Gulf of Guinea



AFRICOM’s HQ in West Africa is up at the African Loft. It looks as if AFRICOM may go with a sea base for the West African regional headquarters. That way they can move it to whatever country falls within their interest.

Now that the US is exploring sea basing off West Africa and in the Gulf of Guinea, these questions posed by Africa Action’s Gerald LeMelle take on even greater urgency:

  • Who does the United States intend to stabilize by introducing more military equipment and approving more arms sales into the region?
  • How does the United States decide when to use force in “stabilizing” a conflict?
  • If people are protesting unfair corporate practices near the grounds of an oil company, will the United States use force, or encourage the use of force by African military units, to protect these corporate assets?
  • Will U.S. soldiers be accountable in any way to African governments or their citizens?
  • To what degree will the United States employ mercenaries and other contractors in Africa?
  • Will U.S. economic interests trump the rule of law, democracy and accountability in Africa?

U. S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant-Craft crewmen from Special Boat Team 22 cruise in Special Operations Craft-Riverines (SOC-R) along the Salt River during live-fire training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Aug. 24/07. The SOC-Rs are specifically designed for the clandestine insertion and extraction of Navy SEALs and other Special Operations Forces along shallow waterways and open water environments.

Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Robyn B. Gerstenslager, U.S. Navy.

From the AP:

Navy completes acquisition of land for riverine training
-
The Navy said today that it has acquired the land it needs in Mississippi for elite fighting units to practice with live ammunition and hone their jungle fighting skills

The land will mainly be used by Special Boat Team 22 . . . SBT-22 uses armored boats to take SEALs behind enemy lines and get them out. It specializes in river operations.

The property attracted the Navy’s interest because of its access to two rivers, usability for jungle training and nearness to the location of the boat unit.

And from a media roundtable with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead in February, about a month ago:

One of the significant drivers in our number will be the Littoral Combat Ship.
. . .
The fact is that we as a Navy do have a gap in what I call the green water. We’re really good in the blue. We’ve started to emerge again in the brown water with our riverine force. But in the littoral or the green water, we gave a gap.

LCS fills that gap and LCS is the best ship to fill that gap. It has the speed. It has the shallow draft that expands the amount of area in which we can operate. And it’s also been designed to have rapidly changeable mission modules. That’s part of the design. So LCS is a very important ship for our Navy.

Nobody is talking about the Gulf of Guinea. But that is where the oil and the riverine jungles are located. In addition that is where a lot of people live who are angry their natural resources are being stolen, and their land polluted. This training and new boats and ships are designed for this environment.

Pictures from the USS Fort McHenry, the African Partnership Station,
you will find discussion of AFRICOM, bases, and US military programs in Ghana and Africa below the photos.

TEMA, Ghana (Nov. 20, 2007) Rear Adm. Tony Kurta, director for Policy, Resources and Strategy, United States Naval Forces Europe, and Ghanaian navy Commodore Matthew Quashie, Eastern Ghana Naval Command, meet with Africa Partnership Station (APS) staff at the Tema Naval Base. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class RJ Stratchko, 071120-N-8933S-015 Released)

TAKORADI, Ghana (Feb. 8, 2008) Staff Sgt. Franklin Davis, of East Brunswick, N.J., a Marine assigned to Africa Partnership Station (APS) begins the first day of martial-arts instruction for the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Ghanaian Army. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian A. Goyak, 080208-N-0577G-140 Released)
SEKONDI, Ghana (Feb. 13, 2008) Africa Partnership Station (APS) Sailors load Project Handclasp medical supplies onto a supply truck for donation to the Ghanaian Navy Western Command hospital. Teams from various U.S. and European military commands, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations, are embarked aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry and the high-speed vessel (HSV) 2 Swift for a seven-month deployment to enhance cooperative partnerships with regional maritime services in West and Central Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian A. Goyak, 080213-N-0577G-010 Released)
TAKORADI, Ghana, (Nov. 28, 2007) Lt. j.g. Erica Goodwin visits the children going to school next door to Essikado Hospital in Takoradi, Ghana. Members of Africa Partnership Station (APS) visited the school while working at the hospital to assess the possibility of working on the school during a future community relations project. The APS volunteers spent three days at the hospital building shelves, benches, laying concrete, painting and fixing the ambulance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elizabeth Merriam, 071128-N-0193M-401 Released)

APOWA, Ghana (Feb. 8, 2008) Utilitiesman 2nd Class Jeffery Ladd and Utilitiesman 2nd Class Paul J. Kuntz help a child drill a hole in part of a wall for a classroom at the Orphans Cry International Orphanage. Seabees and other volunteers worked on several projects at the orphanage in one of many Africa Partnership Station humanitarian projects in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eddie Harrison, 080208-N-4044H-113 Released)
SEKONDII, Ghana (Feb. 12, 2008) Damage Controlman 1st Class Adam Burg explains to Ghananian sailors the proper way to walk with the nozzle of a hose during a damage control exercise provided by Africa Partnership Station aboard a Ghananian Navy vessel. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eddie Harrison, 080212-N-4044H-086 Released)

You can find these pictures and more at the


Photo Gallery – African Partnership Station

For the present, the headquarters of AFRICOM will remain in Stuttgart Germany. It is a triumph that African countries have held the line, and successfully opposed an AFRICOM headquarters on the continent. However, AFRICOM is just as dangerous without an actual headquarters in Africa. With Bush visiting Ghana this week, it is worth looking at exactly what Bush, AFRICOM, and US intentions are in Ghana and West Africa.

Oil is the main source of US interest. The US already gets more oil from Africa than from Saudi Arabia, and wants even more. The quality and quantity of African oil, and the ease of working on offshore deep water rigs, away from the population, make African oil particularly desirable.

Ghanaians should make no mistake. There is already a US military presence in Ghana. It occupies what the US military sometimes calls “lily pads” or “cooperative security locations”. You probably know where some of these are. And this presence will grow. It is already growing through interactions with the African Partnership Station, the APS, the USS Fort McHenry that has been visiting Ghana and sailing along the Gulf of Guinea in 2007 and 2008.

The way it works:

“A cooperative security location can be a tucked-away corner of a host country’s civilian airport, or a dirt runway somewhere with fuel and mechanical help nearby, or a military airport in a friendly country with which we have no formal basing agreement but, rather, an informal arrangement with private contractors acting as go-betweens … The United States provides aid to upgrade maintenance facilities, thereby helping the host country to better project its own air and naval power in the region. At the same time, we hold periodic exercises with the host country’s military, in which the base is a focus. We also offer humanitarian help to the surrounding area. Such civil-affairs projects garner positive publicity for our military in the local media… The result is a positive diplomatic context for getting the host country’s approval for use of the base when and if we need it.”

We have already been seeing this in action with the activities of the APS, the USS Fort McHenry. The reason USAID and diplomatic functions are subsumed under the Pentagon with AFRICOM is that:

Economic aid, development projects, or other forms of indirect compensation . . . may also be given with military considerations in mind. For example . . . constructing dozens of roads, piers, wharfs, bridges, and other infrastructure projects in the very areas where US troops have been deployed. . . . many of these infrastructure projects support US military mobility; at the same time, they have also proven very useful in gaining local public acceptance for US military presence. For the Special Forces, especially, the infrastructure and humanitarian projects are seen as instrumental in “winning hearts and minds” in the aim of getting what they call “actionable” intelligence.

We have seen cooperative military activities in Ghana, and we can see them in Djibouti, where -

CJTF-HOA (Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa) is positioned to serve as a model for AFRICOM

In Djibouti there is a great deal of humanitarian assistance, joint training, and other friendly and cooperative efforts going on. There is also a Special Forces team. From Djibouti the US assisted the Ethiopian government to invade Somalia in January 2007, and overthrow the only functioning government that Somalia had in 15 years, replacing it with the hated warlords, and creating a humanitarian crisis that dwarfs Darfur. Supposedly the US was fighting “terrorism”. However, whoever is out of favor with the US is likely to be labeled a terrorist. This is not something new, historically:

The collapse of the Portuguese colonial forces in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea and Sao Tome and the collapse of the white racist military forces in Rhodesia gradually led to a rethinking by the US military. During this period the US had labeled all African freedom fighters as terrorists. When the US was allied with Osama Bin Laden and Jonas Savimbi, Nelson Mandela had been branded a terrorist.

In fact -

there are scholars who have argued and presented evidence that the government of the United States has been “fabricating terrorism” in Africa.

The Bush administration plans to employ mercenaries to do much of the business of AFRICOM, follow the link for more details. The “private contractors” mentioned above mean mercenaries. And the “partnerships” AFRICOM is promoting are intended to coopt African militaries so that they will do the dirty work in any fighting the US wants conducted in Africa.

