As the U.S. military continues its buildup in Africa, a top commander at AFRICOM reveals some of what is in store for the continent.
As journalist Brian Stewart recently wrote at CBC News, "U.S. Africa Command — AFRICOM as it's called — has been on a roll at a time when the Pentagon is undergoing a big downsizing."
In an interview with Military.com, Marine Lt. Gen. Steven Hummer, deputy to the commander for military operations at AFRICOM, foresees an increase in drones on the continent "to fill whatever need is required there."
He sees "more than enough space" for different branches to be involved—Army, Navy, Marines and special operators, while stressing that operations would be carried out in partnerships with African countries.
"There’s more than enough opportunities to be able to support the growth of the security sectors in the various countries," Hummer told Military.com.
As for the big picture he sees, Hummer said:
I equate the violent extremist organizations to the crocodiles closest to the boat. You have to shoot them when they come up to the boat, so when the violent extremists impact or threaten U.S. interests, that’s what has to occur. But the bigger picture and strategic effort really needs to be draining the swamp.
Nick Turse, associate editor of TomDispatch.com and author of books including Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, has traced this "quiet and unmistakable" pivot to Africa, and debunked the military's line that its footprint on the continent is merely a small one.
With the ever-present possibility of blowback from shadowy operations on the continent, the odds are that the results of that pivot will become increasingly evident, whether or not Americans recognize them as such. Behind closed doors, the military says: “Africa is the battlefield of tomorrow, today.” It remains to be seen just when they’ll say the same to the American people.
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Key to the above image of the U.S. military’s pivot to Africa, 2012-2013, from TomDispatch:
Green markers: U.S. military training, advising, or tactical deployments during 2013
Yellow markers: U.S. military training, advising, or tactical deployments during 2012
Purple marker: U.S. "security cooperation"
Red markers: Army National Guard partnerships
Blue markers: U.S. bases, forward operating sites (FOSes), contingency security locations (CSLs), contingency locations (CLs), airports with fueling agreements, and various shared facilities
Green push pins: U.S. military training/advising of indigenous troops carried out in a third country during 2013
Yellow push pins: U.S. military training/advising of indigenous troops carried out in a third country during 2012