Critics have warned that the new unified U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) could threaten the sovereignty of African nations and encroach on the portfolios of other U.S. agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). But in an interview with USAID newsletter FrontLines, General William E. “Kip” Ward, head of AFRICOM, went out of his way to dispel these fears. Some of the most interesting parts of the interview:
On AFRICOM’s humanitarian efforts:
“We know that our piece is only a very small part of the totality of humanitarian assistance that’s being performed by USAID and other agencies. We would not look to take those roles over.”
On civilian-military cooperation:
“We are learning to understand one another better and truly, as [USAID] Administrator [Henrietta] Fore and [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates said, we are seeing with greater clarity the importance of all these efforts working as cohesively together as they can. Security and development go hand-in-hand to produce stability that we all seek.”
On coordinating with USAID and host countries:
“We would get involved where those development projects complemented the work being done by developmental agencies, USAID, in very close coordination with the country team, the ambassador, and representatives from USAID that are there on the ground. We want to ensure that we don’t do things that conflict with the work being done by others. This might include a school being built so we can complement each other’s efforts. Or, at the request of a country, we might conduct an exercise and we may need to build a road to get to a training area. And if building the road in one place or another could help the population, then we would look to work with the country team and the ambassador so it provides benefits to the population.”
Photo: Comoran Defense Chief of Staff Salimou Mohamed Amiri (left) talks with General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (right), on January 21, 2009. Ward met with Comoran government officials as part of his first official visit to the island nation. Courtesy of by Kenneth Fidler, U.S. Africa Command.