News / Africa

    US Expands Military Operations in Africa

    U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in flames during protest by armed group on September 11, 2012.
    U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in flames during protest by armed group on September 11, 2012.
    Luis Ramirez
    The United States is expanding its military presence in Africa to counter the growing influence of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other militant groups throughout North and West Africa.
     
    U.S. concerns have been growing as militants have seized control of large parts of Mali and made their presence known across the region, through a campaign of bombings and other attacks from Nigeria to Libya.
     
    Hitting closest to home for the United States was the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
     
    Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently confirmed it was the work of terrorists.
     
    "The reason I think it pretty clearly was a terrorist attack is because a group of terrorists obviously conducted that attack on the consulate and against our individuals," he said. "What terrorists were involved, I think, still remains to be determined by the investigation."
     
    Since the attack in Benghazi, the United States has dispatched Marine Corps rapid response teams to its embassies in Libya and Yemen.
     
    Before the attack, the Pentagon had been working to expand its presence in North Africa by sending small teams of special operations forces and other personnel to help train and assist the militaries of several African nations that are trying to boost their ability to fight terrorists.
     
    Defense Department officials are not confirming reports that suggest the commandos might have been dispatched to deal with specific threats to U.S. diplomatic personnel.
     
    The American efforts highlight concerns that have been growing for years that al-Qaida and its affiliated groups, while under pressure elsewhere, have been expanding in Africa.
     
    The U.S. Africa Command was set up during the administration of President George W. Bush and has been working to track the threat, dispatching teams to the continent to conduct reconnaissance, surveillance and training missions, including to the West African country of Mali. Command officials repeatedly have said they have no plans to build new permanent bases on the continent and that the teams they have dispatched are small in number.
     
    At a press briefing this week, Pentagon spokesman George Little ruled out establishing a larger U.S. footprint in nations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
     
    "With respect to what we're doing today, and what our focus is in Africa, there are no plans at this stage for unilateral U.S. military operations in Mali or in the region," said Little. "As always, we're paying very close attention to the situation in the region and stand ready should our partners in the region and regional actors such as ECOWAS request our assistance."
     
    Little and other U.S. military officials are not disclosing details of the types of assistance that African partner nations have requested.
     
    "With regard to a specific request, I wouldn't get into those in a public forum," he said. "I'm not prepared to make any announcements today, but we continue to assess their needs and, where possible and appropriate, we will work closely with our partners in the region."
     
    The lack of specific information about the operations has fueled speculation among critics who question U.S. intentions in the region.
     
    Ozzie Nelson, a counterterrorism specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, says the lack of details may have to do with the role of U.S. forces acting in an advisory capacity.
     
    “I’m not sure that it’s secretive as much as it is sensitive," said Nelson. "One of the core capabilities of special operations forces, and some components of the military, is to help train and equip indigenous or local forces. What we don’t want here is a U.S. face on any of these operations or these activities because, at the end of the day, we’re there in an advisory and training role. The face of these operations and the face of these activities have to be the local governments.”
     
    According to analysts, the United States is trying to balance American interests — to smash terrorist groups on the territories of partner nations without giving people in these countries the impression that America is exerting too much influence on their governments — something analysts say could be a destabilizing factor.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Brehima from: USA
    October 04, 2012 9:51 AM
    Nice analysis! Very risky for the U.S to be visible on the grounds in Northern Mali, but everyday single minute of the presence of AQIM and its allies could be riskier for us (U.S) also, at least in the long run. Yes, a discreet but aggressive support in information and logistics now will be cheaper, faster and "cleaner" than later. It is a matter of choice; and the choice, I believe, is clear. Zero tolerance for terrorism.

    Let's stop procrastinating. Where do we think Al Shabaab is going after being chased from their stronghold? We know who those people are and what their intentions are. The clock is ticking. Let's not give them the chance to regroup and grow. Thanks for sharing, Greg.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora