Top Leaderboard, Site wide
August 27, 2014
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
Help us grow by sharing
and liking Truthdig:
Sign up for Truthdig's Email NewsletterLike Truthdig on FacebookFollow Truthdig on TwitterSubscribe to Truthdig's RSS Feed

Newsletter

sign up to get updates








Truthdig Bazaar more items

 
Report

The U.S. Military’s New Normal in Africa

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share

Posted on May 15, 2014

Photo by US Army Africa (CC BY 2.0)

By Nick Turse, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

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.   

The Spoils of Blowback

Those 2012 killings “changed AFRICOM forever,” Major General Raymond Fox, commander of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, told attendees of a recent Sea-Air-Space conference organized by the Navy League, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marine.   The proof lies in the new “crisis response” forces that have popped up in and around Africa, greatly enhancing the regional reach, capabilities, and firepower of the U.S. military.

Advertisement

Square, Site wide
Following the debacle in Benghazi, for instance, the U.S. established an Africa-focused force known as Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response (SP-MAGTF CR) to give AFRICOM quick-reaction capabilities on the continent.  “Temporarily positioned” at Morón Air Base in Spain, this rotating unit of Marines and sailors is officially billed as “a balanced, expeditionary force with built-in command, ground, aviation, and logistics elements and organized, trained, and equipped to accomplish a specific mission.”

Similarly, Benghazi provided the justification for the birthing of another rapid reaction unit, the Commander’s In-Extremis Force.  Long in the planning stages and supported by the head of the Special Operations Command, Admiral William McRaven, the Fort Carson, Colorado-based unit—part of the 10th Special Forces Group—was sent to Europe weeks after Benghazi.  Elements of this specialized counterterrorism unit are now “constantly forward deployed,” AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson told TomDispatch, and stand “ready for the commander to use, if there’s a crisis.”

The East Africa Response Force (EARF), operating from the lone avowed American base in Africa—Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti—is another new quick-reaction unit.  When asked about EARF, Benson said, “The growing complexity of the security environment demonstrated the need for us to have a [Department of Defense]-positioned response force that could respond to crises in the African region.”

In late December, just days after the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, out of Fort Riley, Kansas, arrived in Djibouti to serve as the newly christened EARF, members of the unit were whisked off to South Sudan.  Led by EARF’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lee Magee, the 45-man platoon was dispatched to that restive nation (midwifed into being by the U.S. only a few years earlier) as it slid toward civil war with armed factions moving close to the U.S. embassy in the capital, Juba.  The obvious fear: another Benghazi.

Joined by elements of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response and more shadowy special ops troops, members of EARF helped secure and reinforce the embassy and evacuate Americans.  Magee and most of his troops returned to Djibouti in February, although a few were still serving in South Sudan as recently as last month

South Sudan, a nation the U.S. poured much time and effort into building, is lurching toward the brink of genocide, according to Secretary of State John Kerry.  With a ceasefire already in shambles within hours of being signed, the country stands as another stark foreign policy failure on a continent now rife with them.  But just as Benghazi proved a useful excuse for dispatching more forward-deployed firepower toward Africa, the embassy scare in South Sudan acted as a convenient template for future crises in which the U.S. military would be even more involved.  “We’re basically the firemen for AFRICOM. If something arises and they need troops somewhere, we can be there just like that,” Captain John Young, a company commander with the East Africa Response Force, told Stars and Stripes in the wake of the Juba mission.


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

 
Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
 
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 
 
 
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Publisher, Zuade Kaufman   Editor, Robert Scheer
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.