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DoD News Briefing with Mr. Henry and Lt. Gen. Sharp from the Pentagon

Presenters: Ryan Henry, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and Army Lt. Gen. Walter L. Sharp, Director, Joint Staff
February 07, 2007 1:00 PM EDT

            BRYAN WHITMAN (Pentagon spokesman):  Good afternoon and welcome. This afternoon we'd like to talk to you about a recommendation that the department made to the president some time ago, and the president approved -- the concept of a change to the unified command plan to create an Africa Command.  Secretary Gates mentioned this yesterday in his testimony.  And today we have two of the subject matter experts to help you understand the process from today and going forward until we are able to stand up this command.

 

            Our two briefers today are probably two individuals that need no introduction to you.  But Mr. Ryan Henry, who is the principal undersecretary of defense for policy, and his colleague from the Joint  Staff, Lieutenant General Walter "Skip" Sharp, are here today to brief you on the concept and the developments and the way ahead.

 

            And so with that, let me turn it over to the two of them, who are going to give you a brief presentation and then take your questions.

 

            MR. HENRY:  Thank you, Bryan.

 

            With us today are the team who have actually been doing a lot of the heavy lifting on bringing forth AFRICOM.  From the State Department, Ambassador Bob Loftis, who's played a critical role in our work with the interagency; from the secretary's staff, Theresa Whelan, who's the deputy assistant secretary for African affairs; and then leading the integrated product team that did the analysis of this and now the lead of the transition team which has stood up here recently, Rear Admiral Robert Moeller, formerly from Central Command and now leading the IPT.

 

            With that, we have some handouts that we will be providing you, to go along with the slides that we have projected up here.  And we thought we just might use these as a way to talk through some of the important aspects, we think, of AFRICOM and then after Skip finishes his session -- section, that we'll open it up to you for questions.

 

            So with that, as you might be aware, the president did announce yesterday, along with the testimony from the secretary --

 

            GEN. SHARP:  Next slide.

 

            MR. HENRY:  -- next -- that we would be standing up this command in order to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves in the African continent to provide security and stability and to promote our common goals in the development of health, education, democracy and economic growth.

 

            We are in the process and have been in the process of consulting with Congress, other elements of the U.S. government, and we are now in the process of consulting with the 53 host nations in the continent of Africa, consulting with them both at the diplomatic level and through military channels.

 

            We think that this is the time for the United States to think about how it's organized on the continent as Africa starts to grow in significance.

 

            Slide, please.

 

            Africa represents about 35 percent of the world's land mass, about 25 percent of the world's population -- that population is growing as fast there as it is anywhere else, representing 400 million Muslims, 400 million non-Muslims -- very significant amount of natural resource, some mineral, some organic, but most especially a remarkable human potential on the continent.

 

            And it is a continent and a group of nations who think of themselves from a continental perspective.  They think of themselves as Africa.  And so one of the major reasons at this time to stand up Africa Command is for us also to view the people, the nations and the continent of Africa from the same perspective that they view themselves.

 

            This command then will focus on some efforts to reduce conflict, to improve the security environment, to defeat or preclude the  development of terrorists or terrorist networks, and then support in crisis response, whether they be humanitarian or disaster response.

 

            We want to help develop a stable environment in which a civil society can be built and that the quality of life for the citizenry can be improved, and that is the principal reason for standing up Africa Command at this time.

 

            Slide?

 

            So the command itself will act as an entity to integrate the Department of Defense's support to activities that the rest of the U.S. government is doing over there.  So we will -- the command will lead in the department's support effort to those things.  And then we will assist in the diplomacy and development efforts that are going on in the continent.  And should activities come that are of a military nature, then the command will lead in those.

 

            Currently, as you may be aware, we have three separate regional combatant commands that have responsibility in Africa:  European Command; Central Command, who has the Horn of Africa area; and then Pacific Command, which picks up Madagascar and parts of the Indian Ocean.  Those will all be -- those activities we consolidated into the one Africa Command.

 

            Another aspect of this command that will probably be different than other commands we currently have is the degree of interagency integration and participation and also the number of civilians and the responsible positions in which they occupy within the command.  So we look at this as being a more interagency-focused effort than a purely military-focused effort.

 

            The area of responsibility -- slide -- that Africa Command will hold -- you can see on the left slide what it is today with the three separate regional combatant commands.  Of the 53 nations in Africa, 52 of them will be inside the command; the country of Egypt is currently envisioned to remain part of Central Command, but we will in discussions with the Egyptian government.  And while that might change in time, the current plan is for them to remain part of Central Command.

 

            And with that, I'll turn it over to the director of the Joint Staff.

 

            GEN. SHARP:  Thanks.

 

            And the only last point on that is, as you all know, the Unified Command Plan signed by the president -- when this command becomes fully operational, he'll sign it, and that's what will actually dictate what the exact area of responsibility is.  And it may progress over time from what it is now to its final state at full operational capability.

 

            Next slide, please.

 

            This slide lays out some of the major tasks that we envision for Africa Command, and I'd like to highlight and talk about just a couple of them.  I think key is the first sentence up there where it says that we really want to work with, obviously, the African states and the regional organizations, but other partners, too.  And Ryan mentioned interagency participation.  Again, see that being much more robust at the headquarters within the continent than what we have traditionally done in combatant commands, and see it starting from the very beginning of this standup of the command.

 

            I think it's good to point out again Ambassador Loftis has been part of this transition team, the Integrated Process Team that has started this from the very beginning.  So Department of State is fully onboard of how to better synchronize all elements of power to be able to help the Africans deal with African problems.

 

            A couple of the specific ones on here.  First off:  Building partnership capacity.  Some specific elements in that area are, of course, training and equipping Africans in such skills as peacekeeping operations, humanitarian operations, both to deal internally with their problems within Africa, and then ideally, to be able to join other organizations, such as the U.N., in other places in peacekeeping operations around the world and be part of those international organizations.  Supporting U.S. government agencies in implementing security postures.  An example is what USAID is doing now as far as humanitarian assistance.  And such things as military support to move countries -- and move troops from one part of the country -- on one part of the continent into other parts of the country -- or the continent.  Theater security cooperation activities, those highlight mil-to-mil exchanges, the fact that we are bringing military officers from the countries within the continent to our schools.  Training exercises within the country, again to foster peacekeeping operations. And then medical types of exercises which, again, we do in a country.

 

            Again, as I went through that list, I think you'll recognize that many of those really are required in order to be successful, much more than just military-to-military.  And when we can get the synergy of bringing USAID, State Department and the military together to be able to deal with problems in Africa, we get much more benefit out of it.

 

            Drop down to the bottom.  Support African regional organizations. We do that right now with the African Union, ECOWAS and others.  And  again, we see this being even increased more as we're able to pull all of these together.

 

            The last one:  As directed, conduct military operations.  It's not necessarily the last priority, in fact it's not last priority. Let me be clear, this command also has the responsibility and will have the responsibility to do whatever military operations that the secretary and the president direct.  So it is a combatant command- plus, the "plus" being what we're able to, hopefully, be able to garner together with the interagency coordination from the very beginning of it, and interagency participation.  And again, taking the benefit, as Ryan pointed out, of putting -- pulling what three COCOMs do right now in different parts of Africa and putting that under one combatant command, we see some real benefits there.

 

            Next slide.

 

            This is the mission statement.  I'll give you a second to read it.  Really it highlights in a mission statement format -- and it is a draft, as shown on the top, so it will continue to be worked as we move towards full operational capability and will be laid out in the Unified Command Plan.  But I think again, the highlights, it's a new command that really is trying to integrate all elements of our power to be able to help the countries within Africa.  And we're trying to work together as tasked, that the government, our government wants to help Africans, as far as being able to determine who should be the lead and who should be supporting within that organization, whether it's the Department of Defense lead for certain operations with supporting from other elements, or the other way around.  And we think the synergy there could be really beneficial.