That said, the US military provides the best military training you can find anywhere in the world. It is worthwhile to take the opportunity to learn from it. Most of the US soldiers and sailors are good people with excellent intentions. This does not necessarily apply to the contractors. At the same time it is important to keep in mind, that when you train with them, they will be learning a lot of information about you, your country, and your military organization. The intentions of Bush and his cronies, who give the orders, are not benign, and they intend to use the military to impose their goals by force where they see the “need”, and impose a 21st century version of colonization. You can read here for the documentary trail of their plans and intentions.

. . . the Bush Family and their allies and cronies represent the confluence of three long-established power factions in the American elite: oil, arms and investments. These groups equate their own interests, their own wealth and privilege, with the interests of the nation – indeed, the world – as a whole. And they pursue these interests with every weapon at their command, including war, torture, deceit and corruption. Democracy means nothing to them – not even in their own country.

And this is the danger in dealing with them. They are a powerful force for corruption and exploitation, even as they preach democracy and “free” markets.

Below is a list of US military programs in Africa that will come under AFRICOM, and countries where they are active. You may have already encountered some of these in action. I know ACOTA has already been active in Ghana. For more detail about these see Africom: The new US military command for Africa.

    • Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative/Partnership (formerly Pan Sahel Initiative) (TSCTI) Targeting threats to US oil/natural gas operations in the Sahara region Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Libya.
    • TSTCI Africa Contingency Operations Training and Asssistance Program (ACOTA) (formerly African Crisis Response Initiative) (ACRI)) Part of “Global Peace” Operations Initiative (GPOI). Areas of Operation: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
    • International Military Training and Education (IMET) program brings African military officers to US military academies and schools for indoctrination.
      Top countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa.
    • Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) (formerly Africa Center for Security Studies) Part of National Defense University, Washington.
      Provides indoctrination for “next generation” African military officers. This is the “School of the Americas” for Africa.
      All of Africa is covered under the Foreign Military Sales Program which sells US military equipment to African nations via Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
      Top recipients: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe.
    • African Coastal and Border Security Program Provides fast patrol boats, vehicles, electronic surveillance equipment, night vision equipment to littoral states.
    • Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Military command based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. Aimed at putting down rebellions in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Somaliland and targets Eritrea. Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti.
    • Joint Task Force Aztec Silence (JTFAS) Targets terrorism in West and North Africa. Joint effort of EUCOM and Commander Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean) Based in Sigonella, Sicily and Tamanrasset air base in southern Algeria Gulf of Guinea Initiative.
    • US Navy Maritime Partnership Program Trains African militaries in port and off-shore oil platform security Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe, Togo.
    • Tripartite Plus Intelligence Fusion Cell Based in Kisangani, DRC to oversee “regional security,” I.E. ensuring U.S. and Israeli access to Congo’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, and col-tan. Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda.
    • United States Base access for Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs) and Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) U.S. access to airbases and other facilities Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Algeria.
    • Africa Regional Peacekeeping (ARP) Liaison with African “peacekeeping” military commands East Africa Regional Integration Team: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania.
    • North Africa Regional Integration Team: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya.
    • Central Africa Regional Integration Team: Congo (Kinshasa), Congo (Brazzaville), Chad.
    • South Africa Regional Integration Team: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola.
    • West Africa Regional Integration Team: Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Western Sahara.
    • Africa Partnership Station (APS) Port visits by USS Fort McHenry and High Speed Vessel (HSV) Swift. Part of US Navy’s Global Fleet Station Initiative. Training and liaison with local military personnel to ensure oil production security Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe.

(To all the readers of this post, I copied this list from here. The guy who posted is strikes me as a nutter, and names himself after a cartoon character, but his factual information appears to be good. It is available publicly in part or in full in a number of places. This covers some of it.)

UPDATE – DECEMBER 2008:

Daniel Volman has written an updated overview of AFRICOM published at Pambazuka News, AFRICOM from Bush to Obama.  Volman lists the various programs that are part of AFRICOM, or are being folded into AFRICOM. There are a number of bilateral and multilateral joint training programs and military exercises (excerpted from his article):

FLINTLOCK 2005 AND 2007 – Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) exercises … Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

TRANS-SAHARAN COUNTER-TERRORISM PARTNERSHIP (TSCTP) – links the United States with eight African countries: Mali, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria.

EAST AFRICA COUNTER-TERRORISM INITIATIVE (EACTI) – the EACTI has provided training to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.

AFRICA CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS TRAINING AND ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (ACOTA) – training to African military forces. … By FY 2007, nineteen African countries were participating in the ACOTA program (Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia).

INTERNATIONAL MILITARY EDUCATION AND TRAINING PROGRAM (IMET) – brings African military officers to military academies and other military educational institutions in the United States for professional training. Nearly all African countries participate in the program.

