What U.S. Africa Command Doesn’t Want You to Know

Yves here. It might be easy to dismiss the run-around Nick Turse has gotten in trying to obtain basic information about the US military presence in Africa, namely the number of bases, as a dog bites man story. But that reaction indicated the degree to which we’ve become inured to official misconduct, and yes, patently incomplete responses to FOIAs is misconduct. But it now seem the attitude of big entities, be they private or government, is “So sue me.”

Another aspect, which Turse does not dwell on, is the fact that the US clearly has beefed up in Africa while pretending not to, stands in noteworthy contrast to how the Chinese have gained influence there. The Chinese have engaged in direct investing and have made loans in a series of areas. From Foreign Policy Research Institute report found (pub date 2022 but based on data only through 2018):

We analyze the effects of FDI investments and loans from China on the change in political alignment. We find that FDI investment from China is positively related to an African country’s change in political alignment with China. Specifically, between 2001 and 2012, every $1 billion investment resulted in approximately an 8% increase in the average political alignment with China….Our data reveals that economic engagement achieves greater alignment post-2008.

Lastly, loans from China are also positively related to an African country’s change in political alignment with China…Our data reveals that, post-2008, economic investment via loans achieved slightly less political alignment.

The finding that FDI and loans from China to Sub-Saharan Africa increased their political alignment with China does not necessarily mean they are less aligned with the U.S. This finding could simply reflect greater global alignment on non-controversial issues. As such, we also examined how Chinese FDI investments impacted alignment between African countries and the U.S. We find that FDI investment from China reduces African countries’ political alignment with the U.S. Specifically, between 2008 and 2012, every $1 billion investment resulted in an approximate 1.3% decrease in average political alignment with the U.S.

But the US prefers sticks, or in this case guns, to carrots.

By Nick Turse. Originally published at TomDispatch

What’s the U.S. military doing in Africa? It’s an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, straight-jacketed in secrecy, and hogtied by red tape. Or at least it would be if it were up to the Pentagon.

Ten years ago, I embarked on a quest to answer that question at TomDispatch, chronicling a growing American military presence on that continent, a build-up of both logistical capabilities and outposts, and the possibility that far more was occurring out of sight. “Keep your eye on Africa,” I concluded. “The U.S. military is going to make news there for years to come.”

I knew I had a story when U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) failed to answer basic questions honestly. And the command’s reaction to the article told me that I also had a new beat.

Not long after publication, AFRICOM wrote a letter of complaint to my editor, Tom Engelhardt, attempting to discredit my investigation. (I responded point by point in a follow-up piece.) The command claimed the U.S. was doing little on that continent, had one measly base there, and was transparent about its operations. “I would encourage you and those who have interest in what we do to review our Website, www.AFRICOM.mil, and a new Defense Department Special Web Report on U.S. Africa Command at this link http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2012/0712_AFRICOM/,” wrote its director of public affairs Colonel Tom Davis.

A decade later, the link is dead; Davis is a functionary at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona; and I’m still keeping an eye on AFRICOM.

A few months ago, in fact, I revealed the existence of a previously unknown AFRICOM investigation of an airstrike in Nigeria that killed more than 160 civilians. A formerly secret 2017 Africa Command document I obtained called for an inquiry into that “U.S.-Nigerian” operation that was never disclosed to Congress, much less the public.

Since then, AFRICOM has steadfastly refused to offer a substantive comment on the strike or the investigation that followed and won’t even say if it will release relevant documents to members of Congress. Last month, citing my reporting, a group of lawmakers from the newly formed Protection of Civilians in Conflict Caucus called on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to turn over the files on, and answer key questions about, the attack. The Pentagon has so far kept mum.

Has AFRICOM then, as Davis contended so long ago, been transparent? Is its website the go-to spot for information about U.S. military missions on that continent? Did its operations there remain few and innocuous? Or was I onto something?

A Kinder, Gentler Combatant Command

From its inception, according to its first commander, General William Ward, AFRICOM was intended “to be a different kind of command”: less hardcore, more Peace Corps. “AFRICOM’s focus is on war prevention,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Theresa Whelan said in 2007, “rather than warfighting.”

