With the world’s eyes on Syria and surrounding countries in the Middle East and North Africa impacted by the ongoing crisis, U.S. military missions continue their steady expansion across Sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, the Obama administration appears ready, under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, to significantly expand 13 years of war policy by increasing counterterrorism operations throughout the African continent, contradicting reports that the Department of Defense may be considering of AFRICOM.
Breadth of Scope
- Yellow markers: U.S. military training, advising, or tactical deployments during 2012
- Green markers: U.S. military training, advising, or tactical deployments during 2013
- Purple marker: U.S. “security cooperation” operations
- Red markers: Army National Guard partnership operations
- Blue markers: U.S. bases, forward operating sites (FOSes), contingency security locations (CSLs), contingency locations (CLs), airports with fueling agreements, and various shared facilities
- Green push pins: U.S. military training and advising of indigenous troops carried out in a third country during 2013
- Yellow push pins: U.S. military training and advising of indigenous troops carried out in a third country during 2012
Beyond Direct Combat
As the Obama administration reduces the number of troops and military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, the military is shifting its personnel and hardware to other parts of the world. Couched in the Global War on Terror (GWOT), this next phase of post-Afghanistan U.S. warfare is said to focus on efforts to detect violence, extremism and potential crises as they develop and “share the burden” with militaries and civilian personnel on the ground in order to respond.
According to a shy estimate by Hugh Denny of the Army Corps of Engineers (PP), in 2012 and 2013, the Defense Department’s security assistance efforts in Africa were valued at more than $12 million, while 15 additional “security cooperation” projects worth more than $22 million are being carried out in countries across the continent.[i] Many of these projects are planned to be performed by Special Forces in what the military considers to be “Phase 0” countries,[ii] a military classification coined in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review that created the authorizing legitimacy for expanded training of foreign security forces and enhanced cooperation with U.S. civilian agencies in engaging developing countries in the name of GWOT.
Encroaching Humanitarian Space
DoD authorities have also expanded far beyond traditional scope into “non-security” humanitarian and development activities that have been traditionally undertaken by U.S. civilian agencies throughout the continent, namely USAID and the Department of State. AFRICOM’s “humanitarian assistance” program is particularly expansive, with construction projects in 19 countries from Mauritania and South Africa, according again to Hugh Denny and cited by Nick Turse.
This encroachment of space and confusion of authorities has caused complications between military personnel and humanitarian actors on the ground across the Great Lakes and throughout the Sahel when the military engages in “humanitarian assistance” activities such as rudimentary construction and renovation of public facilities (such as schools, hospitals, orphanages, and clinics); digging or improving water wells and other sanitation and drinking water projects; and repairing/building rudimentary infrastructure as roads and bridges (PDF).
Funding for Fiscal Year 2014 and Beyond
These new and expanded authorizations, complemented by steadily increasing funding streams from Congress, have enabled U.S. military expansion into no fewer than 49 African nations. As Congress prepares to authorize its appropriations for FY2014, funding streams for continued expansion remain steady.
[i] Total security assistance to Africa is estimated at about $1.7 billion for 2014.
[ii] Testimony of Admiral William H. McRaven, USN Commander, United States Special Operations Command Before the 112th Congress Senate Armed Services Committee. 6 March 2012. The 2006 QDR argues that victory in the “long war” against terrorism requires bolstering weak and failing states so they can better defend their borders and territories and eliminate “ungoverned spaces” hospitable to America’s enemies. Accordingly, the U.S. military should expand training of foreign security forces and cooperate with U.S. civilian agencies in engaging developing countries.