Tel. Press Brief with Marine Corps. General Thomas D. Waldhauser, (AFRICOM); Major General Lamidi Adeosun, (MNJTF); Lieutenant General Osman Noor Soubagleh (AMISOM) Ambassador Francisco Madeira, Special Rep. for the Chairperson of the A.U. Commission

April 20, 2017


Telephonic Press Briefing with

Marine Corps. General Thomas D.  Waldhauser,

Commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)

Major General Lamidi Adeosun,

Commander of the Lake Chad Basin Multi-National Task Force (MNJTF)

Lieutenant General Osman Noor Soubagleh,

Commander of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and

Ambassador Francisco Madeira, Special Representative for the Chairperson

of the African Union Commision

Stuttgart, Germany


April 20, 2017

                                                                                                                         

Audio links

English

French

Portuguese

French/English

Portuguese/English

OPERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to thank you for standing by and welcome to the African Chiefs of Defense teleconference call.   All lines are in a listen-only mode and later, we will conduct a question and answer session with instructions being given at that time.  If you should require any assistance throughout today’s call, please press the * followed the 0 and one of us will be with you immediately.  And as a reminder, today’s conference call will be recorded.  I would now like to turn the conference over to our host and facilitator, Colonel Cheadle.  Please go ahead, sir.

COLONEL MARK CHEADLE: Good afternoon, good morning everyone.  My name is Colonel Mark Cheadle.  I’m happy to be part of this conference call and I’m very happy you are able to take the time to join us.  The purpose of this conference, the first ever African Chiefs of Defense Conference is to discuss key security challenges and work towards shared approaches contributing to security, stability and prosperity in Africa.  It’s also an opportunity to see old friends and to create new ones.  And I think that’s been a very clear result as a result of the conference. 

I’d like to introduce the panel and then we will turn it over to the moderator in Johannesburg.  From my right to left, we have Ambassador Madeira, the Special Representative for the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.  We have Lieutenant General Soubagleh from the AU Mission to Somalia.  He is their Force Commander.   And seated next to him is General Thomas Waldhauser.  He is the Commander of US/Africa Command based out of Stuttgart. And then we have the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force General Adeosun.

And with that Brian, I’ll turn that over to you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Colonel.  And good afternoon, good morning to everyone from the United States Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub in Johannesburg.  My name is Brian Neubert.  I would like to welcome all of our participants who have called in and of course, welcome our principals who have joined us today to take your questions as Colonel Cheadle just mentioned.

For those of you listening to the call in French and Portuguese, you can submit your questions in English via e-mail at afmediahub@state.gov.  If you’d like to join the conversation on Twitter, please the hashtag #AFRICOMCHOD-.  And follow us on @africamediahub, @USAfricaCommand and @amisomsomalia.  And with that, we will go to the first of our questions.  Justin Lynch is calling in from Nairobi.  Please introduce yourself and ask one brief question please.  And let us know to whom your question is directed.

COLONEL MARK CHEADLE: Brian, we’re not hearing anything.

MODERATOR:  Okay, it seems like we have a technical issue.  Let’s go to the next questioner.  I think Paulo Fleur.  No, Justin Lynch is on the line, go ahead, sir.

OPERATOR:  Justin Lynch, your line is open.

COLONEL MARK CHEADLE: Still nothing heard, Brian.

MODERATOR:  Okay, sorry about that.  We’re having a little technical difficulty.  Let me ask the first question on behalf of Sebastien Nemeth with the Radio France International in Paris for General Waldhauser. 

How will cooperation with the MNJTF Boko Haram Mission and AMISOM evolve under the Trump Administration?

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  Well, I think first of all as part of our conference here this week, we are able to listen to General Adeosun talk about the current operations with the MNJTF in the Lake Chad Basin Region.  We have, for some time, cooperated and worked with this organization in training, advising and assisting of the partner nations who are taking the fight to Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa.

As we move forward, based on some of the items discussed this week, we’ll continue to provide the support that we have.  We’ll adjust as required.  But I think it’s fair to say that our commitment to the Lake Chad Basin Region through the Multinational Joint Task Force will remain pretty much as it is in terms of the support we provide and we will continue to do that.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, General.  As a reminder to our participants, please press *1 on your phone to get in the question queue.  We ask that you state your name and affiliation before asking your question.  As we continue, let me please go to Mr. Frank Sellin in Lagos, Nigeria.