In 2012, Ward’s successor, General Carter Ham, told the House Armed Services Committee that “small teams” of American personnel were conducting “a wide range of engagements in support of U.S. security interests.” Years later, retired Army Brigadier General Don Bolduc, who served at AFRICOM from 2013 to 2015 and headed Special Operations Command Africa until 2017, would offer some clarity about those “engagements.” Between 2013 and 2017, he explained, American commandos saw combat in at least 13 African countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, and Tunisia. U.S. troops, he added, were killed or wounded in action in at least six of them.

Between 2015 and 2017, there were at least 10 unreported attacks on American troops in West Africa alone. A month after that January 2017 Nigerian air strike, in fact, U.S. Marines fought al-Qaeda militants in a battle that AFRICOM still won’t admit took place in Tunisia. That April, a U.S. commando reportedly killed a member of warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in the Central African Republic. The next month, during an advise, assist, and accompany mission, 38-year-old Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken was killed and two other Americans were wounded in a raid on a militant camp in Somalia. That same year, a Navy SEAL reportedly shot and killed a man outside a compound flying an Islamic State (ISIS) flag in Cameroon. And that October, AFRICOM was finally forced to abandon the fiction that U.S. troops weren’t at war on the continent after ISIS militants ambushed American troops in Niger, killing four and wounding two more. “We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world, militarily, and what we’re doing,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, then a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, after meeting with Pentagon officials about the attack.

In the 2010s, I would, in fact, help reveal that the U.S. had conducted at least 36 named operations and activities in Africa — more than anywhere else on earth, including the Middle East. Among them were eight 127e programs, named for the budgetary authority that allows Special Operations forces to use foreign military units as surrogates in counterterrorism missions. More recently, I would report on 11 of those proxy programs employed in Africa, including one in Tunisia, code-named Obsidian Tower and never acknowledged by the Pentagon, and another with a notoriously abusive Cameroonian military unit connected to mass atrocities.

Five of those 127e programs were conducted in Somalia by U.S. commandos training, equipping, and directing troops from Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda as part of the fight against the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab. In 2018, 26-year-old Alex Conrad of the Army’s Special Forces was killed in an attack on a small U.S. military outpost in Somalia.

Such outposts have long been a point of contention between AFRICOM and me. “The U.S. maintains a surprising number of bases in Africa,” I wrote in that initial TomDispatch article in July 2012. Colonel Davis denied it. “Other than our base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti,” he claimed, “we do not have military bases in Africa.” I had, he insisted, filed that article before AFRICOM could get me further outpost material. “If he had waited, we would have provided the information requested, which could have better informed his story.”

I had begun requesting information that May, called in additional questions in June and July, and then (as requested) put them in writing. I followed up on the 9th, mentioning my looming deadline and was told that AFRICOM headquarters might have some answers for me on the 10th. That day came and went, as did the 11th. TomDispatch finally published the piece on July 12th. “I respectfully submit that a vigorous free press cannot be held hostage, waiting for information that might never arrive,” I wrote Davis.

When I later followed up, Davis turned out to be on leave, but AFRICOM spokesperson Eric Elliott emailed in August to say: “Let me see what I can give you in response to your request for a complete list of facilities.”

Then, for weeks, AFRICOM went dark. A follow-up email in late October went unanswered. Another in early November elicited a response from spokesperson Dave Hecht, who said that he was handling the request and would provide an update by week’s end. I’m sure you won’t be shocked to learn that he didn’t. So, I followed up yet again. On November 16th, he finally responded: “All questions now have answers. I just need the boss to review before I can release. I hope to have them to you by mid next week.” Did I get them? What do you think?

In December, Hecht finally replied: “All questions have been answered but are still being reviewed for release. Hopefully this week I can send everything your way.” Did he? Hah!

In January 2013, I received answers to some questions of mine, but nothing about those bases. By then, Hecht, too, had disappeared and I was left dealing with AFRICOM’s Chief of Media Engagement, Benjamin Benson. When asked about my questions, he replied that public affairs couldn’t provide answers and I should instead file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

To recap, six months later, Benson recommended I start again. And in good faith, I did. In 2016, three and a half years later, I finally received a partial response to that FOIA request: one page of partially redacted — not to mention useless — information about (yep!) Camp Lemonnier and nothing else.

