Category Archives: AFRICOM

Fight Terrorism Or Control Resources: What’s the Real Reason for U.S.’s Increased Presence In Africa?

David Love reports for the Atlanta Black Star:

Although the Trump administration has not expressed much of an interest in Africa, the U.S. has an increased presence in the continent. As China has ramped up its economic presence and enlarged its footprint in Africa, the U.S. is not waging economic war but rather a shadow commando war.

Uncle Sam is building a massive presence of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command as VICE news reported, with an unprecedented growth in deployment among elite units such as the Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs. While at least 116 special operations missions took place at once around the world in 2011, today these commando units are engaged in close to 100 missions in Africa alone. More specifically, 1,700 Americans are involved in 96 missions in 20 African nations at any one time, according to a declassified October 2016 document from the Special Operations Command in Africa, or SOCAFRICA. SOCAFRICA supports the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM, which is responsible for Defense Department operations on the African continent. The U.S. military has divided the world into six geographic sectors — AFRICOM, NORTHCOM, PACOM, SOUTHCOM, EUCOM and CENTCOM. As reported by HuffPost, AFRICOM now maintains 46 U.S. military bases in 24 African countries.

The Government Accountability Office report on Special Operations Forces documented a dramatic rise of U.S. commandos in Africa, from 1 percent of all special forces abroad in 2006 to 3 percent in 2010 to over 17 percent last year. Only the Middle East has more elite U.S. forces conducting operations in its region.

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U.S. Special Operations Numbers Surge in Africa’s Shadow Wars

Nick Turse reports for The Intercept:

Map-7-03Africa has seen the most dramatic growth in the deployment of America’s elite troops of any region of the globe over the past decade, according to newly released numbers.

In 2006, just 1% of commandos sent overseas were deployed in the U.S. Africa Command area of operations. In 2016, 17.26% of all U.S. Special Operations forces — Navy SEALs and Green Berets among them — deployed abroad were sent to Africa, according to data supplied to The Intercept by U.S. Special Operations Command. That total ranks second only to the Greater Middle East where the U.S. is waging war against enemies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

“In Africa, we are not the kinetic solution,” Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, told African Defense, a U.S. trade publication, early this fall. “We are not at war in Africa — but our African partners certainly are.”

That statement stands in stark contrast to this year’s missions in Somaliawhere, for example, U.S. Special Operations forces assisted local commandos in killing several members of the militant group, al-Shabab and Libya, where they supported local fighters battling members of the Islamic State. These missions also speak to the exponential growth of special operations on the continent.

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U.S. Military Is Building a $100 Million Drone Base in Africa

Nick Turse reports for The Intercept:

From high above, Agadez almost blends into the cocoa-colored wasteland that surrounds it. Only when you descend farther can you make out a city that curves around an airfield before fading into the desert. Once a nexus for camel caravans hauling tea and salt across the Sahara, Agadez is now a West African paradise for people smugglers and a way station for refugees and migrants intent on reaching Europe’s shores by any means necessary.

Africans fleeing unrest and poverty are not, however, the only foreigners making their way to this town in the center of Niger. U.S. military documents reveal new information about an American drone base under construction on the outskirts of the city. The long-planned project — considered the most important U.S. military construction effort in Africa, according to formerly secret files obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act — is slated to cost $100 million, and is just one of a number of recent American military initiatives in the impoverished nation.

The base is the latest sign, experts say, of an ever-increasing emphasis on counterterror operations in the north and west of the continent. As the only country in the region willing to allow a U.S. base for MQ-9 Reapers — a newer, larger, and potentially more lethal model than the venerable Predator drone — Niger has positioned itself to be the key regional hub for U.S. military operations, with Agadez serving as the premier outpost for launching intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions against a plethora of terror groups.

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In Africa, the U.S. Military Sees Enemies Everywhere

Nick Turse reports for The Intercept:

militant-islamist-in-africa-April-2016From east to west across Africa, 1,700 Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and other military personnel are carrying out 78 distinct “mission sets” in more than 20 nations, according to documents obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act.

“The SOCAFRICA operational environment is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous,” says Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, using the acronym of the secretive organization he presides over, Special Operations Command Africa. “It’s a wickedly complex environment tailor-made for the type of nuanced and professional cooperation SOF [special operations forces] is able to provide.”