U.S. PRIVATE MILITARY CONTRACTORS IN AFRICA – [mostly] as part of the GPOI and ACOTA programs.

FOREIGN MILITARY SALES PROGRAM (FMS) – This program sells U.S. military equipment to African countries … The U.S. government provides loans to finance the purchase of virtually all of this equipment through the Foreign Military Financing Program (FMF), but repayment of these loans by African governments is almost always waived, so that they amount to free grants.

DIRECT COMMERCIAL SALES PROGRAM (DCS) – the Office of Defense Trade Controls of the Department of State licenses the sale of police equipment (including pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, and crowd control chemicals) by private U.S. companies to foreign military forces, paramilitary units, police, and other government agencies.

AFRICAN COASTAL AND BORDER SECURITY PROGRAM (ACBS) – provides specialized equipment (such as patrol vessels and vehicles, communications equipment, night vision devices, and electronic monitors and sensors) to African countries to improve their ability to patrol and defend their own coastal waters and borders from terrorist operations, smuggling, and other illicit activities … No dedicated funding was requested for FY 2008

EXCESS DEFENSE ARTICLES PROGRAM (EDA) – ad hoc transfers of surplus U.S. military equipment to foreign governments. Transfers to African recipients have included the transfer of C-130 transport planes to South Africa and Botswana, trucks to Uganda, M-16 rifles to Senegal, and coastal patrol vessels to Nigeria.

ANTI-TERRORISM ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (ATA) – provide training, equipment, and technology to countries all around the world to support their participation in America’s Global War on Terrorism. … [includes] Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Niger, Chad, Senegal, Mali, Liberia, Ethiopia, Botswana, Djibouti, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique.

SECTION 1206, 1207, AND 902 PROGRAMS – Section 1206 program—known as the Global Equip and Train program—was initiated in FY 2007 and permits the Pentagon—on its own initiative and with little congressional oversight—to provide training and equipment to foreign military, police, and other security forces to “combat terrorism and enhance stability.” …
The Section 1207 program—known as the Security and Stabilization Assistance program—was also started in FY 2007. It allows the Defense Department to transfer equipment, training, and other assistance to the State Department to enhance its operations. …
The Section 902 program—known as the Combatant Commanders’ Initiative Fund— can be used by the commanders of Africom and other combatant commands to fund their own relief and reconstruction projects, rather than relying on the State Department or the Agency for International Development to undertake these efforts.

COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE-HORN OF AFRICA (CJTF-HOA) – designed to conduct naval and aerial patrols in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the eastern Indian Ocean as part of the effort to detect and counter the activities of terrorist groups in the region.
… provided intelligence to Ethiopia in support of its invasion of Somalia in January 2007 and used military facilities in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya to launch air raids and missile strikes in January and June of 2007 and May of 2008 against alleged al-Qaeda members involved in the Council of Islamic Courts in Somalia.

JOINT TASK FORCE AZTEC SILENCE (JTFAS) – carry out counter-terrorism operations in North and West Africa and to coordinate U.S. operations with those of countries in those regions.
… constitutes a major extension of the U.S. role in counter-insurgency warfare and highlights the dangers of America’s deepening involvement in the internal conflicts that persist in so many African countries

NAVAL OPERATIONS IN THE GULF OF GUINEA – Africom will also help coordinate naval operations along the African coastline.
… The U.S. Navy has been steadily increasing the level and pace of its operations in African waters in recent years …
… the United States—conducted what were described as “presence operations” in the Gulf of Guinea …

BASE ACCESS AGREEMENTS FOR COOPERATIVE SECURITY LOCATIONS AND FORWARD OPERATING SITES – Over the past few years, the Bush administration has negotiated base access agreements with the governments of Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierre Leone, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia. Under these agreements, the United States gains access to local military bases and other facilities so that they can be used by American forces as transit bases or as forward operating bases for combat, surveillance, and other military operations. They remain the property of the host African government and are not American bases in a legal sense, so that U.S. government officials are telling the truth—at least technically—when they deny that the United States has bases in these countries.

Go and read the article, AFRICOM from Bush to Obama. There is a great deal more information there than I have included here, including the amounts of money involved in many of these programs.


TAKORADI, Ghana, (Nov. 28, 2007) Lt. j.g. Erica Goodwin visits the children going to school next door to Essikado Hospital in Takoradi, Ghana. Members of Africa Partnership Station (APS) visited the school while working at the hospital to assess the possibility of working on the school during a future community relations project. The APS volunteers spent three days at the hospital building shelves, benches, laying concrete, painting and fixing the ambulance. APS is scheduled to bring international training teams to Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe, and will support more than 20 humanitarian assistance projects in addition to hosting information exchanges and training with partner nations during its seven-month deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elizabeth Merriam, 071128-N-0193M-401 Released) A cheerful picture, regardless of doubts about the APS.

