Guns, Oil and Terror
In the wake of September 11th, and in keeping with its interest in securing access to oil and other key natural resources, the Bush administration has been rapidly expanding U.S. military involvement in Africa.
While most recent increases in U.S. arms sales, aid, and military training in Africa have been justified as part of what the administration refers to as the "Global War on Terrorism" (GWOT), oil has been a major factor in the administration's strategic calculations from the outset. In his first few months in office, President Bush's first Secretary of State, Colin Powell, stressed the need to improve relations with oil producing nations like Nigeria and Angola.
Similarly, the report of Vice-President Cheney's Energy Task Force stressed the importance of gaining and maintaining access to African oil resources, which U.S. intelligence assessments expect to increase to as much as 25% of U.S. oil imports by the year 2020 (see Salih Booker and Ann-Louise Cogan, "Africa Policy Outlook 2004," at www.africaaction.org/resources/outlook/2004policyoutlook.php).
A look at last year's Congressional Budget Justification for FY05 Foreign Operations (State Department, Feb. 2004) underscores the strong pull of oil interests in Bush administration decision making. The entry on Equatorial Guinea notes that "Over the course of the past five years, U.S. companies have invested approximately $5 billion" in the country's oil sector. The entry for Sao Tome and Principe is more forward-looking, noting that "In the coming decade, U.S. companies are expected to participate in the development of petroleum resources in Sao Tome's territorial waters." Nigeria is cited for its "large oil and gas reserves," while the entry on Angola stresses the need to "help ensure U.S. private-sector oil access to a source of seven percent of U.S. petroleum imports, a figure likely to rise in the coming years."
Beyond oil, U.S. military officials have cited "a growing terrorist threat" in northern and sub-Saharan Africa to justify a program of stepped up military engagement in the region. General James Jones, head of the U.S. European command, has suggested the need to create a "family of bases" across Africa that would range from forward operating locations that would include an airfield and facilities to house 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. military personnel to "bare-bones" bases that U.S. Special Forces or Marines could "land at and build up as the mission required." (See Eric Schmitt, "Threats and Response; Expanding U.S. Presence: Pentagon Seeks New Access Pacts for African Bases," New York Times, July 5, 2003). These new facilities would not be considered "formal" bases like the growing U.S. base in the Horn of Africa in Djibouti, which has a regular deployment of 1,800 to 2,000 troops stationed there. While new basing arrangements are being worked out, a major increase in U.S. military exercises and training missions throughout Africa will be used to sustain a regular U.S. presence.
MILITARY AID, TRAINING AND SALES ON THE RISE
While the millions of dollars being spent on U.S. military aid and sales to Africa pale in comparison to the billions being expended in the Middle East and South Asia, all of the major U.S. bilateral aid and sales programs have increased sharply in recent years. Funding to sub-Saharan Africa under the largest U.S. military aid program, Foreign Military Financing, doubled from $12 million in fiscal year 2000 to a proposed $24 million in the FY 2006 budget proposal, and the number of recipient nations has grown from one to nine. The Pentagon's International Military Education and Training (IMET) program has increased by 35% from 2000 to the 2006 proposal, from $8.1 million to $11 million, and from 36 participating nations to 47. Foreign Military Sales, the largest U.S. arms transfer program, more than quadrupled from fiscal year 2000 to fiscal year 2003 (the most recent year for which full statistics are available), from $9.8 million to $40.3 million. And Commercial Sales (CS) of arms licensed by the State Department grew from .9 million to $3.8 million over the 2000 to 2003 period.
These bilateral programs are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of overall U.S. military aid commitments going forward. The U.S. European Command has requested $125 million over five years for the Pan-Sahel Initiative, for training and exercises with Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and other nations in the region. U.S. engagement under the program has gone far beyond traditional training to include involvement in combat operations. Craig S. Smith of the New York Times ("U.S. Training African Forces to Uproot Terrorists," May 11, 2004) offers the following description of the role of U.S. forces in a 2004 operation against the Salafist terrorist organization and its leader, Ammari Saifi:
"The United States European Command sent a Navy P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft to sweep the area, relaying Mr. Saifi's position to forces in the region. Mali chased him out of the country to Niger, which in turn pushed him into Chad, where, with United States Special Forces support of an airlift of fuel and other supplies, 43 of his men were killed or captured."
Other major U.S. military commitments include a proposed $100 million program for military and anti-terrorist training in East Africa, and a $200 million pledge to train and restructure Liberia's military forces. The first $35 million of this amount has been committed to a training program run by Dyncorps, a private military company with a mixed record in operations in the Balkans, Colombia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In addition to programs targeted to specific countries or regions, the ACOTA program (African Contingency Operations Training and
Assistance) has received $38 million in funding over the past three years, with the stated goal of training "select African militaries to respond effectively to peace support and humanitarian crises on their continent." Participants in the program have included Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Botswana. ACOTA is the successor program to ACRI, the African Crisis Response Initiative.
Transparency and accountability are major missing components with respect to current U.S. military operations in Africa. There is no single source that summarizes U.S. exercises or Pentagon-run training missions like the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET
program) in any detail. To cite just one example, the U.S. military is intent on planning 30 military exercises with the South African military in 2005, including training on "operating the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, military police and Special Forces skills, and peacekeeping operations." ("Pentagon Wants Increased Cooperation with SA," Southscan (London), February 25, 2005).
William D. Hartung and Frida Berrigan are Project Director and Project Associate at the World Policy Institute's Arms Trade Resource. To read the complete "Militarization of U.S. Africa Aid: 2000-2005" report, visit http://www.worldpolicy.org/projects/arms/reports/AfricaMarch2005.html