Search Results for 'riverine warfare'


© Jacob Silberberg/PANOS Heavily armed soldiers ride a patrol boat in the Niger Delta region.

On February 6 of this year the US announced the creation of the US Africa Command. On April 6 of this year the US Navy convened a Riverine Warfare Conference in Annapolis. At the same time, the Navy is putting energy and money into its new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, designed to operate in brown and green water. Personnel are lining up to join it.

Coincidence? One definition of coincidence (I believe I read this in a book by John Brunner) is coincidence means you are not paying attention to the rest of what is going on.

The Niger Delta in the Gulf of Guinea is a large riverine environment that is currently becoming increasingly militarized and unstable. The Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea are where the US plans to get a lot more of its oil. If the US wants to use its military there, it will need a force trained and equipped for the riverine environment.

From several pages I’ve linked from navy.mil, plus some other articles, I was able to collect the following information.

Now, the Navy is spending $200 million on the new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), reinventing its conventional riverine capability, which has been dormant since the Vietnam War.
. . .
“Once trained, we will be the Navy’s face in the global war on terrorism.”

A major portion of the mission of the Riverine Squadron is:

. . . to conduct port security, coastal surveillance and interception as necessary, as well as protect any maritime asset and infrastructure that we may be tasked,” . . . “This includes ships, submarines, piers, ports, oil platforms or a new beach head for delivering supplies to support humanitarian assistance.” . . . (and includes) anti-terrorism and force protection in harbors and coastal waterways in the continental United States and overseas locations such as Korea, the Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa region.

And in a related article:

. . . these forces provide harbor defense, port security, high value asset escorting, and littoral surveillance support operations . . . They accomplish their mission by locating, identifying, and neutralizing potential threats and maintaining security throughout areas of operation. . . . (they) will help expand the Navy’s inshore war-fighting capabilities, and allow safer travel for U.S. and allied vessels through foreign coastal waters, harbors and rivers.”

“The enemy is definitely going to frown when they hear the U.S. Navy is going into the brown and green water. They are not going to like that,” he said.
. . .
In a written response to questions from National Defense, a Naval Special Warfare Command spokesman said that the riverine force will cover more conventional types of operations, but that the riverine and special operations forces will train and fight together. (emphasis mine)

There remains some awareness and discussion that you can’t operate without some positive interaction with the citizens of the country where you are operating. From the report on the Riverine Warfare Conference:

. . . “riverine warfare … is not control of just the rivers and canals, it is control of the whole area, and that takes more than just boats.” Said Captain Hock, “You have to become part of the culture. You have to integrate.”
. . .
And for riverine work to really work . . . “you have to get off the boat.” Civilian assistance—providing medical aid, delivering essential supplies, and any other type of goodwill initiatives—has to be perceived as a crucial part of the mission. Not only are you doing a good deed, . . . but “you’re taking those villages away as bases of operations” for the bad guys.

No mention is made in any of these articles about the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea. There was mention of Iraq, where there is some riverine activity, and some mention of fighting drugs in Central and South America, especially along Peru and Columbia. I don’t think riverine warfare is a major part of US operations in Iraq. And the drug war has been going on for decades and has achieved nothing that resembles success. Oil in the Gulf of Guinea is the primary motive for Africa Command and this renewed interest in riverine warfare.

Because of the situation in the Niger Delta, I have described here and here, among other places, the US is cruising for more than a bruising in the Delta. Unless the Nigerian Federal and State governments share oil resources with the citizens of the oil regions, there is no chance for peace or safety. The place is too big, and too heavily populated. It is not possible to fight everyone in their own country (a lesson the US seems to have a lot of trouble learning).

Remember these statistics on Nigeria originating from the World Bank:

80% of oil wealth is owned by 1% of the population; 70% of private wealth is abroad whilst 3/4 of the country live on about $1 a day – at least 15 million of those live in the Niger Delta


Unless this inequity can be addressed, and there are suggestions for how to do that here, the only alternative is to defoliate the place, and kill the 15 million people who live there, or fight for many decades killing many people on both sides, and achieving little or nothing except vast suffering. A military force cannot address the political and diplomatic problem. That problem requires leading with political and diplomatic skills. A few smiles, handouts, and a visiting doctor or two will make no difference. For the US Africa Command to try and work with the Nigerian government to “control” the problem by force, without addressing the profound and fundamental inequity that feeds the source, is simply to advise the oppressor that when he grinds people under his heel, he should twist his foot more to the left, or more to the right.

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.

AFRICOM continues constantly expanding seabasing and riverine warfare activities, continuing efforts to monitor and control African nations and African resources for the benefit of the US and the West.

I’ve collected together a number of photos of seabasing and riverine warfare exercises from the last 12 months. You can see how AFRICOM is busily engaged around the entire coastline of the continent, and inland on the rivers.

MOMBASA, Kenya - The guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) arrives in Mombasa to take part in a training

DAKAR, Senegal - High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) makes a stop for refueling on its way to Ghana, June 26, 2011. Swift is currently taking part in Africa Partnership Station (APS) 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Carver)

AGADIR, Morocco - U.S. Naval Ship Pililaau ports at Agadir, Morocco recently as part of exercise African Lion 2011. The largest exercise sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, African Lion is a joint, combined U.S.-Moroccan exercise that is designed to promote interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's military tactics, techniques and procedures. The exercise is scheduled to conclude June 18.

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal - A group of service members from the U.S. and Senegalese Marine Corps and Nigerian Navy search for targets during a live-fire shoot on the river in Toubakouta, Senegal April 23, 2011. Approximately 45 U.S. marines and sailors, along with about 100 Senegalese commandos and Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service troops are participating in Africa Partnership Station 2011, a U.S. Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM) maritime security assistance program that is designed to strengthen participating nations' maritime security capacity through multilateral collaboration and cross-border cooperation. Marine Corps Forces, Africa is supporting APS 11 with a security assistance force based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. (Marine Corps Forces Africa photo by Master Sergeant Grady Fontana)

DOUALA, Cameroon - Cameroonian Navy visit, board, search, and seizure teams approach USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) during the multi-national training exercise Obangame Express 2011 as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West, March 21, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo - A Democratic Republic of Congo Navy boat accompanies Exercise Kwanza review participants on a cruise of the Congo River in October 2010. Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) held the exercise in order to validate Central African Multinational Force to African Union (AU) standards. The force is one of five brigade-size elements that make up the AU's Africa Standby Force--created to respond to crises on the African continent. (U.S. Army photo by Major George K. Allen Jr.)

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal - Sergeant Austin Sabin maneuvers a fire team of Senegalese commandos through a final military operation in urban terrain exercise at the end of a three week partnered evolution in Toubakouta, Senegal, recently. The partnership was an Africa Partnership Station 2011 initiative, in which the Marines of second platoon, Ground Combat Element, Security Cooperation Task Force, APS-11 exchanged concepts and cultures with Senegalese commandos. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Timothy L. Solano)

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal - Commando marines with Senegal's Company Fusiliers Marine Commando unit patrol the hot dusty trail in army base center training tactics zone 3, in Toubakouta, Sengegal, during Africa Partnership Station 2011. These Senegalese marines are participating in Africa Partnership Station 2011, a U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) maritime security assistance program that is designed to strengthen participating nations' maritime security capacity through multilateral collaboration and cross-border cooperation. Marine Corps Forces, Africa is supporting APS 11 with a security assistance force based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. (Marine Corps Forces, Africa photo by Master Sergeant Grady Fontana)

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal - Staff Sergeant Shaun Grant and Gunnery Sergeant Michael Connors exit the water after finishing the Senegalese water obstacle course in the Sadoum River April 24, 2011. This exercise was one of many that the marines of second platoon, Ground Combat Element, Security Cooperation Task Force, Africa Partnership Station 2011 have engaged in during the APS-11 partnered military-to-military exchange. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Timothy L. Solano)

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal- U.S. Marines, Senegalese Commandos and members of the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service lay in the prone position during a beach raid exercise launched from rubber raid craft, recently. The raid formation once on the beach is designed to provide 360 degrees of security. (Photo by Lance Corporal Timothy Solano)

MEDITERRANEAN SEA -- Sailors assigned to the deck department aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Ponce (LPD 15) prepare for a replenishment at sea March 10, 2011, with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Kanawha (T-AO 196) and the Amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). Ponce is part of Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nathanael Miller/Released)

LOME TOGO, Togo - Sailors aboard USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) man the rails during a port visit to Lome, Togo, February 1, 2011. The port visit marks the start of the fifth iteration of Africa Partnership Station (APS) East. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.(U.S. Navy photo by Lieutenant junior grade Lorna Mae Devera)

PEMBA ISLAND, Tanzania - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Clint Phillips (left) and Petty Officer 2nd Class Bruce Edmunds (2nd from left), Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) 115, wade through shallow water on their way to Fundo Island, a small islet that is part of Pemba Island, September 14, 2010. The Little Creek, Virginia-based MCAT 115 is deployed to Tanzania as part of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. Maritime Civil Affairs Teams are deployed worldwide to assess partner-nation infrastructure and enhance capacity. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Laird)

ARTA BEACH, Djibouti - The first group of Navy FY-11 Chief Petty Officer selectees awaits instruction to begin their first waterborne obstacle during a water survival course at the French Foreign Legion's Combat Training Center September 6, 2010. The selectees from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, completed the course as part of the team building portion of the induction season. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Frank Montellano)