I would spend years investigating the bases Davis claimed didn’t exist. Using leaked secret documents, I shed light on a network of African drone bases integral to U.S. assassination programs on the continent as well as the existence of a secret network of National Security Agency eavesdropping outposts in Ethiopia. Using formerly secret documents, I revealed an even larger network of U.S. bases across Africa, again and again. I used little-noticed open-source information to highlight activities at those facilities, while helping expose murder and torture by local forces at a drone base in Cameroon built-up and frequented by Americans. I also spotlighted the construction of a $100 million drone base in Niger; a previously unreported outpost in Mali apparently overrun by militants after a 2012 coup there by a U.S.-trained officer; the expansion of a shadowy drone base in the Horn of Africa and its role in lethal strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; hundreds of drone strikes from Libya to Somalia and the resulting civilian casualties; and the flailing, failing U.S. war on terror all across Africa.

Not surprisingly, AFRICOM’s website never had much to say about such reporting, nor could you go there to find articles like:

“The AFRICOM Files: Pentagon Undercounts and Ignores Military Sexual Assault in Africa”

“Pentagon Document Shows U.S. Knew of ‘Credible’ Reports of Civilian Casualties After Its Attacks in Somalia”

“New Data Shows the U.S. Military Is Severely Undercounting Civilian Casualties in Somalia”

Pentagon Stands by Cameroon — Despite Forensic Analysis Showing Its Soldiers Executed Women and Children”

U.S. Troops in Africa Might be in Danger. Why Is the Military Trying to Hide It?

You Know You’re on Target When You’re Getting a Lot of Flak(s)

In the years since, a parade of AFRICOM press officials came and went, replying in a by-then-familiar fashion. “Nick, we’re not going to respond to any of your questions,” Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo, head of its public affairs branch, told me in October 2017. Did he, I asked, believe AFRICOM needn’t address questions from the press in general or only from me. “No, just you,” he replied. “We don’t consider you a legitimate journalist, really.” Then he hung up.

That same month, I was inadvertently ushered behind the closed doors of the AFRICOM public affairs office. While attempting to hang up on me, a member of the staff accidentally put me on speakerphone and suddenly I found myself listening in to the goings on, from banal banter to shrieking outbursts. And, believe me, it wasn’t pretty. While the command regularly claimed its personnel had the utmost respect for their local counterparts, I discovered, for example, that at least certain press officers appeared to have a remarkably low opinion of some of their African partners. At one point, Falvo asked if there was any “new intelligence” regarding military operations in Niger after the 2017 ambush that killed those four American soldiers. “You can’t put Nigeriens and intelligence in the same sentence,” replied someone in the office. Laughter followed and I published the sordid details. That very month, Anthony Falvo shipped off (literally ending up in the public affairs office of the USS Gerald Ford).

Today, a new coterie of AFRICOM public affairs personnel field questions, but Falvo’s successor, Deputy Director of Public Affairs John Manley, a genuine professional, seems to be on call whenever my questions are especially problematic. He swears this isn’t true, but I’m sure you won’t be shocked to learn that he fielded my queries for this article.

After Col. Tom Davis — who left AFRICOM to join Special Operations Command (where, in a private email, he called me a “turkey”) — failed to respond to my interview requests, I asked AFRICOM if his defer-and-deny system was the best way to inform the American public. “We are not going to comment on processes and procedures in place a decade ago or provide opinions on personnel who worked in the office at that time,” said Manley.

“Our responsibility is to provide timely, accurate, and transparent responses to queries received from all members of the media,” Manley told me. Yes, me, the reporter who’s been waiting since 2012 for answers about those U.S. bases. And by AFRICOM standards, maybe that’s not really so long, given its endless failures in quelling terrorism and promoting stability in places like Burkina Faso, Libya, and Somalia.

Still, I give Manley a lot of credit. He isn’t thin-skinned or afraid to talk and he does offer answers, although sometimes they seem so far-fetched that I can’t believe he uttered them with a straight face. Though he agreed to discuss his replies further, I doubted that badgering him would get either of us anywhere, so I’ll just let his last one stand as a digital monument to my 10-year relationship with AFRICOM. When I asked if the public affairs office had always been as forthcoming, forthright, and helpful with my queries as possible, he unleashed the perfect capstone to my decade-long dance with U.S. Africa Command by offering up just one lone word: “Yes.”

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  1. Altandmain

    Africa as a continent has become another proxy war for the US to wage against its geopolitical rivals.

    That’s a terrible tragedy for those who are in the middle of the crossfire. Based on what Nick Turse has said, it seems AFRICOM has a lot of secrets they don’t want scrutiny on that could expose the US in a very bad light.

