Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Africa? Americans? Not a Clue

Top members of Congress are claiming this week they had no idea the U.S. military had a presence in Niger after four U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed there in an ambush on October 4. Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania told CNN Monday he was not aware of the U.S. military’s involvement in Niger. He’s not alone. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also said he didn’t know. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Sunday he was unaware U.S. troops were in Niger yet Graham was in attendance at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March when General Thomas D. Waldhauser, AFRICOM’s commander, specifically discussed the U.S. military’s presence in Niger. 
But the U.S. military has been in Niger since 2013 and this wasn’t a secret. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has been tweeting about U.S. involvement in Niger for years. And thousands of troops serve across Africa every day. 
Republican Representative Charlie Dent told CNN. “It’s not new, and lawmakers that seem to be aghast at these missions going on are simply not well-read.” 
The U.S. military has “5,000 to 6,000 [troops in Africa] on any given day—based on exercise, operational and support needs,” Robyn Mack, a spokesperson for AFRICOM. Mack was able to confirm the U.S. currently has 800 troops in Niger but would not offer specifics in terms of the military’s presence in other African nations, citing “operational, force protection and diplomatic sensitivities.”
The U.S. military is active in a number of countries in Africa, including Chad, Somalia, Libya and Cameroon. It has a permanent military base in Djibouti and is building a major drone base in the city of Agadez, in central Niger. 

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