[News] America's Empire of African Bases

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 17 11:38:04 EST 2015

    Nick Turse, America's Empire of African Bases

          By Nick Turse
          Posted on November 17, 2015, Printed on November 17, 2015

[*Note for TomDispatch Readers:* /Last week, Nick Turse appeared on 
/Democracy Now!/to discuss his superb /TomDispatch/work on Special 
Operations forces and his new Dispatch book, /Tomorrow's Battlefield: 
U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa 
Click here 
to check him out at /DN!/(or here 
for the online extended interview). Then, if you’d like a personalized, 
signed copy of his new book, just go to the 
For $100 -- and the knowledge that you’ve helped this website roll into 
2016 -- it’s yours! Tom/]

As I’ve written elsewhere 
what Chalmers Johnson called America’s “empire of bases” was “not so 
much our little secret as a secret we kept even from ourselves” -- at 
least until Johnson broke the silence and his book /Blowback/ 
became a bestseller in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.  In those years, 
however, if (like Johnson) you actually wanted to know about the way the 
U.S. garrisoned the world, you could profitably start simply by reading 
the Pentagon's tabulations of its global garrisons, ranging from 
military bases the size of small American towns 
to what were then starting to be called “lily pads,” which were small 
sites in potential global hot spots stocked with pre-positioned materiel 
and ready for instant occupation.  It was all there on the record for 
those who cared to know.  Well, perhaps not quite /all/ there, but 
enough of it certainly to get a sense of what the “American Raj” (as 
Johnson called it) looked like from Europe to Asia, Latin America to the 
Persian Gulf.

And it was impressive, that empire of bases, once you took it in.  It 
represented a garrisoning of the globe unprecedented in the history of 
empires.  That we Americans didn’t generally know much about it was, in 
a sense, a matter of choice, a matter, you might say, of self-blinding 
behavior.  To hazard a guess: as a people, we were uncomfortable enough 
with the idea of ourselves as a global imperial power that we preferred 
not to know what “we” were doing, or at least not to acknowledge what we 
had become, even though every year hundreds of thousands of Americans, 
military personnel and civilians alike, lived on, worked on, or cycled 
through those bases.  In this context, it was startling how seldom they 
were part of our everyday news cycle.  For those in other countries, 
they often loomed large <http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/1112/> indeed 
as the local face of the United States, but you’d never know that if 
your source of news was the mainstream media here.

That, of course, hasn’t changed.  What has changed is Washington’s 
attitude toward the public record.  Its latest basing moves are taking 
place enveloped in a blanket of secrecy, which means that even if you 
want to know, it’s increasingly tough to find out.  Washington’s latest 
garrisoning strategy is based on a new premise: a “small footprint 
meaning a tiny-bases, rapid-deployment, special-ops and drone-heavy way 
of war that’s being put into place across Africa in the twenty-first 
century, as /TomDispatch/’s Nick Turse lays out today.  While the U.S. 
has always pursued parts of its imperial strategy in "the shadows," to 
use a phrase from my Cold War childhood, in this new strategy everyday 
basing, too, is disappearing into those shadows, which is why Turse’s 
latest piece on the subject is a small reportorial triumph of time and 

For this site in these last years, Turse has regularly revealed much 
that has been out of sight when it comes to Washington’s expanding 
military focus on Africa, including the cascading number 
of U.S. military missions across that continent, a similar spike in 
missions to train proxy forces 
there, and soaring deployments 
of U.S. Special Operations forces -- that secret 
military-within-the-military of 70,000 
that now thrives solely in a world of shadows.  It took a year of his 
efforts, but today he finishes off his portrait of the garrisoning of a 
whole continent in a new way with a look at the basing policies of U.S. 
Africa Command.  It’s a piece that couldn’t be more important or 
hard-won, and it offers us our first look at how a continent is being 
prepared for what Turse, in his latest book, has called “tomorrow’s 
<http://www.amazon.com/dp/1608464636/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20>.” /Tom/