 

            Next slide, please.

 

            Transition, the way ahead.  As we've mentioned earlier, Bob Moeller headed our integrated -- or the team which first brought these ideas forward to this point.  We are now standing up a transition team, which is going to be -- which is based out of Germany.  And there are about 60 or so folks on that transition team now.  They will flesh out a lot of the ideas that we have here, that have been brought forward and approved by the secretary thus far, to be able to have an initial operating capability sometime later this year, and as Secretary Gates said yesterday and the president has said, with full operational capability by the end of fiscal year '08.  So by the end of September 2008.

 

            The transition team that's over there will work through these issues to be able to get to the operating capability, and then we'll stand up initially the command in EUCOM, and then we will start the process -- well, we will start it even earlier -- of working with the countries in Africa to determine where the headquarters will eventually end up.  Of course, that will depend a lot upon what the countries -- what we hear from the countries and from such organizations as the African Union as we work with them and the countries within Africa.

 

            But the goal as it's shown on the chart is to eventually establish the command there in the continent.  And again, as the bottom banner says, a lot more details to be worked out, but we've got a robust team that has really brought folks from the military, from  EUCOM, from CENTCOM and from PACOM together in this transition team, with State Department participation in it also, to flesh out all these details.

 

            If we go to the next chart, and with that, I think we'll open it up to questions.

 

            Q:  In putting the pieces together to this, are you going to be needing more assets, more platforms and that kind of thing, or is it just a matter of like shifting the whatever -- what shelves you have?

 

            MR. HENRY:  We don't see a change in the military's force structure or any need for that or -- in our order of battle.  We have moved and are continuing to migrate to a rotational force where rather than having forces stationed in the theater, they rotate in on a periodic basis.  And we would see the same thing occurring here here. The mixture of that forces, again, would be heavily biased to nonkinetic sort of capability -- the humanitarian assistance, the civil affairs, the working with the host nations to build up their militaries, working with them to let them know the role of the military in civil society, concepts of civilian control.

 

            So those are the aspects that we think we'd be emphasizing more than military operations.

 

            Q:  As a follow-up, though -- in terms of the counterinsurgency and counterterrorist efforts, then, are you seeing more things like for ISR, for intelligence operations, that kind of thing or --  I mean --

 

            MR. HENRY:  Well, those are some of the typical mixtures that you would have in any combatant command.  But I think the emphasis on the activities would be more in what we can do to help the host nations there on the continent of Africa build up their capability and their capacity so that they are able to service their own security needs rather than rely on an outside entity.

 

            Q:  Can you explain why Egypt is not being included in AFRICOM? And when will you nominate a four-star commander for AFRICOM?

 

            GEN. SHARP:  You want to take the first and I'll take the second one?

 

            MR. HENRY:  Sure.

 

            Well, Egypt is -- much of its activity and focus is focused toward the Middle East.  It still views itself as an African nation. One of the difficulties in setting up any combatant command is the issue of what we refer to as seams, that there are not -- wherever you draw a line, then there's a break there.  So one of the things that we'll be going and looking forward to with the idea that, for the time being, that Egypt would be in Central Command is look at innovative ways to overcome that seam and perhaps take some approaches that we haven't tried in the past.  And we're still working on a whole host of ideas of how we might do that.

 

            GEN. SHARP:  And on the commander, that's one of the elements the transition team will work through.  But the intent is to be able to get -- first off, we have to get approval for that billet, the four- star billet and for the actual headquarters itself, how many general officers are going to be in the headquarters.  And then that nomination, as you well know -- the secretary will make a recommendation to the president, who will then nominate to Congress -- or make a nomination to Congress for the command.  But we see that happening some time definitely within this calendar year.

 

            Q:  How many U.S. troops do you envision being in Africa?

