[News] The rise of NATO in Africa

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Mon May 30 09:47:17 EDT 2022

The rise of NATO in Africa
May 29, 2022 <https://www.struggle-la-lucha.org/2022/05/> - Vijay Prashad

Anxiety about the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) toward the Russian border is one of the causes of the current war in
Ukraine. But this is not the only attempt at expansion
NATO, a treaty organization created in 1949 by the United States to project
its military and political power over Europe. In 2001, NATO conducted an
“out of area” military operation in Afghanistan, which lasted 20 years, and
in 2011, NATO—at the urging
and overthrew its government. NATO military operations in Afghanistan and
Libya were the prelude to discussions
<https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2006-09-01/global-nato> of a
“Global NATO,” a project to use the NATO military alliance beyond its own
charter obligations from the South China Sea to the Caribbean Sea.

NATO’s war in Libya was its first major military operation in Africa, but
it was not the first European military footprint on the continent. After
centuries of European colonial wars in Africa, new states emerged in the
aftermath of World War II to assert their sovereignty. Many of these
states—from Ghana to Tanzania—refused to allow the European military forces
to reenter the continent, which is why these European powers had to resort
to assassinations
 and military coups
anoint pro-Western governments in the region. This allowed for the creation
of Western military bases in Africa and gave Western firms freedom to
exploit the continent’s natural resources.

Early NATO operations stayed at the edge of Africa, with the Mediterranean
Sea being the major frontline. NATO set up the Allied Forces Southern Europe
<https://jfcnaples.nato.int/page6322744/3-the-birth-of-afsouth-> (AFSOUTH)
in Naples in 1951, and then the Allied Forces Mediterranean
<https://jfcnaples.nato.int/page6322744/brief-overview> (AFMED) in Malta in
1952. Western governments established these military formations to garrison
the Mediterranean Sea against the Soviet navy and to create platforms from
where they could militarily intervene in the African continent. After the
Six-Day War in 1967, NATO’s Defense Planning Committee, which was dissolved
in 2010, created the Naval On-Call Force Mediterranean
to put pressure on pro-Soviet states—such as Egypt—and to defend the
monarchies of northern Africa (NATO was unable to prevent the
anti-imperialist coup of 1969 that overthrew the monarchy in Libya and
brought Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to power; Gaddafi’s government ejected
<https://www.akpress.org/arabspringlibyanwinter.html> U.S. military bases
from the country soon thereafter).

Conversations at NATO headquarters about “out of area” operations took
place with increasing frequency after NATO joined the U.S. war on
Afghanistan. A senior official at NATO told me in 2003 that the United
States had “developed an appetite to use NATO” in its attempt to project
power against possible adversaries. Two years later, in 2005, in Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia, NATO began to cooperate
with the African Union (AU). The AU, which was formed in 2002, and was the “
successor <https://au.int/en/overview>” to the Organization of African
Unity, struggled to build an independent security structure. The lack of a
viable military force meant that the AU often turned to the West for
assistance, and asked NATO to help with logistics and airlift support
<https://www.nato.int/cps/uk/natohq/topics_49194.htm?selectedLocale=ru> for
its peacekeeping mission in Sudan.

Alongside NATO, the U.S. operated its military capacity through the United
States European Command (EUCOM), which oversaw
<https://www.eucom.mil/about/history> the country’s operations in Africa
from 1952 to 2007. Thereafter, General James Jones, head of EUCOM from 2003
to 2006, formed
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2008, which was headquartered
Stuttgart, Germany, because none of the 54 African nations were willing to
give it a home. NATO began to operate on the African continent through

*Libya and NATO’s Framework for Africa*

NATO’s war on Libya changed the dynamics of the relationship between the
African countries and the West. The African Union was wary of Western
military intervention in the region. On 10 March, 2011, the AU’s Peace and
Security Council set up the High-Level ad hoc Committee on Libya
The members of this committee included then-AU Chairperson Dr. Jean Ping
and the heads of state of five African nations—former President of
Mauritania Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Republic of Congo’s President Denis
Sassou Nguesso, Mali’s former President Amadou Toumani Touré, former
President of South Africa Jacob Zuma and Uganda’s President Yoweri
Museveni—who were supposed to fly into Tripoli, Libya, and negotiate
between the two sides of the Libyan civil war soon after the committee’s
formation. The United Nations Security Council, however, prevented
<https://allafrica.com/stories/201103210001.html> this mission from
entering the country.

At a meeting between the High-Level ad hoc Committee on Libya and the
United Nations in June 2011, Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the
United Nations during that time, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, said
“It is unwise for certain players to be intoxicated with technological
superiority and begin to think they alone can alter the course of human
history toward freedom for the whole of mankind. Certainly, no
constellation of states should think that they can recreate hegemony over
Africa.” But this is precisely what the NATO states began to imagine.

Chaos in Libya set in motion a series of catastrophic conflicts
Mali, southern Algeria and parts of Niger. The French military intervention
in Mali in 2013 was followed by the creation
the G5 Sahel, a political platform of the five Sahel states—Burkina Faso,
Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger—and a military alliance between them. In
May 2014, NATO opened <https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_109824.htm> a
liaison office at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. At NATO’s Wales
Summit in September 2014, the alliance partners considered the problems in
the Sahel that entered the alliance’s Readiness Action Plan
<https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_119353.htm>, which served as
“[the] driver of NATO’s military adaptation to the changed and evolving
security environment.” In December 2014, NATO foreign ministers reviewed
the plan’s implementation, and focused
the “threats emanating from our southern neighborhood, the Middle East, and
North Africa” and established a framework to meet the threats and
challenges being faced by the South, according to a report
the former President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Michael R. Turner.
Two years later, at NATO’s Warsaw Summit in 2016, NATO leaders decided to
increase their cooperation with the African Union. They “[welcomed
<https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_133169.htm>] the robust
military commitment of Allies in the Sahel-Sahara region.” To deepen this
commitment <https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_8191.htm>, NATO set
up an African Standby Force and began the process of training officers in
African military forces.

Meanwhile, the recent decision to eject
French military is rooted in a general sensibility growing in the continent
against Western military aggression. No wonder then that many of the larger
African countries refused to follow Washington’s position on the war on
Ukraine, with half the countries either abstaining
voting against the UN resolution to condemn Russia (this includes countries
such as Algeria, South Africa, Angola and Ethiopia). It is telling that
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said
his country “is committed to advancing the human rights and fundamental
freedoms not only of our own people but for the peoples of Palestine,
Western Sahara, Afghanistan, Syria and across Africa and the world.”

The ignominy of Western—and NATO’s—follies, including arms deals
Morocco to deliver Western Sahara to the kingdom and diplomatic backing for
Israel as it continues its apartheid
of Palestinians, bring into sharp contrast Western outrage at the events
taking place in Ukraine. Evidence of this hypocrisy serves as a warning
while reading the benevolent language used by the West when it comes to
NATO’s expansion into Africa.

*This article was produced by Globetrotter <https://globetrotter.media/>.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a
writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor
of LeftWord Books <https://mayday.leftword.com/> and the director
of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research
<https://thetricontinental.org/>. He is a senior non-resident fellow
at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies
<https://tinyurl.com/y2hdjcpo>, Renmin University of China. He has written
more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations
and The
Poorer Nations
His latest book is Washington Bullets
<https://mayday.leftword.com/catalog/product/view/id/21820>, with an
introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.*
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