[News] U.S. Military Averaging More Than a Mission a Day in Africa
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 27 10:17:55 EDT 2014
*U.S. Military Averaging More Than a Mission a Day in Africa*
*Documents Reveal Blinding Pace of Ops in 2013, More of the Same for 2014*
By Nick Turse <http://www.tomdispatch.com/authors/nickturse>
The numbers tell the story: 10 exercises, 55 operations, 481 security
For years, the U.S. military has publicly insisted that its efforts in
Africa are small scale. Its public affairs personnel and commanders have
more than a "light footprint
<http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=116696>" on that
continent, including a remarkably modest presence when it comes to
military personnel. They have, however, balked at specifying just what
that light footprint actually consists of. During an interview, for
instance, a U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokesman once expressed
that tabulating the command's deployments would offer a "skewed image"
of U.S. efforts there.
It turns out that the numbers do just the opposite.
Last year, according AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez, the U.S.
military carried out a total of 546 "activities" on the continent -- a
catch-all term for everything the military does in Africa. In other
words, it averages about one and a half missions a day. This represents
a 217% increase in operations, programs, and exercises since the command
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this
month, Rodriguez noted that the 10 exercises, 55 operations, and 481
security cooperation activities made AFRICOM "an extremely active
geographic command." But exactly what the command is "active" in doing
is often far from clear.
AFRICOM releases <http://www.africom.mil/what-we-do> information about
only a fraction of its activities. It offers no breakdown on the nature
of its operations. And it allows
only a handful
of cherry-picked reporters
the chance to observe a few select missions
The command refuses even to offer a count
<http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175743> of the countries in which it is
"active," preferring to keep most information about what it's doing --
and when and where -- secret.
While Rodriguez's testimony offers but a glimpse of the scale of
AFRICOM's activities, a cache of previously undisclosed military
briefing documents obtained by TomDispatch sheds additional light on the
types of missions being carried out and their locations all across the
continent. These briefings prepared for top commanders and civilian
officials in 2013 demonstrate a substantial increase in deployments in
recent years and reveal U.S. military operations to be more extensive
than previously reported. They also indicate that the pace of
operations in Africa will remain robust in 2014, with U.S. forces
expected again to average far more than a mission each day on the continent.
*The Constant Gardener*
U.S. troops carry out a wide range of operations in Africa, including
targeting suspected militants, night raids
aimed at kidnapping terror suspects, airlifts of French and African
troops onto the battlefields of proxy wars
<http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175818/>, and evacuation
operations in destabilized countries. Above all, however, the U.S.
military conducts training missions, mentors allies, and funds, equips,
and advises its local surrogates.
U.S. Africa Command describes its activities as advancing "U.S. national
security interests through focused, sustained engagement with partners"
and insists that its "operations
<http://www.africom.mil/what-we-do/exercises>, and security cooperation
support U.S. Government foreign policy and do so primarily through
military-to-military activities and assistance programs."
<http://www.africom.mil/what-we-do/exercises/saharan-express> is a
typical exercise that biennially pairs U.S. forces with members of the
navies and coast guards of around a dozen mostly African countries.
Operations include Juniper Micron and Echo Casemate, missions focused on
aiding French and African interventions
<http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175818/> in Mali and the Central
African Republic. Other "security cooperation" activities include the
State Partnership Program, which teams African military forces with U.S.
National Guard units and the State Department-funded Africa Contingency
Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program through which U.S.
military mentors and advisors provide equipment and instruction to
Many military-to-military activities and advisory missions are carried
by soldiers from the Army's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry
Division, as part of a "regionally aligned forces" effort that farms out
specially trained U.S. troops to geographic combatant commands, like
AFRICOM. Other training engagements are carried out by units from
across the service branches, including Africa Partnership Station 13
whose U.S. naval personnel and Marines teach
skills such as patrolling procedures and hand-to-hand combat
techniques. Meanwhile, members of the Air Force recently provided
to Nigerian troops in areas ranging from logistics to airlift support to
*/Click here to see a larger version
Previously undisclosed U.S. Army Africa records reveal a 94% increase in
all activities by Army personnel from 2011 to 2013, including a 174%
surge in State Partnership missions (from 34 to 93) and a 436% jump in
Advise-and-Assist activities including ACOTA missions (from 11 to 59).
Last year, according to a December 2013 document/,/ these efforts
involved everything from teaching
Kenyan troops how to use Raven surveillance drones and helping Algerian
forces field new mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, or MRAPS, to
training Chadian and Guinean infantrymen and aiding France's ongoing
interventions in West and Central Africa.
AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson refused to offer further details about
these activities. "We do training with a lot of different countries in
Africa," he told me. When I asked if he had a number on those
"different countries," he replied, "No, I don't." He ignored repeated
written requests for further information. But a cache of records
detailing deployments by members of just the 2nd Brigade Combat Team,
1st Infantry Division, from June through December 2013, highlights the
sheer size, scope, and sweep of U.S. training missions.
June saw members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Niger,
Uganda, Ghana, and on two separate missions to Malawi; in July, troops
from the team traveled to Burundi, Mauritania, Niger, Uganda, and South
Africa; August deployments included the Democratic Republic of Congo,
Kenya, South Africa, Niger, two missions in Malawi, and three to Uganda;
September saw activities in Chad, Togo, Cameroon, Ghana, São Tomé and
Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Uganda, and Malawi; in October, members
of the unit headed for Guinea and South Africa; November's deployments
consisted of Lesotho, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Guinea; while
December's schedule consisted of activities in South Sudan, Cameroon,
and Uganda, according to the documents. All told, the 2nd Brigade
Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division carried out 128 separate "activities"
in 28 African countries during all of 2013.