 

            I know you said that it's not -- it won't be -- will be more transitory.  Can you say anything else?

 

            And why is this necessary to do this now?  To set up the command.

 

            GEN. SHARP:  To answer the question on how many, I mean, I think that will depend in large part upon the missions and the task that we have for AFRICOM.  It will change over time.  As we work with the countries in Africa and see the -- our ability and their need to be able to help them build their capacities, we'll have forces going in and out on exercises and then out on training missions as it goes through.

 

            So I think, you know, similar to what we do in SOUTHCOM right now, those numbers will go up and down, depending upon the different exercise schedule as we go through.

 

            And the why that we think that it's important to do now is the continuing emphasis on being able to pull all elements together to be able to help shape Africa or to be able to help get Africans to be able to deal with the problems within their country or within their countries.

 

            Q:  But why is that --

 

            MR. HENRY:  So I would just add -- you said, you know, why is it necessary to do it now?  It's appropriate to do it now.  Now is a good time to do it.  As the Africa Union continues to step up to provide continental leadership, we have -- we think that we have key partners to work with there.  We think that the environment's right.  We think that our U.S. -- that our government and our ability to work across interagency is continuing to develop.  And so we think that this is an appropriate time to move forward.

 

            In regards to the stationing of forces, as currently envisioned, we do not see any increase in stationing of forces.  We do see the opportunity to work more with host nations, but those would be cooperative endeavors, and they would again be done on a rotational basis, some measured in weeks, perhaps some measured in months.  But we just don't see any increase in the stationing of forces on the continent or within the command.

 

            Q:  Can I just follow up with that?  Is this partly because the instability in Africa amounts to a greater national security threat to  the United States now than in the past?  Is that part of this?  Is that central to it?

 

            MR. HENRY:  The primary driver, as I tried to point out in my remarks, is that Africa is a continent of vast potential, and it is a continent of some challenges.  We -- and it is a group of nations who look at themselves in a continental perspective.  And how we address those opportunities and those challenges -- rather than having it parsed among three combatant commanders, it makes more sense to us to be able to look at it as a combatant commander who has the same focus as the nations which he's working with.  And so that's why we think it's appropriate to do this, and we think that now is the right time to do it.

 

            Q:  Could you say how large, roughly, you expect the headquarters to be when it's fully formed, I mean, how many officers and other personnel you envisage, how big an operation?

 

            GEN. SHARP:  We really don't have -- I mean, we think it will be probably pretty consistent from a military perspective, you know, as the other combatant commands have similar type of missions.

 

            But we do expect it to have more folks from the Department of State and other parts of our government.  So it will be bigger from that perspective, which will bring a lot more capability.

 

            Q:  Can you give us a rough idea of how large the others are? How big -- you know, CENTCOM or PACOM, roughly?

 

            GEN. SHARP:  We'll have to get back with you.  I think, you know, a good example would be SOUTHCOM and PACOM type of operations -- unless, Bob, you know those off the top of your head.

 

            MR. HENRY:  Look, they're going to -- it's going to tend to be -- a thousand plus or minus 300 or so, is roughly what the span is. AFRICOM would probably be at the lower end of that.  That's when it's fully stood up.  Again, though, there will be some -- uniqueness, as Skip said, is in the number and the percentage of civilians involved and, we also believe, in the type of responsibilities and being in key positions.

 

            Q:  If I could just follow up on that -- but the way you're describing it, would it be fair to say you regard this as perhaps having more of a nation-building role?  I know that's been a dirty word in some, you know, quarters for some time, but would you see that there would be more focus on that in this command than there have been -- than there has been in the past, and there is in some other commands?

 

            MR. HENRY:  The department tends to focus on the stability and the security end.  Other parts of the government tend to focus more on the building of the civil society.  So our role would be -- is, how can we help those nations develop the security apparatus that will give them the stability, so that they can reach their economic and their human potential.  But we'll work on the security dimension. Part of that is to get the capability, but the other part of it is what role the military plays in that society.

