The Barack Obama administration revealed plans to deploy 3,500 troops to nearly three dozen African states to purportedly address a looming “al-Qaeda threat,” according to a Dec. 24 statement. The Pentagon is dispatching soldiers from the 2nd Brigade’s Heavy Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division based in Fort Riley, Kan.
Official reports indicate that the Pentagon forces will operate as small units in conjunction with various governments, including Libya, Somalia, Niger, Mali, among others. Gen. Carter L. Ham, commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), made it appear as if this is a new initiative on the part of Washington. Yet it is a continuation of the ongoing policy that has accelerated under the current administration.
A key figure in this project, set to begin in March, is Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who headed the Multi-National Force during the later years of the Iraq occupation. The White House claims the military teams will be involved only in training and equipping efforts and not direct military combat operations.
Gen. Odierno said in late December that the idea for this type of training mission came to him while he was commanding U.S. and allied forces in Iraq, an overall operation that lasted nearly nine years. (Washington Times, Dec. 23)
Despite this disclaimer, Odierno said the mission will represent a different military orientation toward the continent. He claims, “In the past, we just said, ‘Hey, if you need us, call us and we’ll be there,’ but now it’s much more specific.” He says being on hand in the countries will make U.S. intervention more effective.
Such a statement by the former commanding officer in Iraq suggests a more aggressive military role for the Pentagon in Africa. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the same type of rhetoric was fed to the public regarding the character of those occupations.
Odierno, who has been in the U.S. military since the war against Vietnam and southeast Asia, typifies imperialist notions that the Pentagon can deeply penetrate the societal cultures and win over various population groups in order to reach Washington’s objectives. Though this was the game plan in Iraq and Afghanistan, the level of resistance to foreign occupation grew substantially over the period of the Pentagon’s occupation.
This strategy uses what the Pentagon calls the “Regionally Aligned Forces” model. It is designed to train and coordinate military structures from the African states in order to attack those forces Washington considers are operating contrary to U.S. economic and political interests. This effort will also draw in other imperialist states from NATO, including Britain.
British Col. James Learmont, an exchange officer working with the Pentagon on the deployment project, said in the same article, “Responsiveness is a pretty key component of this because everybody wants us to be more responsive — in other words, quicker. … [B]y aligning ourselves with combatant commands, it gives them more capability, capacity and the ability to respond quicker.”
The official line is that the U.S. and its NATO allies will avoid direct military offensive operations. But Col. Learmont exposed this lie by admitting, “If their combatant commander does require something that falls into the operational bandwagon, then we have the facilities to react to that with the approval of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff.” Consequently, if the mission deems it necessary, actions will be carried out that are solely dependent upon U.S. capabilities.
Continues existing policy
With the formation of AFRICOM in 2008, the U.S. has intensified its military interventionist policies in Africa. The war against Libya in 2011 represented the first full-scale AFRICOM operation on the continent.
This operation in Libya resulted in a partnership with NATO and other allied states in the region, including Egypt and Qatar. Over the course of the operation, imperialist forces flew 26,000 sorties over Libya and carried out some 9,600 air strikes, killing tens of thousands of people and displacing as many as 2 million Libyans and foreign nationals working and living in the oil-rich state.
Nonetheless, the war against Libya has brought neither peace nor stability to the country and the region. Internal political divisions among the pro-U.S. rebel units and the ongoing resistance by the loyalist forces have required the escalation of Pentagon and intelligence personnel on the ground.
The attacks on Sept. 11, 2012, that destroyed the so-called U.S. Consulate and annex in Benghazi were a clear indication of the failed nature of the Libya project. The attacks resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other personnel, which included CIA and Navy Seal operatives.
In the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attacks, the Obama administration announced the deployment of at least 50 Marines and a team of FBI agents, as well as dispatching additional warships in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya and placing more drones over this North African state.
The political fallout in the aftermath of the Libya attacks exposed the administration’s cover-up of the circumstances surrounding the destruction of the U.S. compound. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was forced to take the fall in the subsequent scandal that revealed the false characterization and information promoted by the White House.
In Mali, where a military coup took place in March 2012, the administration is seeking, through AFRICOM, to deploy regional forces through the Economic Community of West African States. The pretext is that they are supposedly part of an effort to curtail and eliminate groups linked to al-Qaeda. Such groups have been operating in the north of the country, which has been effectively partitioned by Tuareg elements divided between nationalists and Islamists.
However, the Malian government had maintained agreements with the Pentagon for several years leading up to the coup, which involved joint training and war games.
But U.S. military cooperation with the Malian armed forces did not provide the capacity for the government to halt the Tuareg insurgency in the north or prevent the coup. Additional Pentagon intervention can only lead to further instability.
Somalia has been a battleground for U.S. military forces for the last two decades when in 1992 the Pentagon, during the George H.W. Bush administration, deployed 12,000 Marines in what was called “Operation Restore Hope.” In a matter of months, Somalis mobilized an anti-occupation resistance war that led to the deaths of U.S. troops and thousands of Somalis.
During the Clinton administration, both U.S. military forces and U.N. troops had to withdraw.
Nevertheless, U.S. intervention in Somalia has continued and intensified over the last six years through the deployment of Washington’s Ethiopian ally in 2006 and in more recent years with the occupation by the African Union Mission to the Somalia and the Kenya Defense Forces since 2011.
At present over 17,000 African troops allied with the Pentagon and the CIA are occupying Somalia, but this Horn of Africa state is still unstable.
On Dec. 30, the Obama administration announced that it was deploying 50 troops to Chad in order to assist in the evacuation of U.S. personnel from the neighboring Central African Republic, where there is now a civil war against the government of President Francois Bozize.
The U.S. had already targeted CAR for intervention in October 2011. Then the White House announced that it was dispatching Special Forces and advisors to ostensibly assist in tracking down members of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA is a rebel group started in northern Uganda, itself a close ally of Washington. (Press TV, Dec. 30)
In the October 2011 deployments, four states were targeted: CAR, Uganda, South Sudan and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. All these states have natural resources that are key to the U.S. and the world capitalist system. This is the underlying reason behind the Pentagon and CIA’s escalating involvement on the continent.
Imperialism in crisis
The continuing economic malaise in the capitalist countries is compelling the imperialists to pursue their interventionist policies in Africa. Led by the U.S., France, Britain and other NATO states are escalating their involvement to secure oil and other strategic resources that are abundant throughout all regions of the continent.
Also, Washington and its allies perceive the growing role of the People’s Republic of China as a threat to imperialist interests through its economic partnership agreements with various African state. The Conference on China-Africa Cooperation, founded in 2000, has held five summit meetings, with the most recent in 2012 in Beijing.
China is the largest trading partner with the African Union bloc, and this cooperation is poised to grow over the coming period. Africa, impacted severely by the global crisis, will continue to be a battleground for the West in their futile efforts at maintaining economic, military and political dominance.
This new U.S. threat requires the intervention of anti-war and peace movements in the U.S. The United National Anti-War Coalition, the largest and most representative of the anti-interventionist alliances, is issuing a statement opposing the most recent Pentagon initiatives in Africa.
UNAC has held two national conferences since 2010 that have drawn huge participation from throughout the U.S. and internationally. This included a mass demonstration in New York City which attracted thousands in the spring of 2011 against the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Iraq.
It was UNAC that called and led the anti-NATO demonstrations that attracted 15,000 people to Chicago during the military alliance’s summit in May 2012. This organization is seeking to hold a national campaign against drones in 2013.