U.S., France step up intervention in Africa
U.S. military operations on Oct. 5 in Libya and Somalia were neither isolated events nor solely prompted by the siege at Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, for which the Somali-based Al-Shabaab took responsibility. Since December, the White House has declared that it will intensify its presence in Africa under the guise of waging the “war on terrorism.”
Recently, thousands of First Infantry Division troops targeted alleged bases of groups designated “enemies of the state” by the Pentagon and the CIA. Another 100 military operations are scheduled within the next year.
The Pentagon is also transferring U.S. troops from Spain to bases in Italy for use in military strikes in Africa. Some 200 of these troops, called Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response, are on standby for possible intervention in Libya, where the security situation has deteriorated since the Pentagon-NATO war destroyed Libya’s sovereign government two years ago.
These developments are part of the framework established by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which was formed in 2008 under the George W. Bush administration and strengthened by Obama’s.
Military.com blog reported on Oct. 16, “According to U.S. security specialist David Vine, the Pentagon has spent around $2 billion … ‘shifting its European center of gravity south from Germany’ and transforming Italy ‘into a launching pad for future wars in Africa, the Middle East and beyond.’ ”
This blog noted, “Vine estimates there are now 13,000 U.S. troops in Italy at Sigonella and some 50 other facilities like Vicenza, … with the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), a rapid response force.” The U.S. acknowledges one military base on the African continent, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, which houses 4,000 troops and other personnel, but facilities also exist in several countries in Africa and on its islands.
AFRICOM’s official headquarters is in Stuttgart, Germany. Nonetheless, the increase in Pentagon and CIA operations in Africa reveals U.S. goals of continued domination of the continent’s mineral and natural resources, particularly oil and natural gas.
France increases presence in CAR
During his Oct. 14-15 visit to the Republic of South Africa, French President Francois Hollande announced that his government will increase its military presence in the mineral-rich Central African Republic.
On March 24, the Seleka rebel movement took control of the CAR capital, Bangui, where they have governed amid increasing instability, with the likelihood that security will deteriorate further. Seleka, under interim-leader Michel Djotodia, is a majority Muslim coalition of rebel groups. French imperialism is utilizing this factor to justify intervention, claiming the situation will enable so-called Islamic “terrorists” to operate in CAR and throughout the region.
France, the former colonial power in CAR, has repeatedly intervened in its internal affairs, and now has 410 troops stationed there. In early October, France spearheaded passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2121, which authorized that an African Union peacekeeping force be sent back to CAR.
South Africa had sent troops to CAR with other forces, ostensibly to safeguard Francois Bozize’s government. When the Seleka rebels entered the capital, a firefight with South African National Defense Forces killed 13 of Pretoria’s troops. South Africa soon withdrew its forces from CAR but pledged to reenter under a broader regional force. In July, the African Union decided to create the new U.N.-approved force — the International Support Mission in Central African Republic.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius visited Bangui Oct. 13 to announce the intervention. Then Hollande visited South Africa and held high-level discussions with President Jacob Zuma. However, it remains to be seen how these arrangements can work, given France’s historic record of plunder of Africa.
France invaded Mali in January after Tuareg separatists and Islamic organizations seized northern cities. France’s role in Mali was criticized after former AU Commissioner Jean Ping of Gabon couldn’t mobilize an Economic Community of West African States peacekeeping force to intervene in Mali.
Thousands of French troops still occupy northern areas of the country, with 1,000 soldiers to remain there into 2014. A recent national election in France attempted to legitimize the French operations, giving Paris the incentive to expand its intervention into its former colonial territories in Africa.
The U.S. had been involved in Mali prior to the military coup of March 2012 when Pentagon-trained Capt. Amadou Sanogo overthrew President Amadou Toumani Touré’s civilian government. The U.S. provided material support to the Malian military, but these efforts worsened the security situation in the north of the country. U.S. Air Force planes helped transport French troops and military equipment into Mali during the January invasion.
Washington has also deployed 100 troops into neighboring uranium-rich Niger to establish a drone station there and assist with securing the Areva mining interests controlled by France. Niger, also a former French colony, has been the site of guerrilla operations by Islamic forces opposed to Western interventions there.
Although the U.S. and France claim they are involved in Africa to fight “terrorism,” both are imperialist states that have direct interests in CAR, Mali and other countries on the continent. CAR has gold, diamonds and strategic minerals of interest to Western industrialized states.