Why is the
US at War in West Africa?
- The October 4 killings of four US Green Berets in
Niger has provided a rare glimpse into the
far-reaching American military operations throughout
the African continent which have been conducted
almost entirely in secret.
officials on Friday told reporters that the ambush
was carried out by a self-radicalized group
supposedly affiliated with ISIS. The Pentagon
additionally admitted that at least 29 patrols
similar to the one that was fatally ambushed have
been carried out by American soldiers in Niger.
to AFRICOM, the US military command based in
Stuttgart, Germany, the US special forces deployed
to Niger are tasked with providing training,
logistics, and intelligence to assist the Nigerien
military in fighting militants affiliated with
Al-Qaeda in Mali and Boko Haram in neighboring
Nigeria. AFRICOM has officially stated that its
forces interact with the Nigerien army in a
“non-combat advisory” capacity.
circumstances surrounding the ambush which resulted
in the deaths of the four Green Berets expose
AFRICOM’s claim of non-engagement as a lie. The
killings occurred during a joint patrol of elite
American soldiers and Nigerien forces in a remote
hostile region on the border with Mali known for
frequent raids conducted by Islamist militants. Some
800 US commandos are deployed to bases in Niamey and
Agadez making quite clear the offensive role that
the American military is playing in Niger.
the incident is Niger’s configuration in
Washington’s imperialist offensive across Africa.
The expanding levels of US military forces arrayed
across the continent have increasingly taken on the
character of an occupying army. According to the
Pentagon, there are a total of 1,000 American troops
in the vicinity of the Chad River Basin which
includes northern Niger, Chad, and the Central
African Republic. An additional 300 troops are
stationed to the south in Cameroon.
establishment in 2008 as an independent command,
AFRICOM has significantly expanded American military
influence and troop deployments on the African
continent. Measuring the breadth of US military
expansion is the construction of a $100 million base
in Agadez in central Niger, from which the US Air
Force conducts regular surveillance drone flights
across the Sahel region.
the special forces contingent in the region are
military personnel stationed at several dozen bases
and outposts including a US base in Garoua,
operations units in Africa have their genesis in
1980, after the Pentagon created Special Operations
Command (SOCOM) to conduct a raid on the US embassy
in Tehran, Iran to rescue American hostages. Over
the years, SOCOM has vastly broadened its scope, and
currently has forces stationed on every continent
around the globe.
Made up of
various units of the US military, including Green
Berets, Delta Force, and Navy Seals, SOCOM carry out
a broad spectrum of offensive operations including
assassinations, counter-terrorism, reconnaissance,
psychological operations, and foreign troop
training. Under AFRICOM, these forces form a
subgroup of SOCOM designated as Special Operations
Command in Africa (SOCAFRICA).
2006 and 2010 the deployment of US special forces
troops in Africa increased 300 per cent. However,
from 2010 to 2017 the numbers of deployed troops
exploded by nearly 2000 per cent, occupying more
than 60 outposts tasked with carrying out over 100
missions at any given moment across the continent.
of the military expansion which began in earnest
under the Obama administration is part of a renewed
“scramble for Africa”, comprised of a reckless drive
for economic dominance over Africa’s vast economic
resources which threatens to transform the entire
continent into a battlefield.
immediate roots of the Niger ambush can be traced to
the 2011 US/NATO war in Libya which resulted in the
removal and assassination of Libya’s leader Muammar
Gaddafi. Under the Obama administration, Washington
cultivated and armed various Islamist militant
groups with ties to Al-Qaeda as a proxy force to
carry out its aim of regime change. The resulting
US/NATO bombardment left Libyan society in shambles,
and the Islamist fighters spilled forth and out
across North Africa and south to the Sahel.
In 2012, as
a consequence of a US and French backed coup against
the government in Bamako, Tuareg rebels in Northern
Mali took advantage of the chaos resulting from the
coup to stage a rebellion. After the Tuareg
militants began taking control over cities and
territory as it cut deeper into southern Mali,
France with the Obama administrations backing
deployed 4,000 troops to the country to neutralize
the Tuareg rebels, eventually stabilizing the
government it placed in Bamako.
Tuareg rebellion may have been halted by the
US-backed French offensive, Islamist fighters from
Libya were pouring into Mali, with many taking up
arms against the Western backed puppet government.
The Islamist fighters largely united into one large
group, declaring allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the
Maghreb (AQIM). The military forces of Niger and
Chad which participated in the US/French
intervention in Mali have become frequent targets by
the Islamist militants who began conducting
cross-border raids and launched attacks on patrols
The rise of
these warring Islamist militias which have
transformed West Africa into a battlefield is the
end result of Washington’s decades-long strategy in
cultivating these forces as a proxy army in its wars
for regime change, at first, in the Middle East and
Afghanistan, and subsequently in Africa.
Underscoring France’s military deployment are the
French economic interests it seeks to protect not
only Mali, but throughout West Africa, the region
which was once part of its colonial empire. In
Niger, the French energy giant Arven has established
mining operations extracting the country’s rich
part, Washington has enlisted the participation of
the military forces of Burkina Faso, Cameroon,
Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Mali in its drive for
dominance of the Sahel and West Africa, with all of
these countries featuring US outposts or bases.
element of Washington’s military expansion in the
region are the significant economic resources that
it aims to secure for American corporate interests.
On behalf of these interests, and complimentary to
its military operation, Washington has constructed a
$300 million embassy in Niamey.
Washington’s military interventions in Africa must
also be seen as an effort to offset China’s growing
economic influence on the continent. Beijing in
recent years has secured investment deals with
African governments in nearly every sector of
National Petroleum Company (CNPC) purchased the
permit for oil drilling in Niger’s Agadem Basin, and
CNPC also constructed and operates the Soraz
refinery near Zinder, Niger’s second largest city.
Deals by Beijing for the construction of pipelines
traversing through Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, and
Cameroon are currently in the development stage,
causing no small amount of consternation in
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