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U.S. Military Averaging More Than a Mission a Day in Africa

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Posted on Mar 28, 2014

Photo by Matt Rudge (CC BY 2.0)

By Nick Turse, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

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Previously undisclosed U.S. Army Africa records reveal a 94% increase in all activities by Army personnel from 2011 to 2013, including a 174% surge in State Partnership missions (from 34 to 93) and a 436% jump in Advise-and-Assist activities including ACOTA missions (from 11 to 59).  Last year, according to a December 2013 document, these efforts involved everything from teaching Kenyan troops how to use Raven surveillance drones and helping Algerian forces field new mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, or MRAPS, to training Chadian and Guinean infantrymen and aiding France’s ongoing interventions in West and Central Africa.

AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson refused to offer further details about these activities. “We do training with a lot of different countries in Africa,” he told me.  When I asked if he had a number on those “different countries,” he replied, “No, I don’t.”  He ignored repeated written requests for further information.  But a cache of records detailing deployments by members of just the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, from June through December 2013, highlights the sheer size, scope, and sweep of U.S. training missions.

June saw members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Niger, Uganda, Ghana, and on two separate missions to Malawi; in July, troops from the team traveled to Burundi, Mauritania, Niger, Uganda, and South Africa; August deployments included the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa, Niger, two missions in Malawi, and three to Uganda; September saw activities in Chad, Togo, Cameroon, Ghana, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Uganda, and Malawi; in October, members of the unit headed for Guinea and South Africa; November’s deployments consisted of Lesotho, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Guinea; while December’s schedule consisted of activities in South Sudan, Cameroon, and Uganda, according to the documents.  All told, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division carried out 128 separate “activities” in 28 African countries during all of 2013.

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The records obtained by TomDispatch also indicate that U.S. Army Africa took part in almost 80% of all AFRICOM activities on the continent in 2013, averaging more than one mission per day.  Preliminary projections for 2014 suggest a similar pace this year—418 activities were already planned out by mid-December 2013—including anticipated increases in the number of operations and train-and-equip missions.

Full-scale exercises, each involving U.S. Army troops and members of the militaries of multiple African countries, are also slated to rise from 14 to 20 in 2014, according to the documents.  So far, AFRICOM has released information on 11 named exercises scheduled for this year.  These include African Lion in Morocco, Eastern Accord in Uganda, Western Accord in Senegal, Central Accord in Cameroon, and Southern Accord in Malawi, all of which include a field training component and serve as a capstone event for the prior year’s military-to-military programs.  AFRICOM will also conduct at least three maritime security exercises, including Cutlass Express off the coast of East Africa, Obangame Express in the Gulf of Guinea, and Saharan Express in the waters off Senegal and the Cape Verde islands, as well as its annual Africa Endeavor exercise, which is designed to promote “information sharing” and facilitate standardized communications procedures within African militaries.

Additionally, U.S. and African Special Operations forces will carry out an exercise codenamed Silent Warrior 2014 in Germany and have already completed Flintlock 2014 (since 2005, an annual event).  As part of Flintlock 2014, more than 1,000 troops from 18 nations, including Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Senegal, the United Kingdom, the U.S., and the host nation of Niger, carried out counterterror training on the outskirts of Niamey, the capital, as well as at small bases in Tahoua, Agadez, and Diffa.  “Although Flintlock is considered an exercise, it is really an extension of ongoing training, engagement, and operations that help prepare our close Africa partners in the fight against extremism and the enemies that threaten peace, stability, and regional security,” said Colonel Kenneth Sipperly, the commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahel, during the Flintlock opening ceremony.

Locations, Locations, Locations

A 2013 investigation by TomDispatch analyzing official documents and open source information revealed that the U.S. military was involved with at least 49 of the 54 nations on the African continent during 2012 and 2013 in activities that ranged from special ops raids to the training of proxy forces.  A map produced late last year by U.S. Army Africa bolsters the findings, indicating its troops had conducted or planned to conduct “activities” in all African “countries” during the 2013 fiscal year except for Western Sahara (a disputed territory in the Maghreb region of North Africa), Guinea Bissau, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe.  Egypt is considered outside of AFRICOM’s area of operations, but did see U.S. military activity in 2013, as did Somalia, which now also hosts a small team of U.S. advisors.  Other documents indicate Army troops actually deployed to São Tomé and Príncipe, a country that regularly conducts activities with the U.S. Navy.


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