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Principal Deputy Under Secretary Henry Briefing at the State Department Foreign Press Center

Presenter: Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Ryan Henry
June 22, 2007 11:00 AM EDT
MODERATOR: Good morning, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Thank you very much for coming. This morning we are very pleased to have Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Mr. Ryan Henry. He has held this position since February 2003. And he has just returned from consultations in a number of North African countries to discuss AFRICOM issues. AFRICOM, of course, is the newest command at the Pentagon and was -- this announcement was made by President Bush in February of this year.
Principal Deputy Undersecretary Henry has had a distinguished military career for 24 years. He's also had successful careers in the private sector and in academia. And so we're extremely pleased to have him here. He'll speak for a few minutes, and then we'll open it up to questions.
MR. HENRY: As was mentioned, we have just returned from a second round of consultations on the continent on Africa. I thought I might take a minute to make sure that you are aware of what AFRICOM is. It is, as was mentioned, a command that's intended to exist near the end of 2008, we hope around the October time frame. The specific time will be determined as we get closer.
Currently the African continent, from a United States government -- from a military perspective, is overseen by three different commanders. One of the commanders is the commander of European Command, which is in Stuttgart, Germany. And he looks at Northern Africa and much of the -- sub-Saharan Africa.
The other is the commander of Central Command, who's located in Tampa, Florida, but also is responsible for the Middle East. And he has oversight for our military over the Horn of Africa.
And then finally the commander of Pacific Command, who's located in Honolulu, Hawaii. And he's responsible for the islands on the western (sic) coast of Africa.
And so we found ourselves in a situation as we saw Africa as a continent emerging in importance: 22 percent of the Earth's surface, neighboring -- approaching 800 million inhabitants, growing in political clout, a country both rich in human capital and -- a continent rich in human capital and natural resources. And we were in a situation where we looked at it divided through a lens of the Cold War and the commands that we had set up then.
And the president, at the recommendation of the secretary of Defense, made the decision that we should start looking at Africa the same way that Africans do, from a continental perspective.
And so what AFRICOM represents is a realignment of our organizational construct on how we deal with Africa. And so instead of having three commanders that deal with Africa as a third or fourth priority, we will have a single commander that deals with it day in and day out as his first and only priority. So that is the main reason for the stand-up of AFRICOM.
AFRICOM is a unified command, it is a headquarters, and it involves a staff. There are not troops associated with that. There will be, as currently planned, no new troops to be stationed on the continent, and there will be no new bases associated with AFRICOM. There will be a headquarters associated with it, where the staff will work out of. In this day of information technology, just as this conference, I understand, is at multiple different sites, we believe that we can do that in a distributed nature. And so there in probability will not be a single headquarters, but we will look for more of a distributed approach as where the staff is located, and that will be both on the continent and off the continent. But the commander himself will be on the continent so he can better deal with his peers, chiefs of defense staff and members of multinational organization on the continent.
As we go to stand up AFRICOM, we in the Department of Defense, working with other parts of the U.S. government, realize that this was a rare opportunity to approach the command differently. And so the announcement has been made that the deputy for the command will not be a military officer, as is the practice in every other command that we have and every other nation that we know of, but the deputy will be a senior civilian from the State Department so that we can integrate with the diplomatic aspects.
And we will also have a large percentage of civilians from different parts of the U.S. government integrated into the command, because our engagement on the continent is one of diplomacy, of development and where we can be of assistance to Africans.
And having an integrated staff will help us to do a better job in integrating with those other parts of the U.S. government's engagement. AFRICOM in no way will take a leadership role in the area of diplomacy -- those are our ambassadors who are in the field -- or in the area of development -- that is the Agency for International Development -- but it will be able to support them better based on this integrated staff.
When it comes to the security or the defense part of this, AFRICOM is not meant to fight wars. It is one that is based on building partnership capability and in the areas of security cooperation. The missions that AFRICOM will emphasize are those of humanitarian assistance, civic action, the professionalism of militaries, assistance in border security and maritime security and again the area of security cooperation and response to natural disasters.
We in the stand-up in AFRICOM look at it as a command that can coordinate with African nations to support their good efforts and to be providing for their own security, but we look to Africa to develop their own security solutions and to be leaders in that. And as we've made our consultations, one thing has come clear is that every nation and every group representing an African constituency that we've talked to to date sees the African Union as the multinational organization that is structured to be able to look at continental and regional security issues, and that with its regional economic communities and the security structures they have there, each has encouraged us to work with them, and that is the intention of AFRICOM, that they'll be working with the African Union and the security structure that it has. And again, we will look -- we do not look for AFRICOM to take a leadership role; rather, it will be one in support of efforts of leading countries through our binational and bilateral relationships and then African Union and other multinational organizations.
