Nick Turse, “Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa,” 13 March 2014, TomDispatch
Since 9/11, the U.S. military has been making inroads in Africa, building alliances, facilities, and a sophisticated logistics network. Despite repeated assurances by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) that military activities on the continent were minuscule, a 2013 investigation by TomDispatch exposed surprisingly large and expanding U.S. operations — including recent military involvement with no fewer than 49 of 54 nations on the continent. Washington’s goal continues to be building these nations into stable partners with robust, capable militaries, as well as creating regional bulwarks favorable to its strategic interests in Africa. Yet over the last years, the results have often confounded the planning — with American operations serving as a catalyst for blowback (to use a term of CIA tradecraft).
A U.S.-backed uprising in Libya, for instance, helped spawn hundreds of militias that have increasingly caused chaos in that country, leading to repeated attacks on Western interests and the killing of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. Tunisia has become ever more destabilized,according to a top U.S. commander in the region. Kenya and Algeria were hit by spectacular, large-scale terrorist attacks that left Americans dead orwounded. South Sudan, a fledgling nation Washington recently midwifed into being that has been slipping into civil war, now has more than 870,000displaced persons, is facing an imminent hunger crisis, and has recently been the site of mass atrocities, including rapes and killings. Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed military of Mali was repeatedly defeated by insurgent forces after managing to overthrow the elected government, and the U.S.-supported forces of the Central African Republic (CAR) failed to stop a ragtag rebel group from ousting the president.
In an effort to staunch the bleeding in those two countries, the U.S. has been developing a back-to-the-future military policy in Africa — making common cause with one of the continent’s former European colonial powers in a set of wars that seem to be spreading, not staunching violence and instability in the region. …
Today, the U.S. is pioneering a twenty-first-century brand of expeditionary warfare that involves backing both France and the armies of its former colonial charges as Washington tries to accomplish its policy aims in Africa with a limited expenditure of blood and treasure. …
France has indeed exhibited a longstanding willingness to use military force in Africa, but what “insight and understanding” its officials gleaned from this experience is an open question. One hundred and sixteen years after it completed its conquest of what was then French Sudan, France’s forces are again fighting and dying on the same fields of battle, though today the country is called Mali. Again and again during the early 20th century, Francelaunched military expeditions, including during the 1928-1931 Kongo-Wara rebellion, against indigenous peoples in French Equatorial Africa. Today, France’s soldiers are being killed on the same ground in what’s now known as the Central African Republic. And it looks as if they may be slogging on in these nations, in partnership with the U.S. military, for years to come, with no evident ability to achieve lasting results.
A new type of expeditionary warfare is underway in Africa, but there’s little to suggest that America’s backing of a former colonial power will ultimately yield the long-term successes that years of support for local proxies could not. So far, the U.S. has been willing to let European and African forces do the fighting, but if these interventions drag on and the violence continues to leap from country to country as yet more militant groups morph and multiply, the risk only rises of Washington wading ever deeper into post-colonial wars with an eerily colonial look. “Leveraging and partnering with the French” is the current way to go, according to Washington. Just where it’s going is the real question.
Read the full article here.