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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora