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Issues Facing AFRICOM and the Unique Nature of Her Diplomatic Role as Deputy to the Commander in a U.S. Military Geographic Command


Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities, U.S. Africa Command
Foreign Press Center Briefing
Washington, DC
December 5, 2007

 

11:00 A.M., ESTAmbassador Yates at FPC


MODERATOR: Thank you everybody for coming. I just want to introduce Ambassador Yates, who is a senior U.S. Diplomat and who is Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities for United States Africa Command. And she'll explain more of that role.

Among her long career with the State Department she served as Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana, Ambassador to the Republic of Burundi, and has also served in our U.S. Embassy in Paris.

So to get right into it, Ambassador, I'll turn it over to you for an introduction.

AMBASSADOR YATES: But don't ask me to speak in French, please. It will hurt your ears. Thank you Sal. Thank you Eric. It's great to be here. And I can say this is my first time ever being in the New York Foreign Press Center after all these years in my career in public diplomacy. So it's exciting to be here.

I'm going to make just a couple of introductory comments about the African Command because I never know exactly where the level of knowledge is, and there is a lot of confusion out there, and mixed messages, and mixed messaging. So if I just make a few introductory comments, and then I'm open to your questions. Okay.

This command -- it started -- well, let me go back and say that from the first time I went to the European Command in '99, I realized there was a U.S. unified military command that focused on Africa but the European Command, it currently has 92 countries in it, 53 of those countries will fall into the African Command once the African Command has reached full operating capacity, which is next fall, because right now the countries of Africa work by three different United States unified commands, the Central Command for the Horn of Africa; the islands of Madagascar and Mauritius and the Comoros for the Pacific Command, PACOM; and then the rest of the countries are under the European Command.

So on October 1st of this year, it began the initial operating capacity, IOC, of the Africa Command after President Bush's decision last February to stand up this new command. And just so you don't think is an unusual move, about every two years the U.S. military looks at their unified command status. The last time, after the events of '9/11, they changed NORAD into the Northern Command to look at the borders in -- that border the United States. About 18 years ago I think it was, they stood up the special operations command because they felt that should be a separate command.

So the genesis of the African Command has been in the thinking process for quite some time because 92 countries in any one command is a lot. So the focus is going to be, once this is fully stood up, when that commander goes to the table to ask for resource and programs, he is going to be focused just on the nations of the continent of Africa and the surrounding islands. So that's sort of the background. And this was decided to have more effectiveness and more efficiency in the programs, the programs that will help bring security and stability to the continent.

Gen. William Kip Ward, who was confirmed the end of September, is the first commander. And because the situation in Africa is different as it is in other parts of the world where there is war fighting going on, this command is envisioned to be an interagency command. That means with different representatives so that we can support a wider variety of security engagements on the continent. Because those of us who know and love Africa know that security begins with some sort of economic stability and dealing with some of the humanitarian crises as well.

So but Gen. Ward, who was confirmed the end of September, and then shortly after that my announcement was made and Adm. Moeller. So we have the military four star commander and we have the two three star, three star equivalent deputies, and then there's a little bit different structure than the normal military command.

If this is too much detail, I'll just stop. But I want to give you is the spirit of Gen. Ward when he says, "In this first year or two years what we need to do is build the team." And by building the team he means first standing up the personnel in the command but also find our partners, our partners in the interagency in the American government, find our NGO partners, and most importantly our African partners and decide what we can do to really partner up with African nations and their militaries to bring the stability to their nations that they want.

Also part of his mantra is to add value. What we do should not disrupt and harm the efforts that are already ongoing on the continent, and there are any number of endeavors that the U.S. military has been doing through these three commands. And so then our primary goal is to work with the militaries to enhance their security and stability as they choose, when they ask, and to engage with us.