USCGC MOHAWK, At Sea - Petty Officer 3rd Class Antonio Seisdedos fires a .50 Caliber Machine Gun during a gunnery exercise off the coast of Senegal on August 29, 2010, during African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP) operations. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) is currently conducting a 10-day underway period in Senegal's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone in support of the AMLEP program. AMLEP enables African partners to build maritime security capacity and improve management of their maritime environment through real-world combined law enforcement operations. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Lieutenant Commander James Stockman)

GULF OF GUINEA - A Togolese defender-class patrol boat comes alongside the guided-missile frigate USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) as part of visit, board, search and seizure training with U.S. and Togolese Sailors during Africa Partnership Station (APS) West, February 8, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative to improve maritime safety and security in Africa training and collaborative activities. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Sean J. McMahon)

LUANDA, Angola - An Angolan visit, board, search and seizure team watches during a tactics demonstration given by U.S. Sailors aboard USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49), March 30, 2011. Robert G. Bradley, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, is homeported out of Mayport, Florida, and is on a scheduled deployment to west and central Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

INDIAN OCEAN - French navy La Fayette-class frigate, FS Guepratte (F714) prepares to come alongside USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29) as part of a "leap frog" exercise simulating an underway replenishment during Africa Partnership Station (APS) East deployment, March 14, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class William Jamieson)

LAGOS, Nigeria - Nigerian special operations sailors and U.S. sailors conduct visit, board, search and seizure training at the Joint Maritime Special Operations Training Command as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West in Lagos, April 13, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

LAGOS, Nigeria - Rear Admiral Kenneth J. Norton, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa deputy chief of staff for strategy, resources and plans, along with other U.S. Navy personnel, ride with a Nigerian visit, board, search and seizure team during Africa Partnership Station (APS) West, August 8, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Carver)

POINTE NOIRE, Republic of the Congo - Congolese sailors participate in a boarding team operations course hosted by High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) 2011 July 26, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Carver)

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal-Corporal Brandon Blackmon of second platoon, Ground Combat Element, Security Cooperation Task Force, Africa Partnership Station 2011, provides front security for the Marines and Senegalese Commandos of a combat rubber raiding craft as they conduct a beach assault training exercise, recently. The inter-military assault teams were created during the APS 2011 security cooperation partnership, in which U.S. Marines, Senegal Commandos and Nigerian Special Service Group troops train alongside one another to compare military and cultural perspectives. (Photo by Lance Corporal Timothy Solano)

DOUALA, Cameroon - A Cameroonian Rapid Intervention Battalion boat patrols the Cameroon coastal waters after the multi-national training exercise Obangame Express 2011, part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West, March 23, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

LAGOS, Nigeria - Sailors from High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) look at a fishing boat during a community relations project at a local village as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Carver)

USCGC MOHAWK, At Sea - Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Lowry (right) and Petty Officer 3rd Class Shawn Cooper (left) guide a Senegalese fishing vessel away from U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) on September 3, 2010. Mohawk is currently conducting operations in Senegal's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone in support of the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP) program. AMLEP enables African partners to build maritime security capacity and improve management of their maritime environment through real-world combined law enforcement operations. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Lieutenant Commander James Stockman)

ATLANTIC OCEAN - A Cape Verdean visit board, search and seizure team circles the guided-missile frigate USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49), during exercise Saharan Express off the coast of Cape Verde April 27, 2011. Saharan Express is a counter narcotics and proliferation exercise that is part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West. APS is an international security cooperation initiative designed to strengthen global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

The US Africa Command has been busy all around and throughout the continent. I thought I would put together some of the pictures, so people could get a more visual idea of what is going on.

U.S. Navy EOD1 John C. Richards, Master EOD technician assigned to the Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Eleven (EODMU-11) gives the range control safety brief April 28th 2011, prior to range training in Namibia. From the August 2011 issue of All Hands magazine of the US Navy.

The last time this blog visited EODMU-11 was when they were investigating AFRICOM’s Lake Victoria Secret. These three photos featuring EODMU-11 in Namibia came from the US Navy magazine All Hands. h/t Roger Pociask

Namibian Defense Force (NDF) Sergeant Eugene M. Salionga, explosive ordnance technician student, attaches a non-electric blasting cap to the detonation priming loop April 28 as U.S. Navy Chief Explosive Ordnance TechnicianChief Petty Offcer Justin Berlien, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit11 (EODMU-11), Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, looks on. (Photo by MC2(EXW) Todd Frantom)

Namibia Defense Forces Warrant Officer Mashatu Jonas, Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, initiates a demolition shot April 28 during the practical application phase of demolition initiation procedures in Namibia.