    The irony of this situation is that the US is accelerating its own decline. Rather than make a legitimate investment to try to help the African nations improve their living standards, the US has become hell bent on trying to maintain its hegemony.

    This will only end with growing resentment towards the US government and eventually calls to leave.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Looks like Dark Africa is going to remain precisely that. About twenty years ago – not long after 9/11 – there were articles appearing saying that the US lacked bases in Africa and it was a matter of seeing which would be the first nations to give in. And here we are twenty years later and they have spread all over the place. And who can say how many there really are there? The problem for African nations is what the US offers them. Typically it is bases, weapons, training and especially training for young African officers. But it cannot have escaped the notice of those African nations that more than a few of the coups launched in Africa the past few years have been led by those very same officers that have received US training. Talk about a poisoned chalice. At least the Chinese are actually offering infrastructure and integration into international trade routes that actually help those countries.

    1. Thuto

      I’m currently back home in Mahikeng visiting my mother. Our smallish town is about 45 minutes from the border with Botswana, and if I were a “target for elimination” for the US a drone could take off from the US base across the border and drop a precision strike on our house in less than an hour. Why does the US need a base in Botswana you ask? Well, perhaps we should turn to the venerable Elon Musk for the answer, who quipped “we can coup whoever we want, deal with it” when asked if the US sponsored Bolivian coup in 2019 was all so he could get access to that country’s vast lithium deposits.

      The US views influence on our continent through a zero-sum lens, she and she alone should set the geopolitical agenda for African countries and act as a singular clearing house for our foreign relations policies. All of this investment into a network of bases whose main purpose is to maintain operational readiness to rapidly execute subversive acts is to protect “American interests” we are told, yet these interests are notoriously nebulous (I recently read a quote from Marco Rubio where he said Gustavo Petro’s win in Colombia “is a threat to American lives”, so while I can’t quite figure out what these interests are, I know they exist at the junction where exasperation meets entitlement). Those wishing a tide of transparency could wash away the secrecy hovering over US activities in Africa will continue meeting with resistance and silence even as the US triples down on funding infrastructure to shore up its interventionist foreign policy in Africa. However, the “world is undergoing radical, transformational and irreversible changes” as Putin said in one of his speeches, and as such the a la carte menu for great power geopolitical partners now has other options that are potentially more appetizing, and we’ve wizened to the ruse of occupying forces presenting themselves as guarantors of peace and security, so the US will find it increasingly difficult to find African leaders willing to consort with her under her terms.

      1. Polar Socialist

        the US will find it increasingly difficult to find African leaders willing to consort with her under her terms

        That’s why it’s handy to have a branch of islamists or a group of separatists pop up, thus making it possible for USA to ask for a “temporary” base, bomb country side creating a proper insurgency and then help train local special forces that eventually takes over the government complete surprising the local CIA desk…

        Excuse my cynicism. It’s just one of those days.

        1. Thuto

          Ahh, the well-worn “arsonist suddenly appearing as the fireman” tactic. Your cynicism is understandable Polar Socialist, after all the US does have a stellar track record of running a security racket using precisely such tactics. But such tactics only work when America has an untrammeled hand to wield its subversive influence, and that’s no longer the case, hence the constant demonization of, and scare mongering around, China and Russia as potential partners for African countries. These countries threaten “US interests” precisely because they will likely act as a bulwark against the totalitarian inclinations of US foreign policy vis a vis Africa through the simple act of providing us with the option of aligning with a different partner/s should we so choose. On the issue of security, Russia has an actual track record of breaking the back of terrorism in the Caucasus, can the US boast of something similar? Like I said, we’ve wizened up to the ruse of the “train and assist” trojan horses used to infiltrate our countries and are charting a path forward towards the coming multipolar world. A harbinger of things to come was when I sat and listened to our international relations minister give Anthony Blinken a stern rebuke when he tried to wag a moralistic finger at South Africa for its neutral stance on Ukraine during his recent visit. No fawning deference, just a fact-based reminder to the bewildered Blinken of America’s less than stellar record on resolving issues faced by the continent. Since then other instances of African countries taking a firm and resolute stand on these and other issues in the face of western pressure have driven the point home that Africa is mustering the strength to emerge from underneath the boot Uncle Sam has had planted on our neck for the longest time. It won’t be easy of course, the hegemon will not give up without a fight but the toothpaste is out of the tube on this one and there’s no going back to the previous status quo.