Equally complex is figuring out just what America’s most elite troops on the continent are actually doing, and who they are targeting.

In documents from a closed-door presentation delivered by Bolduc late last year and a recent, little-noticed question and answer with a military publication, the SOCAFRICA commander offered new clues about the shadow war currently being waged by American troops all across the continent.

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U.S. AFRICOM Arming ex-Somali Warlord to Fight al-Shabaab

All Africa reports:

United States Africa Command, (U.S. AFRICOM) is reportedly giving arms and military equipment to former Somali warlord to fight against the Somalia-based Al Shabaab.

Col Barre Aden Shire known as (Barre Hiiraale) has paid a secret visit to U.S. AFRICOM military base in Kenya, where he met with top US military commanders.

Relaible sources say, that Senior AMISOM commanders are accompanying Barre Hiiraale on his unannounced visit to the U.S. AFRICOM base in Kenya.

During the door-closed meeting, both sides have discussed a range on issues, mainly the war on Al Shabaab militants in Lowe and Middle Jubba regions on southern Somalia.

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The Drone War Goes Awry in Africa

Geoff D. Porter reports for Foreign Policy:

Three years ago this month, a previously unknown Islamist group, the Mourabitoun, launched an unprecedented attack on a natural gas facility near the eastern Algerian town of In Amenas. But after its dramatic opening salvo, the group went strangely quiet. Some argued the In Amenas attack was as irreproducible as it was unprecedented — and those voices gained strength after Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the Mourabitoun’s leader and founder, was reported to have been killed by a U.S. drone strike last summer.

The doubters have now been quieted. After three years of inactivity, the Mourabitoun has abruptly reappeared. The Jan. 15 attack on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, which left at least 28 people dead, was the second deadly incident involving Belmokhtar’s group in less than two months. The first, some 500 miles away in neighboring Mali on Nov. 20, was a joint operation with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). It involved three assailants, armed with AK-47s and grenades, who rampaged through the Radisson Blu hotel in downtown Bamako, sparking an hours-long siege during which 27 people were killed. It remains unclear whether the assailants were trained and equipped by AQIM or by the Mourabitoun — or even whether the distinction is still valid.

But the Bamako and Ouagadougou attacks, though nearly identical, represent a marked departure from the In Amenas attack. The differences underscore how much the Mourabitoun’s capabilities, tactics, strategy, and even its geographical focus have shifted over the last 36 months. They also offer plenty of reasons to reconsider the strategy, developed by proponents of the U.S. drone war, of neutralizing terrorist groups by “decapitating” their leaders.

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In Mali and Rest of Africa, the U.S. Military Fights a Hidden War

Nick Turse reports for The Intercept:

The General leading the U.S. military’s hidden war in Africa says the continent is now home to nearly 50 terrorist organizations and “illicit groups” that threaten U.S. interests. And today, gunmen reportedly yelling “Allahu Akbar” stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital and seized several dozen hostages. U.S. special operations forces are “currently assisting hostage recovery efforts,” a Pentagon spokesperson said, and U.S. personnel have “helped move civilians to secured locations, as Malian forces clear the hotel of hostile gunmen.”

In Mali, groups like Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa have long posed a threat. Major terrorist groups in Africa include al Shabaab, Boko Haram and al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM). In the wake of the Paris attacks by ISIS, attention has been drawn to ISIS affiliates in Egypt and Libya, too. But what are the dozens of other groups in Africa that the Pentagon is fighting with more special operations forces, more outposts, and more missions than ever?

For the most part, the Pentagon won’t say.

[…] The secret of whom the U.S. military is fighting extends to Africa. Since 9/11, U.S. military efforts on the continent have grown in every conceivable way, from funding and manpower to missions and outposts, while at the same time the number of transnational terror groups has increased in linear fashion, according to the military. The reasons for this are murky. Is it a spillover from events in the Middle East and Central Asia? Are U.S. operations helping to spawn and spread terror groups? Is the Pentagon inflating the terror threat for its own gain? Is the rise of these terrorist organizations due to myriad local factors? Or more likely, is it a combination of these and other reasons? The task of answering these questions is made more difficult when no one in the military is willing to name more than a handful of the transnational terror groups that are classified as America’s enemies.

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How US-Backed Intervention in Libya Spread Chaos to Nearby Mali: Interview with Nick Turse

Amy Goodman speak to Nick Turse, author of Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa and journalist for TomDispatch and The Intercept. This interview with Turse was recorded earlier in November with the segment on Mali republished in light of the hostage crisis in Bamako, Mali. (Democracy Now!)

As U.S. Special Ops Enter Syria, Growing Presence in Africa Goes Unnoticed: Interview with Nick Turse

Editor’s Note: You can watch Part Two of this interview here

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez talk to Nick Turse, author of Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa and journalist for TomDispatch and The Intercept. Despite attention on the recent deployment of special operations forces to Syria, special ops forces have also been sent to 147 countries, or 75% of nations on earth. Under the Obama administration there has been a 145% increase on the use of special ops since the days of Bush and the neocons. On the African continent alone, the U.S. military is now involved in more than 90% of its 54 nations. (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Elite Forces Deploy to a Record-Shattering 147 Countries in 2015

Nick Turse reports for TomDispatch:

A US Army soldier keeps watch on the mountains in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, May 12, 2013. (Photo: U.S. Army / Sgt. Jessi Ann McCormick)They’re some of the best soldiers in the world: highly trained, well equipped, and experts in weapons, intelligence gathering, and battlefield medicine. They study foreign cultures and learn local languages. They’re smart, skillful, wear some very iconic headgear, and their 12-member teams are “capable of conducting the full spectrum of special operations, from building indigenous security forces to identifying and targeting threats to US national interests.”

They’re also quite successful. At least they think so.

“In the last decade, Green Berets have deployed into 135 of the 195 recognized countries in the world. Successes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Trans-Sahel Africa, the Philippines, the Andean Ridge, the Caribbean, and Central America have resulted in an increasing demand for [Special Forces] around the globe,” reads a statement on the website of US Army Special Forces Command.

The Army’s Green Berets are among the best known of America’s elite forces, but they’re hardly alone. Navy SEALs, Air Force Air Commandos, Army Rangers, Marine Corps Raiders, as well as civil affairs personnel, logisticians, administrators, analysts, and planners, among others, make up US Special Operations forces (SOF). They are the men and women who carry out America’s most difficult and secret military missions. Since 9/11, US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has grown in every conceivable way from funding and personnel to global reach and deployments. In 2015, according to Special Operations Command spokesman Ken McGraw, US Special Operations forces deployed to a record-shattering 147 countries – 75% of the nations on the planet, which represents a jump of 145% since the waning days of the Bush administration. On any day of the year, in fact, America’s most elite troops can be found in 70 to 90 nations.

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Africa and Weaponization of Charity: Interview with Alex Perry

Afshin Rattansi talks to journalist and author Alex Perry about his new book, The Rift: A New Africa Breaks Free. They discuss how China’s business approach to Africa is helping it to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world. They also talk about how the business of aid fronted by celebrities have damaged the continent. (Going Underground)

US Sends Ground Troops, Drones to Cameroon

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Invoking the War Powers Act, President Obama informed Congress today [14 October] that he is deploying 300 ground troops and drones to the West African nation of Cameroon on a mission aimed at helping governments tamp down a “regional Muslim anti-colonial movement.

The White House says the deployment is going to be part of “a broader regional effort” and that the mission is totally open-ended, with the troops to remain until they are “no longer needed” in the country, though as usual they declined to lay out what this situation would look like.

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Secret Warfare: U.S. Special Forces Expand Training to Allies With Histories of Abuse

Nick Turse writes for The Intercept:

[…] Since 9/11, Special Ops forces have expanded in almost every conceivable way — from budget to personnel to overseas missions — with JCETs playing a significant role. Special Operations Command keeps the size and scope of the program a well-guarded secret, refusing to release even basic figures about the number of missions or the countries involved, but documents obtained by The Intercept demonstrate that from 2012 to 2014 some of America’s most elite troops — including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets — carried out 500 Joint Combined Exchange Training missions around the world.

“The purpose of JCETs is to foster the training of U.S. SOF in mission-critical skills by training with partner-nation forces in their home countries,” according to Ken McGraw, a spokesperson for U.S. Special Operations Command. “The program enables U.S. SOF to build their capability to conduct operations with partner-nation military forces in an unfamiliar environment while developing their language skills, and develop[ing] familiarity with local geography and culture.”

That’s the official line, but the program appears to have an additional goal — transferring elite military skills from American operators to local forces. “Ultimately that is the overarching goal of these activities,” says Linda Robinson, a senior international policy analyst at the Rand Corp. and author of One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare.

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U.S. Special Ops Forces Deployed in 135 Nations

Nick Turse reports for Tom Dispatch:

This year, U.S. Special Operations forces have already deployed to 135 nations, according to Ken McGraw, a spokesman for Special Operations Command (SOCOM).  That’s roughly 70% of the countries on the planet.  Every day, in fact, America’s most elite troops are carrying out missions in 80 to 90 nations, practicing night raids or sometimes conducting them for real, engaging in sniper training or sometimes actually gunning down enemies from afar. As part of a global engagement strategy of endless hush-hush operations conducted on every continent but Antarctica, they have now eclipsed the number and range of special ops missions undertaken at the height of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the waning days of the Bush administration, Special Operations forces (SOF) were reportedly deployed in only about 60 nations around the world.  By 2010, according to the Washington Post, that number had swelled to 75.  Three years later, it had jumped to 134 nations, “slipping” to 133 last year, before reaching a new record of 135 this summer.  This 80% increase over the last five years is indicative of SOCOM’s exponential expansion which first shifted into high gear following the 9/11 attacks.

Special Operations Command’s funding, for example, has more than tripled from about $3 billion in 2001 to nearly $10 billion in 2014 “constant dollars,”according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  And this doesn’t include funding from the various service branches, which SOCOM estimates at around another $8 billion annually, or other undisclosed sums that the GAO was unable to track.  The average number of Special Operations forces deployed overseas has nearly tripled during these same years, while SOCOM more than doubled its personnel from about 33,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 now.

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Obama In Africa: Interview with Horace Campbell

Democracy Now! recently spoke with Horace Campbell, professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He has written extensively on African politics. His new piece for CounterPunch is called “Obama in Kenya.” He is also the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya. (Democracy Now!)

Obama in Kenya: Why the Horn of Africa Matters to Geopolitics

Juan Cole writes for Informed Comment:

EastAfricaMapPresident Obama’s visit to Kenya is of course personal, though he has been there before both as a civilian and as a senator. But it does also have a geopolitical and economic dimension.

Kenya is a country of roughly 46 million people, about the same as Spain. But its nominal gross domestic product is only $70 billion a year (Spain’s is 1.4 trillion). But its economy has been growing impressively, with 6% growth expected this year despite a downturn in coastal tourism because of terrorist incidents and a drought that has hurt agriculture.

[…] Kenya’s strategic position derives in part from its abutting the Horn of Africa to the north, off the coast of which is one of the world’s most important trade routes, linking the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and thence the Mediterranean and Europe through the Suez Canal.

[…] Africa is also increasingly an arena of competition between the United States and China. China invested $5 billion in infrastructure projects in Kenya, and has twice the volume of trade with Africa as the United States does.

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U.S. Wants Drones in North Africa to Combat Islamic State in Libya

Gordon Lubold and Adam Entous report for the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. is in talks with North African countries about positioning drones at a base on their soil to ramp up surveillance of Islamic State in Libya in what would be the most significant expansion of the campaign against the extremist group in the region.

The establishment of such a base would help eliminate what counterterrorism officials described as one of the last and most pressing intelligence “blind spots” facing U.S. and Western spy agencies. Washington and its allies are seeking to contain the expansion of Islamic State beyond Iraq and Syria, where a U.S.-led military campaign against the group is already under way.

“Right now, what we are trying to do is address some real intelligence challenges,” a senior administration official said. A base in North Africa close to Islamic State strongholds in Libya would help the U.S. “fill gaps in our understanding of what’s going on” there, the official added.’

