Trump’s war on Somalia, video


Thi 21 March 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Is the U.S. at war in Somalia?

“We asked AFRICOM and the Office of Secretary of Defense if the U.S. is at war in Somalia“, says Brian Castner, senior crisis adviser on arms and military operations for Amnesty International. “They have told us they’re using the laws of war. … So if you’re using the manual of war, the laws of war, does that mean you’re at war in Somalia? And they wouldn’t answer.”

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Trump sends more United States soldiers to Africa


This March 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

10 Years of AFRICOM: Africa Command

CORRECTION: At the 1:24 mark it should be that Liberia expressed interest in hosting the AFRICOM headquarters, not Libya.

AFRICOM was established by the Pentagon on October 1, 2008. Its been nearly 10 years of this regional command structure so we must ask, what has it achieved?

This 10 year timeline was brought to you by the Black Alliance for Peace.

By Eddie Haywood in the USA:

7 January 2019

In the wake of a hotly contested poll December 30 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Trump administration has deployed a contingent of troops to nearby Gabon, for the purpose of “protecting US assets from possible violent demonstrations” following the election to determine a successor to longtime leader Joseph Kabila. Election results which had been expected to be released Sunday by election officials have been delayed indefinitely due to a delay counting all ballots.

Trump sent a letter to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Friday informing Congress that he had ordered the indefinite deployment of around 80 troops to Gabon to protect US citizens and embassy officials in the DRC. Trump’s letter noted that the first soldiers arrived in the country on Wednesday with the “appropriate combat equipment and supported by military aircraft.” The letter also stated that more troops could be deployed to Gabon, the Republic of Congo and the DRC “as needed.”

By deploying troops to the region, Washington is making it clear that it intends to install a pliant government in Kinshasa that will ensure that America’s economic interests in the country are secured. Trump’s proclamations of “America First” in foreign policy does not mean a retreat from the intervention in the affairs of other nations or the flowering of peace; rather it means the naked pursuit of American imperialist geopolitics by economic and military means against adversaries and allies alike.

The military operation must also be understood within the framework of America’s imperialist aims in Africa of reasserting America’s geopolitical dominance despite its economic decline relative to its global rivals. To this end, Washington has escalated its military operations in nearly every corner of Africa with the key aim of neutralizing Beijing’s vast economic influence on the continent.

Washington’s latest military maneuver puts into practice the strategy laid out in a speech delivered last month by Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton in which he identified the entire African continent as a field of “great power” competition between the United States and its two main competitors, China and Russia, which have been increasing their investments in many Africa countries. Bolton denounced Beijing and Moscow for “predatory practices” that “threaten the financial independence of African nations; inhibit opportunities for US investment; interfere with US military operations; and pose a significant threat to US national security interests.”

In recent years, Kabila has run afoul of the US and Europe by developing closer economic ties to Beijing, hammering out several economic investment agreements worth billions of dollars, something which the imperialist strategists in Washington regard as intolerable.

Also fueling the western imperialists’ lack of confidence has been the inability of the government to secure the Eastern provinces, long wracked by paramilitary skirmishes, home to the greatest concentration of the country’s immense mineral wealth. According to recent estimates, the DRC has $24 trillion in untapped raw resources, including cobalt and coltan, two metals that are critical to the growing smartphone and electric vehicle industries. …

Kabila, who came to power in 2001, has backed his ruling party’s candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary to be his successor. Washington in contrast has favored Shadary’s opponent, wealthy businessman Martin Fayulu, a former oil executive educated in the United States and France. …

Fayulu was employed by American oil giant Exxon-Mobil from 1984 to 2003, first as an auditor, then promoted to director-general, from which he oversaw the company’s operations across the African continent. After resigning from Exxon-Mobil, Fayulu returned to Kinshasa and won a parliament seat in 2006. …

Tensions with Washington and Europe reached a crescendo on December 29 when Kabila, facing immense pressures from Western governments to step aside peacefully, defiantly booted the European Union ambassador from the country.

For its part, the EU, under an initiative begun by Washington during the Obama administration, has imposed sanctions and travel bans on several key figures in the Kabila government, including Kabila himself, along with freezing the assets in European banks held by several Kabila officials.

The extreme breakdown and deterioration of relations between Washington and Europe and the Kabila government was made clear when during a media interview in the days before the poll, Kabila was asked what advice he would impart to his successor, to which he answered, “The biggest recommendation is that he listen to the voice of the Congolese and not follow that of the United States, Europe or elsewhere.”

Trump’s AFRICOM war in Niger


This video from the USA is called Africom Is Building A Huge Military Fort In Africa.

By Eddie Haywood in the USA:

Pentagon concealed role of US special forces in deadly Niger offensive

17 March 2018

AFRICOM acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that it kept quiet about a deadly offensive its elite forces conducted late last year with Nigerien soldiers, highlighting the scale of US special operations in West Africa and illustrating clearly the predatory aims that underlay the Pentagon’s deployment of elite soldiers in the region.

On December 6 last year, Green Berets coordinating a military operation with Nigerien forces, killed 11 militants near the town of Diffa, close to the Nigerian border. The announcement by the Pentagon on Wednesday marks the first time it has acknowledged its role in the December engagement.

AFRICOM’s silence regarding the operation was no doubt influenced by the international outcry provoked by the October 4 killing of four Green Berets during an ambush in northwestern Niger two months prior, which exposed the vast scale of US military operations across West Africa.

The Pentagon’s operations in Niger are extensive and far-reaching—last year the US finished construction of a drone base in Agadez, located in central Niger, which AFRICOM stated is equipped with the capability of conducting armed drone flights across the entire Sahel region and into Northern Africa to carry out surveillance and assassinations.

Speaking to the New York Times regarding the December 6 offensive, AFRICOM spokesperson Samantha Reho stated that American and Nigerien troops on a mission in the Lake Chad Basin region came under fire from a “formation of violent extremists”. Reho portrayed the event as an act of defense on the part of US and Nigerien troops after Islamist militants attacked their garrison.

“The purpose of the mission was to set the conditions for future partner-led operations against violent extremist organizations in the region”, she said. “There was no aspect of this mission focused on pursuing enemy militants, and the combined force was postured to respond as necessary in case contact with the enemy occurred”, Reho claimed.

Reho added, “With that said, our forces do operate in unstable areas and are occasionally exposed to danger from enemy forces. When such a situation occurs, our personnel are authorized to respond to threats and violence appropriately.”

Refuting Reho’s claims and making clear the predatory character of US military operations in Niger is the October interview of Nigerien Defense Minister Kalla Mountari by Reuters. When asked to describe the mission of US Special Forces deployed to Niger and their relationship to the Nigerien forces, Mountari matter-of-factly stated, “The Americans are not just exchanging information with us. They are waging war when necessary. We are working hand in hand. The clear proof is that the Americans and Nigeriens fell on the battlefield for the peace and security of our country.”

Further contradicting the account provided by Reho was the statement to the New York Times by an anonymous official familiar with the firefight, which suggested the elite commandos were conducting an offensive operation with the aim of establishing an outpost.

According to the anonymous official, US forces were conducting a multi-day operation with Nigerien troops. The official said that the operation’s aim was to clear the area of hostile forces so that a new outpost could be created, which would be very advantageous to US aims in the region.

The location of the offensive near Diffa, a town in southeastern Niger close to the border with Nigeria, is a region long inflamed with conflict between the joint Nigerien-US forces and the Islamist militia Boko Haram, which has been warring in northern Nigeria, with frequent cross-border skirmishes and raids.

The criminal character of US Special Forces deployed to West Africa was underscored by the arrest of two Navy Seals in Mali for the June 2017 murder of Logan Melgar, a Green Beret stationed at the US embassy in Bamako. US Special Forces troops were deployed to the West African nation to conduct intelligence and training operations against Al Qaeda-affiliated militants waging war against the US/French-backed government.

According to military officials investigating the murder, the two Navy Seals who were also stationed at the embassy were allegedly pilfering cash from a slush fund made available by the embassy to pay informants. When Melgar discovered the skimming operation and threatened to alert authorities, the two Seals killed him.

Joshua Geltzer, the senior director of counter-terrorism with the National Security Council under then president Barack Obama, sought to place the blame for keeping the war in Niger secret entirely within the context of the Trump administration and thereby obscuring the role of the Democratic president who initiated the military intervention in Niger.

“It’s disappointing to see this administration show disrespect for Congress’s effort to obtain public answers to key legal questions of our time”, Geltzer told the New York Times.

As the WSWS has reported, Washington has been building and expanding its military forces on the African continent beginning with the Republican George W. Bush administration and continuing through Obama and Trump as part of America’s imperialist strategy for Africa.

The ongoing conflict in Niger and the wider region is the outcome of the 2011 US-backed NATO bombardment of Libya, in which the Obama administration utilized Islamist militias to conduct a regime change operation that culminated with the assassination of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and thousands of Libyans killed by NATO bombs. Libyan society was completely destroyed, and the Islamist fighters that Washington armed spilled forth from Libya across the Sahel and into West Africa.

Furthermore, the development of American military outposts across the African continent must be seen within the context of China’s growing economic influence across the continent. Washington perceives Beijing as an intolerable rival for Africa’s vast economic resources, which includes substantial reserves of minerals, oil, gas, and precious metals and is using its vast military power in an effort to offset China’s economic clout.

Over the weekend, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) conducted its first ever drone strike against Al-Qaeda militants in the southern Libya, killing two militants in the southern village of Ubari. The attack marks a new stage in the expansion of the American military offensive in Libya and northern Africa since the Trump administration took office. Notably, the strike was not accompanied by a public acknowledgement from AFRICOM: here.

Republican Senator James Inhofe of the Senate Armed Services Committee last week sent a letter to Secretary of the Army Mark Esper outlining a proposal that would constitute an increase in troop levels deployed under AFRICOM, as well as broadening the American military’s footprint across Africa: here.

TRUMP POLICIES AIDED AFRICA SLAUGHTER How Trump’s “America First” policies exacerbated a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [Vice News]

TRUMP TALKS AMBUSHED SOLDIERS IN OMAROSA TAPE A newly released audio tape from former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman reveals the president making light of the deaths of four U.S. soldiers who were killed in 2017, in an ambush in Niger. According to CNN, the White House revamped its phone policy in recent months amid the paranoia prompted by Omarosa’s continued revelations. [HuffPost]

United States AFRICOM soldiers killing each other in Mali


This video from the USA says abut itself:

AFRICOM and the conflict in Mali

3 May 2012

Nii Akuetteh: Why did US trained officers organize the coup in Mali?

By Eddie Haywood in the USA:

Murder of US Green Beret by Navy Seals in Mali exposes criminal military operations in West Africa

15 November 2017

Two Navy Seals are under investigation for the June murder of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a Green Beret, after he was found dead in a housing complex provided by the US embassy in Bamako, Mali. No charges have yet been filed against the two commandos, but the case is being investigated as a homicide.

The two Seals, Petty Officer First Class Tony E. DeDolph and Chief Petty Officer Adam C. Matthews, were flown out of the country to the United States and were placed on administrative leave.

While the circumstances are not yet completely known, several special operations sources told the Daily Beast that there was an altercation between Melgar and the two Seals at around 5 a.m. on June 4, where the three grappled, resulting in one Seal, believed to be DeDolph, choking Melgar to unconsciousness.

According to AFRICOM officials, the two Seals drove Melgar to a nearby clinic, where medical personnel declared him dead. The two Seals claimed that Melgar had been intoxicated at the time of the altercation, but Melgar’s autopsy examination report noted that no drugs or alcohol were found in his system.

Melgar, along with an unknown number of other elite commandos, were deployed to the West African nation to conduct intelligence and training operations against Al Qaeda-affiliated militants waging war against the US/French-backed government.

Reports from unnamed US officials indicate that the two Navy Seals were stealing cash from a “slush fund” set aside by the US embassy for the purpose of paying informants in the course of tracking down Islamist militants, and that Melgar had discovered the skimming operation and threatened to alert authorities. According to the source, the two Navy Seals offered Melgar a cut of the illicit funds, but Melgar declined.

In a telephone call to his wife in the States, Melgar expressed his suspicions of the two Navy Seals, saying that he had a “bad feeling” about the two, but declined to specify his misgivings, informing her that he would reveal the full story when he returned home.

