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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Ryan Henry, Principal Deputy Undersecretary Of Defense For Policy June 21, 2007

DoD Special Briefing on Africa Command with Mr. Ryan Henry from the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington Va.

STAFF: Good morning, and welcome. It's my privilege to introduce to you once again the principal undersecretary of Defense for policy, Mr. Ryan Henry, who -- I don't know -- maybe six weeks ago, maybe longer than that, was here to talk to you about his consultations with nations in Africa about the new Africa Command that is being stood up. And he had just finished his first rounds of consultations with countries in the region, and he has just come back from his second, and agreed to come by and give you a brief update and take some of your questions with respect to where we are in that process.

So with that, let met turn it over to you.

MR. HENRY: Good morning. I've just returned from a second consultation trip to the continent of Africa. It was part of a State Department and International Development Agency trip to AFRICOM. We wanted to give you some feedback on the second trip and what we heard.

As many of you know, the Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, will better enable the Department of Defense and other elements of the U.S. government to work in concert with our African partners for a more stable environment in which the political and economic growth can take place. It will also help in setting the conditions whereby humanitarian and developmental assistance can be used more effectively.

On this trip, we met with senior defense and foreign ministry officials from Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Djibouti and the African Union.

We also met in Paris with the French government and defense attaches from 40 countries that are currently serving there. As we did in our first trip in April, we explained the broad outlines and goals of AFRICOM and then sought their viewpoints from our partners as their inputs are valuable to us as we start to make the decisions about the way ahead and specifics on the stand-up at AFRICOM.

From my perspective, there were three significant takeaways from the trip. First, that counterterrorism was a top security concern for the countries that we met with on this trip. They were interested in how AFRICOM would help support their counterterrorism efforts, how current programs and initiatives would be impacted. What we said, that it was our intent not to make any dramatic changes as Africa comes on line, but to see how we can be more effective by integrating civilian parts of the U.S. government that will be resident on AFRICOM's staff.

The countries -- secondly, the countries were committed to the Africa Union as the continent's common security structure, and they advised us that AFRICOM should be established in harmony with the AU's regional security structure. We responded that we were investigating on how best to do that, as AFRICOM's goal is not to lead the security efforts on the continent but rather to support existing African countries and organizations take the lead and be successful.

Finally, we received positive feedback about the design and mission of AFRICOM, which brings together the diplomatic, developmental and defense aspects of U.S. foreign policy in one regional unified command headquarters. While it will not represent the developmental and the diplomatic aspects solely on the continent, it will be in support of other U.S. government efforts going on there.

African leaders agreed with us that the security challenges in Africa are interwoven issues of economic development, responsive governments, rule of law, disease prevention and disaster response. They saw AFRICOM's integrated approach as a more constructive way for the Department of Defense to partner with African organizations and help bring about long-term peace and security.

And with that, I'll be glad to take your questions. Yes, ma'am?

Q You touched on this a little bit, but we've heard repeatedly, as Africa Command has been discussed, that this is going to be a command that integrates State Department efforts and AID efforts. And I'm wondering if you can help me understand how a military command, in practice, is meant to coordinate and direct the -- direct functions and activities that fall outside the scope of defense. How is a military command going to direct State Department activities within Africa?

MR. HENRY: It is not.

Q It is not. Can you help us?

MR. HENRY: It is only going to direct Department of Defense activities. It will look to the security aspects or the defense aspects of a three-pronged approach in working with foreign countries, and especially on the African continent.

There is a diplomatic aspect, which is headed by the State Department. And in theater, that is headed by the chiefs of missions or the ambassadors of each of the 53 nations. AFRICOM will support them in their efforts on the security aspects, and they will have members of the State Department staff integrated into the command to better work that harmony between the State effort and the Department of Defense effort. Rather than it just purely being a military command, we will have aspects of State Department. In fact, the deputy commander will be a senior official from the State Department. And so we will better be able to work in harmony with their efforts.

Similarly, the developmental aspects, usually headed by the Agency for International Development, we will have people on staff that will understand their perspective much better and we'll be able to integrate with their efforts. We will not lead in their areas of the U.S. government effort. What we will lead in is the defense support to those initiatives, which will be led by those agencies and departments themselves.

Q Well, that integration, is that something that you, in creating Africa Command, see as uniquely needed in this area, or is it a response to needs that have gone unfilled elsewhere?

MR. HENRY: It is clearly needed on the African continent. And it is an opportunity to experiment. We don't have all the answers, but we do know that we need to look at new ways of doing things. And AFRICOM presents an opportunity to be able to look at how we might do that. We will stand up sometime in later fiscal year '08 -- late calendar year '08, and at that point in time, we'll have an organizational structure. But what it will look like five years later will probably be different. We're going to make the command as adaptive as we can, and to learn as we go along. So we do not think that we will have all the answers when we initially stand up.