    *Does Eleven Plus One Equal Sixty? *
    *AFRICOM’s New Math, the U.S. Base Bonanza, and “Scarier” Times
    Ahead in Africa*
    By Nick Turse <http://www.tomdispatch.com/authors/nickturse>

    In the shadows of what was once called the “dark continent," a
    scramble has come and gone. If you heard nothing about it, that was
    by design. But look hard enough and -- north to south, east to west
    -- you’ll find the fruits of that effort: a network of bases,
    compounds, and other sites whose sum total exceeds the number of
    nations on the continent. For a military that has stumbled from Iraq
    to Afghanistan and suffered setbacks from Libya to Syria, it’s a
    rare can-do triumph. In remote locales, behind fences and beyond the
    gaze of prying eyes, the U.S. military has built an extensive
    archipelago of African outposts, transforming the continent, experts
    say, into a laboratory for a new kind of war.

    So how many U.S. military bases are there in Africa?  It’s a simple
    question with a simple answer.  For years, U.S. Africa Command
    (AFRICOM) gave a stock response
    <http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175574/>: one. Camp Lemonnier in
    the tiny, sun-bleached nation of Djibouti was America’s only
    acknowledged “base” on the continent.  It wasn’t true, of course,
    because there were camps, compounds, installations, and facilities
    elsewhere, but the military leaned hard on semantics.

    Take a look at the Pentagon’s official list of bases, however, and
    the number grows.  The 2015 report on the Department of Defense’s
    global property portfolio lists Camp Lemonnier and three other
    deep-rooted sites on or near the continent: U.S. Naval Medical
    Research Unit No. 3
    <http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmrc/Pages/namru3.htm>, a medical
    research facility in Cairo, Egypt, that was established in 1946;
    Ascension Auxiliary Airfield, a spacecraft tracking station and
    airfield located 1,000 miles off the coast of West Africa that has
    been used by the U.S. since 1957; and warehouses at the airport and
    seaport in Mombasa, Kenya, that were built in the 1980s.

    That’s only the beginning, not the end of the matter.  For years,
    various reporters
    have shed light on hush-hush outposts
    -- most of them built, upgraded, or expanded since 9/11 -- dotting
    the continent, including so-called cooperative security locations
    (CSLs).  Earlier this year, AFRICOM commander General David
    Rodriguez disclosed
    that there were actually 11 such sites.  Again, devoted
    AFRICOM-watchers knew that this, too, was just the start of a larger
    story, but when I asked Africa Command for a list of bases, camps
    and other sites, as I periodically have done, I was treated like a sap.

    “In all, AFRICOM has access to 11 CSLs across Africa. Of course, we
    have one major military facility on the continent: Camp Lemonnier in
    Djibouti,” Anthony Falvo, AFRICOM’s Public Affairs chief, told me. 
    Falvo was peddling numbers that both he and I know perfectly well
    are, at best, misleading.  “It’s one of the most troubling aspects
    of our military policy in Africa, and overseas generally, that the
    military can’t be, and seems totally resistant to being, honest and
    transparent about what it’s doing,” says David Vine, author of /Base
    <http://www.amazon.com/dp/1627791698/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20>/: How
    U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World/.

    Research by /TomDispatch /indicates that in recent years the U.S.
    military has, in fact, developed a remarkably extensive network of
    more than 60 outposts and access points in Africa.  Some are
    currently being utilized, some are held in reserve, and some may be
    shuttered.  These bases, camps, compounds, port facilities, fuel
    bunkers, and other sites can be found in at least 34 countries --
    more than 60% of the nations on the continent -- many of them
    corrupt <https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2014/niger>,
    <https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/djibouti> states
    <https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2014/chad> with poor
    human rights
    records.  The U.S. also operates “Offices of Security Cooperation
    and Defense Attaché Offices in approximately 38 [African] nations,”
    according to Falvo, and has struck close to 30 agreements to use
    international airports in Africa as refueling centers.

