remaining the same, but there is an improvement or a growth in the network that comes from South Asia across East Africa and then up to Europe, as well as into the United States. That has expanded.

Okay? Yes.

Q: Yeah (inaudible) have you seen lately any indications that (inaudible) has any kind of operations or any presence in Africa, mainly in the western part of Africa? And if yes, how significant is...

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: There are a couple of those linkages, and they're not that significant at this point in time. They're focusing on other places, as you can imagine right now.

Q: Jon Harper with Stars and Stripes. General, what kind of ISR shortages are you facing? And what kind of challenges does that present for you in Libya and elsewhere? And also, as the war in Afghanistan winds down, do you anticipate that more of those assets will be shifted to your AOR?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: On the first part, the challenges with ISR for us are really about the ranges and the dwell times that are required. So that's the biggest challenge, of course, and everybody wants more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as you can imagine.

As the drawdown in Afghanistan works, you know, those all go back into DOD pool, and they align them based on the priorities across the world, and we hope that we're going to be able to play pretty good against those priorities.

Thank you.

Q: Hi, Jonathan Meza with Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. The counter-piracy mission has brought together a coalition of unlikely partners including China and Japan. How do you assess the nature and level of cooperation amongst the various militaries involved? And based on your experience, do you see this joint endeavor having a positive impact or potential for a positive impact on military relationships?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I do. I think it has been a success story, especially off the East African coast. It's also -- another part of that has been the industry best practices, where they've armed many of the ships, but there's been a great coordination among many partners that probably didn't think they were going to coordinate well, again, for a common interest, for the shipping and the economic opportunities. And I think it does provide an opportunity to expand coordination between us.

Thank you.

Q: How do you answer the question today, why doesn't AFRICOM have an Africa-based headquarters versus in Stuttgart, Germany? It keeps coming up every time it's mentioned, something about AFRICOM, they say, "Where is it based?" And they say, "It's in Germany." And there's a kind of scratching of heads. Fast forward to today. Why are you still in Germany versus Virginia or some other (INAUDIBLE) South Carolina or Africa?

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: There's, right, about 100 senators who are (inaudible)

Q: (inaudible) and why Germany, not (inaudible)

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Well, I think the main reason initially was the infrastructure in Europe. It's also a great location to coordinate the efforts with our European partners who have a lot of interest down there, and they're common with ours, as well as providing easy and quick access down to the African continent.

Q: Well, what about opposition, though, from African nations? Has that -- that was early on that was an issue. And has that softened a bit, if you wanted to push for an Africa headquarters?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: It's probably softened a bit, but it's probably not consistent. So, you know, if -- a couple of nations would obviously love to have an African (inaudible) but then their partners wouldn't next door. So it's a -- it's a huge political issue for many of the Africans still down there.

Q: Speaking of political issue (inaudible) as she pointed out, there's some push in the United States to have you located in Virginia or south -- on the eastern seaboard. What's your take on that? Would that be not a practical idea or a useful idea?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I think where the headquarters is, it functions pretty effectively, and we support the secretary of defense's study that went on last time that says we should leave it there right now.

Q: Okay.

Q: Sir, just -- sir, just to follow up on Paul’s question, is the joint task force in Djibouti part of AFRICOM?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes, it reports to us, yes. Yes.

Q: So you have a local base in the continent.

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: A forward-operating site, yes. Uh-huh. Yes.

DEP. ASST. SEC. DORY: But not the headquarters proper.

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Right.

Q: And (inaudible) to have the headquarters in Djibouti?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: You know, the -- the challenges of Djibouti are many. The location is obviously a huge strategic location for many people, whether it be, you know, the Chinese who do a lot of work in the port there and everything. Plus, it's not, you know, centrally located, so -- to all the challenging areas, so I'm not sure that would be the best location.

Q: Well, staying with Djibouti for a second, by any measure, Djibouti has been a success for -- for the U.S. You mentioned also that you were talking about trying to establish the -- I don't know -- a base, but a presence in West Africa. Would it be on the line of a Djibouti presence? Or are you looking at some smaller footprint?

GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Well, there's -- that process is going on right now. That's one of the options, a forward-operating site like Djibouti, but not -- not one of the primary ones. What we're really looking at doing is putting contingency locating sites, which really have some just expeditionary infrastructure that can be expanded with tents to put people in there temporarily to help support both response to crises, as well as protecting U.S. personnel facilities.

Okay? Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your attention and the questions.

Thank you.
 

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