This is an area that is different than we've done in the past. Our approach is different. And we're trying to adapt to the new security environment that we find ourselves in the post-9/11 world. And we think that a whole government effort is what's needed in many of these areas, rather than people just specifically working their particular areas without integrating with the activities of the other part of government.

Yes, sir?

Q If it's a whole government effort that's needed, why do it under a DOD structure and a DOD leader? Shouldn't it be something done by State or someone else?

MR. HENRY: Well, it depends which aspect you're talking about. The security or the defense aspect we believe should be done under a DOD leader. The diplomacy aspect will be done either from the State Department itself or the ambassadors in the field, and this activity will support them. The developmental aspects will be done for the Agency for International Development, and this organization will support them. It's just by having the command with elements and personnel from those different government organizations, we will be able to do a better job of supporting their efforts.

Q But couldn't it send -- or what did you find in the total of your two trips about whether it sends the wrong message to have this as a military organization with other aspects to it? Why not have it as a U.S. government civilian organization that has liaison to the military command?

MR. HENRY: And perhaps other agencies might experiment with doing that. We're responsible for what the Department of Defense does. And we have not met with any pushback from the people -- countries in the region or other partners that are interested in partnering with us on the African continent.


Q What kind of DOD assets do you see being consolidated into this region in terms of manpower, platforms, that kind of thing?

MR. HENRY: Yep, as we stated before, AFRICOM is not designed to result in any new troops on the continent, and it's not designed to result in any new basing structure. Rather, it is a way to organize our efforts.

Currently, the continent of Africa comes under the responsibility of three different regional combatant commanders: the commander out of Stuttgart, Germany, European Command; the commander out of Honolulu, Pacific Command; and the commander out of Tampa, Central Command.

And we're taking those efforts and taking the area of responsibility for the African continent and giving that to a single commander, who will worry 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just about African issues.

Currently, African issues are not necessarily the first priority of those other commanders, because they have a much bigger area of responsibility and many different issues.

So now we'll have a commander who's focusing on this all the time, reporting to the secretary on his progress. And he will be supported, again, by members of his staff, who represent other parts of the U.S. government, rather than just the military.

Q But, to just follow up…

MR. HENRY: Yeah.

Q But an effort to this is going to be looking at things like security and counterterrorism. So do you see some of the components of those commands specifically meant for that, being focused more under the African Command?

MR. HENRY: Well, the elements of the command -- the command itself will be a staff. Those units that are engaged in activities on the continent, normally for exercises or security cooperation activities, will be units that will rotate forward from the United States for the duration of their activity and then return back to the United States. They'll be rotational units and members of the service. They will not be people that are assigned specifically to that command. The command itself will exist only of a staff function.

Yes, ma'am?

Q The countries that you met with on this last trip -- how did you choose them? And have any countries or governments declined to meet with you about AFRICOM?

MR. HENRY: No countries have declined to meet with us. It was -- the previous trip we did sub-Saharan African countries that we thought were key stakeholders on the continent, and these were ones that we needed to engage in Maghreb and in the Horn of Africa.

Q And then also, if I could ask one -- you just said there was going to be no new basing structure.

But there will actually physically be some sort of headquarters presumably on the continent of Africa, so there will be a base, if you want to call it.

MR. HENRY: We are not anticipating a base. There will be a staff headquarters. We have looked at a number of different models, and we are waiting for a final report on how we might approach that. One model that is under consideration is one to distribute the command. We've learned -- information technology allows us to bring people at dispersed geographical locations together. We've done a lot of split-place operations in the current operations that we're doing today. So we are investigating the possibility of having the command distributed in a number of different nodes around the continent, which would not result in any sort of base.


Q Sir, just to follow up, are -- a couple of questions.

First, are you committed to having the four-star commander on the continent of Africa at his headquarters?

MR. HENRY: Yes, the four-star commander will serve in-theater. The specific timing of that and when we will be able to make that move, that's still under study.

Q And my other question is, given this structure, fundamentally, just bottom line, what difference can Africa Command make in both the counterterrorism mission on the continent and humanitarian relief and humanitarian assistance issues? What difference can you make in those two areas?

MR. HENRY: Well, humanitarian response to a crisis tends to be a crisis situation. And when a crisis hits, I'm not sure exactly how much difference there will be. But leading up to it, and developing and doing the exercises and overseeing that and making sure you have a command focused on the specific needs of the African continent, we believe it can make a difference.

Additionally, the difference a single commander can make -- we have three commanders that are doing both of those activities now. They don't do it as their first priority for Africa. And the difference is, we will have a senior four-star who is worried about those activities and other activities on the African continent as his principal and basically only responsibility. So it has to do with a focus of effort at the senior level.