We can learn a lot about AFRICOM by observing US military activity in the Philippines, particularly if we understand the thinking behind it. Much of the military planning of the Bush administration has been done by participants in PNAC, Project for the New American Century. PNAC has been around since the early 90s and includes Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and just about all the other neocon “thinkers” who wanted to invade Iraq since the early 90s, caused the invasion in 2003, and got it so wrong. They are the same ones who have been threatening Iran on the basis of information they know to be false. They used 9/11 to implement plans they had been discussing for years, taking advantage of the attack to push an increasingly aggressive militarism on the US and the world.

The self-avowed aim of the US is to perpetuate its position of being the world’s sole superpower in order to re-order the world. Its strategy to perpetuate its status is to prevent the rise of any rivals. To do this, it is seeking the capacity to deter and defeat potential enemies anywhere in the world by retaining and realigning its “global posture” or its ability to operate across the globe through its worldwide network of forward-deployed troops, bases, and access agreements. Today, the US believes that, of all its potential rivals, China poses the greatest threat and must therefore be contained before it becomes even more powerful. [1]

As well as calling for “regime change” in Iraq, some PNAC neocons have called for “regime change” in China and describe: “the defining military conflicts of the twenty-first century: if not a big war with China, then a series of Cold War-style standoffs that stretch out over years and decades.”

Although at present: “China lacks the military capacity to compete with the United States; neither does it appear to be seeking to.”[1] I am sure the neocons imagine many of their “Cold War-style standoffs” taking place in Africa, over African resources, especially oil.

In the guise of fighting terrorism, but in fact to “contain” China, US is unofficially reclaiming the Philippines as a military base of operations. The Philippines is generally friendly to the US, and strategically placed near China. The methods used in the Philippines look a lot like what the USS Fort McHenry is doing as the African Partnership Station along the Gulf of Guinea, or like what is happening in Djibouti.

Two articles detail how the US is reclaiming the Philippines as a military base, and also reveal a great deal about what all the AFRICOM talk about partnerships, aid, and development mean. The first of these:
At the door of all the east: the Philippines in United States Military Strategy by Herbert Docena, ISBN 978-971-92886-8-8 [1]
is extensively and meticulously documented, and in more abbreviated form:
How the US got its Philippine bases back by Herbert Docena in Asia Times [2]

The US closed its bases in the Philippines in 1991-2, but since 2001, a constant and increasing stream of US military personnel has been rotating in and out. No individuals, or individual units are there for long, but new units are constantly arriving.

For those who have been reading about AFRICOM, this should sound familiar:

Recognizing constraints posed by political realities (a population hostile to American military bases), the US has since been seeking access in ways that would be able to overcome domestic opposition by taking gradual and tentative but incremental steps, publicly justifying them in ways that are more acceptable to the public – i.e. as part of the “war on terror”, to help modernize . . . etc.
. . .
. . . few are the days or weeks when there would be no US troops somewhere in the country giving lectures to . . . troops, participating in large-scale maneuvers, joining command exercises, simulating war games, or taking part in other related activities. . . .

Largely presented as efforts to modernize the . . . armed forces, the objectives behind the exercises are manifold and overlapping. First, the exercises allow the US military to be more familiar with the capabilities, organization, doctrines, and other characteristics of military forces . . . which they may have to fight against or fight alongside with in the future. . . . “[G]iven that these . . . militaries may well be U.S. partners or adversaries in future contingencies, becoming familiar with their capabilities and operating style and learning to operate with them are important.”
. . .
“Maintaining an active program of military-to-military contacts . . . (so that) when the need arises, US military forces can find adequate access to perform their missions both quickly and safely.”
. . .
Implicit in the relationship – as has been the case in previous US-led wars – is that the US will retain over-all command of any coalition in war. Hence, the goal behind the efforts to build ties with, train, strengthen, and develop the capabilities of local militaries is actually to de facto subsume and subordinate them under the US military organization.

. . .
Access over time can develop into habitual use of certain facilities by deployed US forces with the eventual goal of being guaranteed use in a crisis, or permission to pre-position logistics stocks and other critical material in strategic forward locations.”

As US troops come and go in rotation for frequent, regular exercises, their presence – when taken together – makes up a formidable forward-presence that brings them closer to areas of possible action without need for huge infrastructure to support them and without inciting a lot of public attention and opposition.