 

            GEN. SHARP:  Yeah.  And I think, you know, what we're seeing in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, how the stability and the governance and the economics and the reconstruction side really are so dependent upon each other that they're really woven together.  And I think a headquarters that has those elements, helping plan to move and help countries along all of those lines, would really -- is the real benefit of this.

 

            Q:  Hi.  Just to make sure, you don't see an increase in the number of troops stationed in Africa; however, you are going to eventually put a headquarters on the continent.  In order to get a ballpark figure of about how many troops we're dealing with, would it be okay to take the number of troops at Camp Lemonier and add, you said, a thousand plus or minus 300 to get a range of -- excuse me, add a thousand or so to get a range of how many U.S. troops you're talking about?

 

            MR. HENRY:  That would be an upper limit.  Because again, normally when you say how big a command is going to be, we would be -- there would be a military head count.  But this is -- there's going to be a decent percentage of civilians involved, too.  So that would be at the upper bound.

 

            Q:  So a more accurate assessment would be to take, say, Camp Lemonier and add 500 or so?

 

            MR. HENRY:  I -- yeah -- we're not -- we haven't gotten to the point where we're making those exact calculations yet.  We're more trying to figure out how we'll operate, what the right construct is, what the right structure looks like.

 

            And then another issue we have to do is we have to start talking to different host nations and find out where their comfort zone is, too.  So this is a dynamic process.  And to start to point and try to get to a discrete number or a discrete number with a range around it, it's just not at the point of development.

 

            I might add is that -- what's somewhat unique is we're coming, we're talking to you, the public via you, on -- at the outset and at the start rather than when we're coming with a fully finished product. And it's part of the process in informing people on where we're thinking about going, but there are not definitive, specific plans. We're still open.  We're still open from input specifically for the countries we're going to be working with.

 

            Q:  Can you -- you talked to this a little bit, but can you speak a little bit more -- does the creation of this command send a signal to some of these countries that have been receiving, I would characterize, spotty training?  I mean, Special Forces have been in Mauritania and some of these northern and western African countries. Does this signal to them that they foresee in the future a more sustained training/maybe training and equipping mission from the U.S.?

 

            MR. HENRY:  Well, I think that there will be a focused effort.  We believe that the efforts of the three different combatant commands that have been doing it to date have been doing a good job.  We don't have any problem with the performance that we've had.  We think there's just going to be benefits on a four-star individual having this as his area of responsibility, his focus, him building up the sustainable relationships.  We would think that we would able to improve the quality of that training, improve the consistency and having it better tailored to the needs of the continent and to the specific countries, but that's a function of management focus.

 

            GEN. SHARP:  And again, across all elements, not just the military side.

 

            Q:  Right.  But if a country like Mauritania is getting, say, a dozen Special Forces guys to come in and help train a company-size unit, say, once a year or maybe every other year, is it possible that a country such as that would see more sustained training over the long --

 

            MR. HENRY:  In some instances, that very well may happen.  In other instances, it might be that it would be a different type of  training, a different relationship.  In some instances, it might be that the Department of Defense would merely support USAID, State Department or somebody else in the performance of their mission.  So there's a whole spectrum.

 

            But we do think that we'll have -- there's a higher probability that we'll get the appropriate support and assistance to that country by going with this Africa Command.

 

            Q:  In addition to the headquarters staff, will you be looking to base forces in Africa?  And if so, what sort of forces?  Any idea about the size?  Are we talking ground forces, Air Force facilities here and there?  And in your rough map, I noticed a great, big chunk of ocean that you've put -- at least on that map -- under Africa Command, so where do you base the naval forces?

 

            MR. HENRY:  There are no plans envisioned in this effort on the basing of forces on the continent.  That hasn't been part of any discussion, any thought process.  It is better how to do what we're currently doing nominally with the mix of forces, or perhaps a more targeted and tailored set of rotational forces.  But the stationing of forces, that's not something that there are any plans to do.