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Sex, Drugs, and Dead Soldiers: AFRICOM Behaving Badly

Tom Englehardt writes in his introduction to Nick Turse’s latest piece for TomDispatch:

There were those secret service agents sent to Colombia to protect the president on a summit trip and the prostitutes they brought back to their hotel rooms. There was the Air Force general on a major bender in Moscow (with more women involved). There were those Drug Enforcement Administration agents and their “sex parties” abroad (possibly in Colombia again) financed by – no kidding! – local drug cartels. And there were, of course, the two senior secret service agents who, after a night of drinking, ran their car into a White House security barrier.

That’s what we do know from the headlines and news reports, when it comes to sex, drugs, and acting truly badly abroad (as well as at home). And yet there’s so much more, as TomDispatch’s intrepid Nick Turse reports today. As you’ll see, Turse has unearthed a continent’s worth of bad behavior, even as U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) went out of its way to obstruct his reporting and the documents he obtained under the Freedom of Information Act were so heavily redacted that ink companies must be making a fortune. No one should, of course, be surprised that as AFRICOM has quietly and with almost no attention pivoted to Africa, making inroads in 49 of the 54 countries on that continent, a certain kind of all-American behavior has “pivoted” with it. In a revelatory piece today, Turse – whose groundbreaking new book, Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, has just been published – pulls the curtain back on one bit of scandalous and disturbing behavior after another on a continent that Washington is in the process of making its own; in other words (given the pattern of the last 13 years), that it’s helping to destabilize in a major way.

If you want a little bit of light comedy to leaven the news, only a few weeks ago, AFRICOM hosted military lawyers from 17 African nations at its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. The subject of the gathering: “the rule of law.” As Lieutenant General Steven Hummer, AFRICOM deputy to the commander of military operations,said in his opening remarks, “The rule of law is our most important export.” Turse has a slightly different interpretation of what the U.S. is “exporting” to Africa along with destabilization and blowback.’

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U.S. general claims ‘Islamic State’ running training operation in Libya

DW reports:

‘The general, who heads US Africa Command, told Pentagon reporters that there may be “a couple of hundred” fighters undergoing training at the sites, although details remained sketchy.

“We’ll have to just continue to monitor and watch that carefully in the future to see what happens or whether it grows unabated,” said Rodriguez. “Right now it’s just small and very nascent and we just have to see how it goes.”

When asked if the camps might be a target for US airstrikes, Rodriguez said, “That policy discussion is ongoing and we’ll see how that goes.” He added that that the camps were not being targeted “right now.”

The general said it appeared that many of the trainees were members of Libyan militias who were seeking to make a name for themselves and establish connections. He added that it was unclear if they planned to go on to fight for IS in Iraq or Syria.

“It’s mainly about people coming for training and logistics support right now, for training sites, and that’s what we see right now. As far as a huge command and control network, we have not seen that yet,” Rodriguez said.’

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How China And France Plan To Cash In Together In Africa

Wong Ling reports for World Crunch:

‘Britain, France and Germany have recently been extending olive branches to China, but France has at least one major advantage over its neighbors: It’s particularly well poised to cooperate with China on investment in Africa, with historical advantages to serve as a springboard for the Asian power’s ambitions on the continent.

“France has long experience in Africa,” says Muriel Pénicaud, president of the French Agency for International Investments. “A growing number of Chinese enterprises produce goods in France to export to Africa.”‘

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Mystery Surrounds NASA’s Secret Mission in Africa

Lee Farran reports for ABC News:

PHOTO: A NASA WB-57 photographed at dawn.‘A NASA official recently confirmed that one of the agency’s aircraft had been spotted on an American military airstrip in eastern Africa a few weeks ago, but like a series of U.S. military officials, declined to say what the space agency’s high-tech bird was doing there.

“I really can’t give you any of the details,” Jim Alexander, a NASA official with the WB-57 High Altitude Research Program, told ABC News. “You know, the airplane was there, you see it in the picture. But I really can’t tell you what it was for.”

The broad-winged white plane belonging to the agency best known for putting a man on the moon was photographed by the satellite company Digital Globe back in September sitting next to some tilt-rotor aircraft at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, a development reported by the military blog War Is Boring last month.’