. . .

“A cooperative security location can be a tucked-away corner of a host country’s civilian airport, or a dirt runway somewhere with fuel and mechanical help nearby, or a military airport in a friendly country with which we have no formal basing agreement but, rather, an informal arrangement with private contractors acting as go-betweens … The United States provides aid to upgrade maintenance facilities, thereby helping the host country to better project its own air and naval power in the region. At the same time, we hold periodic exercises with the host country’s military, in which the base is a focus. We also offer humanitarian help to the surrounding area. Such civil-affairs projects garner positive publicity for our military in the local media… The result is a positive diplomatic context for getting the host country’s approval for use of the base when and if we need it.”
[1]

This is what has been going on in the Philippines, and this is what the AFRICOM training, partnerships, aid and development are all about. It brings the words of Nigeria’s General Victor Malu into sharper focus (though this was some years earlier):

To make matters worse, even when we have reluctantly accepted because of the pressure from our Commander-in-Chief, to allow the Americans to train us, the Americans insisted they must live in the barracks with the soldiers. I left Abuja and flew to Sokoto to go and meet the governor, to plead with him to give us an area outside the barracks we would prepare it for the Americans. The governor accepted to do that. But the Americans turned it down insisting that they must live in the barracks with soldiers. I asked General Danjuma who was my GOC as far back as 1970, I said sir, you are my GOC in 1970, would you have allowed any army of any other country to come and stay with your own troops in the barracks? Well, at a point I didn’t know whether he understood me or not, but this was the type of argument that was going on.

The other thing that is happening in the Philippines is that US is making special forces a more permanent presence, although one of which both the US and the Philippine public are not really aware.

Since 2002, a unit now called the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) has been deployed to . . . the southern Philippines. (T)his unit has continuously maintained its presence in the country for the past six years.

. . .
US troops belonging to the unit have characterized their mission as “unconventional warfare”, “foreign internal defense” and “counter-insurgency”.
. . .
As Colonel Jim Linder, former head of JSOTF-P, has stated, “We’re very much in a war out here … We’ll spill American blood on Jolo. It’s only by luck, skill and the grace of God we haven’t yet.”
. . .
In terms of profile and mission, the JSOTF-P is similar to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-Horn of Africa), which was established in Djibouti in eastern Africa in 2003 and also composed mostly of Special Forces. Like the JSOTF-P, the CJTF-Horn of Africa has also been conducting “humanitarian” missions and aid projects. Similar to the Philippines, Djibouti has also seen a dramatic increase in the amount of military aid it receives from the US. As a sample of the US’s new austere basing template, the CJTF-Horn of Africa has been described as the “model for future US military operations“.
[2]

And the infrastructure and humanitarian projects all have military significance. All of this is relevant to AFRICOM:

But it is not just military assistance per se that has military dimensions. Economic aid, development projects, or other forms of indirect compensation . . . may also be given with military considerations in mind. For example, for the past few years USAID has been constructing dozens of roads, piers, wharfs, bridges, and other infrastructure projects in the very areas where US troops have been deployed. As of 2006, USAID had finished 558 small infrastructure projects and 20 larger ones in Mindanao. As previously mentioned, many of these infrastructure projects support US military mobility; at the same time, they have also proven very useful in gaining local public acceptance for US military presence. For the Special Forces, especially, the infrastructure and humanitarian projects are seen as instrumental in “winning hearts and minds” in the aim of getting what they call “actionable” intelligence. As Army Captain Steve Battle of the JSOTF-P admitted, “I have a military objective behind my projects.” Former JSOTF-P commander Col. Jim Linder said, “To do my job right, I am embedded inside USAID.”
[1]

It is important for us all to be aware of what is really going on. There is much more in both these articles worth considering, with implications for all of Africa.

The USS Fort McHenry in Dakar Senegal. This picture was attributed to a US Navy photographer by the State Department. Then later MSNBC attributed it to an AP photographer, Rebecca Blackwell. As per a comment from b real, this change in attribution looks rather like state propaganda.

Also from the State Department: Africans will be ferried to their floating school, the USS Fort McHenry, via a high-speed Swift boat. (U.S. Navy)

Africa Partnership Station (APS), embarked aboard amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), escorts news media into a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), while the Senegalese navy displays their training.
DAKAR, Senegal (Nov. 7, 2007) – Africa Partnership Station (APS), embarked aboard amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), escorts news media into a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), while the Senegalese navy displays their training to enhance regional and maritime safety and security. APS is scheduled to bring international training teams to Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe, and will support more than 20 humanitarian assistance projects in addition to hosting information exchanges and training with partner nations during its seven-month deployment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class R.J. Stratchko (RELEASED)

At a military ECOWAS meeting in Liberia:

West African military chiefs charged that the United States has failed to adequately consult with countries that will be affected by a planned American military command for Africa.
. . .

“The heads of state should be fully briefed; the heads of state should ask pertinent questions that will give them the direction to cooperate fully,” said Col. Toure Mahamane, head of political affairs, peace and security with the commission of the 15-member Economic Community Of West African States, or ECOWAS.

He said the U.S. had neglected such procedures in a disregard for common “due process” on the continent.

Meanwhile the USS Fort McHenry is off the coast of West Africa, and has begun its training mission off the coast of Senegal. For an excellent summary of the history of AFRICOM, and how the AFRICOM spending is being planned see:

Africom: The new US military command for Africa by Daniel Volman.

. . . the difference between Africom and other commands—and the allegedly “unfounded” nature of its implications for the militarization of the continent—are not as real or genuine as the Bush administration officials would have us believe. Of course Washington has other interests in Africa besides making it into another front in its Global War on Terrorism, maintaining and extending access to energy supplies and other strategic raw material, and competing with China and other rising economic powers for control over the continent’s resources; these include helping Africans deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other emerging diseases, strengthening and assisting peacekeeping and conflict resolution efforts, and responding to humanitarian disasters. But it is simply disingenuous to suggest that accomplishing these three objectives is not the main reason that Washington is now devoting so much effort and attention to the continent. And of course Washington would prefer that selected friendly regimes take the lead in meeting these objects, so that the United States can avoid direct military involvement in Africa . . . The hope that the Pentagon can build up African surrogates who can act on behalf of the United States is precisely why Washington is providing so much security assistance to these regimes and why it would like to provide even more in the future. Indeed, as argued below, this is actually one of the main reasons that Africom is being created at this time.
. . .
U.S.S. Fort McHenry amphibious assault ship will begin a six-month deployment to the Gulf of Guinea in November 2007. The ship will carry 200-300 sailors and U.S. Coast Guard personnel and will call at ports in eleven countries (Angola, Benin, Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, and Togo). Its mission will be to serve as a “floating schoolhouse” to train local forces in port and oil-platform security, search-and rescue missions, and medical and humanitarian assistance. According to Admiral Ulrich, the deployment matches up perfectly with the work of the new Africa Command. “If you look at the direction that the Africa Command has been given and the purpose of standing up the Africom, you’ll see that the (Gulf of Guinea) mission is closely aligned,” he told reporters.

The perfect match Admiral Ulrich describes is also a perfect match for training African surrogates to act for US interests. Volman provides some breakdown of AFRICOM related budget appropriations and requests. According to the figures he provides, it looks like a lot more is being spent on military arms and equipment than on any “humanitarian” endeavors. What is also interesting is the money that was not requested:

African Coastal and Border Security Program (ACBS Program)

This program provides specialized equipment (such as patrol vessels and vehicles, communications equipment, night vision devices, and electronic monitors and sensors) to African countries to improve their ability to patrol and defend their own coastal waters and borders from terrorist operations, smuggling, and other illicit activities. In some cases, airborne surveillance and intelligence training also may be provided. In FY 2006, the ACBS Program received nearly $4 million in FMF funding, and Bush administration requested $4 million in FMF funding for the program in FY 2007. No dedicated funding was requested for FY 2008, but the program may be revived in the future.

What appears to me to be the current greatest threat to civil society along the coast of West Africa is organized crime, and right now the cocaine trade is the major problem for Ghana. There is also heroin, illegal oil bunkering, and human traffiking, and illegal fishing. And all of these (including the fishing?) are one and the same with the arms trade. Illegal goods are used to pay for arms. And arms are used to pay for illegal goods. The African Coastal and Border Security Program (ACBS Program) sounds like it would help African countries protect themselves. Protecting themselves is one of the reasons AFRICOM spokesman Theresa Whelan has given for the command. As the State Department article puts it:

The USS Fort McHenry arrived off the coast of West Africa in November to lead an international team of experts that will train African sailors to confront the daily challenges of illegal fishing, piracy, drug trafficking and oil smuggling.

It is easy to add this lack of a funding request to the list of behaviors that make it look like the US is training Africans to act in US interests, and not in their own interests. Although I am profoundly skeptical about US military assistance in Africa, this is the area where it could conceivably be helpful. The US war on drugs has been a resounding failure. The US training for Latin American military has been a breeding ground for coups and crime. So maybe Africa is better off without that kind of help. But the fact that no 2008 funding was requested for this program is worth noting.

