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

    Brexit Vote Triggers Increase in Racist Attacks

    Britain's decision to leave European Union seen by some as 'permission' to unleash anti-immigrant resentment

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    AIIB Takes Big Strides Amid Fears About China's Dominance

    Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank says it is independent, but concerns persist; China holds 20.6 percent of bank's shares, others have less than 7.5 percent each

    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.
    Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmarki
    X
    John Owens
    June 26, 2016 2:04 PM
    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora