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How the US "Advises and Assists"

Africa-Middle East Conflict
Africa-Middle East Conflict (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Growing US Footprint in Africa


The US Africa Command oversees a vast array of "outposts" – categorized in Pentagon-speak as "consisting of two forward operating sites [including the one official base in Djibouti], 13 cooperative security locations, and 31 contingency locations." Secret documents in 2015 listed thirty-six outposts "scattered across 24 African countries. These include low-profile locations – from Kenya to South Sudan to a shadowy Libyan airfield – that have never previously been mentioned in published reports. Today, according to an AFRICOM spokesperson, the number of these sites has actually swelled to 46, including ‘15 enduring locations.’ The newly disclosed numbers . . . shed new light on a constellation of bases integral to expanding U.S. military operations on the African continent and in the Middle East," Nick Turse writes.

These outposts support "seventeen hundred members of the Special Forces and other military personnel [who] are undertaking ninety-six missions in twenty-one countries," according to one writer. In Somalia, for instance, Navy SEALs are pursuing an al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabab, with the Somali National Army. Seals are not simply advising and training; they are involved in combat too, as part of a force of 200-300 Special Forces soldiers. About all that is known about the air and ground assaults is that they are increasing. As the Times reports: "The decision to allow more expansive operations in Somalia is a signal of the Trump administration’s willingness to delegate decision-making power to military commanders and authorize a greater use of force against militant groups."

The US mission in Africa relies increasingly on training of African troops. The latest report by the Security Assistance Monitor indicates training in fiscal year (FY) 2015 of nearly 34,000 troops, mainly from Burundi, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Niger. Such security assistance is about $2.5 billion in FY2017.

It is essentially substituting for other forms of US assistance that would be so much more meaningful, such as rule-of-law training, development aid, and humanitarian relief such as treatment of AIDS. Ordinarily, the US accounts for about a quarter of humanitarian aid to Africa, but that is now subject to major cuts under Trump. Aid to Africa is slated to be reduced from about $8 billion to $5.2 billion in FY2018 – a plan that senior military officers as well as diplomats consider wrongheaded.

The Africa locations are also essential to US military operations in the Middle East, such as in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. In Yemen, for example, US drones support Saudi air strikes, which are being carried out with fewer restrictions than before as the White House allows the military to determine strategy. High civilian casualties are practically guaranteed to continue. Were it not for US protection, Saudi Arabian officials would be on trial for war crimes.
More: [original story at Antiwar.com]