Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, was featured on Press TV News Analysis on August 30, 2012. Azikiwe discussed the history and significance of the Non-Aligned Movement that met in Iran., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Obama administration’s second term escalates militarism throughout the continent
On December 24, the Obama administration revealed plans to deploy 3,500 troops to nearly three dozen African states to purportedly address a looming “al-Qaeda threat.” The soldiers being dispatched are part of the 2nd Brigade’s Heavy Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division based in Fort Riley, Kansas.
Official reports indicate that the Pentagon forces will operate in small units in conjunction with various governments including Libya, Somalia, Niger, Mali and others. Gen. Carter L. Ham, Commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) made it appear as if this is a new initiative on the part of Washington, yet it is a continuation of the ongoing policy that has accelerated under the current administration.
A key figure in this project which the administration says will begin in March, is Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who has served as the Commanding General, III Corps, in addition to later heading the Multi-National Force during the later years of the Iraq occupation.
According to reports emanating from the White House, the military teams will only be involved in training and equipping efforts and cannot engage in direct military combat operations.
In a recent interview Gen. Odierno said “It’s about us moving towards a scalable, tailorable capability that helps them to shape the environment they’re working in, doing a variety of tasks from building partner capability to engagement, to multilateral training to bilateral training to actual deployment of forces, if necessary.” Odierno mentions that the idea for this type of mission came to him while he was commanding U.S. and allied forces in Iraq, an overall operation that lasted for nearly nine years. (Washington Times, December 23)
Despite the claims that this is merely a training operation carried out in conjunction with various African states, the mission, according to Odierno, will represent a different military orientation toward the continent. He claims that “In the past, we just said, ‘Hey, if you need us, call us and we’ll be there,’ but now it’s much more specific.. It’s much more detailed, which gives more confidence to the combatant commanders that, in fact, the people they get will understand their area, will be understanding of the culture, of the physical terrain, of the virtual terrain, of the human terrain that they’ll have to operate in. I think that makes a big difference.”
Such a statement by the former commanding officer in Iraq suggests a more aggressive military role for the Pentagon in Africa. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the same type of rhetoric was feed to the public in regard to the character of the occupations.
Odierno, who has served in the U.S. military since the days of the war against Vietnam and southeast Asia, typifies the imperialist notions that the Pentagon can deeply penetrate the societal cultures in order to win over large segments of various population groups in their efforts to maintain and advance Washington’s aims and objectives. Even though this was the game plan as well in Iraq and Afghanistan, the level of resistance to foreign occupation grew substantially over the period of the Pentagon’s engagements.
Utilizing what the Pentagon calls a “Regionally Aligned Forces” model, it is designed to train and coordinate military structures from the African states in order to attack what the U.S. considers elements operating contrary to its economic and political interests. This effort will also draw in other imperialist-allied states from NATO, including Britain.
British Col. James Learmont, an exchange officer working with the Pentagon on the deployment project, said that “Responsiveness is a pretty key component of this because everybody wants us to be more responsive — in other words, quicker. So what’s happening is you’re finding that we have to be prepared to react to many small-scale potential contingencies, and so by aligning ourselves with combatant commands, it gives them more capability capacity and the ability to respond quicker.” (Washington Times, December 23)
Although the official line is that the U.S. and its NATO allies will not take on direct military offensive operations, Col. Learmont exposes this false characterization by saying “if their combatantcommander does require something that falls into the operationalbandwagon, then we have the facilities to react to that with the approval of the secretary of defense and the Joint Staff.” Consequently, if the mission deems it necessary, there will be actions carried out that are solely dependent upon U.S. capabilities.
Continuation of Existing Policy
With the formation of AFRICOM in 2008, the U.S. has intensified its military interventionist policies in Africa. The war against Libya in 2011 represented the first full-scale AFRICOM operation on the continent.
This operation in Libya resulted in a partnership with NATO and other allied states in the region including Egypt and Qatar. Over the course of the operation, some 26,000 sorties were flown over Libya and some 9,600 air strike were carried out resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of up to two million Libyans and foreign nationals working and living in the oil-rich state.
Nonetheless, the Libya war has not brought peace and stability to the country and the region. Internal political divisions among the pro-U.S. rebel units and the ongoing resistance by the loyalist forces, has required the escalation of Pentagon and intelligence personnel on the ground.
The attacks on September 11, 2012 that destroyed the so-called U.S. Consulate and annex in Benghazi was a clear indication of the failed nature of the Libya project. The attacks resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other personnel which included CIA and Navy Seal operatives.
In the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attacks, the Obama administration announced the deployment of at least 50 marines, a team of FBI agents, the dispatching of additional warships in the Mediterrean off the coast of Libya and the placing of more drones over this North African state.
The political fallout in the aftermath of the Libya attacks exposed the administration’s cover-up of the circumstances surrounding the destruction of the U.S. compound. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was forced to take the fall in the subsequent scandal that revealed the false information and characterization promoted by the White House.
In Mali, where a military coup took place in March 2012, the administration through AFRICOM is seeking to deploy regional forces through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in an effort to supposedly curtail and eliminate al-Qaeda linked groups operating in the north of the country which has been effectively partitioned by Tuareg elements divided between nationalists and Islamists. However, the Malian government had maintained agreements with the Pentagon for several years leading up to the coup which involved joint-training and war games.
The U.S. military cooperation with the Malian armed forces did not provide the capacity for the government to halt the Tuareg insurgency in the north or to prevent the coup. Additional Pentagon intervention can only lead to further instability.
Somalia has been a battleground for U.S. military forces for the last two decades when in 1992 the Pentagon under the presidency of George Bush, Sr. deployed 12,000 marines in what was called “Operation Restore Hope.” In a matter of months, the country was mobilized in an anti-occupation resistance war that led to the deaths of U.S. troops and thousands of Somalians.
Both U.S. military forces and U.N. troops were withdrawn under the administration of Bill Clinton. Nevertheless, U.S. intervention in Somalia has continued and intensified over the last six years through the deployment of Ethiopian troops, a staunch ally of Washington, in 2006 and in more recent years with the occupation by the African Union Mission to the Somalia (AMISOM), and the Kenya Defense Forces since 2011.
At present over 17,000 African troops allied with the Pentagon and the CIA are occupying Somalia. This as well has not fully stabilized the Horn of Africa state.
On December 30, the Obama administration announced that it was deploying 50 troops to Chad in order to assist in the evacuation of U.S. personnel from neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) now undergoing a civil war against the government of President Francois Bozize. The CAR had already been targeted for U.S. intervention in October 2011 when the White House anounced the dispatching of Special Forces and advisors to ostensibly assist in the tracking down of members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the rebel group started in northern Uganda, a close ally of Washington. (Press TV, December 30)
In the October 2011 deployments, four states were targeted: the CAR, Uganda, South Sudan and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). All of these states have natural resources that are key to the U.S. and world capitalist system and this is the underlying reason behind the escalation in Pentagon and CIA involvement on the continent.
Imperialism in Crisis
The continuing economic malaise in the capitalist countries is compelling the imperialists in their interventionist polices in Africa. Led by the U.S., France, the British and other NATO states, are escalating their involvement to secure oil and other strategic resources which are in abundance throughout all regions of the continent.
Also the growing role of the People’s Republic of China in their economic partnership agreements with various African states is perceived by Washington and its allies as a threat to imperialist interests. The Conferenece on China-Africa Cooperation founded in 2000, has held five summit meetings with the most recent taking place in Beijing during 2012.
China is the largest trading partner with the African Union bloc and this cooperation is poised to grow over the coming period. Africa, impacted severely by the global crisis, will continue to be a battleground for the West in their futile efforts aimed at maintaining economic, military and political dominance.
These developments require the intervention of the anti-war and peace movements based in the U.S. The United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC), the largest and most representative of the anti-interventionist alliances, will be issuing a statement opposing the most recent Pentagon initiatives in Africa.
UNAC has held two national conferences that have drawn huge participation from throughout the U.S. and internationally since 2010. A mass demonstration in 2011 in New York City against the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Iraq attracted thousands.
It was UNAC that called and led the anti-NATO demonstrations that attracted 15,000 people to Chicago during the military alliance’s summit during May 2012. The organization is seeking to hold a national campaign against drones in 2013 as a continuation of its participation in a delegation to Pakistan during 2012 aimed at building solidarity with the peoples of Central Asia in their fight against U.S. imperialist intervention.