    There is no reason to believe that even this represents a complete
    accounting of America’s growing archipelago of African outposts. 
    Although it’s possible that a few sites are being counted twice due
    to AFRICOM’s failure to provide basic information or clarification,
    the list /TomDispatch/ has developed indicates that the U.S.
    military has created a network of bases that goes far beyond what
    AFRICOM has disclosed to the American public, let alone to Africans.**

    */Click here to see a larger version

    /U.S. military outposts, port facilities, and other areas of access
    in Africa, 2002-2015 (Nick Turse/TomDispatch, 2015) /

    *AFRICOM’s Base Bonanza*

    When AFRICOM became an independent command in 2008, Camp Lemonnier
    was reportedly still one of the few American outposts on the
    continent.  In the years since, the U.S. has embarked on nothing
    short of a building boom -- even if the command is loath to refer to
    it in those terms.  As a result, it’s now able to carry out
    increasing numbers of overt and covert missions, from training
    exercises to drone assassinations.

    “AFRICOM, as a new command, is basically a laboratory for a
    different kind of warfare and a different way of posturing forces,”
    says Richard Reeve, the director of the Sustainable Security
    Programm <http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/ssp>e
    <http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/ssp> at the Oxford Research
    Group <http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/>, a London-based think
    tank.  “Apart from Djibouti, there’s no significant stockpiling of
    troops, equipment, or even aircraft.  There are a myriad of ‘lily
    pads’ or small forward operating bases... so you can spread out even
    a small number of forces over a very large area and concentrate
    those forces quite quickly when necessary.”

    Indeed, U.S. staging areas, cooperative security locations, forward
    operating locations (FOLs), and other outposts -- many of them
    involved in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance
    activities and Special Operations missions -- have been built (or
    built up) in Burkina Faso
    the Central African Republic
    the Seychelles
    South Sudan
    and Uganda
    A 2011 report by Lauren Ploch/,/ an analyst in African affairs with
    the Congressional Research Service, also mentioned U.S. military
    access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Namibia, São Tomé and
    Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, and Zambia.  AFRICOM failed to
    respond to scores of requests by this reporter for further
    information about its outposts and related matters, but an analysis
    of open source information, documents obtained through the Freedom
    of Information Act, and other records show a persistent, enduring,
    and growing U.S. presence on the continent.

    “A cooperative security location is just a small location where we
    can come in... It would be what you would call a very austere
    location with a couple of warehouses that has things like: tents,
    water, and things like that,” explained AFRICOM’s Rodriguez.  As he
    implies, the military doesn’t consider CSLs to be “bases,” but
    whatever they might be called, they are more than merely a few tents
    and cases of bottled water.

    Designed to accommodate about 200 personnel, with runways suitable
    for C-130 transport aircraft, the sites are primed for conversion
    from temporary, bare-bones facilities into something more enduring. 
    At least three of them in Senegal, Ghana, and Gabon are apparently
    designed to facilitate faster deployment for a rapid reaction unit
    with a mouthful of a moniker: Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task
    Force Crisis Response-Africa (SPMAGTF-CR-AF
    Its forces are based
    in Morón <http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=129069>,
    Spain, and Sigonella, Italy, but are focused on Africa.  They rely
    heavily on MV-22 Ospreys, tilt-rotor
    aircraft that can take-off, land, and hover like helicopters, but
    fly with the speed and fuel efficiency of a turboprop plane.

    This combination of manpower, access, and technology has come to be
    known in the military by the moniker “New Normal
    in the wake of the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that
    killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other
    Americans, the New Normal effectively allows the U.S. military quick
    access 400 miles inland from any CSL or, as Richard Reeve notes,
    gives it “a reach that extends to just about every country in West
    and Central Africa.”

    The concept was field-tested
    <https://www.mca-marines.org/leatherneck/2014/04/filling-gap> as
    South Sudan plunged into civil war and 160 Marines and sailors from
    Morón were forward deployed to Djibouti in late 2013.  Within hours,
    a contingent from that force was sent to Uganda and, in early 2014,
    in conjunction with another rapid reaction unit, dispatched to South
    Sudan to evacuate 20 people from the American embassy in Juba. 
    Earlier this year, SPMAGTF-CR-AF ran trials at its African staging
    areas including the CSL in Libreville, Gabon, deploying nearly 200
    Marines and sailors along with four Ospreys, two C-130s, and more
    than 150,000 pounds of materiel.

    A similar test run was carried out at the Senegal CSL located at
    Dakar-Ouakam Air Base, which can also host 200 Marines and the
    support personnel necessary to sustain and transport them. “What the
    CSL offers is the ability to forward-stage our forces to respond to
    any type of crisis,” Lorenzo Armijo, an operations officer with
    SPMAGTF-CR-AF, told a military reporter. “That crisis can range in
    the scope of military operations from embassy reinforcement to
    providing humanitarian assistance.”

    Another CSL, mentioned in a July 2012 briefing by U.S. Army Africa,
    is located in Entebbe
    Uganda.  From there, according to a /Washington Post/ investigation,
    U.S. contractors have flown surveillance missions using
    innocuous-looking turboprop airplanes.  “The AFRICOM strategy is to
    have a very light touch, a light footprint, but nevertheless
    facilitate special forces operations or ISR [intelligence,
    surveillance, and reconnaissance] detachments over a very wide
    area,” Reeve says.  “To do that they don’t need very much basing
    infrastructure, they need an agreement to use a location, basic
    facilities on the ground, a stockpile of fuel, but they also can
    rely on private contractors to maintain a number of facilities so
    there aren’t U.S. troops on the ground.”

    */Click here to see a larger version

    /U.S. Army Africa briefing slide from 2012 detailing work at the
    Entebbe CSL/

    *The Outpost Archipelago*

    AFRICOM ignored my requests for further information on CSLs and for
    the designations of other outposts on the continent, but according
    to a 2014 article in /Army Sustainment/ on “Overcoming Logistics
    Challenges in East Africa,” there are also “at least nine forward
    operating locations, or FOLs.”  A 2007 Defense Department news
    release referred to an FOL in Charichcho, Ethiopia.  The U.S.
    military also utilizes “Forward Operating Location Kasenyi” in
    Kampala, Uganda.  A 2010 report by the Government Accountability
    Office mentioned
    forward operating locations
    <http://www.hoa.africom.mil/image/6223/cjtf-hoa-photo> in Isiolo and
    Manda Bay, both in Kenya.

    Camp Simba in Manda Bay has, in fact, seen significant expansion in
    recent years.  In 2013, Navy Seabees, for example, worked
    24-hour shifts to extend its runway to enable larger aircraft
    like C-130s to land there, while other projects were initiated to
    accommodate greater numbers of troops in the future, including
    increased fuel and potable water storage, and more latrines.  The
    base serves as a home away from home for Navy personnel and Army
    Green Berets among other U.S. troops and, as recently revealed
    <https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/target-africa/> at
    the/Intercept/, plays an integral role in the secret drone
    assassination <https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/target-africa/>
    program aimed at militants in neighboring Somalia as well as in Yemen.

    Drones have played an increasingly large role in this post-9/11
    build-up in Africa.  MQ-1 Predators have, for instance, been based
    in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena
    while their newer, larger, more far-ranging cousins, MQ-9 Reapers
    have been flown
    out of Seychelles International Airport.  As of June 2012, according
    <https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/target-africa/> to
    the/Intercept/, two contractor-operated drones, one Predator and one
    Reaper, were based in Arba Minch
    Ethiopia, while a detachment with one Scan Eagle
    (a low-cost drone used by the Navy) and a remotely piloted
    helicopter known as an MQ-8 Fire Scout
    operated off the coast of East Africa.  The U.S. also recently began
    setting up a base
    in Cameroon for unarmed Predators to be used in the battle against
    Boko Haram militants.