Before I turn to your questions, I want to also explain that right now this week Gen. Ward is finishing a trip to Southern Africa, to Botswana to talk to the SADC nations and leadership, to Gaboron to talk with the SEAC leadership, and last week Adm. Moeller and I together went first to Burkina Faso to meet with President Compaore, and then on to Nigeria to speak with both the civilian and military leaders there, to listen to them because there are a number of misconceptions about the African command. And then, of course, Gen. Ward's first trip was to the African Union. Because if we're going to be helping support the capacity of the nations, we want to go to the organizations that have -- that the Africans have chosen to stand up, the African Union and these regional organizations.

So we have been in a listening mode these last few weeks. And some feel we should have started the consultations more earnestly earlier, but I must say the General's been on the job since the 28th of September and I've been on the job since the middle of October. So we're making as valiant an effort as we can.

All right. Let me -- and then I want to say, too, the reason I'm in New York and was able to take this opportunity is there was an NGO forum, and I was invited to come and speak at the NGO forum. These were some of the senior American NGOs that work in Africa and other parts of the world. And that's been a most interesting dialogue for the last two days to listen to their interest in the command. Some of them expressed their concerns about the command. I know you've seen articles about the militarization, and so I was hopefully able to respond to some of their questions.

Let me leave the introductory comments there and take your questions, and I'll see if I can help any of you.

Yes, Lucy.

QUESTION: My question is where in Africa will AFRICOM establish regional headquarters? I understand there have been consultations with governments of a number of countries, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Djibouti, Kenya, following the announcement of AFRICOM, and none of them were willing to commit to hosting the new command. Does this suggest some lack of complete support for the concept, or perhaps some of the leaders think that there people would not like to be the host for AFRICOM?

AMBASSADOR YATES: Thank you for -- good question. And the presence question is one that needs to be stated quite clearly. The consultations that you mentioned with some of those countries were when senior DOD officials went around to explain the concept. That was not a trip to discuss presence and a headquarters anywhere.

I must say that the concept has evolved. The headquarters currently is at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, which makes sense because the European Command is at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, and right now the EUCOM, the European Command representatives are still doing the engagement because we're just building this command under construction, the African Command.

There certainly is a desire to have presence on the continent because we believe that we can be more value added to the African militaries who want to interface with us if there is some presence. But we will not go anywhere that we're not invited, and we will not go anywhere where it will cause harm, disrupt ongoing stability and programs.

So at this point it is very much in a construction phase and we are having a dialogue, but we are nowhere near ready to even begin to really engage in that discussion.

Yes.

QUESTION: But I think that among the country where it's agreed to host that (inaudible) Liberia. So why didn't you got Liberia instead of Germany?

AMBASSADOR YATES: Well, that's a good question. We were already present in Germany with the European Command. And because there were excess facilities, buildings, barracks for the transition team to set up last February, it set up with a very small group of people trying to identify the priorities for the initial operating capacity. I think that it makes all kinds of sense, and the German's have said they were very happy that we would remain there. So that's where we are right now.

Your question about Liberia and President Johnson Sirleaf has made it very clear that she would be happy to host AFRICOM. Again, consultations are under way. We have to make sure that it would be the right place to have some presence.

QUESTION: Yeah, because many people think that Liberia is not strategically a good position for the U.S. to host Africa Command, that's why we didn't accept to go to Liberia. So you need maybe another country in the Gulf of Guinea or something like that.

AMBASSADOR YATES: Okay, I'm not going to let you put words in my mouth. That is not what I said. I said Liberia has offered and we are in discussion. We are in discussion with other countries. Actually, one of the notions that came from these early consultations was when they were thinking in terms of possibly one place is that Africa is so larger and each region is so different that we should consult and think regionally. But that also takes resources, human resources and financial resources, so we're not there. And I want to state for the record that there is no intention to have Garrison troops on the continent. There is no intention to have base with Garrison troops. This is to be a headquarters as the joint headquarters that does the planning.

Yes.

