The Vice Information site publishes declassified US Army documents that demonstrate the growing presence of United States special operations on the African continent as part of its anti-terrorist struggle.
The military presence of the United States in Africa is as discreet as it is sprawling. The country has established its only permanent base in Djibouti, a hub of its military activities in the Horn of Africa, where about 4,000 soldiers are stationed. It is from there that take off the drones that target Al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula in Yemen and against the Shebab in Somalia . The United States also has 13 “secondary” bases, according to the latest communication from the US African Command (Africacom) to the US Congress, as well as some 30 more modest, and more discreet, bases To materialize by a simple hangar.
Declassified documents from the US Special Operations Command (Socafrica) disclosed on the Vic e website demonstrate that while this presence is discreet, it is still expanding. In 2006, only 1% of the troops attached to this Command, deployed abroad, were in Africa. In 2010, the number rose to 10%, jumping to 17% in 2016. In volume terms, this represents 1,700 military personnel disseminated in about 20 countries where they carry out a hundred concurrent missions. This fact places Africa right after the Middle East on special operations conducted by the United States.
“These soldiers are not permanently deployed on African soil,” says Nicole Vilboux, Associate Researcher at the US Strategic Research Federation. They operate in small groups and are highly mobile from one country to another. Their mission? To assist African partners in the United States in the fight against terrorism and extremism. “They mainly do training and logistical support,” says Nicole Vilboux. A support they bring in particular to the French operation Barkane in the Sahel, says the research director at the Iris in charge of Africa, Philippe Hugon.
About fifty terrorist groups listed
This increase in the American presence goes hand in hand with the proliferation of terrorist groups and armed militias listed by the United States in Africa. Socafrica has about fifty today, compared with only five “major terrorist groups” in 2012.
“The challenges facing Africa could create a threat that would surpass the one the US is currently facing because of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria,” said the commander of Socafrica , Donald Bolduc. A statement of the order of “fantasy”, however, believes Philippe Hugon. According to this researcher, the only real threat could emanate from the Islamic State group in Libya.
Libya and Somalia are the two countries on the continent where US troops are likely to conduct operations that go beyond training and support. The death of an American soldier about sixty kilometers from Mogadishu in mid-April, wounded in an operation against the Islamist insurgents shebab, testifies to this commitment on the ground. A loss that occurred less than two weeks after Donald Trump announced the sending of additional troops to the country, officially to advise and assist the Somali forces. This additional shipment does not, however, open the door to a massive increase of American soldiers in Africa, according to Nicole Vilboux. Donald Bolduc insists on a fact: “The United States is not at war, it is its African partners who are.