The records obtained by TomDispatch also indicate that U.S. Army Africa
took part in almost 80% of all AFRICOM activities on the continent in
2013, averaging more than one mission per day. Preliminary projections
for 2014 suggest a similar pace this year -- 418 activities were already
planned out by mid-December 2013 -- including anticipated increases in
the number of operations and train-and-equip missions.
Full-scale exercises, each involving U.S. Army troops and members of the
militaries of multiple African countries, are also slated to rise from
14 to 20 in 2014, according to the documents. So far, AFRICOM has
released information on 11 named exercises scheduled for this year.
These include African Lion in Morocco, Eastern Accord in Uganda, Western
Accord in Senegal, Central Accord in Cameroon, and Southern Accord in
Malawi, all of which include a field training component and serve as a
capstone event for the prior year's military-to-military programs.
AFRICOM will also conduct at least three maritime security exercises,
including Cutlass Express off the coast of East Africa, Obangame Express
in the Gulf of Guinea, and Saharan Express
in the waters off Senegal and the Cape Verde islands, as well as its
annual Africa Endeavor exercise, which is designed to promote
"information sharing" and facilitate standardized communications
procedures within African militaries.
Additionally, U.S. and African Special Operations forces will carry out
an exercise codenamed Silent Warrior 2014 in Germany and have already
completed Flintlock 2014 (since 2005, an annual event). As part of
Flintlock 2014, more than 1,000 troops from 18 nations
including Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Denmark
France, Germany, Italy, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway,
Senegal, the United Kingdom, the U.S., and the host nation of Niger,
carried out counterterror training on the outskirts of Niamey, the
capital, as well as at small bases in Tahoua, Agadez, and Diffa.
"Although Flintlock is considered an exercise, it is really an extension
of ongoing training, engagement, and operations that help prepare our
close Africa partners in the fight against extremism and the enemies
that threaten peace, stability, and regional security," said Colonel
Kenneth Sipperly, the commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations
Task Force-Trans Sahel, during the Flintlock opening ceremony.
*Locations, Locations, Locations*
A 2013 investigation <http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175743> by
TomDispatch analyzing official documents and open source information
revealed that the U.S. military was involved with at least 49 of the 54
nations on the African continent during 2012 and 2013 in activities that
ranged from special ops raids to the training of proxy forces. A map
produced late last year by U.S. Army Africa bolsters the findings,
indicating its troops had conducted or planned to conduct "activities"
in all African "countries" during the 2013 fiscal year except for
Western Sahara (a disputed territory in the Maghreb region of North
Africa), Guinea Bissau, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, São Tomé and Príncipe,
Madagascar, and Zimbabwe. Egypt is considered outside of AFRICOM's area
of operations, but did see U.S. military activity in 2013, as did
which now also hosts a small team of U.S. advisors
Other documents indicate Army troops actually deployed to São Tomé and
Príncipe, a country
<http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=54908> that regularly
activities with the U.S. Navy.
AFRICOM is adamant that the U.S. military has only one base on the
continent: Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. Official documents examined by
TomDispatch, however, make reference to bases by other names: forward
operating sites, or FOSes (long-term locations); cooperative security
locations, or CSLs (through which small numbers of U.S. troops
periodically rotate); and contingency locations, or CLs (which are used
only during ongoing missions).
AFRICOM has repeatedly denied requests by TomDispatch for further
information on the numbers or locations of FOSes, CSLs, and CLs, but
official documents produced in 2012 make reference to seven cooperative
security locations, including one in Entebbe, Uganda, a location from
which U.S. contractors have flown secret surveillance missions,
according to an investigation by the /Washington Post/. Information
released earlier this year by the military also makes references to at
least nine "forward operating locations," or FOLs in Africa.
*We Know Not What They Do*
"What We Are Doing," the title of a December 2013 military document
obtained by TomDispatch, offers answers to questions that AFRICOM has
long sought to avoid and provides information the command has worked to
keep under wraps. So much else, however, remains in the shadows.
From 2008 to 2013, the number of missions, exercises, operations, and
other activities under AFRICOM's purview has skyrocketed from 172
little substantive information has been made public about what exactly
most of these missions involved and just who U.S. forces have trained.
Since 2011, U.S. Army Africa alone has taken part in close to 1,000
"activities" across the continent, but independent reporters have only
been on hand for a tiny fraction of them, so there are limits to what we
can know about them beyond military talking points and official news
releases for a relative few of these missions. Only later did it become
clear that the United States extensively mentored
the military officer who overthrew Mali's elected government in 2012,
and that the U.S. trained
a Congolese commando battalion implicated
by the United Nations in mass rapes and other atrocities
during that same year, to cite two examples.
Since its inception
U.S. Africa Command <http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175574/> has
its role <http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=116696> on the
Meanwhile, far from the press or the public, the officers running its
secret operations have privately been calling
Africa "the battlefield of tomorrow, today."
After years in the dark, we now know just how "extremely active" -- to
use General David Rodriguez's phrase -- AFRICOM has been and how rapidly
the tempo of its missions has increased. It remains to be seen just
what else we don't know about U.S. Africa Command's exponentially
/Nick Turse is the managing editor of /TomDispatch.com
<http://www.tomdispatch.com/>/ and a fellow at the Nation Institute. A
2014 //Izzy Award/
winner, his// pieces have appeared in the /New York Times
the /Los Angeles Times
the Nation <http://www.thenation.com/afghanistan>, /at the/ BBC
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23427726> /and //regularly/
at //TomDispatch.// He is the author most recently of the //New York
Times// bestseller /Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in
//(just out in paperback)./
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