QUESTION: You just referred to what probably is one of the misconceptions that you encounter. What would be other misconceptions? And another question would be what level of cooperation have you been able to establish with the different governments on the continent about this fight against terrorism?

AMBASSADOR YATES: That's a series of questions. I don't know that it's beneficial to go through a long list of misconceptions. But I think that because the command is under construction and things that have been said several months ago -- when anything is evolving, there are going to be refinements and modifications as we move along. That's truly where we are. We were to have X number of people to begin working in October. We don't have that many people. So deadlines slip and we need to find new ways to sort of address the priorities that we already have.

Your question about terrorism I think is an excellent one. And what I'd like to do -- my position before I took this one was the Foreign Policy Advisor for the European Command and that included in the 92 countries, forty-some African countries.

In that, one of the biggest programs we were doing was the Trans-Sahel Counterterrorism Program, TSCTP, and we worked with nine countries in the Sahel, military-to-military. Whether it was in training, exercises, listening to them about how they wanted to have better interface between borders were some of the problems. So that is clearly one of the engagements. It's ongoing and we want to make sure in this year of standing up Africa Command that by next fall we will be able to continue those programs of the Trans-Sahel Counterterrorism Program. We're also listening to other parts of Africa as they raise the issues with us. I don't know if that helped.

Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you for your introductory remarks, but I'm still a little bit confused about the main missions of the African Command and it may be an area to ask about what are your considerations for the so many crises happening now in Africa. There are so many conflicts on the table right now in Darfur, Somalia, Eritrea and Congo. So what are your considerations? What African Command can do in complete examples for this?

AMBASSADOR YATES: That's an excellent question. I want to take you back to what I said about the European Command, that we have had ongoing and really enriched engagement with African militaries on the continent certainly for the last 10 years.

This is an effort to reorganize within the State Department so we can be more effective in our engagements. That said, it is not being stood up as a separate command to respond to any set or immediate crises because I think what we have learned is sustained engagement, sustained engagement with African militaries, listening to what their priorities are is what we want to be doing.

You know how new the African Union is. The African Union has done heroic work first in standing up as an organization that is thinking differently than the OAU, an organization that considers intervening in other countries to help bring peace and stability. So we have been working -- even as the European Command we've been working with the African Union along with many EU partners.

Then there are the regional organizations, and that's why we've gone to consult with these regional organizations. They are in the process of standing up the standby forces. They're in different stages of the development, whether it's East Brig or SEAC or ECOWAS*. And so we, the U.S. military, has been working with those organizations, and it seemed the logical time for us to have a command dedicated to Africa, and again not for the immediate crisis but for sustained engagement.

One other example, because you asked for concrete examples, is the African Partnership Station. About two years ago, the Navy component -- I've learned a lot about the military in the last couple of years -- but the joint headquarters of the European Command is just a headquarters. And then there's an Air Force component out of Ramstein; there's a Navy component out of Naples; there's a Marine component; there's an Army component. They're the ones who have the troops, the forces that go in and do the engagement.

So about two years ago, NAVER (ph) decided that maybe they could go to the Gulf of Guinea, host a conference, listen to the nations of the Gulf of Guinea, and see if there was some expertise the U.S. military had to assist them. This has been a slow process. You know, there certainly was suspicion and questioning about why the U.S. military and the Navy would be coming into the Gulf of Guinea area.

And so -- but one thing that has resulted from this is this African Partnership Station. So a shift left out of somewhere -- Naples or somewhere -- I can't remember exactly where -- to head down the west coast of Africa. It left about one month ago. For seven months it will go back and forth. There are Africans from most of those nations on board. There are NGOs on board. There are foreign militaries on board. The idea is what can they learn together for one subject is drugs. I mean they're trying to figure out how to eradicate the flow of drugs. So they're doing some training and teaching about how to search and examine ships that they would come across. I mean, this is just training on this ship.

So this is an engagement that after listening for two years to the Gulf of Guinea nations is something that they thought would be an effective way to interface with all these different elements. So that's just an example.

AMBASSADOR YATES: Excuse me, I have a new friend back here.

QUESTION: My name is (inaudible). I wanted you to give a little bit more detail on what you just said that wouldn't be Garrison troops in the continent with AFRICOM, because this is one of the major misconceptions that I have observed. Can you give us a little bit more detail what's actually going to be on the continent in real terms what does this mean in terms of presence of U.S. forces in Africa?

And secondly, it's been reported that (inaudible) White House next week. Is this issue about the Congo going to be discussed?

AMBASSADOR YATES: The first question about the Garrison troops, and I'll repeat it for those who've just come in. There is no intention for Africa to have garrison troops on the continent, to have bases on the continent.

What is envisioned, if, when we are invited and the presence moves to the continent in some form would be to have some sort of regional hub or offices so that we could more effectively with the militaries, whether it's by a region or connected to organizations. This is what is under discussion and under construction this year specifically.

When we speak of troops --

QUESTION: Forgive me for interrupting. It's under discussion within the State Department or with the African countries?

AMBASSADOR YATES: It's not within the State Department, within the military but also within the interagency, as we say, State and other agencies who would have an interest. Because, of course, any nation we went to, any discussion with a nation must be hosted by the State Department, who is the primary foreign policy arm of our government, but also with African nations. You know, we are meeting and talking with the (inaudible) just as General Ward is doing this week and what Admiral Moeller and I did last week.

But I was going to mention that when there are exercises, certainly troops will go, as they have been doing for the last decade. We send a group of people into Niger; they work with the Niger military. They're there for a month or however long and then they leave and go back to their bases in Europe primarily.

So -- excuse me, your second question was?

QUESTION: Yeah, that it's reported that the Nigerian President is going to be visiting the White House next week. I wanted to know whether or not they're going to be talking about AFRICOM?

AMBASSADOR YATES: Well, I can say that I haven't been privy to the schedule. I just read the announcement on my Blackberry yesterday that the Nigerian President will be there. I think it's wonderful. We have a brand new Ambassador who has just arrived, Robin Sanders. So I think that's probably a question better asked at the State Department or at the White House. But it would seem logical as a follow-on to our visit. We met with the Foreign Minister. We met with the Chief of Defense Staff, General Azazi. We met with the National Security Advisor when we were there. So it wouldn't be impossible that the subject would be there, but I don't any more than you do from reading the press, the agenda.

Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador Yates, for this briefing. My name is (inaudible). I'm with Global Media Productions. We produce the African View which is an independent media.

I was just wondering would AFRICOM play any role specifically in terms of the situation like Darfur? I mean I understand that the role is not to actually invite yourself or invade any countries in Africa or occupy any country in Africa. But in a situation like Darfur, hypothetically would AFRICOM play any role at all to try and have a dialogue going or to see if anything can be done to resolve the conflict in Darfur?

AMBASSADOR YATES: Let me make a couple of clarifications because, again, our policy is developed by the State Department, articulated by the State Department, and the U.S. military is one of the instruments of putting forth the policy, not that that is suggested to be the case here.

What we have done up until this point, the involvement is working with the AU. Because of the AU, the missions of (inaudible), we certainly -- we as a government, the State Department has worked with the United Nations to support the idea of UNIMID. But as far as this command's direct involvement, the clarification I wanted to make is remember at the beginning when I said we are in three different commands right now, the Central Command, the Pacific Command that has the islands, and then the rest that are under the European Command, and this one of the reasons for this restructuring. But the Central Command has the Horn of Africa as their responsibility -- as part of their responsibility right now. So all of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia fall within that area.

In the course of this year, the year of construction, we have to figure out how to transfer all the missions that are going on by these three other commands. And it was decided early on that the transfer, the final transfer would be the transfer of the missions that are now with Central Command in the Horn of Africa because they are, you know, very complicated.

We also, if you have never been there, I suggest you read and visit, it's called CJTF/HOA, Combined Joint Task Force/Horn of Africa. And it's a coalition as a matter of fact. I was just there last Friday and Saturday, met with an Egyptian officer, met with Pakistani officers. So they are working with our military there at Camp Lemonier, and they do a lot of also humanitarian assistance work training with militaries in that area.

Now, let's go back to my Cameroonian friend over here. Where are you from in Cameroon?

QUESTION: Yaounde.

AMBASSADOR YATES: Yaounde, oh, right in the heart.

QUESTION: You know, AFRICOM will focus on war prevention rather than war fighting, right?

AMBASSADOR YATES: Correct.

QUESTION: So I just want to know exactly what you understand by prevention, because conflicts can start by -- there are many problems that can bring conflict. I'd like to take the example of my country or many countries of Africa where a Head of State can decide to change Constitution. When -- right now in Cameroon there is a program that (inaudible) the President wants to change the Constitution so that he can stay in power as long as he want. That can bring conflict in a country. Is that (inaudible) that AFRICOM also work on this kind of issue?

AMBASSADOR YATES: I think that's a question that has to be carefully answered, because it is not the goal to intervene in local problems. I mean that is what the African Union has decided it will stand up and have the standby forces. So our goal will be to work with the institutions that the African nations have decided to help in issues like that.

But I want to go back to your first question about the war prevention instead of war fighting and refer you to Secretary Gates' speech at Kansas State University on November 26th last week. It was an outstanding speech to have from a Secretary of Defense to talk about the importance of soft power and that this has to be the way of the future.

I can't articulate it as well as Secretary Gates did, but the important thing is we go in and work with African nations to decide how it is that they want to bring more peace and stability within their borders and so that there can be a more prosperous future for their people. And I think the Department of Defense has decided this reorganization will address this, probably not this year, probably not next year, but certainly as this command grows, and we can go to the table and ask for resources for the African continent and its island nations.

QUESTION: So you are going there in Africa to deal with regional organizations and also with the individual countries? I mean you --

AMBASSADOR YATES: Yes.

QUESTION: -- can do both of that, correct? So do you have any concerns on this -- the sovereignty of countries? Do you have such an issue can be raised in contacting -- you are establishing -- you are looking for establishing new partnerships with NGOs and African countries and that sort of thing, so do you have any concerns about such issues can be raised like the sovereignty of each estate in Africa, for instance?

AMBASSADOR YATES: The sovereignty is the question you're asking?

QUESTION: Yeah.

AMBASSADOR YATES: Well, I think that the total respect for the sovereignty of every nation is what is primary.

Secondly, within our foreign affairs structure we have an Ambassador, we have a country team, and the authority of that country team the responsibility from the President of the United States to the Chief of Mission -- and that's why they're called a Chief of Mission because no mater which agency works under them, they're in charge. But that will still be the primary entry point and engagement point within each country bilaterally.

I think what we're hoping, as we have done for the last 10 years with the other commands is but we can also think regionally, like the example of the Trans-Sahel Counterterrorism program where we will meet with the Chiefs of Defense Staff from those nine countries, listen to them, listen to some of their border issues. In one of the early meetings it was the first time any of those (inaudible) had ever come together and had a dialogue like this. So but we make the invitations through the Ambassadors, through the Chiefs of Mission so that we're not changing the structure that is there.

Remember one of the opening comments I made that is Gen. Ward's mantra is "Do no harm." Don't disrupt what is already working so well. And you mentioned NGOs. Certainly USAID will continue to have the lead. They will be the contact through the country team out to the NGOs. But if we can bring some of the resources to bear from DOD to assist in some of this, that's what we intend to do.

