A US general nominated to lead the American military’s Africa Command has called for a 15-fold surge in US spying missions in Africa amid reports of Pentagon’s plans to further expand its growing military presence in the continent.
Army General David Rodriguez estimated in a written statement submitted to the US Senate Arms Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Thursday that the American military needs to boost its “intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa by nearly 15-fold,” The Washington Post reports Friday.
“I believe additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities are necessary to protect American interests and assist our close allies and partners,” said the four-star general who has previously commanded US-led intervention forces in Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The recent crises in North Africa demonstrate the volatility of the African security environment,” he added.
Rodrigues further emphasized during the hearing that Africa Command requires additional drones, other spying aircraft and more satellite imagery, adding that the US command currently gets only half of its “stated need” for North Africa and just seven percent of its total “requirements” for the entire continent, the report says.
The surging US military involvement in Africa has emerged despite earlier instructions by the Obama administration for the Pentagon to “pivot its forces and reorient its strategy toward fast-growing Asia,” the daily underlines.
The development comes as the American military has intervened over the past two years in internal conflicts in African nations of Somalia, Libya and Mali, as well as central Africa.
This is while the US Air Force is building its fourth assassination and spying drone base in the poor African state of Niger as American Navy warships are expanding their missions along the coastlines of East and West Africa, according to the report.
Despite insistence by US military authorities that they did not have plans to establish bases or move troops to Africa when they created the Africa Command in 2007, the Pentagon has since built a network of “staging bases,” including assassination drone facilities in Ethiopia and the Seychelles, and “a forward operating base for special operations forces in Kenya,” the report notes.
It further adds that the Pentagon has also expanded its military operations and construction at “the only permanent US base on the continent, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, which serves as a hub for ‘counterterrorism missions’ in Somalia and Yemen.”
Now, the daily emphasizes, there is a growing pressure to add even more bases in North and West Africa as the US military is set to build an assassination drone base in the West African country of Niger, which borders Mali, Libya and Nigeria, all nations that the Obama administration claims are threatened by an increasing influx of ‘al-Qaeda-linked’ Muslim militants.
The US Africa Command has been based in Stuttgart, Germany since it was established in 2007. Efforts to move the headquarters to an African country faced hurdles as numerous nations “expressed concern that the Pentagon was seeking to militarize US policy or infringe on their sovereignty,” according to the report.
- At Pentagon, ‘pivot to Asia’ becomes ‘shift to Africa’ (stripes.com)
- US plans military war games with African nations in ‘urgent’ mission (ethiotribune.net)
This week we have seen a US drone strike in Pakistan which was reported to have killed six people (or ‘militants’ as those killed by drones are normally labelled) and a strike in Yemen which was reported to have killed three “suspected al-Qaida militants” on the outskirts of Aden. Such strikes have become almost routine, even though international condemnation is growing with both UN representatives and former US president Jimmy Carter speaking out in recent days.
Less routine was a “mystery” strike on a convoy of trucks in Northern Mali which was also reported this week. According to the Magharebia website (which it should be notedis supported by United States Africa Command) seven “terrorists” of a brigade linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were killed while several others were injured. US intelligence officials contacted by the Long War Journal would neither confirm nor deny US involvement in the strike.
The airstrike echoed that of a similar ‘mysterious’ airstrike in the Philippines in February 2012 when 15 people were killed including three senior alleged leaders of Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.
Although the Philippines insists that it carried out the strikes using their Bronco OV10 aircraft – experts have suggested this is unlikely. We know from the Wikileaks cables that similar claims by the then Pakistani and Yemeni governments were actually lies and that US drones had indeed carried out the strikes. President Benigno Aquino, admits that US drones operate over the Philippines but insists they are only for surveillance purposes.
While it remains unclear whether the US has undertaken drone strikes in Mali and the Philippines it looks increasingly likely that drone strikes will continue in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the bulk of US forces leave at the end of 2014. Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry (and previously a US General serving in Afghanistan) argued in a keynote speech to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) that “drones play a very important role in Afghanistan and Pakistan” and would in fact ”play an even more important role” in the region after US withdrawal.
According to the Army Times newspaper, the United States will soon deploy a brigade of about 3,000 troops – “and likely more” – for duty “across the continent” of Africa. The “pilot program”has all the markings of a permanent, roving presence, joining the 1,200 U.S. soldiers stationed in Djibouti and the 100-plus Special Forces dispatched to Central Africa by President Obama, last October.
As always and everywhere, the U.S. is looking for bases to occupy – although the U.S. military command in Africa doesn’t call them bases. Rather, “as part of a ‘regionally’ aligned force concept,’ soldiers will live and work among Africans in safe communities approved by the U.S. government,” said AFRICOM’s Maj. Gen. David Hogg.
The First Black U.S. President, who in 2009 lectured Africans that “corruption” and “poor governance,” rather than neocolonialism, were the continent’s biggest problems, has made the U.S. military the primary interlocutor with African states. Functions that were once the purview of the U.S. State Department, such as distribution of economic aid and medical assistance, are now part of AFRICOM’s vast portfolio. In Africa, more than anyplace in the world, U.S. foreign policy wears a uniform – which should leave little doubt as to Washington’s objectives in the region: Africa is to be dominated by military means. Obama’s “good governance” smokescreen for U.S. neocolonialism is embedded in AFRICOM’s stated mission: “to deter and defeat transnational threats and to provide a security environment conducive to good governance and development.” Translation: to bring the so-called war on terror to every corner of the continent and ensure that U.S. corporate interests get favorable treatment from African governments.