Q What's your assessment right now of the extremist or -- and al Qaeda threat on the continent that this command may be facing and may have to deal with?

MR. HENRY: Well, it's the same threat that different elements independently are dealing with now. I mean, we know that al Qaeda is working in a distributive structure itself, that it's establishing nodes throughout the region and that there's been an establishment of al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb and that it's conducting activities there. The establishment of this command, as we said, and I said that when we dealt with people that were concerned about counterterrorism -- we don't plan on fundamentally changing anything or our approach to start with.

After the commander has had some time to look at the situation and work with it, then he might choose to make some choices, but going into it, this is basically a realignment of our activities on the continent. As we're doing that, we're looking at some innovations that we can apply. One is bringing in other elements of the U.S. government in the establishment and the operation of the command, putting a senior official from the State Department in, because we see this as principally focused on nonkinetic means. This is not designed or looked at as a -- the objective of this command is not war fighting; the objective of this command is to help Africans be successful in developing a security environment so that they can both lead and address their own security needs without needing outside intervention.

Q So, I mean, how are you communicating with Congress, and what can Congress to help you set up AFRICOM in terms of -- are you looking at completing your resources here in terms of funding the command? How are you -- you know, what kind of assistance are you looking for from Congress?

MR. HENRY: We have briefed different committees on Congress to date, and we will continue to do so, and we'll do some here in the next month to keep them as informed as we go forward. And having discussions with them -- it's not been specifically decided if new resources will be required for this. One issue is the staffing of the command, and we're looking on how best to do that, and those studies are going forward now. No final decisions have been made on that yet, though. So we're trying to consult with Congress, as we are with our partners, in what our thinking is and as we progress.

Q Can you give us any idea on the timing of the selection of the commander and the selection of a headquarters location or locations? And can you also clarify the issue -- you said there would only be a command staff on the continent, but I understood AFRICOM would take over responsibility for the task force in Djibouti, for example. Also, you said forces would go in for training and interaction-type exercises, but what about combat? Will -- if U.S. combat forces engage on the continent, will AFRICOM have the responsibility for them?

MR. HENRY: First of all, as far as timing, the selection of the commander is a decision the president makes. And so that -- when he feels confident he's found the right person, then he'll forward that to the Senate for his confirmation.

So we'll have to await his decision on that.

As far as timing on the decision-making, there are some timelines that we're working. But since this is a new area and they might adjust what time, we're not discussing them openly on what those timelines are. We are looking for an initial operating capability, as we've discussed with you before, in October of this year, where an AFRICOM structure as a sub-unified command to European Command would start to take on some responsibilities, with a goal prior to the end of '08 that it would be able to be a fully unified command and be able to handle all responsibilities.

Q Fiscal '08, right?

MR. HENRY: Yeah, that is the current plan, but it's not something that's written in stone.

And then, as far -- in regards to the Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, when the Horn of Africa elements of Central Command become part of AFRICOM, which will not be its initial operating capability, but prior to full operation capability, when that transition is made, then Joint Task Force Horn of Africa will also transfer over with it. Again, we do not see any change in the activities that we're currently doing in the near term. And so they would continue to do the civic action type of activities that they're doing today.

And in regards to forces and that, again, this command is not optimized for war fighting; we're optimizing it for, again, engaging in security cooperation activities. And that's where the planning effort's going. We do not -- the intention is not to use it for intervention into any African affairs. The one time that we can possibly see U.S. troops participating on the African continent is in support of a humanitarian disaster, a natural disaster. We've seen recently the tsunami in Indonesia, the earthquake in northern Pakistan. If events similar to that occurred, then perhaps the commander might use forces to be able to support African efforts in that, at the invitation of African countries and organizations -- again, not an intervention basis, but on an invitation basis.

Did you, Barbara, want to finish your question?

Q Well, I do want to get back to that very point. You say not an intervention basis, and that the goal is to help Africans be successful. But -- you could see it in a humanitarian or a natural disaster, so I suppose the elephant in the room here is Darfur.

And I understand fully that's a political decision, not a military decision, but is this the organization that Africans should look to if the U.S. decides that Darfur is enough of a humanitarian disaster, as you mentioned in --

MR. HENRY: It's a humanitarian disaster generated by political effects. And there is a way ahead on Darfur, and that's being worked with the United Nations and with the African Union and with the government of Sudan. And we would not see AFRICOM making any difference at all in the approach that we're taking with that.

Again, who Africans should look for their security needs are their own nations. They have a security structure that they're building with the African Union and the five regional components of the African unit (sic). And AFRICOM would look to support them in their success of building that capability. But they should not look to the United States for the solution to their security problems.