And with that, I would be happy to answer any questions that you might have.
MODERATOR: As usual, please wait for the microphone when I call on you and be sure to identify yourself and your media organization.
Yes, go ahead.
Q My name is Manalese Tubasa (ph) from the South African Broadcasting Corporation. I just want to ask you two quick questions. First question: When are you prepared to start this command and in which country?
Secondly I just happened to come from home, and I attended a meeting of African intellectuals, and they spoken about this very same issue of the Africa Command. And out of that meeting I realized that there are three concerns. First of all, the general feeling that the U.S. image is so bad in Africa that the very same fact that to put a command there might even attract terrorism and endanger the lives of the people of Africa. That's the general feeling that was there, that you need to make up your image first before you bring this command. What do you say about that? Have you looked at those kind of issues? Or you are just go in there and set the command anyway, as you did, went to Iraq anyway?
MR. HENRY: Be glad to answer your question.
First of all you asked the question that I thought I had previously answered, but I'll be glad to do it again, is, where will it be located? And I mentioned that there are no new bases associated with this command and no new troops on the continent. I also mentioned that it will not be a single location but rather different elements of the staff headquarters will be distributed around the continent, and there might be some functions that are done back here in the United States.
As to the United States engagement in Africa, we are engaged. We are engaged today. We do not see any change in the role that we're currently playing. And so to say that we need to change something before we do something when we're already doing it is not something that necessarily makes sense to us.
I understand that people see the world differently and see the United States differently than we do. But we, again, have worked with countries. We're working with governments and we're working with multinational organizations. And we have not heard the comments expressed as you expressed them. We continue to do outreach and we feel confident with our partners on the continent that the way that we're proceeding is the correct way to proceed.
Q Jim Fisher-Thompson, USINFO. Just a clarification on the deputy position, are you saying that there will only be one deputy, and that will be a State Department official? Or previous readouts -- I got the impression that there were going to be two deputies, and the difference is that one would be a State Department official.
MR. HENRY: Yes, many organizations have multiple deputies. And we believe that AFRICOM would be that, too. So there would be a deputy, though, that'll oversee the diplomatic aspects, humanitarian aspects and would not be involved with military-specific affairs. There's issues of personnel and things like that that you would have to have a military officer by law responsible for. But for the large span of activities the command would be involved in, the deputy from the State Department would be involved in those.
Q (Off mike) -- Follow up to that because someone asked about this the other day. How would that differ, the civilian deputy, how would that position differ from the political-military position that is held by senior State Department officers for the other COCOMs (combatant command?)
MR. HENRY: There is what's known as a POLAD or a political advisor, and that is his role is he's an advisor. This is actually somebody who would be in the command structure and have line responsibilities.
MODERATOR: Yes, ma'am. Q Good morning. My name is -- (name inaudible). I work for National Daily Newspaper of Nigeria called This Day. My question is, you said that the command would be involved in humanitarian activities and security cooperation with governments. I want to know if there is already a security cooperation between the U.S. government and Nigeria in the Niger-Delta area because I know that Nigeria is about, I think, the third-largest exporter of oil to the U.S., and the U.S. government is concerned about the militant activities there and the bombing of oil (stations ?).
So I want to find out, is there a security cooperation to help the government with those challenges or will there be a security cooperation?
Thank you.
MR. HENRY: Well, security cooperations take many different forms. It can take the forms of advice and training. We do activities currently, training activities with many of the nations on the African continent today, and I can't speak to the specific ones that we do with individual nations because that's not my portfolio, and I wouldn't want to give you information that's inaccurate.
But let me talk to the larger issue and knock down, perhaps, three myths of which -- one that you started to touch on. There are myths out there on why we are doing this, and depending on who we're talking to we hear a different myth. One is that this is all about terrorism, and we're interested in having a counterterrorism command on the African continent. The other myth is is this about China and the inroads that China has been making on the continent. And then the third myth is -- and the one you -- this is about resources, specifically oil, specifically the oil in the Gulf of Guinea, and that's what this command is about.