QUESTION:   Good afternoon, my name is Amik Amoye, I represent Silverbird TV.  I’m calling from Lagos.  My question goes to General Lamidi Adeosun.  In what ways is the Multinational Joint Task Force supporting the Nigerian troops in terms of combatting terrorist groups in the Northeast?

GENERAL LAMIDI ADEOSUN:  Thank you very much.  The Multinational Joint Task Force is not only supporting the Nigerian Troops.  The Multinational Joint Task Force is set up by Nigeria and three other countries, supported by Benin Republic, we’ve got to get this clear.  And just like all the member countries, Nigeria has its own troops in Multinational Joint Task Force.  So what we do, we plan our operations together and all the member countries are carried along in what we do.

So we operate in collaboration and in conjunction with all the members of the Multinational Joint Task Force.  Both the troops of the Multinational Joint Task Force as a body and also individually as the operations that are going on in each of the four key countries, like in Nigeria with Operation Lafiya Dolethere are so many joint operations that have been conducted, with Lafiya Dole especially in the Eastern part with Sector 1.  This is not far-fetched.  Also, within the Lake Chad general area around Baga, [inaudible], Maiduguri general area, we’ve been operating in unison and collaboration with each other.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, sir.  As a reminder to participants, to get in the question queue, press *1 on your phone.  We’re going to go next to the listening party at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda.  Go ahead, sir.

QUESTION:  Yes, good afternoon.  My name is Idris Kiggundu, I’m a journalist with The Observer Newspaper in Kampala.  My question goes to General Thomas Waldhauser.  I’m asking about reports that one of the senior and the officers in Uganda, Major General Peter Elwelu, has been barred from traveling, from attending an African Law Enforcement Summit in Malawi in May this year.

We have been told that this decision was made by the U.S. Military.  I don’t know how far the U.S. Africa Command, whether they had an input in this or whether they knew about this.  Thanks very much.

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  Thank you for your question.  I think the best thing to do is refer that to the Embassy in terms of the participations and the invitations that have been sent out from them.  I think they would have a better understanding of the situation and could provide you some more details.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, sir.  We have, as I said at the top, several listening parties at U.S. Embassies.  We have a group of journalists gathered at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa.  I’ll turn it over to you for your question.  If you could, be brief and mention your name and your media outlet.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  I’m Aaron [Maasho] from Reuters.  I’ve got a question for General Waldhauser.  I’d like to know details about the scale of the U.S military involvement, the planned U.S. military involvement, in Somalia in light of the announcement that federal troops are being sent.  And also, how concerned are you about AMISOM’s planned withdrawal in 2018 and whether you’re lobbying member states and the body to extend their stay?  Thank you. 

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  So first of all, the question on additional troops being sent to Somalia is something I can certainly answer.  The troops sent to Somalia are actually logisticians who are spending time, what we call institution building, training Somali National Army Forces on how to establish a logistical pipeline to ensure there are parts, to ensure operations are in fact supplied properly. 

This is part of a routine deployment that has been really in the works for quite some time.  So, in spite of some of the media stories about additional troops to Somalia, I mean that is true.  But the facts are, this is something that’s been planned for a while.  These are logisticians that are helping various organizations and the Somalian National Army become better at how to supply, how to account for equipment and so forth.  And it’s been there for quite some time.  It’s been on the books for quite some time for that to take place.

Was there a second question?

QUESTION:  My second question is about whether you have concerns about AMISOM’s planned withdrawal in 2018 and whether you’re lobbying members of the organization to extend their stay beyond that year.

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  Yes, thank you for the question.  And I’m sure that the Ambassador and General Soubagleh could answer that as well.  But from my perspective, the AMISOM has been in Somalia for quite some time now, over ten years.  They have contributed a lot.  They have taken a lot of casualties over that time.  They have removed Al-Shabaab from a lot of that country in terms of various locations.

The time is for Somalia National Army and Somalia National Security Forces to begin to prepare that eventuality will come at some point in time.  And I think the key is, is that we really concentrate our efforts for training the Somalian National Army Forces, we key our efforts for training so that they are prepared to do this, if in fact it takes place in the next couple of years. 

Our goal from the United States’ perspective, in conjunction with our partners who are there doing the training, is that the Somalian National Security Forces will be prepared to provide for their own security sometime in the 2020/21 timeframe when the next series of elections go.

But in sum, we’re aware of it.  We knew this would happen at some point in time and we all have to pull together to make sure that we’re very effective and efficient in the training now; that we move forward in the next year and a half to two years.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, sir.  Before we continue, does Ambassador Madeira or one of your other colleagues want to add?  Or we can move onto the next question. 

AMBASSADOR FRANCISCO MADERIA:  Effectively, we, it is our plan to start the draw-down come 2018.  The reason being that we were not, as General Waldhauser said, we were not intending to stay there forever.  Somalia is for the Somalis.  We, like all other Africans, we have our own countries.  We are in solidarity with the Somali people, we need to support Somali people.  We have interests to have a stable Somalia. 

But surely, the Somalis, the country can only be best defended by the Somalis themselves, who understand better their dynamics, their reality and their priorities and their objectives.  So we will have to leave sometime and the headquarters have decided and the troop-contributing countries have decided that we should do everything possible so that by come 2018, we can start the draw-down and it’s very important that you hear start the draw-down.

For that to happen, clearly, there are a number of things that need to be done.  For instance, we need to first help to degrade and contain Al-Shabaab, to bring levels of violence to levels that are acceptable that can allow for the government as such to be present and exercise its functions all throughout the country.  Definitely we are very, very clear that the military alone will not make it and as such, we’re also working with the government of Somalia to look into these other avenues.  The avenues that have to do with the need to reconcile in Somalia themselves, to make sure that the Somalis accept each other, to make sure that the problem that divided the Somalis, like for instance power-sharing, land problems and the resource sharing, are tackled in a manner that makes everybody understand and accept that they are part of a bigger country, in which they have a place to stay.

And these efforts can only best be done through a strong partnership between the government, the civil society, the community leaders, the academics, the women, youth and everybody.  Finding employment for the youth and for women is the best weapon that we can have to reduce the number of Somalis that are easily recruited by Al-Shabaab and the strength in Al-Shabaab’s army.  We need to take this out of Al-Shabaab and this is one of the main tasks we are doing through a process of [de]radicalization , through a process of countering extremists into a personal reintegration.  And this program of reintegration is one of the primary objectives of the Somali government.

We are now starting to have, as a result of a number of efforts and recently after the new president of Somalia took over, President Farmajo, who has announced an amnesty to all those Somalis who want to give up the activities they are carrying out within Al-Shabaab and try to come out and join their brothers to rebuild the country.  There is this project of reintegration of these citizens after deradicalization and after being properly screened.  And for that, we need to see if we can create more sources of employment for these people.  We need to care for their families. We need to even create conditions to continue to entice others who are still with Al-Shabaab to come out and abandon that way of life.

All these things require support and require concurrence, require our partners to work with us, hand-in-hand.  Only this way.  The military is necessary because we need to contain the most extreme elements who are adamant and continue to use violence to achieve that.  But that alone has to continue to be reinforced with these other things that are best done by the government itself through a partnership with all these forces and levels of society that was mentioned.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Ambassador Madeira.  We will turn now to New York.  Kevin Kelly, please go ahead, sir. 

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks for doing this today.  My name is Kevin Kelly.  I write for the Nation Media Group in Kenya.  I’m based in New York.  Just following up on the question that Ambassador Madeira and General Waldhauser addressed, can you give us, please, a evaluation of where the fight against Shabaab stands in April of 2017?  How successful AMISOM is proving in not only rolling back Shabaab, but how successful the government is in consolidating those gains?

And related to that, when you mentioned the possibility of power-sharing, is there an option on the table, maybe not visible to us right now, for negotiations with at least sections of Shabaab?  It’s been ten years, as you pointed out, of military combat.  And Shabaab has lost a lot of territory but it’s as you readily acknowledge, I think, it’s by no means finished.   So, is that an option as well?  Thanks.

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  I think General Soubagleh as the AMISOM Commander is probably best to answer that question.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL OSMAN NOOR SOUBAGLEH:  Thank you for that.  From the military side, AMISOM defeated Al-Shabaab.  Al-Shabaab is the native Somalis and some foreign fighters.  Whenever you fight, they melt with the population and they have no confront with the AMISOM.  So the territory they have, when you go there, they melt with the population and you cannot touch them.  And we at the AMISOM, we are human.  We look after the humanitarian and the human rights of the indigenous.  We can’t punish all the people to tell us.

So that is why they are taking time, because we know the law of [inaudible] is for this.  So, Al-Shabaab has no stronghold, strong position.  But we avoid them to take collateral damage with the civilians.  That is why Al-Shabaab is now dividing.  But Shabaab, we will defeat them in the near future.  We just need some intelligence-led operations and we are looking for the ISR and some aviation.  It will not take longer if we get to that.  That is for the operation.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Sorry, sir, go ahead.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL OSMAN NOOR SOUBAGLEH:  After consideration that you mentioned, you know that President Farmajo just announced an amnesty toward the elements of Al-Shabaab who have joined that organization for other different reasons.  And he has opened his hands.  But you will have to be clear.  Those who still want to persist in their evil activities and violent activities against the people of Somalia and against the government of Somalia, these ones will have to be confronted by the force of arms.

But also, in terms of power-sharing and result-sharing, you know that the President has just had a meeting with the regional presidents in the context of national security council.  This is a very important initiative.  It’s a clear understanding by the President that the stability and the future of the country in the capacity of the central government to interact constructively and in a complimentary manner with the regional authorities.  Through those, the government will be able to reach out to the population and meet the requirement, the needs of the population.  This is the way to go.

If they do that, the population will shy away from Al-Shabaab and join the government because they will realize that the government is there for them and not for itself.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, gentlemen.  I have a question we received by e-mail from Celia Lebur at Agence France-Presse in Lagos.  This is for General Adeosun.  Sir, how have operations changed since the emergence of the new faction of Boko Haram led by Al Barnawi who has recently emerged and stated he will challenge the military in the region?

GENERAL LAMIDI ADEOSUN:   Thank you very much.  It is not just to say he will challenge.  He has been challenging the military within the region.  We are all aware of when it broke out from the mainstream Shekau faction and how it was a group was also recognized by some elements of ISIS.  Given the name it doesn’t deserve Islamic states in West Africa which is [inaudible] threatening the big group that was definitely not fitting. Yes.  The split is assisting the operation in the way and that the linkage between his group and Shekau has been severed and he is also isolated, which is good, and cornered where operation is going on currently.  

MODERATOR:  Thank you, sir.  We have a question in Lagos, Nigeria.  We’ll turn to Mr. Akiinkunmi.  Is Mr. Obakeye Akiinkunmi on the line?  We seem to have maybe a technical issue.  Let me turn to another question that came in from CNN Senior Producer Brent Swails for General Waldhauser.  Sir, as the counter-LRA mission draws to a close, four of the top leaders have been captured.  How important is it for Kony, the leader to eventually be captured given his psychological impact on that insurgency?

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  Well, I think we’d all agree that it would be important for Kony himself to be captured.  But nevertheless, the time has come over the last several years where the numbers of that organization have dwindled, the leadership, as you said, to a large degree, has been taken off the battlefield.  And therefore, the LRA itself is really fighting for relevancy.

So there comes a time that we need to move forward.  So, we obviously have some concerns about the possibility of the LRA coming back to fruition.  There could be another group in that area that would come up and fill that void.  And yes, just like the partnering countries there, we’re concerned.  But having said that, our transition, we will continue to work with those countries through training, through exercises, passing intelligence when required.  Because even though we are officially ending the so-called counter-LRA mission, we are certainly aware of the fact that we don’t want to leave a void there.

So, we will continue to work with those countries to try to mitigate that, if at all possible.  We’ll keep a close eye on it. But the time has come to move forward because the organization itself is really in a survival mode and has very little, if any relevancy.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, General Waldhauser.  We have another question I think that you, sir, can address and certainly turn it over to your colleagues.  This is from a journalist with Deutsche Welle and other outlets, Gaius Kowene asking again about the conference you’re conducting this week and how it has addressed the issue of violent extremist organizations, which you’ve already addressed in some degree.  But also an additional related question about how Africa Command will be sure that the African partner forces do not develop a dependency on the support that AFRICOM provides.  Thank you, sir.

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  Well, I’ll go first and then I think everyone at the table probably would like to contribute as well.  The first thing I would say is when it comes to the violent extremist organizations, one of the things we concentrated at the conference this week was where we have common ground to do such things as share intelligence; to do such things as take on certain networks that have human trafficking, drugs, weapons and the like, where we can share that intelligence.

And so, this is a big part of it.  And this is a way to get to a regional approach that ultimately will take on a global effect.  Because not only in the AFRICOM AOR, the other U.S. combatant commanders are also looking to try to find where there’s common ground, to get at the defeat of any counterterrorism organization, primarily ISIS of course.  But at the same time, how we can work together to do that.

Now, with regard to the second part of the question of African forces becoming dependent on U.S. support, this is something that gets right to the heart of our philosophy of how we work with our African partners.  And our job is to try to get African solutions to African problems.  And so if you take the Lake Chad Basin, for example or you take Somalia for example, we have forces that train, advise and assist and we accompany on certain occasions.  And it’s our job to get those particular armies to take care of the challenges that they face. We’re very cognizant of that. 

And so, in sum, part of our overall philosophy when we train with our partners is to make sure that we develop their capacity and develop their capability so that they can take these challenges on, on their own.  Because they want to do that on their own.  And it’s our job to help them get there and we are very aware of the fact that we do not want to make sure that they have to depend on U.S. support or U.S. backing in order to solve these problems. 

It’s a fundamental part of how we work with our African partners.  And I would just ask General Adeosun to go ahead and comment if you would like.

GENERAL LAMIDI ADEOSUN:  Thank you very much, General.  I think you have said it all.  The fear that African countries will not develop a permanent dependency on everything, the types support coming from our strategic partners, particularly the U.S. is not necessarily there.  Because the support is based on common ground.  Where the national or multinational outfits lack some resources and so it is possible from strategic partner, they provide.  But largely, all the operations, both national and multinational rely on their own main logistic line of support for all the operations. What comes is an additional and it helps to bolster the performance and activities of all the forces.  Thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR FRANCISCO MADERIA:  Just I was to add.  What we are dealing is a terrorist. And a terrorist have no ground, to have no front.  So, this is an international.  So, we are helping each other to defeat the terrorist.  We are, every country, is taking its share so there is no dependency to each other but it is a common synergy to defeat the enemy which we face.  That’s what I add.

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  Okay, thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, very much.  Just a quick reminder in the last moment here to our callers to press *1 in order to ask a question.  And if we could impose on our guests for one final question, if my computer will cooperate.  If I could go to Mr. Chris Stein in Nairobi, Kenya, please.

QUESTION:  I am from AFP News Agency here in Nairobi.  Question for General Waldhauser.  Given the order recently of kind of loosening up regulations on targeting and air strikes in Somalia, as well as the deployment of the 40 ground troops, do you see the U.S. returning to a role like it had in Somalia in the early 90s where there in fact were boots on the grounds in the conflict?

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  Thanks for the question.  And let me make sure I’m very clear how I characterize this.  The ground troops that were sent, as I indicated earlier, these are logisticians, there to work with what we call defense institution building; supply lines, how to account for equipment, how to make sure operations are appropriately supplied and so-forth.  These are not ground troops in terms of infantry so to speak.  This again, has been a long, scheduled deployment that helps get at the logistical training of the Somalian National Army.

Now, on the second issue, the first one you addressed, I also want to clarify that we have not been given loosened rules for authority to strike.  What we have been given is we’ve been given authority to assist AMISOM forces that are on missions where, if they cannot take care of the situation on their own, then we are authorized to assist them there.

We are also authorized to develop targets on our own and take appropriate action if required.  Now, one of the things that I want to truly emphasize is the fact that the levels of certainty needed to strike, remain very, very significant.  So the requirements for near-certainty and reasonable certainty to make sure that there are no civilians, no women and children and so forth that get struck on the battlefield, we go to great lengths to ensure that that does not happen. 

And with all the issue of drought and famine and movement of large numbers of people in Southern Somalia, combined with non-governmental organizations who are there to provide food assistance and the like, we go to great lengths to ensure we have a common operating picture on the battlefield so we know where everybody is.  So, if we decide to strike then we know exactly what is on the ground and who, in fact, we are striking.

This certainly is a challenge but again, it goes to the point that we’ve been given a little bit more authority to strike. We believe that this will not only help the Somali National Government with regards to their efforts.  And by the way, we do this in conjunction with the Somalian National Government.  And it’s unique because this is the first time we have a political architecture that we work with, coordinate with and conduct these strikes in conjunction with the Somalian National Government.  And this is a very, very important point.

And so I just want to emphasize the fact that all appropriate measures will be taken to ensure we know exactly what we’re doing should we decide to use these additional authorities we’ve been given.

MODERATOR:  Thank you again for that, sir.  We are coming very close to the end of our time.  We have had a little bit of an issue with our question queue.   If I could impose on you gentlemen there at Africa Command for just one final question from Nairobi, Kenya, Mr. Tomi Oladipo.

QUESTION:  Yes, I just wanted to stay on Somalia and just ask if there are any benchmarks regarding the timeframe of the deployment in Somalia, what are you looking at?  And what are you hoping to achieve?  Are there a certain number of troops you’re looking at to train and how long will this go on for?  Is it indefinite?

AMBASSADOR FRANCISO MADERIA:  Well, first of all it’s very important that the highest authorities at the African Union have decided that a draw-down starts in 2018.  I can’t say whether it will be January or February.  It’s 2018.  And it is draw-down, beginning of draw-down.  That’s first.

Second, we have a reality in Somalia we can capitalize on in order to build an effective Somali National Army or effective infantry groups that can fight alongside AMISOM effectively.  For instance, at this very point in time, we have something like 10,900 Somali troops who are already benefiting from some kind of stipends and logistical support from the UN and other partners.

Our idea is to see if we can give these troops the appropriate training, appropriate commands and the degree of logistics and equipment that can allow them to be more effective on the ground in fighting alongside AMISOM and eventually take over from us, slowly, gradually, but effectively.  That is it. 

And in doing so, we are discussing with partners, the ethnics and others to see how this further training of these troops, so that they can work as a common force, an organized force; so we are having those discussions.  Some training is already taking place through these ethnic countries.  So, some logistical support is required.  And we believe that through this, we might reach and achieve some targets by the time we have to start the draw-down.

QUESTION:  All right, I was referring to the U.S. troops, please.

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  So just to refresh, the question is are we looking for benchmarks and are we looking to have like a cap in terms of number of troops?  Was that the essence of the question?

QUESTION:  The number of troops being trained.  So this is about the U.S. deployment.

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  I think it’s important to realize that the training part of this, as the Ambassador just indicated, is done by partners, not only the U.S.  So Turkey, UAE, EU, U.S., AMISOM; are all training forces in there.  So it’s a combined effort to get the numbers, if I can use that term, it’s a combined effort to get the numbers that are necessary so the Somalian National Army can take over security on their own.

So, it’s a combined effort.  We participate in that.  And I would ask General Soubagleh if he had anything he wanted to add.  But I think that from the U.S. perspective, that would be my answer on that question.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL OSMAN NOOR SOUBAGLEH:  I just want to add that the draw-down will be depend with some conditions.  We have to prepare the Somalian National Army and Somali National Integrated Forces must be prepared in order to take over their security.  And on that, we have to look every period, periodically that if they are ready or not.  But this is what is going on.  And as the Ambassador said, this is the troop-contributing countries and our strategic headquarters decide that in 2018, is the start of the withdrawal.  Meanwhile we are busy training the Somalian National Army and unifying the training program for the Somalian National Security Forces.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you again, to our participants.  General Waldhauser, would you like to offer any final words before we conclude today, sir?

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  Well I would just like to say that as indicated at the outset that this week was the first time that AFRICOM and all the Chiefs of Defense from the African Nations were gathered in one place to have a discussion so that we could learn how we at AFRICOM could better support our partner nations so we could meet new friends, establish relationships and also really a big goal was to establish trust between all of our partner nations.  And I think that in the day and a half that we were here, we had a very, very good turnout.   I think we had some frank discussions and I think all participants were very, very forthright.  I think there were a lot of good opinions put forward.  And I know in AFRICOM that we’ve got a lot now that we’re going to go back and look at and process all the information from the last day or so and will do that in order to be a better partner with our African partner nations and assist really with those long-term goals, as I think Colonel Cheadle talked about at the beginning, which we all want; which of course is security, stability and prosperity on the African continent. 

So thank you very much for taking the time this afternoon to ask us the questions.

MODERATOR:  Thank you again, sir.  That concludes today’s call with General Waldhauser and his counterparts from the African continent, General Adeosun, General Soubagleh as well as Ambassador Madeira.  The U.S. Africa Regional Media Hub will make the transcript available to participants and to others.  We will also distribute information about the French and Portuguese translations, which will be available on Sound Cloud.  We had enormous response and participation today.  We did not get to every single question and we have some from you that we will do everything possible to work with our colleagues at Africa Command to get answers to your questions.  And of course, if you have additional questions about today’s call, you can reach the Africa Regional Media Hub at afmediahub@state.gov. 

Thank you again to our principals at Africa Command and your guests, and thank you to all of you who have participated today. 

GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER:  Thank you.

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