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Militarizing the Ebola Crisis

Joeva Rock writes for Foreign Policy In Focus:

‘[…] Few would oppose a robust U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, but the militarized nature of the White House plan comes in the context of a broader U.S.-led militarization of the region. The soldiers in Liberia, after all, will not be the only American troops on the African continent. In the six years of AFRICOM’s existence, the U.S. military has steadily and quietly been building its presence on the continent through drone bases and partnerships with local militaries. This is what’s known as the “new normal“: drone strikes, partnerships to train and equip African troops (including those with troubled human rights records), reconnaissance missions, and multinational training operations.

To build PR for its military exercises, AFRICOM relies on soft-power tactics: vibrant social media pages, academic symposia, and humanitarian programming. But such militarized humanitarianism—such as building schools and hospitals and responding to disease outbreaks—also plays more strategic, practical purpose: it allows military personnel to train in new environments, gather local experience and tactical data, and build diplomatic relations with host countries and communities.

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The US Has Spent Tens of Millions of Dollars Fighting Pirates, and It Still Failed

Nick Turse writes for TomDispatch:

maritime operation‘[…] From 2012 to 2013, the US Office of Naval Intelligence found a 25 percent jump in incidents, including vessels being fired upon, boarded and hijacked, in the Gulf of Guinea, a vast maritime zone that curves along the west coast of Africa from Gabon to Liberia. Kidnappings are up, too. Earlier this year, Stephen Starr, writing for the CTC Sentinel, the official publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, asserted that in 2014 the number of attacks would rise again.

Today what most Americans know about piracy likely centers on an attraction at Walt Disney World and the Johnny Depp movies it inspired. If the Gulf of Guinea rings any bells at all, it’s probably because of the Ebola outbreak in, and upcoming US military “surge” into, Liberia, the nation on the northern edge of that body of water. But for those in the know, the Gulf itself is an intractable hotspot on a vast continent filled with them and yet another area where US military efforts have fallen short.

A recent investigation by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that “piracy and maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea has escalated” and that “armed robbery at sea, oil theft, and kidnapping is a persistent problem that continues to contribute to instability” there. Not only that, but as Pottengal Mukundan, the director of the International Maritime Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce, recently noted, piracy in the Gulf has taken on a particularly violent character.’

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African leaders seek fund to fight militant groups

Drazen Jorgic and Edith Honan report for Reuters:

‘African leaders proposed on Tuesday creating a special fund to combat Islamist militant groups growing in strength from Kenya to Nigeria. African Union (AU) states announced the idea after Nairobi talks on a problem highlighted on Tuesday by capture of a town in north-eastern Nigeria by Boko Haram militants. Fighting killed scores of people, according to security forces, and sent at least 5,000 fleeing.

A senior European Union official also told the summit that Islamic State’s gains in Iraq and Syria, where it controls vast swathes of territory, could help set off a competition between it and al Qaeda to become the leading Islamist militant group in Africa. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, where al Shabaab gunmen last September killed 67 people in a raid on a shopping mall, said African countries should stand together against the threat of Boko Haram and al Shabaab.’

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Pentagon set to open second drone base in Niger as it expands operations in Africa

Craig Whitlock reports for The Washington Post:

‘The Pentagon is preparing to open a drone base in one of the remotest places on Earth: an ancient caravan crossroads in the middle of the Sahara. After months of negotiations, the government of Niger, a landlocked West African nation, has authorized the U.S. military to fly unarmed drones from the mud-walled desert city of Agadez, according to Nigerien and U.S. officials.

The previously undisclosed decision gives the Pentagon another surveillance hub — its second in Niger and third in the region — to track Islamist fighters who have destabilized parts of North and West Africa. It also advances a little-publicized U.S. strategy to tackle counterterrorism threats alongside France, the former colonial power in that part of the continent.

Although the two allies have a sporadic history of quarreling when it comes to military action, U.S. and French troops have been working hand in glove as they steadily expand their presence in impoverished West Africa. Both countries are alarmed by the presence of jihadist groups, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, that have taken root in states whose governments are unable to exert control over their own territory.’