          1. John Zelnicker

            Thuto – I don’t usually follow the happenings in Africa other than your comments which are very enlightening, as was this post.

            The fact that African nations are charting their own path without capitulating to the US is good news. Power to the people!

          2. judy2shoes

            “A harbinger of things to come was when I sat and listened to our international relations minister give Anthony Blinken a stern rebuke when he tried to wag a moralistic finger at South Africa for its neutral stance on Ukraine during his recent visit. No fawning deference, just a fact-based reminder to the bewildered Blinken of America’s less than stellar record on resolving issues faced by the continent. Since then other instances of African countries taking a firm and resolute stand on these and other issues in the face of western pressure have driven the point home that Africa is mustering the strength to emerge from underneath the boot Uncle Sam has had planted on our neck for the longest time.”

            Thank you, Thuto, for your comment. It gives me hope that I may yet live to see the successful rise of the multipolar world and the downfall of the unipolar one. Power to the people, indeed!

      2. digi_owl

        It all seems to be a credit fueled ponzi scheme.

        Raw materials in Africa and south America, bought on credit, with access protected by USMC. Shipped to Asia, where factories, paid again via credit, turn those materials into “toys” for the north American and European markets. Where they are bought using household and personal credit/debt.

        And at every instance there is some “financial service” slurping a percentage via debt servicing.

        And those in turn are owned by the very people writing the laws and order the troops that enable it all.

        almost 400 years later, and all that had changed are the toys. The colonial era never ended, it just got new figureheads.

  3. Cocomaan

    Nick Turse is my journalistic hero. Sorry that you’ve been called a Turkey and told you’re not legitimate.

    This work is the kind that is unacknowledged for decades and suddenly becomes ultra important. Please keep it up!

  4. upstater

    3 years ago I was at the local Wegmans food court getting lunch. It is common to see local “national guard” troops (as in they supposedly report to a state’s governor) at lunch time eateries from the 174th Attack Wing (based at our local airport), home for a dozen MQ9 Reaper drones.

    What was unusual was seeing 2 French Army officers lining up for burgers. It seemed obvious that these guys must’ve been here to coordinate or learn drone use in the Sahel.

    I snapped a picture and sent it to the Syracuse.com national security reporter and suggested it might be a good story. Response was silence. So the wars continue and what we don’t know won’t hurt us, right?

    Since Ukraine went hot there are MANY more military aircraft in our skies. Sonic booms are common in the Adirondacks, helicopters fly 30 feet over Wilderness lakes at all hours. The MQ9s circle overhead for hours at a time, who knows if they’re painting my house or back with laser targets as practice?

  5. John Beech

    Our government acts on our behalf. They don’t act for the good of another country. They act for us. Us isn’t you and me, it’s the big guys who stand for us. Forget this at your own peril. Me? I’m fine with it. Lockheed-Martin? Jobs. General Foods? More jobs. Tesla, Ford, Dana, Johnson Controls, et al? It’s all about jobs. American jobs. For once in your life, slip off your rose colored Polyanna-glasses and look at the reality of life. Kroger serves it up. So does Exxon. American Airlines? They do too. And ain’t none of it happening without all of the above.

    Makes you afraid? Find it distasteful? Fine, put those blinders back on, curl up in the privacy of your internet connection, and wish you’d never looked – but – don’t ever forget there are men and women, your sons and daughters at the lowest level, your uncles and parents at higher levels, all 100% focused on looking out for you, and yours. They, AFRICOM, one of several commands, are who stand between us and that horrible reality of unimaginable poverty and barbary. They are facing down what’s ugly in the world by doing what’s in your interests as a citizens of the USA.

    Don’t like it? Sell your stuff and move to some nation in Africa. Nigeria, for example, where they’ll pluck your carcass clean and leave it naked by the side of the road before you make it to your safe American-type hotel. After all, Blue Lives Matter, right? Cash bail is bad, right? You actually want the animals living in your midst? Me? I don’t. And I vote accordingly. And in a few weeks you get a chance to vote, also. Choose wisely.

    Or is it you’re too stupid to understand why people sacrifice everything to come here? Or why it is they shove their babies into the hands of soldiers for a f-ing chance at being an American? You have it all and don’t have anything because you’ve lost your minds and think we’re the bad guys. Good grief!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Your view of the US is dated.

