On 3/19/2010 4:01:45 PM General William E. Ward, Commander of U.S. Africa Command wrote:
On March 9 and 10, I completed my annual responsibility to provide testimony to the United States Congress on the posture of the United States Africa Command. The public hearings that I participated in and the written statements that I submitted for the record provided me the opportunity to present our approach to sustained security engagement in Africa and our accomplishments over the past year. The positive reception received at these hearings shows that our programs and activities are recognized as doing important work in Africa for our nation and in support of the African people.
The challenges our Command faces due to the complex environment in Africa were acknowledged repeatedly by several members of Congress. Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, described these challenges as “staggering”.
Representative Ike Skelton, Chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, touched upon the rise of violent extremism in Africa “from Al Qaeda in East Africa to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Shabaab in Somalia.”
Naturally, the less often asked question of where we are going to relocate our headquarters came up. In fact, Senator John McCain asked why our headquarters was not in Africa. I responded with, “The work of the Command is in its programs, its activities, its exercises, the things that we do across the continent to help the nations of Africa increase their capacity. The headquarters location, quite candidly, doesn’t affect the work, where we plan those activities, where we look to resource those activities.” This answer was accepted by all.
A Congressional hearing naturally focuses on trying to identify problems and challenges. But one idea I was able to emphasize is how I am truly impressed that the people of Africa every day are taking meaningful steps to address their challenges.
At one point a lawmaker asked me about Somalia and pointed out that I had been deployed there 17 years ago, and that the country remains in turmoil. What has changed in the past 17 years, I replied, is that now “there’s a continent-wide organization [the African Union] that has said that, we will do our best to help bring this Transitional Federal Government into a place where it can begin to exert some control over that vast territory. The problem with Somalia is the lack of a government. It’s the lack of effective governance. But there are things being done to address that. It is truly an international effort. It requires the support of the global community.”
What we’re doing with regard to Somalia illustrated the approach of U.S. Africa Command. As I explained to Congress, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is being supported by the African Union’s Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), as well as the United States and members of the international community. I stated in my testimony that this government is “our best potential for helping to turn around some of the instability and lack of governance” in Somalia. We look to participate with those who also support the TFG through their contributions to the AMISOM mission in ways that add stability to that part of the continent.
I include this discussion on Somalia because comments by senior U.S. government officials have led to speculation and assumption in the media that our verbal endorsement also means active U.S. military operations inside Somalia, to include air support and putting Special Operations Forces on the ground to support combat operations by AMISOM and the TFG. Their assumption was incorrect and led to speculative articles that do not accurately portray our role.
Let me just reiterate points that already have been made by our diplomats: The United States — and this includes U.S. Africa Command — does not plan, does not direct, and does not coordinate the military operations of Somalia’s TFG forces. We have not and will not be providing direct support for any potential military offensives. We are not providing military advisors for the TFG. Lasting security in Somalia will best be achieved by the Somali people working closely with their African neighbors — outsiders cannot impose solutions.
The Congressional hearings were, in my opinion, successful. I left with the sense that the Congress embraces and supports our mission and vision and that the elected representatives of the American people are noticing more and more that our engagement in Africa is meaningful and appreciated.
Finally, I want to thank the AFRICOM staff and all those other teammates who dedicated long hours and considerable energy in preparing the 2010 Annual Posture Statement. Truly a team effort.