U.S. Increases “Training” and Intelligence Gathering In Africa
From East to West, AFRICOM, State Department and the CIA Are In Evidence
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
All across Africa and in the waters surrounding the continent, the United States under the Obama administration is intensifying efforts to penetrate the continent through seminars, military training operations, recognizance missions, Special Forces deployment, Naval patrols and proxy wars. These efforts are largely being led by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) although other agencies of the government are involved including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the State Department.
In the West African state of Sierra Leone 1,000 troops from the country’s armed forces recently completed training exercise conducted by AFRICOM for deployment to the East African theater of Somalia where the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) is serving as the ground forces for the White House policy of containment in the region. The bulk of the AMISOM forces are from the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) which has 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, were present to address the members of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RLSAF) at a ceremony prior to the soldiers being sent off to join AMISOM in Somalia. Other military participation in AMISOM includes troops from Burundi and Djibouti, both in East Africa.
Maj. Gen. Hogg told the RLSAF troops that “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.” (U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs, June 15)
The AFRICOM official trumpeted the role and objectives of AMISOM in Somalia stressing to the RLSAF soldiers that “The strides and progress made in Somalia are huge. In Mogadishu, people are able to go to the market without getting killed because of what AMISOM has done. 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.”
United States Africa Army (USARAF) Sgt. 1ST Class Grady Hyatt also attended the ceremony in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Hyatt, a military mentor, works for USARAF through the State Department’s African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program (ACOTA).
Hyatt said that “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 Ambassador Michael S. Owen. During the ceremony Owen noted that former Liberian President Charles Taylor had been convicted by a Special Court on Sierra Leone in the Netherlands, saying this represented progress for both Freetown and Monrovia.
The Tip of Iceberg
These developments in Sierra Leone are only a small part of a much larger policy stemming from the Obama Doctrine in which emphasis is placed on so-called joint partnerships between nations allied with the U.S. to purportedly enhance the national security of various African states in order to better fight “terrorism.”
A seminar in Garmisch, Germany held during May 21-25, attracted approximately 30 representatives from more than 20 African states. The stated purpose of the gathering was to “share insights and learn from U.S. subject-matter experts during a Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Non-commissioned Officers Symposium (JWOS).” (AFRICOM, June 1)
According to an AFRICOM news release, topics covered in the seminar were “the role of women in the armed forces, a growing trend in many African militaries. Other issues discussed included U.S. foreign policy in Africa; the role of senior NCOs; warrant officers (WOs), NCO and leadership support to economic development and in the context of humanitarian efforts; health care; and the future of Africa through 2020.”
This seminar was the third of its kind and the largest so far. For the first time nine women were included in the sessions.
These operations on the African continent have far exceeded those carried out during the Bush years where military interventions were of a much more limited nature. Since 2011 military training and recognizance efforts coupled with Special Forces deployment and airstrikes have been launched in Libya, with the massive bombing and overthrow of the Gaddafi government, to 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 usage and commando raids–add up to a deadly force against the African people. The White House announced last October 14 that at least 100 Special Forces and trainers were deployed to four African states: 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.
Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) trained soldiers in Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti, which make up 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.
Nick Turse writing for Indypendent.org notes that “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.” (Indeypendent.org, June 17)
Turse continues saying “To take an example not on AFRICOM’s list, this 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.”
A lead story in the Washington Post on June 14 also exposes the expanding intelligence networks established by the U.S. throughout Africa. In the West African state of Burkina Faso, a key base for monitoring of developments on the continent has been set up with the code name Creek Sand.
Dozens of U.S. personnel have come to Burkina Faso in recent years to coordinate the program. According to the Washington Post “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.” (WP, June 14)
With specific reference to Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil exporter to the U.S., the same article says that “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.”
These flights out of Burkina Faso are piloted unlike the unmanned drones. The planes are similar in appearance to other aircraft utilized in Africa in an effort to conceal the intelligence gathering missions.
In February, a U-28A spy plane crashed in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa where the U.S. has a base for AFRICOM at Camp Lemonnier. It was reported that four airmen 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 were 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 the 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, in the aftermath of announcing that an Al-Shabaab base had been cleared out in Afgoye, located 19 miles outside the capital of Mogadishu, an attack in the same town resulted in the deaths of dozens of U.S.-backed forces. According to a statement made by Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab of Al-Shabaab, “Our fighters managed to enter with a car bomb inside a government forces base in Afgoye.” (Reuters, June 16)
“The car was heavily laden with explosives. It is a great victory for Al-Shabaab,” the Al-Shabaab spokesperson claimed.
Despite all of the military assistance by the U.S. since 2006, the resistance forces inside Somalia have remained largely intact. Economic and military strategic interests guide U.S. involvement in Africa and 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.