Now, let me just address each of those, if I may. In the area of terrorism, there is -- there are terrorists, and especially coming back from this last consultation trip with states in Northern Africa and the Maghreb, this is something that they're very concerned about. We currently work with many of those countries, and we will continue to work with them in a way similar that we're doing today. We don't see any significant change in how we're approaching that.
But terrorism is not something that can be ignored, but it's clearly not the primary focus of this command.
The second issue dealt with China. China is involved significantly on the continent, principally in an economic way. And as has been stated many times, we look forward to the rise of China. As China succeeds, the rest of the world succeeds. We would expect China as it rises to be a responsible international stakeholder and act accordingly, and we're willing to work with them at any place in the globe we possibly can in that direction.
And the third one is, is in the area of resources. And again, Africa is a continent that is rich in resources, natural resources -- fishing is significant there -- mineral resources, and one of which happens to be oil, but there are many different ones. We think it's important for the world and for Africans that they're able to get their products to world markets and get the benefit of a world market. We think the solution and the guaranteer (sic) of that, though, should be African, not American.
The degree which we can work with African countries and help them get the capability that indigenously they can provide the security environment to be able to make sure they continue to have access to markets, that's something that we'd be interested in doing, working with them, as we are today. And that's an area that AFRICOM would address.
But the key, and the reason that we are standing up AFRICOM is, is we want to work with the current good efforts we see going on on the continent, through the African Union and leading states, for Africans to be able to develop their own security mechanisms and capability and capacity to be able to address their own problems. And that is the principal focus of the command.
Q Mounzer Sleiman with Al-Awsat from Kuwait and Almustaqbal Alarabi from Lebanon. Clarify a little bit about dispersing the components of the command; at the same time would be based on what? Like now there is many component; in reference to how the structure of the armed forces of the United States, like the Army headquarters or a component of the Army, commponent, or based on mission, not based on the component of a division of United States Army?
Another thing: In your consultation, is it the reason that you're not disclosing or the issue of headquarter? Where is going to be the headquarter? I mean, you're saying that there is no country specifically for the headquarters. Is that because the countries did not accept to have headquarters? I heard that some countries, they were willing. Who are they, the ones that accepted the presence of the headquarters? And why Egypt is outside this area of responsibility?
MR. HENRY: Okay, I heard two questions there. Let me address -- the first one is the distribution, the physical distribution of the command, which is the staff, members of the staff. And I did not-- first of all in our consultations we have neither asked or discussed with anyone where the headquarters would be. That's not the nature of it. The nature of it is it was the purpose, how the command would operate and how we would interface with different countries and how we would work with the African Union. Those were the nature of the consultations we had.
The staff will be distributed in different nodes. Where those nodes will be, we haven't even begun to map that out. We're just at the process right now of determining what the criteria would be for that distribution, and part of that is exactly which way you do it. Do you do it on a scaling basis? Do you do it on a functional basis? Do you do it on a mission assignment basis? And those are all part of the analysis that we're going through right now.
To get to -- the second issue is the role of Egypt in the command. Egypt has significant amount of current ongoing activity, especially in the administrative area, and things we do with Egypt in the area of security assistance that is currently done through Central Command. Since AFRICOM is a new command and one that will be in the process of standing up and learning as it goes along, for administrative purposes, Egypt will remain associated with Central Command. For operational purposes, for diplomatic issues, for cooperation with African countries, with joint activities with other African nations in the relationship to AFRICOM, then we would expect the commander of AFRICOM to be dealing with the Egyptians.
So we see that Egypt would, to a certain degree, be involved in both commands in the future.
Q Can I follow up on just one thing? You mentioned that the commander will be staying where the command headquarter is going to be, right?
MR. HENRY: I'm probably not doing a very good job of explaining this -- a specific headquarters there will not be. It'll be distributed in nodes. So we would expect the commander to be at different nodes at different times, depending upon what activity he might do.
Q But where -- I mean, we know every command has a headquarter. Where it's going to be?
MR. HENRY: That's correct. Every command today has a headquarters. AFRICOM will be different. It will have a distributed headquarters, distributed around the continent in different nodes. This will be fundamentally different than has been done anywhere else before.
Q So isn't it odd that you cannot find a place for it, or what's the reason why you can't have –
MR. HENRY: The reason is is in this day and age, in an information age -- first of all, Africa is a very, very big continent, so to put a headquarters in one part of it -- then you automatically start to ignore other parts. So one thing -- it is just like the approach from the African Union, it's distributed itself across five regional economic communities because of -- and in the different nature of it.