SEKONDI, Ghana - Ghanaian sailors practice security maneuvers during a tactical combat casualty care course at Sekondi Naval Base, August 17, 2011. The course is being taught in support of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West. APS is an international security initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Carver)

POINTE NOIRE, Republic of the Congo (July 26, 2011) Congolese sailors participate in a boarding team operations course hosted by High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) as part of Africa Partnership Station 2011. Africa Partnership Station is an international security cooperation initiative intended to strengthen global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ian Carver/Released)

Added December 31:

The US Navy’s September 2011 issue (large PDF) of All Hands Magazine featured the Navy’s new emphasis on riverine warfare on the cover and with an article. The article describes training exercises in the Chesapeake Bay along the coast of Virginia.

Cover and feature article of All Hands Magazine September 2011.

One way in which the Navy’s deployment of security forces has shifted is the use of its riverine patrol teams. The focus now is bridging the gap between the brown-water (river) and blue-water (open ocean) patrol. The Navy’s newest, state-of-the-art boat, the Riverine Command Boat (RCB), is pushing further into green-water (coastal) zones to achieve that goal.

The RCB is a unique incarnation of the riverine mission, attached to Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s Riverine Group 1, Riverine Squadron 2, Detachment 2 (RIVRON 2 DET 2) located on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va. At the core, the Riverine Force is a combat-arms force that performs point-defense, fire-support and interdiction operations along coastal and inland waterways to defeat enemies and support U.S. naval and coalition forces.

The RCB is a lethal supplement to their already menacing arsenal, giving riverine squadrons the ability to travel not only in rivers, but also out to bays and coastal regions, expanding the capabilities of command and control and the riverine squadrons’ maritime security reach.

“With the addition of the RCB platform we are now able to potentially stop any threat

Riverine Command Boat fires the .50 caliber gun in reaction to simulated enemy forces on shore.

The craft has proven the ability to operate in between blue and brown water, referred to by coastal security vessels as green water …

“We’re a double threat,” said Gunner’s Mate Seaman Adam Heredia. “Although we work in the coastal environment conducting escorts, security, surveillance, and anti-piracy, we can still operate in a traditional riverine environment.”

The crew aboard a Riverine Command Boat retrieve the crew of a small rigid hull inflatable boat during a night exercise along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay

Sailors attached to to RIVRON 2 DET 2, role play as “enemy forces” firing simulated rounds toward Riverine Command Boat craft off the coast during a night training evolution.

Riverine Command Boat gives Riverine squadrons the ability to travel not only in rivers, but also out to bays and coastal regions, expanding the capabilities of command and control and the Riverine squadrons’ maritime security reach with un-matched fire power

The RCB is equipped with an array of weapons that are sure to deter any potential foes. The arsenal includes a 7.62-caliber M240B machine gun, an electric motor-driven Gatling gun which fires 2,000 rounds per minute, a Mark-19 automatic grenade launcher, twin .50-caliber machine guns, an additional M2 .50-caliber machine gun and a remote-operated, .50-caliber gun.

With its versatility, the RCB serves as the primary boat in combat or patrolling missions. It can serve as a combat information center, and can even be configured as an ambulance boat. It is designed to land on a variety of shorelines, including solid rock, and to drop off and extract personnel from any area.

The Navy’s newest state-ofthe-art boat, the Riverine Command Boat, posts a force protection watch off the coast during a night training evolution.

These exercises are all part of the activities pictured above around the coasts and creeks of Africa. The “enemies” in Africa will be Africans. Many of these “enemies” will be pan-Africanists and local patriots who do not want their countries run as resource troughs for US corporations.

There are many lessons Africa should learn from the Pentagon’s counter revolution against the Arab Spring. Keep in mind that America talks about democracy, but the Pentagon is actively working against democracy in numerous places around the world. It has been particularly active in Africa.

As the Arab Spring blossomed and President Barack Obama hesitated about whether to speak out in favor of protesters seeking democratic change in the Greater Middle East, the Pentagon acted decisively. It forged ever deeper ties with some of the most repressive regimes in the region, building up military bases and brokering weapons sales and transfers to despots from Bahrain to Yemen.

As state security forces across the region cracked down on democratic dissent, the Pentagon also repeatedly dispatched American troops on training missions to allied militaries there. During more than 40 such operations with names like Eager Lion and Friendship Two that sometimes lasted for weeks or months at a time, they taught Middle Eastern security forces the finer points
of counter-insurgency, small unit tactics, intelligence gathering, and information operations skills crucial to defeating popular uprisings
.