      Anyone who comes to America now is signing up for Russia 1990s style oligarch looting. We are on track for rapid declines in living standards and lifespans for ordinary people. I hear from people in Japan and Malaysia that scientists are leaving because they can’t stand how they are abused for wearing masks. Chinese students and scientists are leaving due to discrimination. The reason people from Central America want to come here is that we created failed states there.

      People who go abroad, even to middle-ish income countries, are shocked at the poor state of our infrastructure and the homelessness. Health care is better in Bangkok than NYC.

      I am leaving despite the difficultly.

      And we are the bad guy. We’ve destroyed nations for fun and profit. I am ashamed to be an American.

    2. The Rev Kev

      ‘They, AFRICOM, one of several commands, are who stand between us and that horrible reality of unimaginable poverty and barbary.’

      I somehow don’t think that any African nation is going to invade the US to inflict poverty and barabry on the people there. Americans already have the US government for that. US forces aren’t there to protect Americans. They are there to steal their resources. The most blatant example – though not in Africa – is where the US has set up shop in Syria so that they can steal convoy-loads of oil from Syria as well as the wheat from the Syrian wheat-belt so that the rest of Syria can never rebuild or even feed their children-


      Imagine being one of those US soldiers in ten years time when their kids ask them ‘What did you do in the war, daddy?’

      1. digi_owl

        Given that 4 airplanes into buildings were enough to bomb and subjugate two nations for 20+ years, an invasion would hardly be needed for marines to be raining from the skies somewhere.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I don’t remember exactly when I came around to this view, but Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya were largely motivated because “we could” and would face limited repercussions. Remember the calls for a no-fly zone in Ukraine from all over the western msm that have largely disappeared except for a handful of real crazies.

          A potential Ukrainian win can only come three ways:
          -gross Russian incompetence.
          -political instability in Russia
          -a massive airpower push by basically pulling every plane we have to deny Russian air superiority and requiring the Russians to not notice that kind of movement.

          I’m not sure what kind of thought went into the Kiev plan to crush the separatists, but I suspect Western backers believed a no-fly zone could simply materialize as easily as it could in Libya. When they couldn’t this, they started stealing even from private individuals. They are going to show how tough they are.

          I’m 100% convinced Zelensky was promised air power at that Munich (it was Munich) conference. The US is very much like Biden. In a sense, he’s the perfect President. He rambles incoherently loudly and sniffs the hair of people he thinks he can get away with it.

          1. digi_owl

            Now you got me wondering why Russian performance in Syria didn’t get the blob to rethink their plans for Ukraine. Was they so in the red that they needed Ukraine as a hail Mary in order to stay afloat, no matter the risk?

    3. Thuto

      Which state department press release are you reading from? I’m sorry but your comment is a spluttering denial of reality and a middling defense of US hegemony rolled into one. You’re not seriously invoking the “serving your interests as a US citizen” fig leaf to remind ingrates of the sacrifices that American “sons and daughters, uncles and parents” make to “look out” for them and to justify the horrors visited upon the world’s people by American foreign policy are you? The quasi-religious, extremist view that America’s manifest destiny is to dominate the rest of the world has plunged humanity into crisis more than once, and it’s doing so currently and the best response you can come up with is chastising people who are actually calling out the excesses of empire, c’mon.

      As regards your views on Africa, well, I tried to hone in on the signal but all I found was noise.

      1. Late Introvert

        Don’t mind him, he’s a spoiled white guy without a clue, like most of his kind here in the USA. I know the type very well, just like my late brother.

    4. gabon 45

      “They are facing down what’s ugly in the world by doing what’s in your interests as a citizens of the USA.”

      you have quite an imagination if you believe in the “interests of citizens of USA” – either silly or propaganda in the extreme. more like rape and pillage- starkly obvious in Syrian oilfields carting off their resources – going on everywhere with the likes of Hunter as well.

      sick rationalization for acceptance

    5. eg

      Why would anyone take seriously what you have to say about other places around the world when you clearly don’t even understand what is happening right inside your own country?

    6. Young

      You are too too stupid to understand why people sacrifice everything to come here?

      They are promised to receive free stuff when they get here, except freedom. They will become wage slaves for life, working for your favorite corporations.

      Good guys drone weddings, bad guys fly airplanes into the buildings.

      But, don’t worry, your 401k is safe in the hands of Powell and Biden. Enjoy while you can.