AFRICOM’s array of alliances and agreements with African militaries already embraces virtually every nation on the continent except Eritrea and Zimbabwe. All but a handful of Black African states routinely take part in military maneuvers staged by Americans, utilizing U.S. command-and-control equipment and practices. The new, roving U.S. brigade will further institutionalize U.S. ties with the African officer class, part of AFRICOM’s mission to forge deep “soldier-to-soldier” relationships: general-to-general, colonel-to-colonel, and so forth down the line. The proposed network of “safe communities” to accommodate the highly mobile U.S. brigade is a euphemism for joint bases and the most intense U.S. fraternization with local African militaries. Regime change will never be farther away than a drink at the officers club.
According to the Army Times article, the composition of the new brigade, in terms of military skills, is not yet known. However, the brigade is conceived as part of the “new readiness model,” which “affords Army units more time to learn regional cultures and languages and train for specific threats and missions.” This sounds like special ops units – Rangers and Special Forces – which have been vastly expanded under President Obama (and are quite capable of carrying out regime-change operations on their own or in close coordination with their local counterparts).
In most cases, coups will be unnecessary. Regional African “trade” blocs like ECOWAS, the 16-member Economic Community of West African States, and IGAD, the six-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development, in East Africa, have provided African cover for U.S. and French military/political designs in the Ivory Coast and Somalia, respectively. These blocs will doubtless become even more useful and compliant, as U.S. military commanders and their African counterparts get cozier in those “safe communities.”
Americans, no matter how bloody their hands, have always liked to think of themselves as “innocents abroad.” “As far as our mission goes, it’s uncharted territory,” said AFRICOM’s Gen. Hogg. Not really. The Americans are following a European chart in Africa that goes back centuries, and their own long experience in the serial rape of Latin America, where the close fraternization of U.S. and Latin American militaries in recent decades smothered the region in juntas, dirty wars, torture-based states, and outright genocide.
The U.S. and its African allies perpetrated of the worst genocide since World War Two: the death of six million in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Uganda, which acts as a mercenary for the U.S. in Africa, is complicit in mega-death in Congo and Somalia. As Milton Allimadi, publisher of Black Star News, reported: “In 2005 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Uganda liable for the Congo crimes. The court awarded Congo $10 billion in reparations. Uganda’s army plundered Congo’s wealth and committed: mass rapes of both women and men; disemboweled pregnant women; burned people inside their homes alive; and, massacred innocents.”
Naturally, as a henchman of the United States, Uganda has not paid the $10 billion it owes Congo. Ugandan leader Yoweria Museveni, who became Ronald Reagan’s favorite African after seizing power in 1986 with a guerilla army packed with child soldiers, and who for decades waged genocidal war against the Acholi people of his country, now plays host to the Special Forces continent sent by President Obama, ostensibly to fight the child soldier-abusing Joseph Kony and his nearly nonexistent Lord’s Resistance Army.
Rwanda, the Pentagon’s other hit man on the continent, has been cited by a United Nations report as bearing responsibility for some of the millions slaughtered in Congo, as part of its ongoing rape and plunder of its neighbor.
Gen. Hogg says AFRICOM’s mission is to combat famine and disease. Yet, the AFRICOM-assisted Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in late 2006 led to “the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa – worse than Darfur,” according to United Nations observers. The 2007 humanitarian crisis and the escalating U.S.-directed war against Somalia made the 2010 famine all but inevitable.
Ugandan soldiers, nominally working for the African Union but in the pay of the Pentagon, kept watch over western interests in the starving country, as did the 1,200 soldiers stationed at the U.S. base in neighboring Djibouti – a permanent presence, along with the French garrison.
There’s nothing “uncharted” or mysterious about AFRICOM’s mission. The introduction of the 3,000-strong mobile brigade and a network of supporting bases prepares the way for the arrival of much larger U.S. and NATO forces – the recolonization of Africa. Gen. Hogg swears up and down there are no such plans. “For all the challenges that happen and sprout up across Africa, it really comes down to, it has to be an African solution,” he said.
That’s exactly the same thing they said in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Libya, Africa and Africom (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The United States has been expanding its secret intelligence operations across Africa through a network of small air bases in the continent and under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the US military has established some small air bases across Africa and trained many army personnel in a bid to keep crucial African regions under surveillance.
The report, obtained from documents and people involved in the US military project, said that the US has kept small, unarmed turboprop aircraft in the bases which are disguised as private planes.
The aircraft are supplied with veiled sensors that are able to record full-motion videos, track infrared heat patterns and vacuum up radio and cell phone signals. They are refueled on remote airstrips, used by African bush pilots, broadening their flight range by thousands of miles.
The paper quoted a former US commander, who was engaged in establishing the network, as saying that the military has set up a dozen of such air bases in Africa since 2007.
The covert air bases are reportedly situated in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Seychelles.
The surveillance operations have increased recently as part of a move to “fight against al-Qaeda and other militant groups.” The operations are reportedly run by US Special Operations forces but largely depend on private military contractors and support from African forces.
Meanwhile, following the US Africa Command, the administration has been training and equipping militaries in several countries across the continent including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia under the pretext of stopping “terrorists from establishing sanctuaries.”
Moreover, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has also increased its counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering operations throughout Africa.
The US government has repeatedly claimed that such interventions are conducted to fight terrorism. However, it is strongly believed that there are no significant terrorist threats in Africa against the US.