These recurrent joint-training exercises, seldom reported in the media and rarely mentioned outside the military, constitute the core of an elaborate, longstanding system that binds the Pentagon to the militaries of repressive regimes across the Middle East. Although the Pentagon shrouds these exercises in secrecy, refusing to answer basic questions about their scale, scope, or cost, an investigation by TomDispatch reveals the outlines of a region-wide training program whose ambitions are large and wholly at odds with Washington’s professed aims of supporting democratic reforms in the Greater Middle East.

United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), the Pentagon’s regional military headquarters that oversees operations in Africa, has planned 13 such major joint-training exercises in 2011 alone from Uganda to South Africa, Senegal to Ghana, including African Lion.

The military also refused to comment on exercises scheduled for 2012. There is nonetheless good reason to believe that their number will rise as regional autocrats look to beat back the forces of change

This spring, as Operation African Lion proceeded and battered Moroccan protesters nursed their wounds, Obama asserted that the “United States opposes the use of violence and repression

(Nick Turse: Did Pentagon help strangle the Arab Spring ?)

AFRICOMs exercises throughout the African continent have grown in number and size every year. In countries where AFRICOM has been most aggressive, it has been consistent in working in the interests of repressive regimes and against the interests of democracy in the same way CENTCOM has been doing throughout the Middle East. The main source of terrorism in Africa is the threat African militaries pose to African people. AFRICOM trains, supports, and expands that threat.

burning oil spill in the Niger Delta

burning oil spill in the Niger Delta, picture from the film

Click HERE to view the 8 minute video Curse of the Black Gold

Slate featured an 8 minute video using the photos of Ed Kashi and the voices of people from the Niger Delta, Curse of the Black Gold, based on Kashi’s book of the same name, Curse of the Black Gold.

In the Niger Delta, over the last 20 years there have been an average of 2 oil spills per day. N’Delta is one of the great forested wetlands of the planet, part of the lungs of the planet. It is now a lung completely clogged by oil. The oil pollution and the oil business have destroyed every other means of making a living. Oil has detroyed the land and destroyed the communities that live on the land. After years of trying to talk to the oil companies and the Nigerian Federal Government some citizens have chosen the path of armed opposition. MEND, the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger is the largest and best known. MEND has successfully shut down a great deal of Nigerian oil production. As one of the people speaking in the film says. If the government wouldn’t allow a dialogue with us before, but now it is reacting to the violence: “… that means the government respects violence, not dialogue.

The film says Nigeria has the second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia. The US is expecting to get about 25% of its oil from Africa, chiefly Nigeria. If MEND is shutting down production, what will the US do? Will it try to negotiate a fairer distribution of wealth, and help create policies that protect the environment as part of the extraction of oil? Or will it attempt to crush any local opposition to corporate greed and environmental devastation by military means? And whether the US uses its own soldiers, Nigerian proxies, or mercenaries, will it invade another country, this time in the Niger Delta, and devastate the population for oil?

With AFRICOM, a combatant command, leading US foreign policy in Africa as has been described in this report, U.S. Civil Military Imbalance for Global Engagement, the answer seems fairly clear. AFRICOM planners and the mercenary corporations are focused on the Niger Delta.

Many people think there is still time to negotiate and avoid full scale confrontation. It would certainly be to US advantage in terms of its relationship with Africa and the world, and in terms of long term interests, both US and African, to take the dialogue approach. Under the present US administration, that does not seem to be on the table.

AFRICOM has made a big show of coming to Africa to help Africans, partnerships, capacity building, assisting “failed states”, etc. But as Michael Klare writes in Rising Powers Shrinking Planet:

… As in previous centuries, resource-consuming nations will extract as much of Africa’s wealth — in this case, oil, gas, and minerals — as they can, often jostling with one another for access to the most prolific sources of supply. In doing so they will repeatedly proclaim their deep interest in African development, insisting that the exploitation of raw materials will contribute to the improvement of living conditions for the masses of ordinary citizens. If past experience is any guide, however, few of those living in Africa’s resource-producing countries will see any significant benefit from the depletion of their continents natural bounty. (p.149-50)

His words are certainly holding true in the Niger Delta. I remember the optimism oil brought in the 1970s. And we can see the devastation it has brought instead in Kashi’s pictures featured in the video.

Added Sept 9: When I wrote above about invasion of the Niger Delta, I doubt the US has any desire to involve US soldiers in war fighting in the Niger Delta. Although they are training for that possibility, riverine warfare, counter insurgency, African languages etc. I think the US would prefer to use training and military assistance to get the Nigerian military to act as proxies for US corporate interests. In this way the Niger Delta can continue unchanged as a colony of the oil companies with the assistance of the Nigerian government. The US will also employ the PMCs, mercenary corporations, or may encourage the Nigerian government to employ these corporate soldiers. What we don’t see is any effort to strengthen Nigerian democracy and civilian institutions. The Pentagon is leading foreign policy. That is where the US is putting the majority of its foreign policy dollars. That concentration of money and effort in the Pentagon is what is meant by the militarization of foreign policy. The denials the US is militarizing foreign policy ignore how the money is being spent.