AFRICOM told the media that officials immediately suspected foul play in Melgar’s death and had dispatched an investigator to Mali within 24 hours of the Green Beret’s death. A military medical examiner declared the death a “homicide by asphyxiation.”

According to the New York Times, military officials said that cash from such slush funds “have a way of going missing.” The officials also said that in Mali’s case, the amount stolen can be as much as $20,000 at any given moment, and that it is relatively easy to skim from the fund as many instances of stealing involve the faking of receipts.

The housing complex in Bamako where Melgar was staying was shared by three other elite soldiers, including the two Seals. While the number of elite commandos in Mali are not disclosed by AFRICOM, the contingent deployed to the country is estimated to be smaller than the 800 elite soldiers in neighboring Niger, and are part of a wider contingent of around 2,000 special forces overall deployed to several countries in West Africa.

For his part, Melgar was officially assigned to provide security for US Ambassador to Mali Paul Folmsbee. His “security” duties included providing intelligence on militant groups directly to Folmsbee, as well as protecting the embassy and other US personnel, and coordinating training exercises with Malian forces.

The murder of a Green Beret by two of his confederates highlights and exposes the broader criminal character of the American military offensive being waged in West Africa.

Far reaching US special operations conducted across the continent are shrouded in secrecy, and were only brought to public attention last month when an ambush by Islamist militants resulted in the deaths of four Green Berets in neighboring Niger.

The special forces troops deployed to West Africa are drawn from elite military units, including Green Berets, Navy Seals and Delta Force, and have conducted some of American imperialism’s worst crimes against humanity. The list of often illegal duties these forces carry out include assassinations, counterterrorism operations, unconventional warfare, psychological operations, and training of foreign forces that Washington desires to utilize as a proxy force for regime change operations.

In Vietnam, elite American troops engaged in torture and mass execution of civilians, including children, and the razing of entire villages. In the recent period, these forces have engaged in torture, rape and murder in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The two Navy commandos currently under investigation for Melgar’s death are drawn from Seal Team Six, the elite unit which was involved in the 2011 raid and assassination of Osama Bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The backdrop to the American military offensive in West Africa is the 2011 US/NATO war conducted in Libya to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power. Enlisting and utilizing Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters to conduct a regime change operation that resulted in Gaddafi’s removal and assassination, the Obama administration oversaw the complete destruction of Libyan society. The Islamist fighters spilled out from the ruins of Libya and scattered across northern African and down into the Sahel.

Washington has its military forces arrayed across West Africa not to “fight terrorism” but to secure by military force the region’s vast economic resources and working class for the profit of American corporations. West Africa possesses enormous quantities of minerals, including gold, diamonds, ore, uranium, and gas and oil deposits.

Washington is also seeking to neutralize the increasing economic influence of China on the continent, with Beijing securing investment deals in nearly every economic sector, including mining, oil and gas, agriculture and infrastructure.

With the Trump administration loosening the restrictions on the rules of engagement for US special forces in Africa, which constitutes an official absolution of any crimes committed by its soldiers, the offensive conducted in West Africa by the American military threatens to consume the region with ever great levels of violence.

Update November 2018: here.

“We Don’t Consider You a Legitimate Journalist” — How I Got Blacklisted by the Pentagon’s Africa Command: here.

Journalist Nick Turse, who has reported extensively on US military operations in Africa, was recently told that he has been deemed “not a legitimate journalist” by AFRICOM, the US military command which oversees operations across the continent: here.

Trump’s Africom killing Somali civilians


This 26 August 2017 video about Somalia says, translated from Indonesian:

26 August 2017

Somali forces backed by the United States shot dead 10 residents, including three children in a village. Barire village was attacked … The Somali military says no civilians were killed in the attack.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

10 civilians killed in raid by Somali army and US forces

Monday 28th August 2017

SOMALIA’S army chief of staff admitted on Saturday that 10 civilians were killed in a joint raid with US forces the previous day.

Ahmed Jimale Gedi said he was shocked by the massacre in the village of Barire in the Lower Shabelle region.

The US Africa Command (Africom) confirmed that it had supported an operation by the Somali army in the area.

The Somali Information Ministry had earlier claimed that eight al-Shabab terrorists had been killed in the operation on Friday morning and “no civilians were harmed or killed.”

A second statement late that night said: “It appears that there were different security operations.”

Villagers brought the bodies of the dead to the capital Mogadishu in a protest later on Friday. Lower Shabelle deputy governor Ali Nur Mohamed told reporters there the residents had been killed “one by one” by “foreign troops”.

He said: “These local farmers were attacked by foreign troops while looking after their crops.

“The troops could have arrested them because they were unarmed but instead shot them one by one mercilessly.”

Mr Mohamed said three children, aged eight to 10, and a women were among the dead.

Africom said: “We are aware of the civilian casualty allegations near Barire, Somalia.”

Trump plans to make it easier to kill civilians with drones. Sadly, we can thank Obama for that: here.

US forces carried out three separate drone strikes across Somalia within less than 24 hours last weekend, underscoring the sharp escalation of Washington’s military offensive in the Horn of Africa: here.

AFRICOM envisions two years of open-ended warfare in Somalia: here.

Somali citizens count cost of surge in US airstrikes under Trump: here.

A US airstrike Saturday killed at least 52 people in Somalia, according to the Pentagon. As with all such attacks, the US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) claimed that all of the victims were members of the al-Shabab Islamist militia: here.

Secret United States military bases in Africa revealed


A map of US military bases -- forward operating sites, cooperative security locations, and contingency locations -- across the African continent in 2014 from declassified AFRICOM planning documents. (Credit: Nick Turse / TomDispatch)

By Nick Turse, TomDispatch in the USA:

Secret US Military Documents Reveal a Constellation of American Military Bases Across Africa

Thursday, April 27, 2017

General Thomas Waldhauser sounded a little uneasy.  “I would just say, they are on the ground.  They are trying to influence the action,” commented the chief of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) at a Pentagon press briefing in March, when asked about Russian military personnel operating in North Africa.  “We watch what they do with great concern.”

And Russians aren’t the only foreigners on Waldhauser’s mind.  He’s also wary of a Chinese “military base” being built not far from Camp Lemonnier, a large U.S. facility in the tiny, sun-blasted nation of Djibouti.  “They’ve never had an overseas base, and we’ve never had a base of… a peer competitor as close as this one happens to be,” he said.  “There are some very significant… operational security concerns.”

At that press conference, Waldhauser mentioned still another base, an American one exposed by the Washington Post last October in an article titled, “U.S. has secretly expanded its global network of drone bases to North Africa.”  Five months later, the AFRICOM commander still sounded aggrieved.  “The Washington Post story that said ‘flying from a secret base in Tunisia.’  It’s not a secret base and it’s not our base… We have no intention of establishing a base there.”

Waldhauser’s insistence that the U.S. had no base in Tunisia relied on a technicality, since that foreign airfield clearly functions as an American outpost. For years, AFRICOM has peddled the fiction that Djibouti is the site of its only “base” in Africa. “We continue to maintain one forward operating site on the continent, Camp Lemonnier,” reads the command’s 2017 posture statement.  Spokespeople for the command regularly maintain that any other U.S. outposts are few and transitory — “expeditionary” in military parlance.

While the U.S. maintains a vast empire of military installations around the world, with huge — and hard to miss — complexes throughout Europe and Asia, bases in Africa have been far better hidden.  And if you listened only to AFRICOM officials, you might even assume that the U.S. military’s footprint in Africa will soon be eclipsed by that of the Chinese or the Russians.

Highly classified internal AFRICOM files offer a radically different picture.  A set of previously secret documents, obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act, offers clear evidence of a remarkable, far-ranging, and expanding network of outposts strung across the continent.  In official plans for operations in 2015 that were drafted and issued the year before, Africa Command lists 36 U.S. 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 and redacted documents contradict more than a decade’s worth of dissembling by U.S. Africa Command and shed new light on a constellation of bases integral to expanding U.S. military operations on the African continent and in the Middle East.