  6. David

    “I knew I had a story.” Yes, the conclusions are obvious. Now let me find something to support them.
    There’s a whole much larger picture here, which Turse really need to research before this story. It’s a pity, because Turse wrote an excellent book on Vietnam where he really did know the background, and it showed.

    First things first, the US is up to a number of questionable things in Africa. Second things second, in all my experience on the continent, I’ve never found any great sympathy for the US or desire to have a US presence (witness the debacle of trying to find an African home for AFRICOM.)

    But there’s a lot of context here which Turse needs to catch up with. Very briefly, first, most African armies are too small, poorly trained, badly equipped and militarily incapable. Most of them spend almost all of their very limited budgets on manpower, and they have been under pressure from donors for decades to reduce even that. Many African rulers, fearing the military as an alternative power base, have kept them small and ineffective. Donors take the traditional Liberal attitude that militaries are expensive and dangerous, forgetting that their own countries were unified and made secure in the first place because governments managed to acquire and retain the monopoly of legitimate force. That’s not the case in most of Africa today.

    Second, western nations began to get tired of large, endless, expensive UN missions which lasted a decade or more (UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone, MONUC in the DRC) and often ended in failure. (The West paid most of the costs). Better, everybody decided, to have African troops properly trained in the first place. So beginning with a G7 initiative in, I think, 2005, various countries made pledges to provide such training. This takes various forms, and can involve funding other states from the Global South (eg the South Africans in Sierra Leone, the Ethiopians in South Sudan) and at various levels including Command and Staff training. The US has been involved in this to some extent, as have other western nations. The results can best be described as mixed. (For what it’s worth, US trainers have a generally poor reputation for insensitivity and arrogance.)

    Third, there’s some confusion about vocabulary here. An “Operation” doesn’t mean war, it’s simply a generic name for any organised activity by the military. The military presence at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral would have been an “Operation.” Three Americans training vehicle mechanics in Nigeria would be under an “Operation.” The other is the old chestnut “base.” As far as anyone can discover, the talk of hundreds (thousands?) of US “bases” around the world is a confusion with a list of places where even one US serviceman is deployed. This includes every Embassy in the world as well as international organisations, multinational HQs, students and exchange officers at Staff Colleges, exchange officers at technical institutions and lots of other things. (One example quoted in an NC story a couple of months ago was a transit desk at Accra airport.) African nations are not keen, in general, on US military “bases” in the conventional sense, and I don’t see this changing. The exception is places like the Sahel, where there are genuine (huge) security problems, and US has been providing capability to fight jihadists. (I wouldn’t be too starry-eyed about the Chinese either: for some years African states have had reservations about the commercial links, and of course the Chinese have been deploying troops to Africa for some time.)

    The problem with articles like this, with a whole bunch of unrelated facts thrown together and no background, is that, as well as presenting a frankly neocolonial picture of Africa as one entity, it gives the impression that AFRICOM’s activity and influence on the continent is much greater than it really is, and that the US, as a whole, has some kind of coherent policy which it doesn’t, any more than it has anywhere else.

  7. Synoia

    The US wants control of Africa’s minerals, without the cost of programs to help the Africans, and to deny China’s influence and on the continent.

    IMHO it is an extension of the the colonial era in Africa.

    Why does the pentagon hide this? Because it does not want to account for the cost of these neo colonial activities. Who in the US is on the take?

    1. digi_owl

      More like who isn’t.

      And it is not so gross as envelopes filled with notes.

      Nah, this is tit for tat favors and stock portfolio valuations.

      War is peak creative destruction, after all…

  8. Eureka Springs

    “We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world, militarily, and what we’re doing,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, then a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, after meeting with Pentagon officials about the attack.

    I remember a time when Senators and Representative accepting non answers to outright lies from anyone, but especially government employees or contractors would infuriate me. Any time, any place a gov. employee or contractor should be compelled as if always under oath to answer fully any question from a congress critter. As it gets worse, much worse, the less I care with one exception, that so many fellow American citizens ignore this at all our peril.

    In no other circumstance in life would I trust people to act in such secrecy with impunity, much less with all my money and weapons on “my behalf”.

  9. Big Tap

    By the way the Don Bolduc mentioned by Nick Turse is the same guy currently running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire against the current incumbent Maggie Hassan. He sure was active in Africa.

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