U.S. increases ‘training’ and intelligence gathering in Africa
The United States under the Obama administration is intensifying efforts to penetrate the African continent through seminars, military training operations, recognizance missions, Special Forces deployment, naval patrols and proxy wars. The U.S. Africa Command (Africom) is largely leading these efforts, along with the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. State Department.
In the West African state of Sierra Leone, 1,000 members of the country’s armed forces recently completed training exercises conducted by Africom for deployment to the East African theater of Somalia. There, the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) serves as the ground forces for the White House policy of containment in the region. Most AMISOM forces are from the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces, which have maintained close ties with the Pentagon for many years.
On May 20, U.S. Army Commander Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone Michael S. Owen addressed the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces before their soldiers were sent off to join AMISOM in Somalia. Troops from Burundi and Djibouti are also participating in AMISOM.
Hogg told Sierra Leone’s troops, “You are now going to be part of a small band of brothers who are members of AMISOM peacekeeping mission in Somalia, a small but important number.” He trumpeted AMISON’s role and objectives in Somalia: “The strides and progress made in Somalia are huge. … You will join the Kenyan forces in Southern Somalia to continue to push al-Shabaab and other miscreants from Somalia so it can be free of tyranny and terrorism and all the evil that comes with it.” (U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs, June 15)
In the same article, United States Africa Army Sgt. 1st Class Grady Hyatt, a military mentor who works through the State Department’s African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, said, “I’m extremely proud of what these soldiers have accomplished. They are a well organized and disciplined unit.”
ACOTA in Sierra Leone is coordinated by the U.S. Embassy’s military attaché office under Owen, who noted that the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor by a Special Court on Sierra Leone in the Netherlands represented “progress” for both Freetown and Monrovia.
Tip of the iceberg
These developments in Sierra Leone are only a small part of the larger policy of the Obama Doctrine, which is emphasizing “joint partnerships” between nations allied with the U.S. to purportedly enhance the national security of various African states to better fight “terrorism.”
A May 21-25 seminar in Garmisch, Germany, attracted some 30 representatives from more than 20 African states to “share insights and learn from U.S. subject-matter experts during a Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Non-commissioned Officers Symposium.” It covered “the [growing] role of women in the armed forces; … U.S. foreign policy in Africa; … NCO and leadership support to economic development and in the context of humanitarian efforts; health care; and the future of Africa through 2020.” (Africom, June 1)
These operations on the African continent have far exceeded those carried out during the Bush years where military interventions were more limited. Since 2011, these include military training and recognizance efforts, Special Forces deployments, the massive bombing of Libya and overthrow of the Gadhafi government, and regional drone missions based in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Seychelles.
CIA operatives have established a spy station in Mogadishu, Somalia, which, along with secret prisons, helicopter surveillance and commando raids, add up to a deadly force against the African people. Last Oct. 14, the White House announced that at least 100 Special Forces and trainers were deployed to the Central African Republic, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan to supposedly track down and kill Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.
The Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-12 trained soldiers in Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti are the bulk of AMISOM forces in Somalia. Other SPMAGTF-12 units traveled to Liberia to train the military in “riot-control techniques” as part of a State Department project.
Journalist Nick Turse notes, “The U.S. is also conducting counterterrorism training and equipping militaries in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia. In addition, Africom has 14 major joint-training exercises planned for 2012, including operations in Morocco, Cameroon, Gabon, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Senegal, and what may become the Pakistan of Africa, Nigeria. Even this, however, doesn’t encompass the full breadth of U.S. training and advising missions in Africa.” (Indypendent.org, June 17)
Turse adds what’s not on Africom’s list: “[T]his spring the U.S. brought together 11 nations, including Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Liberia, Mauritania, and Sierra Leone, to take part in a maritime training exercise code-named Saharan Express 2012.”
The Washington Post on June 14 also exposed the expanding intelligence networks established by the U.S. throughout Africa. In the West African state of Burkina Faso, a key base for monitoring developments on the continent has been set up with the code name “Creek Sand.”
Dozens of U.S. personnel have come to Burkina Faso to coordinate the program.
The article notes, “U.S. spy planes fly hundreds of miles north to Mali, Mauritania and the Sahara, where they search for fighters from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a regional network that kidnaps Westerners for ransom.”
Referring to Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil exporter to the U.S., the Post continues, “Commanders have said they are increasingly worried about the spread of Boko Haram, an Islamist group in Nigeria blamed for a rash of bombing there.”
In February, a U.S. Air Force U-28A spy plane crashed in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa where the U.S. has an Africom base at Camp Lemonnier. Reportedly, four aboard were killed.
Although the East African nation of Kenya recently denied participating in the surveillance projects, the Washington Post reported that an engineering battalion of Navy Seabees was assigned to complete a $10 million runway upgrade at Manda Bay Naval Base, a military installation for Nairobi on the Indian Ocean.
Somalia: A test case for U.S. imperialism
The situation in Somalia is a major source of political capital for the White House, the CIA and the Pentagon. Corporate media reports have hailed in recent weeks purported strides being made by AMISOM, the Kenyan Defense Forces, Ethiopian military units and U.S. drones in removing bases of the Al-Shabaab resistance movement.
Nonetheless, after announcing that an Al-Shabaab base had been cleared out in Afgoye, 19 miles from Mogadishu, an attack in the same town resulted in the deaths of dozens of U.S.-backed forces. Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab of Al-Shabaab said, “Our fighters managed to enter with a car bomb inside a government forces base in Afgoye.” (Reuters, June 16)
Despite all the military assistance by the U.S. since 2006, resistance forces inside Somalia have remained largely intact. Economic and military strategic interests guide U.S. involvement in Africa. Therefore, the anti-war movement inside the Western states must take a firm position opposing these operations in defense of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the African people.