A Constellation of Bases

AFRICOM failed to respond to repeated requests for further information about the 46 bases, outposts, and staging areas currently dotting the continent. Nonetheless, the newly disclosed 2015 plans offer unique insights into the wide-ranging network of outposts, a constellation of bases that already provided the U.S. military with unprecedented continental reach.

Those documents divide U.S. bases into three categories: forward operating sites (FOSes), cooperative security locations (CSLs), and contingency locations (CLs). “In total, [the fiscal year 20]15 proposed posture will be 2 FOSes, 10 CSLs, and 22 CLs” state the documents. By spring 2015, the number of CSLs had already increased to 11, according to then-AFRICOM chief General David Rodriguez, in order to allow U.S. crisis-response forces to reach potential hot spots in West Africa. An appendix to the plan, also obtained by TomDispatch, actually lists 23 CLs, not 22. Another appendix mentions one additional contingency location.

These outposts — of which forward operating sites are the most permanent and contingency locations the least so — form the backbone of U.S. military operations on the continent and have been expanding at a rapid rate, particularly since the September 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The plans also indicate that the U.S. military regularly juggles locations, shuttering sites and opening others, while upgrading contingency locations to cooperative security locations in response to changing conditions like, according to the documents, “increased threats emanating from the East, North-West, and Central regions” of the continent.

AFRICOM’s 2017 posture statement notes, for example, a recent round of changes to the command’s inventory of posts. The document explains that the U.S. military “closed five contingency locations and designated seven new contingency locations on the continent due to shifting requirements and identified gaps in our ability to counter threats and support ongoing operations.” Today, according to AFRICOM spokesman Chuck Prichard, the total number of sites has jumped from the 36 cited in the 2015 plans to 46 — a network now consisting of two forward operating sites, 13 cooperative security locations, and 31 contingency locations.

Location, Location, Location

AFRICOM’s sprawling network of bases is crucial to its continent-wide strategy of training the militaries of African proxies and allies and conducting a multi-front campaign aimed at combating a disparate and spreading collection of terror groups.  The command’s major areas of effort involve: a shadow war against the militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia (a long-term campaign, ratcheting up in the Trump era, with no end in sight); attempts to contain the endless fallout from the 2011 U.S. and allied military intervention that ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi (a long-term effort with no end in sight); the neutralizing of “violent extremist organizations” across northwest Africa, the lands of the Sahel and Maghreb (a long-term effort with no end in sight); the degradation of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin nations of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad (a long-term effort — to the tune of $156 million last year alone in support of regional proxies there — with no end in sight); countering piracy in the Gulf of Guinea (a long-term effort with no end in sight), and winding down the wildly expensive effort to eliminate Joseph Kony and his murderous Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa (both live on, despite a long-term U.S. effort).

The U.S. military’s multiplying outposts are also likely to prove vital to the Trump administration’s expanding wars in the Middle East.  African bases have long been essential, for instance, to Washington’s ongoing shadow war in Yemen, which has seen a significant increase in drone strikes under the Trump administration.  They have also been integral to operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, where a substantial (and deadly) uptick in U.S. airpower (and civilian casualties) has been evident in recent months.

In 2015, AFRICOM spokesman Anthony Falvo noted that the command’s “strategic posture and presence are premised on the concept of a tailored, flexible, light footprint that leverages and supports the posture and presence of partners and is supported by expeditionary infrastructure.” The declassified secret documents explicitly state that America’s network of African bases is neither insignificant nor provisional.  “USAFRICOM’s posture requires a network of enduring and non-enduring locations across the continent,” say the 2015 plans.  “A developed network of FOSes, CSLs, and non-enduring CLs in key countries… is necessary to support the command’s operations and engagements.”

According to the files, AFRICOM’s two forward operating sites are Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier and a base on the United Kingdom’s Ascension Island off the west coast of Africa.  Described as “enduring locations” with a sustained troop presence and “U.S.-owned real property,” they serve as hubs for staging missions across the continent and for supplying the growing network of outposts there.