    */Click here to see a larger version

    /U.S. Army Africa briefing slide from 2013 obtained by
    /TomDispatch/via the Freedom of Information Act/

    In February 2013, the U.S. also began flying
    Predator drones out of Niger’s capital, Niamey
    A year later, Captain Rick Cook, then chief of U.S. Africa Command’s
    Engineer Division, mentioned
    the potential for a new “base-like facility” that would be
    “semi-permanent” and “capable of air operations” in that country. 
    That September, the /Washington Post/’s Craig Whitlock exposed
    plans to base drones at a second location there, Agadez.  Within
    days, the U.S. Embassy in Niamey announced
    <http://niamey.usembassy.gov/droneinagadez.html> that AFRICOM was,
    indeed, “assessing the possibility of establishing a temporary,
    expeditionary contingency support location in Agadez, Niger.”

    Earlier this year, Captain Rodney Worden of AFRICOM’s Logistics and
    Support Division mentioned “a partnering and capacity-building
    project... for the Niger Air Force and Armed Forces in concert with
    USAFRICOM and [U.S.] Air Forces Africa to construct a runway and
    associated work/life support area for airfield operations.”  And
    when the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 was
    introduced <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d114:H.R.1735:>
    in April, embedded in it was a $50 million request
    for the construction of an “airfield and base camp at Agadez,
    Niger... to support operations in western Africa.”  When Congress
    recently passed the annual defense policy bill, that sum was authorized.

    According to Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, the head of U.S.
    Special Operations Command Africa, there is also a team of Special
    Operations forces currently “living right next to” local troops in
    Diffa, Niger.  A 2013 military briefing slide, obtained by
    /TomDispatch/ via the Freedom of Information Act, indicates a “U.S.
    presence” as well in Ouallam, Niger, and at both Bamako and Kidal in
    neighboring Mali.  Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, a
    country that borders both of those nations, plays host to a Special
    Operations Forces Liaison Element Team, a Joint Special Operations
    Air Detachment, and the Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing
    Airlift Support initiative which, according to official documents,
    facilitates “high-risk activities” carried out by elite forces from
    Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara.

    On the other side of the continent in Somalia, elite U.S. forces are
    from small compounds in Kismayo and Baledogle, according to
    reporting by /Foreign Policy/.  Neighboring Ethiopia has similarly
    been a prime locale for American outposts, including
    <http://www.africom.mil/newsroom/photo/3396/US-AFRICOM-Photo> Camp
    in Dire Dawa
    contingency operating locations at both Hurso and Bilate, and
    facilities used by a 40-man team based
    in Bara.  So-called Combined Operations Fusion Centers were set up
    in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan as part of an
    effort to destroy Joseph Kony and his murderous Lord’s Resistance
    Army (LRA). /Washington Post /investigations have revealed that U.S.
    forces have also been based in Djema
    Sam Ouandja
    and Obo
    in the Central African Republic as part of that effort.  There has
    recently been new construction by Navy Seabees at Obo to increase
    the camp’s capacity as well as to install the infrastructure for a
    satellite dish.

    There are other locations that, while not necessarily outposts,
    nonetheless form critical nodes in the U.S. base network on the
    continent.  These include 10 marine gas and oil bunkers located at
    ports in eight African nations.  Additionally, AFRICOM acknowledges
    an agreement to use Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in
    Senegal for refueling as well as for the “transportation of teams
    participating in security cooperation activities.”  A similar deal
    is in place for the use of Kitgum Airport in Kitgum, Uganda, and
    Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia.  All told,
    according to the Defense Logistics Agency, the U.S. military has
    struck 29 agreements to use airports as refueling centers in 27
    African countries.

    Not all U.S. bases in Africa have seen continuous use in these
    years.  After the American-backed military overthrew
    <http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2008/08/20088695834599264.html> the
    government of Mauritania in 2008, for example, the U.S. suspended
    an airborne surveillance program based in its capital,**Nouakchott.
    Following a coup in Mali by a U.S.-trained officer, the United
    States suspended military relations with the government and a
    spartan U.S. compound near the town of Gao was apparently overrun
    by rebel forces.

    Most of the new outposts on that continent, however, seem to be
    putting down roots.  As /TomDispatch/ regular
    and basing expert
    David Vine suggests, “The danger of the strategy in which you see
    U.S. bases popping up increasingly around the continent is that once
    bases get established they become very difficult to close.  Once
    they generate momentum, within Congress and in terms of funding,
    they have a tendency to expand.”

