Friday, May 16, 2014

The US's New Normal In Africa

Since 9/11, the U.S. military has been ramping up missions on the African continent, funneling money into projects to woo allies, supporting and training proxy forces, conducting humanitarian outreach, carrying out air strikes and commando raids, creating a sophisticated logistics network throughout the region, and building a string of camps, “cooperative security locations,” and bases-by-other-names.

All the while, AFRICOM downplayed the expansion and much of the media, with a few notable exceptions, played along.  With the end of the Iraq War and the drawdown of combat forces in Afghanistan, Washington has, however, visibly “pivoted” to Africa and, in recent weeks, many news organizations, especially those devoted to the military, have begun waking up to the new normal there.
While daily U.S. troop strength continent-wide hovers in the relatively modest range of 5,000 to 8,000 personnel, an under-the-radar expansion has been constant, with the U.S. military now conducting operations alongside almost every African military in almost every African country and averaging more than a mission a day.

This increased engagement has come at a continuing cost.  When the U.S. and other allies intervened in 2011 to aid in the ouster of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, for instance, it helped set off a chain reaction that led to a security vacuum destabilizing that country as well as neighboring Mali.  The latter saw its elected government overthrown by a U.S.-trained officer.  The former never recovered and has tottered toward failed-state status ever since.  Local militias have been carving out fiefdoms, while killing untold numbers of Libyans -- as well, of course, as U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in a September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the “cradle” of the Libyan revolution, whose forces the U.S. had aided with training, materiel, and military might.

Quickly politicized by Congressional Republicans and conservative news outlets, “Benghazi” has become a shorthand for many things, including Obama administration cover-ups and misconduct, as well as White House lies and malfeasance.  Missing, however, has been thoughtful analysis of the implications of American power-projection in Africa or the possibility that blowback might result from it.

Far from being chastened by the Benghazi deaths or chalking them up to a failure to imagine the consequences of armed interventions in situations whose local politics they barely grasp, the Pentagon and the Obama administration have used Benghazi as a growth opportunity, a means to take military efforts on the continent to the next level.  “Benghazi” has provided AFRICOM with a beefed-up mandate and new clout.  It birthed the new normal in Africa.

From Nick Turse, for more read on here


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