AFRICOM’s Tentacles Across Africa*
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Journalist Nick Turse’s study, entitled “AFRICOM’s Gigantic ‘Small Footprint,’” reviews the increasing role of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) at TomDispatch.com. . .
Western efforts have intensified to dominate Africa, a continent which has been subjected to nearly six centuries of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism. With the People’s Republic of China playing a greater economic role there, the U.S. ruling class is scrambling to edge out Beijing by increasing its military and intelligence presence.
The Pentagon/NATO seven-month bombing campaign of Libya in 2011 demonstrated the extent to which the imperialists will go to overthrow and remake states. Yet, since Gadhafi’s government fell, Libya has been plunged into economic distress and political chaos.
The U.S. is constructing drone stations throughout the Horn of Africa and in Niger, while it subsidizes a 17,500-person military force in Somalia — now the focus of oil exploration and exploitation, along with other East African states.
Turse says of the Pentagon, “They’re involved in Algeria and Angola, Benin and Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi, Cameroon and the Cape Verde Islands. And that’s just the ABCs of the situation. … Skip to the end of the alphabet and the story remains the same: Senegal and the Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia. From north to south, east to west, the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, the heart of the continent to the islands off its coasts, the U.S. military is at work.”
Turse tracks Pentagon joint military exercises with various African states and the construction of military bases within them. He reviews the building and expansion of the Camp Lemonnier base in Djibouti and the utilization of drone technology to monitor events and offensively strike targeted individuals and organizations.
The escalating Pentagon presence in Africa is also shown by AFRICOM-related bases of operation outside the continent. Located mainly in European countries and in islands under their control, these facilities should concern the continent’s left and anti-war forces, given the history of European colonialism in Africa.
Turse notes, “When considering the scope and rapid expansion of U.S. military activities in Africa, … [note] … key ‘African’ bases are actually located off the continent. … AFRICOM’s headquarters is located at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart-Moehringen, Germany.”
Turse reveals, “… The base in Stuttgart and the U.S. Air Force’s Air Operations Center in Ramstein were both integral to drone operations in Africa. Key logistics support hubs for AFRICOM are located in Rota, Spain; Aruba in the Lesser Antilles; and Souda Bay, Greece, [and] Ramstein.” AFRICOM maintains an operating base on Britain’s Ascension Island, 1,000 miles off Africa’s coast in the South Atlantic.
Anti-imperialist forces must protest
These findings should provide the basis for a more concentrated effort opposing the growing Pentagon and CIA presence in Africa. The organization of a clear anti-imperialist response would encourage revolutionary organizations and movements in Africa, leading to alliances between Western progressive forces and those on the continent. . .
Oil and other strategic resources imported into the United States from the continent are motivating an increase in Pentagon troops in Africa and the latest development: the hiring of private strategy and technology concerns as advisers.
In 2008 the United States Africa Command was formed, ostensibly to provide the Pentagon with a consistent military focus on the continent. The Bush administration sought to place AFRICOM’s headquarters on African soil, but the proposal attracted such opposition that no African state would openly provide its territory.
However, the Barack Obama administration has continued AFRICOM and increased its funding and operational capability. The overthrow of the government of Col. Moammar Gadhafi was coordinated by AFRICOM, representing its first full-blown operation in Africa.
In December of 2012, the White House announced that it was deploying 3,500 Special Forces and military trainers to at least 35 states in Africa. The U.S. established a drone base in the uranium-rich nation of Niger, and the Pentagon aided France’s invasion of Mali by transporting troops and military equipment into the West African state.
Private firms advise Pentagon on war strategies
In August the Pentagon announced that its think tank, the Office of Net Assessment, had contracted with the Booz Allen Hamilton firm to conduct a study on the future of the U.S. in Africa from a military perspective.
This is the same firm that exiled intelligence analyst Edward Snowden worked for on a contract with the National Security Agency.
Booz Allen has a long track record with the ONA. In 2007, records indicate that the firm signed a $45 million contract with the Pentagon.
USA Today reported Aug. 28 that “The Office of Net Assessment is an internal Pentagon think tank that tries to anticipate future needs through a series of studies and war games. Created in 1973, it has been run by the same person, 92-year-old Andrew Marshall, since its beginning.”
The report points out that “Marshall, in turn, is a disciple of longtime military strategist Fritz Kraemer, a key influence on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Vice President Dick Cheney. … While Democratic and Republican administrations come and go, ONA and its team of outside advisers remains the same.”
The reason for the contract to study Africa, USA Today surmised, was related to fears about the rising influence of al-Qaeda and other so-called terrorist organizations in Africa. This is the same rationale provided for the escalation of AFRICOM operations and the placing of thousands of troops in various nation-states.
Yet the places where U.S. military operations have actually taken place in Africa are mainly areas where the capitalist class in the U.S. and other NATO countries have strategic interests. Libya is the largest potential source of oil on the continent and Niger is a vast repository of uranium.
In Somalia, where 17,500 African Union Mission to Somalia troops are propping up the federal government in Mogadishu, the U.S. is financing these military operations to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. A CIA field station backs up this aid and directs ongoing drone strikes through outposts extending from the Horn of Africa to the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean.
Booz Allen and other firms perform much of the ONA’s work. The USA Today article notes, “Contract records show the office relies on studies from outside contractors at firms such as Booz Allen, Science Applications International Corp. and Scitor Corp., universities and think tanks, such as the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and the Hudson Institute.”
This article also points out that many ONA employees had previously worked for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, such as Andrew Krepinevich of CSBA and numerous employees of the Hudson Institute. Other analysts, such as Stephen Cambone, the former undersecretary of defense for intelligence, were important functionaries of the Bush administration’s Pentagon staff.
The role of corporations such as Booz Allen and others reveals how far privatization has gone within the U.S. military. These firms have a vested interest in expanding military planning and intelligence assessments aimed at broad segments of both U.S. and foreign societies and governments.
The U.S. government has charged former Booz Allen employee Snowden with espionage and theft. However, the war and intelligence crimes exposed by Snowden and other whistleblowers, such as Julian Assange of Australia and U.S. Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning, are swept under the carpet by the corporate media and the Obama administration.