Lemonnier, the crown jewel of America’s African bases, has expanded from 88 acres to about 600 acres since 2002, and in those years, the number of personnel there has increased exponentially as well. “Camp Lemonnier serves as a hub for multiple operations and security cooperation activities,” reads AFRICOM’s 2017 posture statement.  “This base is essential to U.S. efforts in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.”  Indeed, the formerly secret documents note that the base supports “U.S operations in Somalia CT [counterterrorism], Yemen CT, Gulf of Aden (counter-piracy), and a wide range of Security Assistance activities and programs throughout the region.”

In 2015, when he announced the increase in cooperative security locations, then-AFRICOM chief David Rodriguez mentioned Senegal, Ghana, and Gabon as staging areas for the command’s rapid reaction forces.  Last June, outgoing U.S. Army Africa commander Major General Darryl Williams drew attention to a CSL in Uganda and one being set up in Botswana, adding, “We have very austere, lean, lily pads, if you will, all over Africa now.”

CSL Entebbe in Uganda has, for example, long been an important air base for American forces in Africa, serving as a hub for surveillance aircraft.  It also proved integral to Operation Oaken Steel, the July 2016 rapid deployment of troops to the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan, as that failed state (and failed U.S. nation-building effort) sank into yet more violence.

Libreville, Gabon, is listed in the documents as a “proposed CSL,” but was actually used in 2014 and 2015 as a key base for Operation Echo Casemate, the joint U.S.-French-African military response to unrest in the Central African Republic.

AFRICOM’s 2015 plan also lists cooperative security locations in Accra, Ghana; Gaborone, Botswana; Dakar, Senegal; Douala, Cameroon; Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; and Mombasa, Kenya.  While officially defined by the military as temporary locales capable of being scaled up for larger operations, any of these CSLs in Africa “may also function as a major logistics hub,” according to the documents.

Contingency Plans

The formerly secret AFRICOM files note that the command has designated five contingency locations as “semi-permanent,” 13 as “temporary,” and four as “initial.”  These include a number of sites that have never previously been disclosed, including outposts in several countries that were actually at war when the documents were created.  Listed among the CLs, for instance, is one in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, already in the midst of an ongoing civil war in 2014; one in Bangui, the capital of the periodically unstable Central African Republic; and another in Al-Wigh, a Saharan airfield in southern Libya located near that country’s borders with Niger, Chad, and Algeria.

Officially classified as “non-enduring” locations, CLs are nonetheless among the most integral sites for U.S. operations on the continent.  Today, according to AFRICOM’s Prichard, the 31 contingency locations provide “access to support partners, counter threats, and protect U.S. interests in East, North, and West Africa.”

AFRICOM did not provide the specific locations of the current crop of CLs, stating only that they “strive to increase access in crucial areas.” The 2015 plans, however, provide ample detail on the areas that were most important to the command at that time.  One such site is Camp Simba in Manda Bay, Kenya, also mentioned in a 2013 internal Pentagon study on secret drone operations in Somalia and Yemen.  At least two manned surveillance aircraft were based there at the time.

Chabelley Airfield in Djibouti is also mentioned in AFRICOM’s 2015 plan.  Once a spartan French Foreign Legion post, it has undergone substantial expansion in recent years as U.S. drone operations in that country were moved from Camp Lemonnier to this more remote location.  It soon became a regional hub for unmanned aircraft not just for Africa but also for the Middle East.  By the beginning of October 2015, for example, drones flown from Chabelley had already logged more than 24,000 hours of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions and were also, according to the Air Force, “responsible for the neutralization of 69 enemy fighters, including five high-valued individuals” in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS].

AFRICOM’s inventory of CLs also includes sites in Nzara, South Sudan; Arlit, Niger; both Bamako and Gao, Mali; Kasenyi, Uganda; Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles; Monrovia, Liberia; Ouassa and Nema, Mauritania; Faya Largeau, Chad; Bujumbura, Burundi; Lakipia, the site of a Kenyan Air Force base; and another Kenyan airfield at Wajir that was upgraded and expanded by the U.S. Navy earlier in this decade, as well as an outpost in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, that was reportedly shuttered in 2015 after nearly five years of operation.