Similarly, we think that the staff headquarters will be distributed broadly like that. It's not a matter of not being able to find a place; it's a matter, in an information age, that we think this a more effective way to run a network organization, and that's where our staff headquarters tend to be. We currently do this globally. We have what we call split-place operations; many activities occur here in the United States, many activities of the same organization simultaneously occurring different places around the globe. We've had the last 20 years to be able to work and develop this capability, and we think it's something that can work.
MODERATOR: Let's see. This gentleman and then the lady behind. Right –
Q Yes. My name is Feal Lemeurve (ph). I'm a correspondent for Fraternite Matin, Ivory Coast. Listening to you talk, I only see that you talk about the interests of the United States in Africa. You've talked about terrorism, China and resources. Are you -- (inaudible) -- about the interests of African people, and I'm going to talk about it. What will AFRICOM do in case of a civil war in any African country? Because we know coup d'etat and civil war as what Africa -- (inaudible word) -- the most.
What will Africa do in case of, you know, coup d'etat or civil war starting, or if two countries go into conflict? That's my first question. My second question is, what's the budget of this African project?
MR. HENRY: What is the what?
Q How much? The budget. How much?
MR. HENRY: Well, there's not a budget associated with it. There will be a manpower cost associated with it. Those are all things that are currently being looked at.
As far as intervention -- I think that's basically what you asked -- first of all, we looked at the security system -- situation on the African continent. Africa, like a few other places but not many other places in the world, is -- state-based conflict, one state attacking another state -- it's not really something that is an issue in Africa. The threats in Africa tend to be transnational in nature or internal to a specific country, but they don't tend to be between countries.
Regardless, we do not see AFRICOM being used for the intervention of American forces or -- and hopefully any foreign forces, especially in the internal dispute of a specific nation. Rather, what AFRICOM will do is to try to help to create the conditions where either that nation or the African Union, through its African standby force, will be the ones that will be able to address African security issues.
And that's actually the purpose of it. You asked us: What is it going to do for the African people? We are going to try to work with countries and organizations to make sure that when there are conflicts, that Africans have the capability to address that with their own forces, with their own decision-making and with their own leadership, and that it doesn't require the intervention of external forces. That's the whole purpose of AFRICOM.
MODERATOR: Yes, ma'am?
Q Hoda Tawfik, Al Ahram newspaper, Egypt. Sir, you just mentioned about Egypt that you deal with Egypt through the Central Command. But you know that Egypt is a leading country in Africa, and you had consultations with General Azar (sp). Can you just reflect on what are the concerns of Egypt and what is your answer –
MR. HENRY: Okay. Well, first of all, they were -- yeah, they were private consultations. And so we'll leave it to the Egyptian government to discuss, if they choose to, what specifically was addressed in the consultation.
You mentioned what I view -- perhaps I didn't talk clearly enough. What I said was that Egypt will continue to work with Central Command for administrative issues, which deals with issues in the area of security assistance and many of the formalized programs that we have going with them.
Obviously, for issues dealing with the Middle East, too, they will continue to work with Central Command. But for issues that involve and activities that involve Egypt on the African continent, then from an American perspective, in consultation with the commander of Central Command, the commander of AFRICOM would be working with Egypt.
So we would see that they would work with both commanders. It depends upon the specific issue or the specific activity that would be involved. African, it would be the commander of AFRICOM; the Middle East or other issues, it would be the commander of Central Command.
MODERATOR: We have a question from New York, and I think you just touched on it, this gentleman's question. But they asked about the cost of the project and how much, as they put it, you put on the table to set up AFRICOM, which sounds like a question -- as if it's an aid issue or –
MR. HENRY: Well, I would be glad to just elaborate on that, if I might.
We do not see a different level of funding when it comes to the area of defense or security assistance. Perhaps over the long term with a different focus those numbers might start to change. In the area of development, this administration has tripled the contribution that America makes to the African continent. Again, that is something that's led by the Agency for International Development. We will be able to work more closely with them by having a staff that has members that are integrated into it, that represent their interests in the future.
But we do not see a significant change from a military perspective in the investment we're making. We see a more focused effort, again, on building up capability.
MODERATOR: Yes, this gentleman here.
Q Thank you, sir. Mark Milan (sp), Refugees International. You speak of broad consultations with African nations, with the AU, with ECOWAS and other RECs, but what about consultations with the other G-8 partners, because I see AFRICOM very much as building African capacity across governance areas as well as in the security dimension, but the British have this thing called the African Conflict Prevention Pool. We know that France has deep roots in building African capacity to do all sorts of things. How closely are you liaising with them? And do you envisage AFRICOM as a vehicle to get a more joined up donor partner approach to Africa?
