The deaths of four US special forces in Niger earlier this month was the result of a “routine” patrol, Pentagon officials say, one which troops had carried out at least 30 times in the last six months.
Though the US was known to have “trainers” in Niger, the casualties were the first public admission that the patrols were even ongoing. But Niger is far from unique, and indeed, there are growing numbers of special forces deployments across Africa.
With only 450 special forces in Africa in 2012, the US now has over 1,300 deployed, tripling in the course of five years. Where all those troops are is not well known, but officials say that the locations include Chad, Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, and Kenya.
Since the establishment of AFRICOM, the number of US deployments around Africa have soared, and while officially there is only one military base, in Djibouti, AFRICOM has been clear that their ambition is to have a continent-spanning structure just like other regional commands, and the special forces appear to be the key to making that happen.