    To supply its troops in East Africa, AFRICOM has also built a
    sophisticated logistics system.  It’s officially known as the
    Surface Distribution Network, but colloquially referred
    to as the “new spice route.”  It connects Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia,
    and Djibouti.  These hubs are, in turn, part of a transportation and
    logistics network that includes bases located in Rota, Spain; Aruba
    in the Lesser Antilles; Souda Bay, Greece; and a forward operating
    site <http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/africacommand.htm>
    on Britain’s Ascension Island in the South Atlantic.

    Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, headquarters of U.S.//Air Forces Europe
    and one of the largest American military bases outside the United
    States, is another key site.  As the/Intercept/ reported
    <https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/04/17/ramstein/> earlier
    this year, it serves as “the high-tech heart of America’s drone
    program” for the Greater Middle East and Africa.  Germany is also
    host to AFRICOM’s headquarters, located at Kelley Barracks in
    Stuttgart-Moehringen, itself a site reportedly integral
    to drone operations in Africa.

    In addition to hosting a contingent of the Marines and sailors of
    Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa,
    Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily, Italy, is another important
    facility for African operations.  The second-busiest
    <https://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09NAPLES69_a.html> military
    air station in Europe, Sigonella is a key hub for drones covering
    Africa, serving as a base
    for MQ-1 Predators
    and RQ-4B Global Hawk
    surveillance drones

    *The Crown Jewels*

    Back on the continent, the undisputed crown jewel in the U.S.
    archipelago of bases is indeed still Camp Lemonnier.  To quote
    Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, it is “a hub with lots of spokes
    out there on the continent and in the region.”  Sharing a runway
    with Djibouti's Ambouli
    International Airport, the sprawling compound is the headquarters of
    Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and is home
    to the East Africa Response Force, another regional quick-reaction
    unit.  The camp, which also serves as the forward headquarters for
    Task Force 48-4
    a hush-hush counterterrorism unit targeting militants in East Africa
    and Yemen, has seen personnel stationed there jump by more than 400%
    since 2002

    In the same period, Camp Lemonnier has expanded
    from 88 acres to nearly 600 acres and is in the midst of a
    years-long building boom
    for which more than $600 million has already been awarded or
    allocated.** In late 2013, for example, B.L. Harbert International,
    an Alabama-based construction company, was awarded
    a $150 million contract by the Navy for “the P-688 Forward Operating
    Base at Camp Lemonnier.” According to a corporate press release,
    “the site is approximately 20 acres in size, and will contain 11
    primary structures and ancillary facilities required to support
    current and emerging operational missions throughout the region.”

    In 2014, the Navy completed
    construction of a $750,000 secure facility for Special Operations
    Command Forward-East Africa (SOCFWD-EA).  It is one of three similar
    teams on the continent -- the others being SOCFWD-Central Africa
    and SOCFWD-North and West Africa -- which, according
    to the military, “shape and coordinate special operations forces
    security cooperation and engagement in support of theater special
    operations command, geographic combatant command, and country team
    goals and objectives.”

    In 2012, according to secret documents recently revealed
    <https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/target-africa/> by
    the/Intercept/, 10 Predator drones and four Reaper drones were based
    <https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/target-africa/> at Camp
    Lemonnier, along with six U-28As
    (a single-engine aircraft that conducts surveillance for special
    operations forces) and two P-3 Orions
    <http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/p3.html> (a four-engine
    turboprop surveillance aircraft). There were also eight F-15E Strike
    Eagles, heavily armed, manned fighter jets. By August 2012, an
    average of 16 drones and four fighters were taking off
    or landing at the base each day.

