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

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs