MS. NULAND: Thank you all for joining us. We’re delighted this morning to have Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson with us to talk about the visit of the Somali President Hassan Sheikh to Washington tomorrow. He’ll be seeing Secretary Clinton and he will also have a little bit for you on the situation in Mali.
Please, Assistant Secretary Carson.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be with all of you this morning to talk about two issues of significant importance to the United States. Somalia first. The visit here this week of the new Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud represents a significant change in the security and political situation on the ground in Somalia and our relationship with that country.
When the Secretary meets with Hassan Sheikh tomorrow, she will exchange diplomatic notes with him and recognize the Somali Government in Mogadishu for the first time in 20 years, since the collapse of the Siad Barre government in 1991.
We believe that over the last four years, our policies in Somalia and in the region have made a significant difference in strengthening stability in Mogadishu and in helping to get rid of the key members of the East Africa al-Qaida cell as well as breaking the back of al-Shabaab. We have done this largely with and through and alongside of our African partners in AMISOM. This has been a major, major success.
We are a long way from where we were on October 3, 1993, when Blackhawk Down occurred in Mogadishu. Significant progress has been made in stabilizing the country, in helping to break up and defeat al-Shabaab. Much more needs to be done, but we think enormous progress has been made, and we have been at the very center of this in our support for AMISOM. I’d be glad to go into more details on this, but Hassan Sheikh will, through this recognition, be able to establish new relationships not only with USAID and the various development partners in the U.S. Government, but will also open up opportunities for his government to receive assistance from the international financial communities.
One of the big meetings occurring today with Hassan Sheikh is a meeting with the president of the World Bank, President Kim. But this is a significant achievement, and we want to build on it. Al-Shabaab is not totally eliminated, but they no longer control any of the major cities in Somalia. They have been on the run for some period of time now.
Let me say a little bit about Mali. We have been, since March of last year, deeply concerned about the political and security situation in that country as a result of the coup d’état that took place there. We have always said this is a complex problem with four issues: one, a need to return that country to democratic governance; two, the need to deal effectively with the political grievances of the northern Tuareg; three, to defeat, work, and help to defeat al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM; and fourth, to deal with the humanitarian problems that exist in that region.
These issues have all been looked at and explored. We have tried to play a useful diplomatic role and we continue to do so. We support the French efforts in Mali. We believe that it is important that AQIM be defeated, that we give support to the region as they fight AQIM. And we have been very forthcoming ourselves in this. From our vantage point here at the State Department, we have said very, very clearly that we are prepared to send trainers and advisors from the State Department from our ACOTA program – and that’s A-C-O-T-A, the acronym for our ACOTA program – out to troop-contributing countries immediately to help them assess what their needs are before they send troops in to Mali.
We have also made it very clear that we are prepared to engage in pre-deployment training of troops before they go in. We are prepared to provide equipment, nonlethal, and also sustainment packages so that they will be able to effectively do their work. And we also have said to African states in the region that we are prepared to use State Department funds under ACOTA and under our peacekeeping authorities to transport troops from the region into Mali.
What we will not do is to provide salaries for those troops and we will not provide any lethal weapons to them, but we will train them to be able to do the kinds of jobs that are necessary and help them with a variety of important equipment that will help sustain and make their operations more effective.
We are committed to help implement Security Council Resolution 2085 that was passed on December 20th with respect to Mali and the region. That resolution defines our commitment to Mali and to the region.