A longtime contingency location in Niamey, the capital of Niger, has seen marked growth in recent years as has a more remote location, a Nigerien military base at Agadez, listed among the “proposed” CSLs in the AFRICOM documents.  The U.S. is, in fact, pouring $100 million into building up the base, according to a 2016 investigation by the Intercept.  N’Djamena, Chad, the site of yet another “proposed CSL,” has actually been used by the U.S. military for years.  Troops and a drone were dispatched there in 2014 to aid in operations against Boko Haram and “base camp facilities” were constructed there, too.

The list of proposed CLs also includes sites in Berbera, a town in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, and in Mogadishu, the capital of neighboring Somalia (another locale used by American troops for years), as well as the towns of Baidoa and Bosaso.  These or other outposts are likely to play increasingly important roles as the Trump administration ramps up its military activities in Somalia, the long-failed state that saw 18 U.S. personnel killed in the disastrous “Black Hawk Down” mission of 1993.   Last month, for instance, President Trump relaxed rules aimed at preventing civilian casualties when the U.S. conducts drone strikes and commando raids in that country and so laid the foundation for a future escalation of the war against al-Shabaab there.  This month, AFRICOM confirmed that dozens of soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, a storied light infantry unit, would be deployed to that same country in order to train local forces to, as a spokesperson put it, “better fight” al-Shabaab.

Many other sites previously identified as U.S. outposts or staging areas are not listed in AFRICOM’s 2015 plans, such as bases in Djema, Sam Ouandja, and Obo in the Central African Republic that were revealed, in recent years, by the Washington Post.  Also missing is a newer drone base in Garoua, Cameroon, not to mention that Tunisian air base where the U.S. has been flying drones, according to AFRICOM’s Waldhauser, for quite some time.”

Some bases may have been shuttered, while others may not yet have been put in service when the documents were produced.  Ultimately, the reasons that these and many other previously identified bases are not included in the redacted secret files are unclear due to AFRICOM’s refusal to offer comment, clarification, or additional information on the locations of its bases.

Base Desires

“Just as the U.S. pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same,” laments AFRICOM in its 2017 posture statement. “We continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency.”

Since it was established as an independent command in 2008, however, AFRICOM itself has been anything but transparent about its activities on the continent.  The command’s physical footprint may, in fact, have been its most jealously guarded secret.  Today, thanks to AFRICOM’s own internal documents, that secret is out and with AFRICOM’s admission that it currently maintains “15 enduring locations,” the long-peddled fiction of a combatant command with just one base in its area of operations has been laid to rest.

“Because of the size of Africa, because of the time and space and the distances, when it comes to special crisis-response-type activities, we need access in various places on the continent,” said AFRICOM chief Waldhauser during his March press conference.  These “various places” have also been integral to escalating American shadow wars, including a full-scale air campaign against the Islamic State in Libya, dubbed Operation Odyssey Lightning, which ended late last year, and ongoing intelligence-gathering missions and a continued U.S. troop presence in that country; drone assassinations and increased troop deployments in Somalia to counter al-Shabaab; and increasing engagement in a proxy war against Boko Haram militants in the Lake Chad region of Central Africa.  For these and many more barely noticed U.S. military missions, America’s sprawling, ever-expanding network of bases provides the crucial infrastructure for cross-continental combat by U.S. and allied forces, a low-profile support system for war-making in Africa and beyond.

Without its wide-ranging constellation of bases, it would be nearly impossible for the U.S. to carry out ceaseless low-profile military activities across the continent.  As a result, AFRICOM continues to prefer shadows to sunlight.  While the command provided figures on the total number of U.S. military bases, outposts, and staging areas in Africa, its spokespeople failed to respond to repeated requests to provide locations for any of the 46 current sites.  While the whereabouts of the new outposts may still be secret, there’s little doubt as to the trajectory of America’s African footprint, which has increased by 10 locations — a 28% jump — in just over two years.

America’s “enduring” African bases “give the United States options in the event of crisis and enable partner capacity building,” according to AFRICOM’s Chuck Prichard.  They have also played a vital role in conflicts from Yemen to Iraq, Nigeria to Somalia.  With the Trump administration escalating its wars in Africa and the Middle East, and the potential for more crises — from catastrophic famines to spreading wars — on the horizon, there’s every reason to believe the U.S. military’s footprint on the continent will continue to evolve, expand, and enlarge in the years ahead, outpost by outpost and base by base.