It does not look like any country is turning down the training the US is offering. I think it would be foolish to do so. It is always useful to see first hand what your “neighbors” are doing and planning, particularly if they are concealing their motives and intentions.

Before Bush, US military training was the best in the world. Now, with the Bush administration reliance on mercenaries, and with the US military increasingly deployed in Iraq without adequate protective gear, training, or rests between deployments, the US military is in serious trouble. What effect this will have in Africa remains to be seen. Oversupplies of arms and mercenaries look like the biggest danger.

click on the link for description and history of the ship

The USS Fort McHenry is on its way to the Gulf of Guinea to establish the continuing presence of Africom (Operation Recolonize?) It departed October 16. Or, as a headline in the African Oil Journal puts it:

USS Fort McHenry Navy Ship Left for Gulf of Guinea to protect Oil Interests:


The Gulf of Guinea has significant strategic importance because a large percentage of U.S. oil imports flow through it and U.S. officials are concerned about organized crime, and potentially terrorism, in the region.
. . .

“It provides a good example of what the newly established U.S. Africa Command is about as it relates to helping our partner nations on the continent of Africa build their capacity to better govern their spaces, to have more effect in providing for the security of their people, as well as doing the things that are important in assuring the development of the continent in ways that promote increased globalization of their economies as well as the development of their societies for the betterment of their people,” said the general.

General Ward says Africa Command will do the same type of training and humanitarian assistance missions the U.S. military has pursued in Africa for years, but will do more and will have better coordination with other U.S. government agencies, humanitarian groups and African governments.

He says such missions should help dispel concerns expressed in many African countries about alleged plans establish U.S. bases on the continent and to ‘militarize’ U.S. Africa policy.

“Once the command begins to operate, they will see that this hype of establishing large bases is just not a reality,” said General Ward.
. . .

The commander of U.S. Navy forces in Europe, who is responsible for the Africa Partnership Station mission, says even with Africa Command not yet fully operational, the navy is moving from what he called ‘episodic’ involvement on the continent to a nearly constant presence, in response to requests from African countries.

At Moon of Alabama b real has some particularly cogent reporting and analysis on the launch of AFRICOM and the USS Fort McHenry. I recommend you go there and take a look.

The goal of AFRICOM is to guard US oil interests, as the headline so clearly states. The proffered partnerships are to train African militaries to do the jobs the US wants done. This process is already well underway. As Vijay Prashad points out, African armies have increasingly become praetorian guards to protect the interests of large corporations. These “partnerships” AFRICOM touts are intended to be part of that “nearly constant presence”. In the article quoted above, General Ward brushes off the idea of large bases. The US will maintain a number of floating bases. Although I suspect it is still looking for a land base. The US may not need a land base to accomplish its objectives if it can manipulate its “partners” to its satisfaction.

When we hear talk of military partnerships, we should remember the ongoing US & Latin America military partnership, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) formerly the School of the Americas (SOA) and still based in Ft. Benning Georgia. It has been a military coup factory for Latin America.

SOA has trained more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen. Among its graduates are many of the continent’s most notorious torturers, mass murderers, dictators and state terrorists. As hundreds of pages of documentation compiled by the pressure group SOA Watch show, Latin America has been ripped apart by its alumni.

In fact, this year, August 2007, SOA Watch tells us:

A recent criminal investigation into the Colombian Army’s Third Brigade, has prompted the arrest of thirteen high ranking officers accused of providing security and mobilizing troops for Diego Montoya (alias “Don Diego”), the leader of the Norte del Valle Cartel and one of the FBI’s 10 most-wanted criminals.

Two former instructors of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC) are among the thirteen.
. . .
Over HALF of the thirteen military officials implicated in the drug cartel protection ring attended the U.S. Army School of the Americas and/or its successor institute, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Africa has already experienced more than its share of military coups. Coups stop progress and development dead in their tracks. We don’t need more. There are already unfortunate ties between Latin American drug cartels and West Africa. Do we want the US military facilitating these ties, with African officers making contacts for the drug trade as part of their training? The US has been a complete failure in its war on drugs. There is NO reason to think it will do better in Africa, a continent about which it knows almost nothing.

The reference to increased globalization is likewise chilling. I see globalization and I think evisceration. The phrasing sounds like they are planning to open up Africa and pry out what they think are the good bits. It tells Africans that yet again they will be subsidizing the developed world with both blood and treasure.

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