From the invasion of Uganda to the calls for a permanent strike force in the wake of the attack on the US Consulate in Libya, the Pentagon’s African Command (Africom) seems focused on building its military footprint. In the meantime though, it’s all about web presence.
$3 million of Africom’s annual budget is dedicated to a pair of seemingly private “news” websites pushing US interests in the region, including a Somalia-focused site, sabahionline.com, which touts the merits of the US-backed Somali “transitional government” while predicting the imminent destruction of al-Shabaab. The other site, magharebia.com, is focused on northwestern Africa, touting Libya’s status in the wake of the US-backed NATO war.
Though the Pentagon’s “information war” in Iraq sparked considerable criticism, there doesn’t appear to be any interest in hiding what Africom is doing here, and the only reason they have remained more or less secret over the past 10 months is that the sites are so sparsely visited no one had even heard of them.
Africom seems quite pleased with the situation though, bragging about them in a press release today, claiming that between the two sites they manage to court 4,000 unique visitors a day, and upwards of 10,000 page reads. Considering the significant amount of money being pumped into advertising the two sites, it is hard to see this as a success, and likewise it is hard to imagine that convincing a handful of readers that Libya and Somalia are going well will do anything to make it so.