Africom: Turning Africa into a ‘laboratory’ of modern warfare

THE US military already plans to expand its massive military footprint in Africa and elsewhere to the tune of “several million dollars” a year and thousands of troops.

The Obama administration has overseen an unprecedented expansion of American military might on the African continent, with dozens of bases and outposts opening there since he took office.

A November 17 investigation by Nick Turse, a journalist and American military scholar, found that the United States maintains at least 60 bases or military outposts throughout Africa, although not all are actively used at all times:

“Some are currently being utilised, some are held in reserve, and some may be shuttered. These bases, camps, compounds, port facilities, fuel bunkers, and other sites can be found in at least 34 countries — more than 60 percent of the nations on the continent — many of them corrupt, repressive states with poor human rights records.”

Even that figure does not fully encompass America’s reach in Africa. According to Turse’s sources, the US military operates “Offices of Security Co-operation and Defence Attaché Offices” in 38 African countries, while 30 others have agreed to allow US forces to use their international airports as refuelling centres.

Overall, Turse noted “that the US military has created a network of bases that goes far beyond what AFRICOM has disclosed to the American public, let alone to Africans”.

The military is slowly lifting the veil of secrecy over its actions in Africa. Turse reported:

“For years, US Africa Command (Africom) gave a stock response: One. Camp Lemonnier in the tiny, sun-bleached nation of Djibouti was America’s only acknowledged “base” on the continent.”

Richard Reeve, the director of the Sustainable Security Programme at the Oxford Research Group, a London-based security think tank, told Turse that the US is using AFRICOM as a “laboratory” where it can experiment with “a different kind of warfare and a different way of posturing forces”:

“Apart from Djibouti, there’s no significant stockpiling of troops, equipment, or even aircraft. There are a myriad of ‘lily pads’ or small forward operating bases . . . so you can spread out even a small number of forces over a very large area and concentrate those forces quite quickly when neces- sary.”

After years of denials, the Pentagon has slowly begun admitting to the existence of some of its outposts, with a 2015 Pentagon list now including three “co-operative security locations”, ranging from a medical research facility in Egypt to a seaport in Kenya, and AFRICOM commander Gen David Rodriguez admitted to the existence of 11 such sites in a May interview with military news publication “Stars & Stripes”.

This new-found transparency is likely a prelude to even more military expansion in Africa and elsewhere. On Thursday last week, The New York Times reported on a Pentagon plan to expand US military might in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, under the pretext of defending against Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the group also known as the Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL) and other forms of Islamic extremism.

Under the proposal, submitted originally by former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey, the military would create “hub” bases on three continents by expanding existing bases and co-operative security locations, then using those hubs to create yet more outposts throughout surrounding areas. Pentagon officials told the Times that, “[t]he hubs would range in size from about 500 American troops to 5 000 personnel, and the likely cost would be ‘several million dollars’ a year, mostly in personnel expenses”.

In his examination of the plan, Shadowproof’s Dan Wright questioned “whether or not support for such adventurism can be found in a nation whose population is exhausted and frustrated by a decade of military blunders and failure.” – Mint Press News

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