Africom Commander Details Current
Africom Commander Details Current, Emerging
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., American Forces Press Service.
Arlington, Virginia – (AFPS)
– June 25, 2012 – U.S. Africa Command’s top military officer today detailed
existing and emerging threats from extremist organizations on the continent in a
speech at the African Center for Strategic Studies here.
Army Gen. Carter F. Ham also explained the U.S. presence in Africa and
Africom initiatives based on the new U.S. defense strategic guidance.
“When you read the [guidance], you will find that the word ‘Africa’ appears
precisely once,” he said. “So some question that and say, ‘So does that mean
that the United States military does not really think very seriously, or is not
very committed, to African security matters?’ My response to that is, ‘No, our
view is actually quite different.’”
Ham said while it is true the U.S. military now is focused on the Asia-Pacific
region and the Middle East, the strategic guidance refers to “some very
consistent and very relevant priorities for those of us who operate with our
These include combatting extremist organizations, transnational threats and
illicit trafficking; countering piracy, building partner capacity; developing
nations’ capabilities to deal with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief
missions; and contributing to regional security, Ham said.
“All of those tasks are outlined in this document, and all of those tasks are
the tasks that United States Africom focuses on with you,” he added.
The general told the audience that U.S. efforts in Africa entail an “absolute
imperative … to protect America, Americans and American interests,” just as in
other parts of the world.
Specifically, Ham said, his command’s seeks to protect the United States and
its interests from threats that may emerge from the continent.
“I’ll start in East Africa, where we see very clearly the threat of al-Qaida
in East Africa, and its affiliated organization, al-Shabaab, which operates
principally, but not exclusively, in Somalia,” he said. “We also know that
because -- in Somalia especially -- al-Shabaab’s presence has denied the
delivery of … humanitarian assistance to a population that has been under some
significant duress for a long period of time,” Ham said.
U.S. military involvement principally is in training, equipping and funding
the African Union Mission and Somalian forces from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti,
Sierra Leone and Kenya.
“Ethiopia … has been quite effective in its role, as well,” he noted. “And we
think that’s an ideal role for the United States -- not a large, U.S. military
presence. We think that would be counterproductive in Somalia, actually.”
Rather, he said, the United States wants to apply its resources in Africa to
help countries willing to contribute to the effort with training, equipping and
with some funding so that they can continue their operations.
Other extremist organizations in Africa, such as al-Qaida in the Lands of the
Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram, also pose a concern, Ham said, noting that
officials are increasingly concerned with the former, which now has a safe haven
in a large portion of Mali after a military coup there.
The group is operating “essentially unconstrained,” Ham said, and is
implementing a harsh religious law system throughout much of northern Mali. It
also has “very clearly” shown a desire and intent to attack Americans, he added.
“Just to the south of that, we see the increasingly violent organization,
Boko Haram, operating in Nigeria,” he said. Boko Haram is not a new organization,
he told the audience, and it’s not monolithic. “Everybody in Boko Haram doesn’t
feel the same way,” Ham said. “It has many different factions.”
Each of the extremist organizations is “worrisome” in its own right, the
general said, and there are indications they are seeking to coordinate and
synchronize their efforts.
“In other words, [they seek] to establish a cooperative effort amongst the
three most violent organizations, and I think that’s a real problem for us, and
for Africa’s security, in general,” he said. Al-Qaida in the Lands of the
Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram may be sharing funds, training and explosive
materials, he added.
Libya also is a concern as it comes out of its revolution and forms its new
government, Ham said.
“There very truly are those who wish to undermine the formation of that
government,” he said. “And again, we see some worrying indicators that al-Qaida
and others are seeking to establish a presence in Libya.”
Part of Libya’s challenge, he said, is for the new government to now bring
together the many militias which fought “very bravely and effectively” to
Ham said the United States seeks to help by establishing a “normalized”
military-to-military relationship with Libya.
“I’ve been to Tripoli a number of times,” he added. “We’ve had Libyan
officials visit us in our headquarters in Germany, and we have started to map
out what the U.S. assistance might be for Libya well into the future.”
Army Gen. Carter F. Ham
U.S. Africa Command