I have been heavily following the The Great Game of geopolitics ever since 2012-2013, once the Ron Paul presidential campaigns were over. Not that I wasn’t focused on war & imperialism before that, it was a major part of my politics. What changed after Ron stopped running, and Rand’s pull on domestic policies was limited, was that I stopped focusing on the economics, regulation, overall corruption of Washington. The stories don’t interest me.
Right around this time I began listening to Scott Horton religiously. All domestic politics just became bread & circus while the empire marched. Horton introduced me to a journalist named Nick Turse. Turse introduced me to the United States military’s expansion into Africa.
This week’s episode is a an update on that expansion, along with a bit of an introduction for those less aware.
The hub for information on Africa and more importantly, AFRICOM, is TomDispatch.com. Tom provides an introduction for most of the articles he publishes, and I wanted to share the one he wrote for the first piece by Turse that I read:
Unfortunately, there’s one place in that city’s global viewfinder that never seems to provides much of anything to riff off of, and so no fun whatsoever: Africa. Yes, today and Tuesday, Nick Turse continues his remarkable coverage of the U.S. military pivot to that continent, which promises a lifetime of chaos and blowback to come. Admittedly, what’s happening isn’t your typical, patented, early twenty-first-century-style U.S. invasion, but it certainly represents part of a new-style scramble for Africa — with the U.S. taking the military path and the Chinese the economic one.
By the time U.S. Africa Command is finished, however, one thing is essentially guaranteed: a terrible mess and a lifetime of hurt will be left behind. This particular pivot is happening on a startling scale and yet remains just below the American radar screen. Explain it as you will, with the rarest of exceptions the U.S. media, riveted by Obama’s so far exceedingly modest pivot to Asia, finds the African one hardly worth a moment’s notice, which is why, today, without the usual combustible mix of what’s recently in the news and what’s newsmaking in Turse’s two pieces, I have no choice but to skip the introduction. – Tom (4/13/2014)
So as far back as 2014, I’ve been following this clear build up of military infrastructure around the continent. Along with the build up, Special Forces has used the conflict zones throughout Africa as kind of a scouting expedition for the empire for the last five years. Providing training, arms and assistance to “friendly” regimes, making deals to allow US troops and forward bases within their countries for years to come. Direct action has also been a staple, with Green Berets, SEALS and other operators being involved in combat raids in Cameroon, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Tunisia. There has been at least 10 “unreported” attacks on US troops in West Africa since 2015. Not counting the most famous attack in Niger more recently. The one that exposed the ignorance of some the warmongers in Washington, who didn’t even know American troops were in Niger. The economic element is also there, conquest through “aid” and debt is also a weapon used. Much like the Chinese.
I learned about Camp Lemonnier, an old French Foreign Legion base in Djibouti that was the center of the AFRICOM footprint. It being the only permanent installation in Africa. Lemonnier has been getting upgrades and larger budgets since the beginning of Obama’s 2nd term:
“Camp Lemonnier is the only permanent footprint that we have on the continent and until such time as AFRICOM may establish a headquarters location in Africa, Camp Lemonnier will be the center of their activities here,” Greg Wilderman, the Military Construction Program Manager for Naval Facilities Engineering Command, explained.
“In 2013, we had a big jump in the amount of program projects,” he noted, specifically mentioning a large “task force” construction effort, an oblique reference to a $220 million Special Operations compound at the base that TomDispatch first reported on in 2013.
`According to documents provided by Wilderman, five contracts worth more than $322 million (to be paid via MILCON funds) were awarded for Camp Lemonnier in late 2013. These included deals for a $25.5 million fitness center and a $41 million Joint Headquarters Facility in addition to the Special Operations Compound. This year, Wilderman noted, there are two contracts — valued at $35 million — already slated to be awarded, and Captain Rick Cook specifically mentioned deals for an armory and new barracks in 2014. Source
Since 2014 the footprint has continued to grow, with the drone base in Niger being the most public and glaring new addition. I spoke about it briefly before last week, but the $100 million dollar base in Agadez, Niger has begun flying armed drone missions, an upgrade from the reconnaissance-only stance previously.
With the fall of Libya in his first term, Obama’s Pentagon looked at an opportunity to use the chaos in North Africa is grow the War on Terror. Signing deals with local government to combat the new Islamic radical issue in their territory, the military industrial complex has a new playground.
The drone program has been operational in Djibouti and Niger. The former as the staging area for strikes in Somalia and Yemen, with the latter mostly providing reconnaissance flights over the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions of Africa. Libya’s 550 drone strikes are usually launched from Sicily.
Turse has recently summarized a release of AFRICOM documents from 2017 that outline the “worst case scenarios” for the different regions of Africa. Giving the organization ample excuses for an expanding budget. The documents were classified by the command chief of Africa, focusing on “potential gains” by terrorist organizations in the north and west of the continent.
The documents begin with Libya. The fear being that the ISIS and Al Qaeda elements in the eastern part of the country will use oil money to build relationship with “tribal elements” and plan attacks.
To the south, in the Sahel region, a union of ISIS & “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” (current rivals) could create in roads in Algeria, Mali and Tunisia. This would open up the UN Peacekeepers on the ground there since 2011-2012 to assassination and kidnapping.
In the Lake Chad Basin, the concern is a troop draw-down that was previously announced by the Trump administration. Of course this is a complaint floated publicly to build a case for a larger budget once violence in the region explodes. The draw-down is timed with the expanding drone program in Niger, making the need for troops on the ground less and less. So you could view it as a step in the right direction, if the Middle East drone policy was around to provide an example of things to come.
I see AFRICOM as an unfolding new chapter in the War on Terror, and really US imperialism. Now can be compared to the 1990s in the Middle East. Build up the hard infrastructure and relationships with local governments, begin with air power and surveillance, and when the eventual blowback from the policies comes, your well prepared to shape the region in your image. Or so the sharp minds think. The result will most likely be more chaos, more displaced populations, and more threat of attacks on innocent Americans and Westerners at home.
I hope you enjoy this week’s episode. I try to also touch on Syria and comment on the Trump vs. “anonymous” imperialists writing op-eds in the New York Times.
- Sen. Lindsey Graham ‘Didn’t Know’ About Niger? He Should Read More Nick Turse and TomDispatch
- Several Killed After Militants Storm Libya’s National Oil HQ In Tripoli
- U.S. SENATOR MEETS WITH SYRIA’S ASSAD, CLAIMS WEST IS PLANNING FAKE CHEMICAL ATTACK
- An Unending U.S. War In Syria
- The Battle For Idlib: A Potential Catch-22 For China
- AFRICOM Behaving Badly
- Secret US Military Documents Reveal a Constellation of American Military Bases Across Africa
- AFRICOM Becomes a “War-Fighting Combatant Command”
- Nick Turse: The Coming Year in Special Ops