 

            As far as the naval forces, those areas of responsibility shown on the map are currently serviced by either the 5th Fleet or the 6th Fleet.  And to date, there's no plans on changing that.

 

            Q:  So portions of those fleets would come under Africa Command?  Is that what you're saying?

 

            MR. HENRY:  It would depend on what the operational needs are, and they would flow between commands.

 

            Q:  So if you're going to be rotating forces then, will you be looking for facilities that could be more or less permanent U.S. or long-term leased U.S. facilities on the continent to which you would rotate forces?

 

            MR. HENRY:  No.  About three years ago, when we came forward and talked to you and other folks about the Global Force Posture and the realignment of our forces worldwide, at that point in time we talked about a basing structure of main operating bases, forward operating sites, and cooperative security locations.  There was a mixture of those that we laid out at that point in time.  We went forward with that; we've been developing those relationships.  And currently we don't see anything -- any need to change that construct that we laid out back then.

 

            GEN. SHARP:  Right.  And again, I think as troops rotate in and out, the combatant commander will make the calls as to what he needs in order to be able to support those troops.

 

            Q:  Does this require congressional approval to set up a command?

 

            MR. HENRY:  The president is in charge -- is tasked, through the unified command plan, of talking about the organization of forces worldwide.  And so it is a presidential prerogative, and he does that when he signs the unified command plan.  And that will represent the final stage of setting this up.

 

            GEN. SHARP:  And of course we will consult with Congress and tell them, you know, what our plans are in order to be able to get their support.

 

            MR. HENRY:  We have consulted with Congress throughout the process, and we will continue to do so.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q:  By headquarters on the continent, do you also mean island nations off the coast?

 

            MR. HENRY:  The island nations around the coast will be included as part of AFRICOM.  And so we would -- the guidance and the intent is to formally set up the command, when the conditions are appropriate, within the area of responsibility.  So that would include the island nations.  There's not necessarily a bias to go there.  But we are at the point now of looking at all the different options and beginning initial discussions with the countries in the theater.

 

            MR. WHITMAN:  Perhaps a couple more, and then we'll --

 

            Q:  Do they speak Portuguese in this one, the ones you're considering?

 

            MR. HENRY:  There's nothing that's been ruled out yet.

 

            Q:  Just a quick follow-up.

 

            Are there any plans to create a school to teach African nations counterinsurgency tactics?

 

            MR. HENRY:  We currently have a number of schoolhouses that do that, and we don't necessarily focus those on a specific combatant command.  But we think of our own forces as a global force, and we think of the countries we partner with from a global perspective like that.

 

            We do have -- the Africa Center for Security Studies, currently hosted over at National Defense  University, similar -- we have five regional centers, but they're focused on the issue of the role of the military in civil society, and they would continue to play that role along with countering ideological support to terrorism.

 

            Q:  I was thinking along the lines of the school in Panama, or in South America.

 

            MR. HENRY:  There are no plans to establish a school specifically for AFRICOM.

 

            GEN. SHARP:  Last question.

 

            Q:  What would you say to the average African, if such a person exists, what's in it for them, the creation of this new command? What will you be able to do for them that you couldn't do before under the old structure?

 

            MR. HENRY:  From my perspective, it would be that the United States as a full government recognizes the emergence of the African continent and the nations composing it, the 53 nations within there, as key players on the global scene, something that will continue to rise in significance through this century.  And that the Department of Defense, as part of the rest of the U.S. government, is organizing themselves for the emergence of this new center.

 

            Q:  But, you know, if you're an average African saying, "What's in it for us, what do we get from this?"

 

            GEN. SHARP:  I think you get a better -- we've been working right now across our government to be able to help build partnership capacity, be able to build capabilities within Africa.  This enables it to be done even better.

 

            MR. HENRY:  Thank you very much.

 

            MR. WHITMAN:  (Off mike.)

 

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