Q But I wonder what you're encountering from the governments you speak to out there, both -- I guess the two that come to mind, obviously, are Sudan, perhaps Chad, and Somalia. Do you worry that this is raising expectations amongst African governments or the AU that the U.S. military is going to do something different, that it's going to be there for some sort of help or assistance that it's not there for? Are there going to be expectations in Africa that Africa Command is not really there to meet -- is not --

MR. HENRY: I can't speak to what expectations will be. That's dependent upon who the individual or group is. I can tell you in all the consultations that we've had to date, simultaneously while we were sending the message, we were getting the same message back that long- term security on the continent should be beyond just individual countries, but in a regional basis should be under the leadership of the African Union. That the African Union approach is the right one, that each of the countries that are members buy into that, and they are not looking for leadership from the outside.

And that's both the message that we have been receiving, and the message we have been sending is, is that we would like to see what we can do to help in the success of those efforts in building a foundation. But the specific activities in meeting near-term needs or crisis needs, that would be -- the Africans would be in the leadership of that and they would be supplying the forces to be able to do that.

Yes, ma'am?

Q Going back to something you said earlier -- that you didn't foresee a change in activities upon formation of African Command; you saw this more as initially just a realignment -- why not implement a change in activities or increase a change, particularly in counterterrorism activities? Given the fact that there's a growing threat of al Qaeda in Africa, why not take this opportunity to increase those activities, make a change to some, address that issue right away?

MR. HENRY: We are working with countries in the regions and countries that feel like they're specifically affected by counterterrorism -- by terrorism. And we are working and aiding them in their counterterrorism efforts. We think that we have a cooperative arrangement with them. They appear to be satisfied with that.

We appear to be meeting with some successes. The -- and so we don't see a compelling need to change right now, and they don't see the compelling need either.

Yes, ma'am?

Q I wanted to take this opportunity, while you're here, to ask you a question on a different topic. As the principal deputy undersecretary for Policy, I was wondering if you walk through me (sic) what you see as success in Iraq, from your perspective.

MR. HENRY: I think you're going to have the opportunity later today, if I'm correct, to talk to both the secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. And I think that they would be both more articulate and more authoritative in giving you an answer on that.

Q Well, okay.


Q How much in your most recent meetings did you talk about Sudan and these humanitarian problems?

MR. HENRY: Actually, we were looking to the long-term future. We were not dealing with specific current crises. And so the specific issue and the way ahead did not come up as part of the formal consultations, I mean, and informally it was just continue to look at the way that's been established and the role that the African Union was playing in that. There was no discussion of a U.S. role.

Yes, ma'am?

Q Have you had any talks with Liberia over -- about AFRICOM? And I know that there's a certain push to have some parts of it based in Liberia.

MR. HENRY: There have been informal bilaterals with them. They not been part yet of the formal consultation rounds. We will be talking to them in the future.

Besides actually traveling to the region, though, we have been having meetings with embassy personnel here in Washington, D.C., on a periodic basis, and they have also been part of those discussions.

Q Do you mean Liberian embassy personnel?

MR. HENRY: Well, all the African countries that are represented here as part of the diplomatic group, Liberia included.

Yes, sir?

Q Obviously, diplomatic relations have warmed a bit with Libya. Can you talk a bit about your talks with Libya on this trip and any concerns they may have with the U.S. kind of taking a bigger role in Africa now?

MR. HENRY: Well, I think Libya's -- I don't want to characterize for the Libyan government how they look at this. But they have stated in the past that they think that Africans should solve their own problems; that external powers -- United States or someone else -- should limit their involvement into infrastructure development and that sort of assistance. But in the area of security, that they are looking for African-only solutions.

That being said, it still seemed like there were areas that we could cooperate together.

Q Did they seem cooperative in the meetings or --

MR. HENRY: I'm not an expert on what the diplomatic-speak is on this. I mean, I thought that they were fruitful meetings. You know, they expressed their opinion; we expressed ours. They weren't exactly the same, but there was overlap in many areas. It definitely was not any sort of contentiousness. But I wouldn't say that we see eye to eye on every issue, either.


Q Have you figured out the impact yet on EUCOM in terms of personnel and resources?

MR. HENRY: To date, all the effort has been is what is it going to take to be able to stand up AFRICOM. When that's finished, then each of the commands will look and see, does that make any difference of their current structure. That will be a later-on analysis.

Q I mean, do you have a preliminary view on whether or not it's going to slice away, you know, X percent to X percent of their funding per year or --

MR. HENRY: Well, European Command's mission is changing. Security cooperation is becoming more important. They have a lot of activities that traditionally they haven't been involved in. So I would say I haven't heard discussions of cuts, I've heard discussions of shift in emphasis. Obviously, NATO, as it starts to do out-of-area ops, there is some different capabilities that are needed there. And I think the command is evaluating how those shifts impact it.


Q All right, thank you.

MR. HENRY: Thank you.

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