U.S. Military Engaged in 546 Separate “Activities” in Africa Last Year

Sunday, April 06, 2014
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Salvatore Buzzurro in Sierra Leone (photo: U.S. Army Africa)

Far from the headlines generated by the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has a surprisingly active presence on the continent of Africa. As reported by Nick Turse in TomDispatch.com, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), according to commander General David Rodriguez, the U.S. military carried out a total of 546 “activities” on the continent last year.. That number represents a 217% increase in operations, programs, and exercises since the command was established in 2008, according to Turse.

 

What did these activities involve? According to Rodriguez, ten exercises, 55 operations and 481 “security cooperation activities.” AFRICOM’s mission statement says that the U.S. presence “builds defense capabilities, responds to crisis, and deters and defeats transnational threats in order to advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity.” But Turse reports that the U.S. military is involved in airstrikes targeting suspected militants, night raids aimed at kidnapping terror suspects, airlifts of French and African troops onto the battlefields of proxy wars, and evacuation operations in destabilized countries. Much of what the U.S. military does in Africa is train, advise, equip and fund local armies.

 

AFRICOM says it has only one base on the continent, in Djibouti. But there are other installations known by other names in Africa, such as “forward operating sites,” “long-term locations” and “cooperative security locations.” The U.S. military was involved with at least 49 of the 54 nations on the continent.

 

And the United States isn’t the only Western nation conducting operations in Africa. More than 1,000 troops from 18 nations, including Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Senegal, the United Kingdom, the U.S., and the host nation of Niger, carried out counterterror training on the outskirts of Niamey, the capital, as well as at small bases in Tahoua, Agadez, and Diffa as part of the annual Flintlock exercise.

 

Operations appear to have increased as African nations have intensified their search for oil. Just last month, Navy Seals stormed a Libyan oil tanker that had been taken over by rebels in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

These are only a few details of what the U.S. military has been up to in Africa. Military commanders have been reticent about what’s being done on the continent in the name of the American people.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

U.S. Military Averaging More Than a Mission a Day in Africa (by Nick Turse, TomDispatch.com)

AFRICOM Mission Statement

U.S. Foreign Policy in Africa: Oil and Commandoes (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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