I must say, though, that when we showed a pie chart that showed of the $9 billion that flowed to the continent from multiple USG sources, government sources last year, $250 million of that in humanitarian assistance was from DOD. So I mean it's pretty dramatic to the military to realize how significant our other partners are within the U.S. Government.

MODERATOR: Just a couple more questions.

QUESTION: Following up on the question from the Cameroon, what is -- how do you deal with the issue of providing military support, because the U.S. gives money for the training, it gives money for supplies, weapons? How do you deal with the fact that when you're giving these to repressive or undemocratic countries you are helping repressive governments stay in power?

And second, related to this, in the training that you're doing, it was found in Latin America when some training manuals were discovered that the U.S. was training Latin American military people how to be abusive, basically how to torture. And especially in view of the Abu Ghraib, what are you doing in the training to make sure that this is in no way part of it?

And indeed, can you say anything about whether human rights training is relevant? And then we get back to the other, how relevant is human rights training when you're giving all this money and support to dictatorships?

AMBASSADOR YATES: That is a very complicated question. We have no plans or intention to work with militaries of repressive regimes. What we are going to do is let the country teams, the Ambassadors, the Defense Attaches make proposals, which is how it goes whether it's humanitarian assistance or military training, it then is looked at in, you know, the full context of what can be done militarily, is coordinated, you know, with our certain congressional restrictions as well as to what you can do with any groups of military, especially when they are to go into peacekeeping. And most of out training comes through the State Department with Militaries for Peacekeeping. It's the OCODA (ph) Program. And they have the strict Leahy Amendments that they vet the soldiers to make sure that they have a clean human rights record.

But Lucy, that is not the intention is to work with regimes -- and I don't think it's easy to transfer from one part of the world to another part of the world. I mean those of us who have lived in Africa have seen great developments, and I think the militaries on the continent who have supplied peacekeepers are to be admired, I mean both in Darfur, in Somalia and the African peacekeeper who go out of Africa to other places in the world. So I mean I think what we're doing is trying to capitalize on the militaries who want to be professional soldiers and understand the respect for civilian authority.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from BBC Radio in London (inaudible). Two question, one about war prevention and one about power dynamics. The challenge -- there's much criticism and concern about AFRICOM's presence in Africa and what it actually means on the ground. There has been this constant communication that it is very diplomatic and all the rights words are said, but there is a major concern because of Africa's history with the U.S. and with the U.K. that this is about the quiet instigation of what is an unsaid military coup in different nations. Although it is unsaid, that's a major concern. And within that context, how does war prevention become a reality? What does it mean in practice on the ground? That's the first question if you could address that.

The other one is about power dynamics. The reality is it's not an equal partnership between different African countries and the U.S. because the U.S. is the superpower. It's a much more powerful nation. And the history of the dynamics between the U.S. and the African countries that hasn't been inequity of power. It's about imposing what has been
-- seems to be good for American nation especially in terms of how that one African country relates to another African country. So when you talk about working in partnership with the military in a continent where so many different African countries have had a history of military coups and the opposing of civilian governments, how would you negotiate that with that kind of context and backdrop?

AMBASSADOR YATES: I think that I would just respond to that in a simple way. That is a subject that I think we could have a longer dialogue about. The -- and possibly I misspoke when I said we would work with just militaries because, of course, through the Ambassador and the country team the relations are with the government. And so you -- I mean, you're not working to strengthen just one element of that nation's foreign affairs force, you are having a dialogue with a government; you're trying to decide in that country team strategy what is they want to do to bring more security and stability in their country within their borders; and then what role they want to play.

I think of Ghana -- I think of the Ghana has played, leadership in ECOWAS. Dr. Chambas is still there standing up hosting the peace talks for Liberia, bringing in the West African peacekeepers, putting them together, getting them on planes, getting them into Liberia.

So you go to the nations who are playing leadership roles and you work with them and you listen to them. And -- I mean your observation about America and the fact that we are considered the super power, that is probably a valid observation, but I don't think it detracts from the fact that what we want to do is go and work with the countries and work regionally to help them bring more peace and security and stability.