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How the US Military Took Over the African Continent: Interview with Kambale Musavuli

Abby Martin speaks with Kambale Musavuli, national spokesperson for Friends of the Congo, discussing the 2014 Africa Summit and the backlash against US policy in the African continent.’ (Breaking the Set)

China, America, and a New Cold War in Africa?

Nick Turse writes for Tom Dispatch:

‘[…] While few outside South Sudan would ascribe to Makuei’s notion of a direct East-West proxy war here, his conspiracy theory should, at least, serve as a reminder that U.S. and Chinese interests are at play in this war-torn nation and across Africa as a whole — and that Africans are taking note.  Almost anywhere you look on the continent, you can now find evidence of both the American and the Chinese presence, although they take quite different forms.  The Chinese are pursuing a ruthlessly pragmatic economic power-projection strategy with an emphasis on targeted multilateral interventions in African conflicts.  U.S. policy, in contrast, appears both more muddled and more military-centric, with a heavy focus on counterterrorism efforts meant to bolster amorphous strategic interests.

For the last decade, China has used “soft power” — aid, trade, and infrastructure projects — to make major inroads on the continent.  In the process, it has set itself up as the dominant foreign player here.  The U.S., on the other hand, increasingly confronts Africa as a “battlefield” or “battleground” or “war” in the words of the men running its operations. In recent years, there has been a substantial surge in U.S.military activities of every sort, including the setting up of military outposts and bothdirect and proxy interventions. These two approaches have produced starkly contrasting results for the powers involved and the rising nations of the continent.  Which one triumphs may have profound implications for all parties in the years ahead. The differences are, perhaps, nowhere as stark as in the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.’

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US Weaponizes Nearly Every Major World Conflict

Abby Martin reports on the militant group ISIS seizing 52 US-made heavy artillery cannons, going over several other examples of US weapons playing a role in almost every major global conflict.’ (Breaking the Set)

U.S. discloses secret Somalia military presence, up to 120 troops

Phil Stewart reports for Reuters:

‘U.S. military advisors have secretly operated in Somalia since around 2007 and Washington plans to deepen its security assistance to help the country fend off threats by Islamist militant group al Shabaab, U.S. officials said. The comments are the first detailed public acknowledgement of a U.S. military presence in Somalia dating back since the U.S. administration of George W. Bush and add to other signs of a deepening U.S. commitment to Somalia’s government, which the Obama administration recognized last year.

The deployments, consisting of up to 120 troops on the ground, go beyond the Pentagon’s January announcement that it had sent a handful of advisors in October. That was seen at the time as the first assignment of U.S. troops to Somalia since 1993 when two U.S. helicopters were shot down and 18 American troops killed in the “Black Hawk Down” disaster. The plans to further expand U.S. military assistance coincide with increasing efforts by the Somali government and African Union peacekeepers to counter a bloody seven-year insurgent campaign by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab to impose strict Islamic law inside Somalia.’

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Politifact Blows Call On AFRICOM

D.S. Wright writes for Firedoglake:

‘[…] Recently Politifact weighed in on a brazen statement made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her book Hard Choices. Clinton claimed “The U.S. military footprint in Africa is nearly nonexistent.” A claim Politifact ruled as “True” which is the highest ranking their evaluation system has and ranges from “True” to “Pants on Fire” for claims that are outright false. The “True” rating is the best rating for the truthfulness of a statement that is evaluated.

Unfortunately for Politifact, Clinton’s statement is, in fact, false. The US military footprint is extensive in Africa. The background information Politifact cites for its ruling involves quoting officials from the Department of Defense and noting how small the ostensible budget is for AFRICOM in relation to other areas. Amazingly Politifact also notes  – in the ruling affirming the “non-existent footprint” in Africa – that Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti contains 2-4,000 personnel. Though they then try to minimize their own cited fact by claiming many of those people are “contractors” before concluding “There is a military presence in Africa, but it’s limited to one base with little combat infrastructure, and it’s commanded from a location that is not even located on the continent.”

The actual facts tell a different story. As perhaps most comprehensively pointed out by Nick Turse, the AFRICOM footprint is quite large.Rather than a “non-existent footprint” the US is quite heavily involved in numerous military operations throughout the continent.’

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