The Pentagon has reactivated its green and brown water Navy. Intense training is going on right now preparing for riverine warfare. New units are being created, and older units reorganized. The contractors have seen the trend and are devising products to get in on the action. They are in line to make a lot of money. One new product, pictured above, has been docked in Long Island.

The description of this boat refers to using it in Iraq, or using it for humanitarian and disaster relief. Riverine warfare is far too small a piece of the Iraq conflict to devote the riverine resources that are currently underway, or new weapons, such as this boat, and the training that is in progress. We saw how much the Bush administration cares about humanitarian relief with Katrina, and the aftermath in New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta. The idea that they would invest time or money in humanitarian relief is laughable.

As Mr. Greenspan said, the Iraq war is about oil, and so is the new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. The riverine warfare units and craft are designed for action in the Gulf of Guinea, protecting US oil interests. At about the same time as the announcement of AFRICOM, the Navy was underway with recreating its riverine warfare capability, neglected since the Vietnam War. No one mentions the Niger Delta, the Gulf of Guinea, or anything about Africa in articles about the new riverine warfare capability. But anyone who thinks African oil is not the reason for the buildup of a green and brown water Navy, is not paying attention to what is going on. The US already gets more oil from Africa than from Saudi Arabia.

An advanced prototype craft for riverine warfare, Joint Multi-mission Expeditionary Craft, JMEC-01, showed up on Long Island in the Oyster Bay Marina recently.

JMEC-01 contains 1,080 Horsepower generated by twin Cummins QSC 8.3-liter 540 HP turbocharged diesel engines that have been dropped into its aluminum hulled body. Propulsion and direction come in the form of water jets that pivot beneath the boat. The jets are designed to allow maneuverability into waters as shallow as 28 inches. Controlled by an aircraft-style joystick rather than the traditional captain’s wheel, the result is a 10-ton vehicle that behaves like a Jet Ski. Top cruise speed is officially listed as greater than 40kts (46mph), and it has been reported at speeds of up to 44kts (50 mph).
. . .
Further belying the simple workboat exterior, advanced electronics at four workstations enable the super-agile craft to act as a command and control center, not just as a basic responding vehicle. This means it is designed to coordinate activity both on land and on the water.
. . .

According to Northrop Grumman systems engineer Michael Moore, intelligence coordination on the JMEC boat docked here in Oyster Bay is accomplished through a variety of military and civilian systems that include UHF SatCom antennas for satellite relayed information; electro-optical/infrared and radar sensors with a 360-degree field of view; AIS, an Automatic Integration System that most big ships now have, to positively identify shipping traffic; and a specialized onboard Integrated Communication System by Gentex-Telephonics that allows crewmembers to receive information through their normal headsets up to a quarter of a mile away. Said Moore, “When we’re out on the water, we are connected through a network with, for example, Blue Force Tracking Software (an emerging standard that identifies troop locations and helps reduce friendly fire incidents) to know where we are and where other, ‘friendlies’ are.” Pointing to the mast at the stern of the craft, Moore continued, “Those two antennas are called Rover antennas. Rover is a data link that connects to data coming from unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and their sensors, for example streaming video or still images, and these can be displayed on monitors. We are connected to the Internet and run the clients (onboard computers) in real time aboard the boat.”

. . . advanced electronics at four workstations enable the super-agile craft to act as a command and control center, not just as a basic responding vehicle. This means it is designed to coordinate activity both on land and on the water. This has military, Homeland Security, and emergency/humanitarian implications.
. . .
JMEC-01 is a high technology demonstrator jointly funded in a partnership between Aluminum Chambered Boats of Bellingham, Washington, and Northrop Grumman. There is no government aid and there is no promise of any follow-on contract. Aluminum Chambered Boats provided the hull and structure, and Northrop Grumman provided the sophisticated electronic communications and warfare systems. It is a proposal intended to show that the two companies are serious about filling these emerging needs, and that they have the capabilities to do so.
Wilkers emphasized that the craft’s layout is a test bed and that the configuration is a suggestion. . . . Company literature lists at least five different potential variants.

