U.S. military leaders are promising a small-scale, but effective plan for dealing with terrorist threats throughout Africa. The head of the military's Africa Command says that U.S. forces are carrying out reconnaissance missions across the continent but Washington has no plans to expand its permanent presence in Africa.
Onboard a U.S. military transport plane ready for takeoff from the airport at Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso are U.S.-trained Burkinabe troops on a training mission to Mali.
The airport is the hub of what the Washington Post newspaper recently reported is a growing operations and surveillance network that the U.S. is setting up across much of Africa.
U.S. officials are not confirming the newspaper’s reports that the military is using small, unarmed turboprop planes disguised as private aircraft to conduct surveillance.
The details of such operations are secret, but General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. forces in Africa, says the missions themselves are not.
“Do we collect information across Africa? Yes we do. But we do that with the consent, first of all, of our ambassador and secondly with the consent of the nations involved,” Ham explained.
The United States military is increasing its focus on Africa as part of President Obama’s new defense strategy.
That strategy calls for U.S. forces to enable partner nations to deal with security threats in the face of growing activity by militant groups, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria.
About 100 U.S. Special Operations Forces troops have been in Uganda for months, supporting troops from partner nations who fight the Lord’s Resistance Army group, and helping them hunt for the group's leader, Joseph Kony.
General Ham says the troops’ stay is temporary and the U.S. has no plans to build any new permanent bases in Africa.
“We are not seeking, other than Djibouti, any other long-term U.S. presence on the continent,” Ham added.
Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti is the only permanent U.S. base in Africa, serving as a jump off point for efforts to fight threats in bordering Somalia, across the Red Sea in Yemen and other parts of the Middle East.