Our Crumbling African Empire

Posted by Bob Lord

There's a bunch of stuff out today on inequality, but the most eye-opening piece I've seen in awhile is Nick Turse's piece, Blowback Central, at Tom Dispatch. 

AFRICOM is the Pentagon's most recently established global command. Established just six short years ago, it has imposed our military presence all over Africa, with stunningly depressing results. I was vaguely aware of this situation, but didn't appreciate fully the extent of our imperialistic action. Here are a few of the highlights from Turse:

The next year, CJTF-HOA took up residence at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, where it resides to this day on the only officially avowed U.S. base in Africa.

As CJTF-HOA was starting up, the State Department launched a multi-million-dollar counterterrorism program, known as the Pan-Sahel Initiative, to bolster the militaries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Mauritania.  In 2004, for example, Special Forces training teams were sent to Mali as part of the effort.  In 2005, the program expanded to include Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia and was renamed the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership. 

In recent years, the U.S. has trained and outfitted soldiers from Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya, among other nations, for missions like the hunt for Kony.  They have also served as a proxy force for the U.S. in Somalia, part of the African Union Mission (AMISOM) protecting the U.S.-supportedgovernment in that country’s capital, Mogadishu.  Since 2007, the State Department has anted up about $650 million in logistics support, equipment, and training for AMISOM troops.  The Pentagon has kicked in an extra $100 million since 2011.

The U.S. also continues funding African armies through the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership and its Pentagon analog, now known as Operation Juniper Shield, with increased support flowing to Mauritania and Niger in the wake of Mali’s collapse.  In 2012, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development poured approximately $52 million into the programs, while the Pentagon chipped in another $46 million.

In the Obama years, U.S. Africa Command has also built a sophisticated logistics system officially known as the AFRICOM Surface Distribution Network, but colloquially referred to as the “new spice route.” Its central nodes are in Manda Bay, Garissa, and Mombasa in Kenya; Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda; Bangui and Djema in Central African Republic; Nzara in South Sudan; Dire Dawa in Ethiopia; and the Pentagon’s showpiece African base, Camp Lemonnier.

In addition, the Pentagon has run a regional air campaign using drones and manned aircraft out of airports and bases across the continent including Camp Lemonnier, Arba Minch airport in Ethiopia, Niamey in Niger, and the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, while private contractor-operated surveillance aircraft have flown missions out of Entebbe, Uganda.  Recently,Foreign Policy reported on the existence of a possible drone base in Lamu, Kenya.

Another critical location is Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, home to a Joint Special Operations Air Detachment and the Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing Airlift Support initiative that, according to military documents, supports “high risk activities” carried out by elite forces from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara. 

(emphasis mine)

So how's all this working out for us? Not very well. Turse's conclusion:

As the war in Afghanistan — a conflict born of blowback — winds down, there will be greater incentive and opportunity to project U.S. military power in Africa.  However, even a cursory reading of recent history suggests that this impulse is unlikely to achieve U.S. goals.  While correlation doesn’t equal causation, there is ample evidence to suggest the United States has facilitated a terror diaspora, imperiling nations and endangering peoples across Africa.  In the wake of 9/11, Pentagon officials were hard-pressed to show evidence of a major African terror threat.  Today, the continent is thick with militant groups that are increasingly crossing borders, sowing insecurity, and throwing the limits of U.S. power into broad relief.  After 10 years of U.S. operations to promote stability by military means, the results have been the opposite.  Africa has become blowback central. 

There you have it. Our tax dollars at work.

Comments are closed.