Assuming this craft can do what it promises, reliably in challenging conditions, it should be a formidable piece of equipment. The intended use is obvious to anyone paying attention. The question is, how will it actually be used? And who will use it? The Bush administration has outsourced so much of defense and intelligence, they don’t know what is being sold to who. And so far as news reports indicate, they don’t care. The Niger militants and guerilla entrepreneurs, and the dealers in illegal bunkering and contraband have plenty of money to spend on weapons. Weapons are a major piece of the contraband business. Militarizing one side just results in militarizing the other side in a conflict. It would be nice if the US government, the Nigerian government and the other Gulf of Guinea governments would put a bit of effort into attempting some political solutions. Unfortunately, it seems like the Bush administration does not know how to talk to people, or to make deals. Their foreign policy is to threaten war or to attack, the only trick they know.

While the defense contractors are designing weapons, the Navy is training for its new riverine responsibilities.

The SH-60 Seahawk swoops low over the York River, banks right toward the crane ship Flickertail State, hovers 20 feet above and, within seconds, a series of sailors in flight suits and skateboarding helmets rapidly slide down a rope and onto the ship.

This type of vessel boarding — used when a ship refuses to allow a visit by small boat — is a specialty of special operators, and it’s dangerous enough that it’s been left to them, until now. The only kind of boarding more dangerous is when the suspect ship actively resists.

But the sailors now searching the cargo ship for contraband or so-called ‘bad actors’ are not SEALs. They are fleet sailors assigned to “Unexpected Company” — the new helicopter-borne Visit, Board, Search and Seizure team of Mobile Security Squadron 2.

Its 24 handpicked sailors have been training since February to learn the techniques usually left to special operators but now taken on by the ever-evolving Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.

. . .
Known as COMET — for Command and Control, Operational Maritime Training — the two-week exercise is another step toward certifying NECC’s coastal warfare, riverine, expeditionary logistics and other units to operate with a strike group. Its scenarios were based on the fictional nations of Sapphire and Mica, the same countries used for a recent deployment certification of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.
. . .
A major element has been establishing command and control of the disparate units and testing new unmanned aerial vehicles such as the hand-held, 10-ounce Wasp, which is launched with a slingshot.

Weapons and training activities are designed with the Gulf of Guinea in mind.

A number of years ago I read The Power Broker, about Robert Moses, the man who more than anyone else, is responsible for how and where roads are built in the US. It is also one of the best books you can read for to understand how politics works in the US. Robert Moses pushed to get projects underway and partially built, even before they were fully approved. Once a project is already under construction it becomes much more difficult for legislatures, or other governing bodies to stop the project, or withhold the funds. People are stuck with the project, whether it is a good idea or not. That was part of Moses technique for getting what he wanted done. Bush is doing something similar with the Iraq war, and with AFRICOM. I hope the US government will have the toughness and courage to change direction once he is gone. I’m not holding my breath until it happens.

Niger Delta from space

John C K Daly for ISN Security Watch reported back in February that

The Pentagon reportedly plans to establish another dozen bases in the region; in Algeria, Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Ghana, Morocco and Tunisia.

That is nine countries and twelve bases. I suspect that means at least two for Ghana. And there are at least two places in Ghana where the US military is very active right now.

The rising violence in Nigeria’s Delta region may well be the rock upon which AFRICOM’s humanitarian focus founders.


Assuming the focus was ever humanitarian,

If a combination of militant attacks and general strikes completely paralyzed Nigerian production, it would seem rather unlikely that US military forces would sit by idly as oil shipments from America’s third largest oil importer ground to a halt.

During this same time, from other sources:

Irregular warfare is a growth market, and converting fishing boats into riverine patrol veseels could soon be a booming business with the US Navy, which is standing up a new riverine command for the first time since the Vietnam War.
So far, no company has applied the same approach with aviation, but that will probably change. US Air Force Special Operations Command is talking about standing up an Irregular Warfare wing, with a full squadron of single-engine turboprop fighters to serve as counter-inusrgency aircraft in the mold of the Vietnam-era Douglas A-1 Skyraider.

and:

Due to current war demands, the Navy provides selected intelligence specialists an eight-week “ground intelligence” course that had previously been reserved for sailors in the naval special warfare community. The course covers terrain analysis, land navigation, tactics and other subjects.
Graduates of the course get assignments with Navy forces operating ashore or close to shore, such as the new riverine squadrons, Seabees, explosive ordnance disposal units, maritime interdiction teams and coastal warfare squadrons, as well as special warfare units.

It seems obvious to me that the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger Delta are the major reason for the renewed US interest in riverine warfare. The US is saying:

Campbell (outgoing US ambassador in Nigeria,) dispelled claims of US military base in the Gulf of Guinea: “There are no military bases in the Gulf of Guinea. We have no plan or intentions to establish any; the relationship between Nigeria military and the US military is primarily training.
“There is no permanent US military presence in the Gulf of Guinea. Obviously, US military vessels would pass through the Gulf of Guinea going from one point to another; it is an open waters.”

The Niger delta from Google maps

This is another in a series of posts based on the work by b real at Moon of Alabama. Understanding AFRICOM: A Contextual Reading of Empire’s New Combatant Command part I. The article is in three parts, part II and part III and a PDF version of the complete series is available here. This post is based primarily on part II .

(The US) strategic objective focuses on securing Nigerian and Gulf energy supplies To achieve this strategic goal, American military planners have launched a two-pronged pincher movement whose main objective is “Ring-Fencing Nigeria” from the north and south.
. . .
(The US) is developing a coastal security system in the Gulf of Guinea called the Gulf of Guinea Guard.
. . .
Few Americans realize the scale and significance of Nigerian oil and gas production centered in the Delta and how this complex impacts American energy security.

With the offshore oil that is being discovered in Nigerian territorial waters, Nigeria is one of the few places in the world that oil reserves may yet increase for awhile. This means almost unimaginable wealth.

Shell started commercial production of Nigerian oil in 1956. Nigeria became independent in 1960. Since that time conditions have not improved for the vast majority of the people of the Niger delta. In fact, the delta is still occupied by foreigners and conditions have probably gotten worse. Air, land, and water are seriously polluted by the flaring of gases, and oil leaks and spills.

Looking at the Niger Delta on a satellite map, probably the first thing to catch the eye is the spidery plethora of rivers and creeks weaving across the terrain. It’s an area of great ecological significance, the kidneys, quite literally, of West Africa. The mangrove forests here are the third largest of its kind on the planet, and the extent of the ecological value is known only to the locals, as the majority of scientific surveys of the Niger Delta have been done strictly for economic reasons. If you zoom in on the Delta area you will soon start seeing gas flares, the most visible sign of the results of that research. The landscape is dotted with oil and natural gas wells and the production facilities required to contain and transport these fossil fuels to foreign lands, and gas flaring here has long been a problem.

In their efforts to get to the oil underneath, the extraction industries have typically burned off the gas reserves that have collected on the top of these deposits, allowing large gas flares to burn for years, adding toxins into the atmosphere which then return to poison the lands and those living there. It is said that “some children have never known a dark night even though they have no electricity.”

Shell has dealt with a succession of Nigerian governments, made payments as needed, and totally ignored the living conditions and needs of the people whose wealth they were extracting. Had Shell had any sense of corporate responsibility, or concern for human rights and safety, it could easily have pressured successive Nigerian governments into treating their citizens with more dignity and respect, returning some of the wealth, and facilitating genuine development, education, healthcare, and jobs for the people of the delta. Shell, and the other oil companies always had the economic clout. Development would be cheaper than war. They never had the good sense or good will.

Buhari, (a current candidate for President) in his earlier authoritarian rule, had centralized much of the power in Nigeria, especially sticking it to the states in the Delta, dropping their share of Nigeria’s oil rent revenues over a period of two years from 20 to 1.5 percent. (emphasis mine) But then Obasanjo himself, (the current President) during his rule in the 1970s, had laid the ground for Buhari by seizing lands and granting the oil majors rights to exploit the Niger Delta and, hence, its people, further undermining their abilities for representation and retaining control over their own lives.

In fact Shell, and the other oil companies operating in the delta, are trying to persuade the US that the local resistance movements, in search of self determination and a share of resources, are terrorists, and that the oil companies need backup from the US military in dealing with them.

And the US military is responding.

Much has been made of the attempts to link these resistance groups into the GWOT, especially on the part of the oil companies, in order to use the power of the U.S. military to stabilize these areas and secure the energy flows.

However times are changing.

The volatility surrounding oil installations in Nigeria, and elsewhere in the continent, is used by the U.S. security establishment to justify foreign (and domestic) military presence in African oil producing states while contributing to the oil industry’s windfall profits. Yet the depth of resentments, and the military capabilities of insurgent groups armed in large measure through oil theft suggests that the oil companies’ operations – what they call their social license to operate – may be in question.

The US risks further damaging itself by fighting against democracy in the form of local people who want self determination, and a share of the wealth generated in their own home. And Nigerians, and other citizens of Africa and the world, can look at the disaster the oil wars have created in Iraq as a warning of what could happen in the Niger delta. But the US does not appear to be learning the right lessons yet. In fact, as long as Bush and Cheney run things, there is no chance of the US learning, and turning in the right direction. The US military now appears to be planning to develop techniques of riverine warfare to fight the peoples of the delta. And the US is missing the bottom line. It would be cheaper to work with the peoples of the Niger delta than it is to fight against them. The problem is that it would be complicated, and require people who know something about the place and the people, not a characteristic of Bush and his cronies.