Thank you, sir.
MR. HENRY: Well, closer cooperation between external governments that are interested in assisting in the security sector is clearly a possibility, when you will have a four-star military officer who's focused solely on that task and to the degree with which we can coordinate that would only make sense, so we see that real potential being out there.
In the area of consultations here with the diplomatic community and embassies here in Washington, DC, we've been having regular consultations through that mechanism. We've had informal consultations to date with both the British and the French, but we plan on having a formal round of consultations with the two of them plus other European countries in the fall, and so as we mature more what our concept is. The reason that we went to the continent first is because we're very interested in making sure that our planning is aligned with the objectives and the goals of the African countries. And then once we start to coalesce around what that will look like, then we'll be in a position to talk with external players on how best we can coordinate.
MODERATOR: Other questions.
Yes, sir.
Q Thank you. My name is -- (name inaudible) -- from Ethiopian TV, and my question would be regarding on the Horn of Africa.
As you know, the Horn of Africa is one of the hotspots as we speak, in Somalia, in Ethiopia -- (inaudible). What is the consultation in Addis Ababa? And, I mean, if you have anything on -- is that a specific date with the government? Or did you consult with African Union when you stayed in Addis Ababa?
MR. HENRY: Yes, we have consulted with both. We've been to Addis twice, had consultations with both, and we would continue to have consultations with them in the future.
Q As you said, we're going to be working on development in Africa and what have you. Since you don't have base, since you don't have a military command, as you know, African Union peacekeepers are having a difficulty, like in Darfur and other places, on capacity building. I mean, what kind of assistance on your department that you are going to be creating in terms of training and assistance and military capability, not only in the Horn of Africa but in the entire continent, cooperating under the AU. Is that also consulting that you took place in Addis Ababa?
MR. HENRY: Well, we've been talking -- everyone that we've talked to we've talked about how we can cooperate. We haven't come up with any specific plans because we're not at that stage right now, but have laid the groundwork and discussed how broadly we might be able to work together in the future. But the specifics will be tailored to the needs of the individual country or the individual organization. And again, eventually we would hope to do that also in coordination with other countries that might be having similar objectives to make sure that we're getting a focused effort, but we're also not unnecessarily duplicating effort between external countries, either.
MODERATOR: Okay, one or two more.
Yes, ma'am?
Q My name is -- (inaudible) -- and I'm an intern at the Corporate Council on Africa. And I heard how you answer the question concerning conflict resolution. My question is, the things that you describe, it's almost what the U.N. is already doing. Do you anticipate any type of coalition between AFRICOM and the U.N. in terms of conflict resolution?
MR. HENRY: I mean that would probably depend on the specific situation -- not in a coalition, but we would see cooperation broadly. Again, there are a number of entities, both national and multinational, that are interested in helping Africans have the ability to solve their own security problems, and anyone that is of like mind, then we would be interested in working with to see how collectively we can do the best effort.
I would say that, clearly, AFRICOM is not about competition with anyone, it's about complementary efforts, most specifically with Africans and the African Union on how we can complement their plans and strategy. But anyone else that's interested in participating, we would want to complement their efforts also.
MODERATOR: Last question.
Q You stated that the AFRICOM will not have forces attached to it. How about the forces that already have missions in Africa or in the surrounding area, like for instance in Djibouti or in other African countries there will be forces stationed for anti-terrorism purposes or other purposes?
And also the ongoing missions in Somalia, that there is -- we heard about many military activities there. So are they going to be under that such command, or you're going to have forces in Africa stationed in Africa? How it's going to -- who's going to be commanding and directing them?
MR. HENRY: The only forces that we have stationed in Africa are part of the Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, which is in Djibouti. It is -- its mission has changed from one of attack and disrupt terrorist networks to one of security cooperation, building capabilities with partners many times down at the village level, different civic actions, affairs, drilling wells and things such as that. That command will continue to exist. There's no plans to change that currently. It will -- when AFRICOM first begins to stand up as a -- what we refer to as a sub-unified command, it will continue to be part of Central Command. But prior to the command becoming fully unified and independent, which again will be in the late part of 2008, at that point, that task force will transfer to AFRICOM. But it'll continue to do the civic affairs missions that it's doing today.
Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
\Q (Off mike.)
MODERATOR: Why don't you do that off-line.
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