The commander of U.S. troops in Africa is requesting more special operations forces to fight terrorism and to help train and weaponize Africa’s own militaries.
“I’d like more special operations forces now,” said Army Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, Wednesday in Washington. Ham said he expects to see increases in US special operations forces in Africa, especially once troop levels moderate in Afghanistan in the coming years.
He is not the first commander to call for more troops in non-war zones, as several top military officials have told Obama and Congress that special ops are in high demand, warning budget cuts to those forces would threaten national security.
As journalist Nick Turse has recently uncovered, US special operations forces will be deployed in 120 countries by the end of this year, acting as elite “kill teams” and performing training exercises.
The pretext of fighting terrorism is the backdrop of these requests to increase the American military presence in Africa and around the world. General Ham noted North Africa’s three main terrorist groups — Al-Shabab, in East Africa; al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM; and Nigeria-based Boko Harem – as threats to national security. Despite admitting their questionable capabilities, he said, “I have no question about their intent.”
But the underlying reason is also mentioned: to build pro-American militaries in African countries. Mostly undemocratic and corrupt African governments, probably eager to take after the coddled Middle Eastern dictators at the top of America’s economic and military aid lists, have requested more American presence.
“We keep getting asked to do more and more and more, and go to more places,” he said. “More exercises, more military-to-military engagement, more and more requests for interchanges, and I don’t recall anybody saying, ‘We don’t want you to come here anymore.’” By “anybody” the commander surely meant anybody in those governments who kowtow to American military interests in disregard for the people.
The US stepped up operations in Africa in 2007, with critics claiming the U.S. was seeking to militarize America’s presence in Africa, and eventually set up permanent US bases.
The commander was mum on counter-terror operations and drone programs, like that of Somalia’s, but as an example he did mention Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, where US presence and mission scope is expanding.
“In Djibouti, we have grown. It’s a little bit larger. It’s a very, very interesting and important hub, not only for U.S. Africa Command, but for Central Command, of course Special Operations Command, for Transportation Command,” Ham said, “It’s a very, very important place for us.”