So I don't know -- I mean it's a fascinating question, but I think you were -- I don't know where you were headed, so I won't try and guess that.

QUESTION: Well, I was really talking about -- I know it's the last question -- how you combat the suspicion that your intention may be one thing, but Africa's history with America, especially when it comes to the military, is what (inaudible) major criticism in many different African countries especially in West Africa about what the presence of AFRICOM really means especially when it comes to something that is loosely termed "war prevention."

What does that mean on the ground? Like because you have (inaudible) Ghana, (inaudible) Nigeria, those military coups that happened again and again and again, and there has often been a conversation about the involvement of either America or the U.K. in those military coups and in the opposing of civilian governments. So then the concern becomes there is a -- if there is a presence on the continent, does that -- is that about strengthening the military against civilian regimes or maintaining a power dynamic about what kind of government rules in Africa more generically.

AMBASSADOR YATES: We can sit here and debate history and debate what countries did in the past. I think what we're trying to do in this command is look forward. And I think if Gen. Ward were sitting here in front of you, the mantra that he would return to is to do no harm. That is one of the goals.

I mean we are not going to go places, and that will be part of the analysis of where we will have an eventual presence is is it going to cause instability instead of stability.

QUESTION: To whom? To whom does it cause instability and to whom does it cause harm?

AMBASSADOR YATES: That's right. Well all of that has to be factored in and no decisions have been made on this at this point about the actual presence on the continent. But -- and the other point that I think I might leave you with is because I've found this in some of the dialogue I've had with Africans, they said, you know, something like we don't want AFRICOM. And I said this is an internal U.S. Department of Defense reorganization. And I think I explained that, pulling the three commands together into one because the decision was taken that this would be a more effective way to work with the nations of Africa to help bring them more peace, stability and prosperity. So -- and the military-to-military relations and programs have been going on for some time. This is a different way to put it together. It's not like a yes or no.

Now a discussion about presence on the continent is certainly one that we ought to have a dialogue about, and that's what's going on. So -- he has told me I'm at the end here.

QUESTION: Just one quick question. The command is still under construction, so you can tell us so far how do you see the position of the African states toward the idea of this newly established command? Do they welcome the idea? Do they have remarks? How do you evaluate their positions?

AMBASSADOR YATES: I think the reaction candidly has been mixed. I think when we've had the chance to go nation by nation and explain and give a little bit more of the detail as it's evolving, there's more understanding, there's less suspicion. But hopefully in time, little by little we can -- and one other point, looking at Jean Claude, is the uniqueness of the command is going to be to have as many partners as we can as we stand up.

First we've got to get our own house in order and make sure we get some of the other American agencies in. I mean I'm a starter as a State Department person, but we're hoping to have representatives from Treasury and Energy and other places. And then a number of the European and other nations have said, you know, can it be like the Horn of Africa Command where there are representatives from other nations there and not just in the sense of an LNO representative who's going to be coming back, someone who will come in work, you know, because we'll do more effectively together.

In fact, the whole concept of the Africa clearinghouse, which started I think almost a decade ago, with all the different nations who work with African militaries, so they now get together. And the French recomp (ph), which is migrating over to the EU now, it's much better if the American military goes and they have a meeting and listen. Oh, that's what you're going to do. Is there complementarity? You know, is there ways so that we're not repeating this training? Is there a way so that it reinforces the training?

So already the European partners, America, Japan, some others who put money into security in Africa are meeting to figure this out so maybe we can use that as a model, try and bring some of those partners into the command itself to work. I mean this is all in a vision. There's a little -- the partnership shop, you know, which is under my lane over here, but this is all on a diagram chart right now.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one quick question?

QUESTION: We started late, you know.

AMBASSADOR YATES: I'll be back. Any chance to come to New York. Thank you all.

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