    The next year, in the wake of a number of drone crashes and turmoil
    involving Djiboutian air traffic controllers, drone operations were
    moved to a more remote site located about six miles away. 
    Djibouti’s Chabelley Airfield
    which has seen significant construction of late and has a much lower
    profile than Camp Lemonnier, now serves as a key base for America’s
    regional drone campaign.  Dan Gettinger, the co-founder and
    co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard
    College, recently told
    the/Intercept/ that the operations run from the site were “JSOC
    [Joint Special Operations Command] and CIA-led missions for the most
    part,” explaining that they were likely focused on counterterrorism
    strikes in Somalia and Yemen, intelligence, surveillance, and
    reconnaissance activities, as well as support for the Saudi-led air
    campaign in Yemen.

    *A Scarier Future*

    Over many months, AFRICOM repeatedly ignored even basic questions
    from this reporter about America’s sweeping archipelago of bases. 
    In practical terms, that means there is no way to know with complete
    certainty how many of the more than 60 bases, bunkers, outposts, and
    areas of access are currently being used by U.S. forces or how many
    additional sites may exist.  What does seem clear is that the number
    of bases and other sites, however defined, is increasing, mirroring
    the rise <http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175574/> in the number
    <https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/target-africa/> of U.S.
    troops, special operations deployments
    and missions
    in Africa.

    “There’s going to be a network of small bases with maybe a couple of
    medium-altitude, long-endurance drones at each one, so that anywhere
    on the continent is always within range,” says the Oxford Research
    Group's Richard Reeve when I ask him for a forecast of the future. 
    In many ways, he notes, this has already begun everywhere but in
    southern Africa, not currently seen by the U.S. military as a
    high-risk area.

    The Obama administration, Reeve explains, has made use of
    humanitarian rhetoric as a cover for expansion on the continent. He
    points in particular to the deployment of forces against the Lord’s
    Resistance Army in Central Africa, the build-up of forces near Lake
    Chad in the effort against Boko Haram, and the post-Benghazi New
    concept as examples.  “But, in practice, what is all of this going
    to be used for?” he wonders.  After all, the enhanced infrastructure
    and increased capabilities that today may be viewed by the White
    House as an insurance policy against another Benghazi can easily be
    repurposed in the future for different types of military interventions.

    “Where does this go post-Obama?” Reeve asks rhetorically, noting
    that the rise of AFRICOM and the proliferation of small outposts
    have been “in line with the Obama doctrine.”  He draws attention to
    the president’s embrace of a lighter-footprint brand of warfare,
    specifically a reliance on Special Operations forces and drones. 
    This may, Reeve adds, just be a prelude to something larger and
    potentially more dangerous.

    “Where would Hillary take this?” he asks, referencing the hawkish
    Democratic primary frontrunner
    Hillary Clinton.  “Or any of the Republican potentials?”  He points
    to the George W. Bush administration as an example and raises the
    question of what it might have done back in the early 2000s if
    AFRICOM’s infrastructure had already been in place. Such a thought
    experiment, he suggests, could offer clues to what the future might
    hold now that the continent is dotted with American outposts, drone
    bases, and compounds for elite teams of Special Operations forces.
      “I think,” Reeve says, “that we could be looking at something a
    bit scarier in Africa.”

    /Nick Turse is the managing editor of /TomDispatch/and a fellow at
    the //Nation Institute/
    <http://www.nationinstitute.org/fellows/2904/nick_turse/>/. A 2014
    Izzy Award and //American Book Award/
    for his book /Kill Anything That Moves/, his pieces have appeared in
    the /New York Times
    the /Intercept
    <https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/target-africa/>/, the /Los
    Angeles Times/, the /Nation/, and regularly at /TomDispatch
    His latest book is /Tomorrow's Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and
    Secret Ops in Africa

    /Follow /TomDispatch/on Twitter <https://twitter.com/TomDispatch>
    and join us on Facebook <http://www.facebook.com/tomdispatch>. Check
    out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s /Tomorrow’s Battlefield:
    U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa
    <http://www.amazon.com/dp/1608464636/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20>/, and
    Tom Engelhardt's latest book, /Shadow Government: Surveillance,
    Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower

    Copyright 2015 Nick Turse

          © 2015 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.
          View this story online at: http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176070/

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863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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