Africa Overview.


Oct 23, 2008
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An idea of foreign military involvement within Africa.

*UPDATED: A rough guide to foreign military bases in Africa

United States Marine Corps

NAIROBI, 15 February 2017

Obi Anyadike
  • Editor-at-Large and Africa Editor

    Foreign military intervention in Africa is controversial when it happens, and occasionally controversial when it doesn’t.

    It’s a symptom of the fragility of African states, and the power of external interests. The long and inglorious history of intervention runs from colonial and post-colonial struggles, through to the Cold War, and up to the present day.

    But we are now in a complex, multipolar world. The “war on terror”, the arrival of China, and the emergence of regional powers, jostling for influence, has complicated the map. Nothing better illustrates this than the spread of foreign bases on African soil.


    The twin hotspots are the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. “It’s where Europe touches Africa, and where Africa touches the Middle East,” explained the Africa director for the International Crisis Group, Comfort Ero.

    The Sahel controls the migration route that conveys young men and women across the Mediterranean. It’s also a zone of instability, where al-Qaeda, so-called Islamic State and Boko Haram operate. It’s where state administration and even basic services are absent, encouraging that flow.

    From bases across the region, US drones and French soldiers have joined African armies to push the militants into the remote hinterlands. But blasting Jihadists from the sky does not win the hearts and minds argument.

    “The challenge is, despite the rise of new security structures in the last few years, they haven’t done much to change the [political] dynamic on the ground,” Ero told IRIN.

    Those alliances also give leaders like Idriss Déby in Chad and Ismaïl Omar Guelleh in Djibouti some regime security and a pass on their dodgy human rights record.

    And Guelleh has milked it. Djibouti lies on the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to the Suez Canal, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. It’s also a waypoint between Africa, India, and the Middle East, and makes a lot of money from hosting seven armies – America, China, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, and soon Saudi Arabia.

    The lease on the only permanent US military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier is $63 million a year. China, building its own facility at the other end of the Gulf of Tadjoura, gets a bargain at $20 million. Only Iran seems to have been refused a berth in Djibouti.

    The following is a rough guide to whose boots are where in Africa.

    Djibouti: China is building its first overseas military base at the port of Obock, across the Gulf of Tadjoura from the US Expeditionary Base at Camp Lemonnier. It’s the latest in China’s $12 billion investments in Djibouti, including a new port, airports and the Ethiopia-Djibouti rail line. The base will have the capacity to house several thousand troops, and is expected to help provide security for China’s interests in the rest of the Horn of Africa.


    Chad: Headquarters of the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane. The roughly 3,500 French troops operate in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

    Cote d’Ivoire: The facility at Port-Bouët, a suburb of Abidjan, is to be expanded from 500 to 900 men and form a forward operating base for West Africa.

    Djibouti: A long-standing French military presence, now comprising roughly 1,700 personnel.

    Gabon: A key base that has contributed troops to France’s interventions in Central African Republic.


    Niger: An air transport base at Niamey international airport to support Germany’s growing troop contribution to the UN mission in Mali.


    Madagascar: India’s first foreign listening post was set up in northern Madagascar in 2007 to keep an eye on ship movements in the Indian Ocean and listen in on maritime communications.

    The Seychelles: Has allocated land on Assumption Island for India to build its first naval base in the Indian Ocean region. The ostensible interest is counter-piracy, but India also seems to be keeping an eye on China.


    Djibouti: Since 2011, a contingent of 180 troops has occupied a 12-hectare site next to Camp Lemonnier. This year, the outpost will be expanded. The move is seen as a counter to Chinese influence, linked to a new strategic engagement with Africa, underlined by the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development held in Nairobi last year.

    Saudi Arabia

    Djibouti: After falling out with Djibouti, Riyadh is now finalising an agreement to build a new base. Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, across the narrow Bab-el-Mandeb Strait.


    Somalia: Ankara’s first military base in Africa is a training facility for Somali troops. Turkey has steadily increased its influence in Somalia, with major development and commercial projects. In 2011, then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the first foreign leader to visit Mogadishu since the start of the civil war.

    United Arab Emirates

    Eritrea: In 2015, the UAE began developing the mothballed deepwater port of Assab and its 3,500-metre runway, capable of landing large transport planes. Assab is now the UAE’s main logistics hub for all operations in Yemen, including the naval blockade of the Red Sea ports of Mokha and Hodeida. In return, the isolated Eritrean government has received a financial and infrastructural aid package.

    Libya: Operates counter-insurgency attack aircraft and drones from Al-Khadim airport in eastern Libya in support of the Libyan National Army fighting jihadist militants.

    Somalia: The UAE trains and equips Somalia’s counterterrorism unit and National Intelligence and Security Agency. It also supports the Puntland Maritime Police Force, which is believed to have played a role in interdicting Iranian weapons smuggling to the Houthis.

    Somaliland: The UAE has a 30-year lease on a naval and airbase at the port of Berbera. Last year, Dubai Ports World won a contract to manage and double the size of the port, ending Djibouti’s monopoly on Ethiopia’s freight traffic. The UAE is reportedly providing military training and a security guarantee to the self-declared independent territory.

    United Kingdom

    Kenya: A permanent training support unit based mainly in Nanyuki, 200 kilometres north of Nairobi

    United States

    Burkina Faso: A “cooperative security location” in Ouagadougou provides surveillance and intelligence over the Sahel.

    Cameroon: Garoua airport in northern Cameroon is also a drone base targeting Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria. It houses unarmed Predator drones and some 300 US soldiers.

    Chad: Predator and Reaper drones are based in the capital, Ndjamena.

    Central African Republic: US special forces are based in the “temporary sites” of Obo and Djema, helping the Ugandan army hunt for Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army

    Democratic Republic of Congo: Dungu is another “temporary site” used in the hunt for Kony.

    Djibouti: Camp Lemonnier, a 200-hectare expeditionary base housing some 3,200 US soldiers and civilians next to the international airport. Home to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa of the US Africa Command, it is the only permanent US military base in Africa.

    Ethiopia: A small drone facility at Arba Minch was operational since 2011 but is now believed to have closed.

    Gabon: Bare-bones launch pad for quick-reaction forces called in to protect diplomatic facilities in the region.

    Ghana: Bare-bones launch pad for quick-reaction forces.

    Kenya: Camp Simba in Manda Bay is a base for naval personnel and Green Berets. It also houses armed drones for operations in Somalia and Yemen.

    Niger: An initial base in Niamey has been overshadowed by Agadez, capable of handling large transport aircraft and armed Reaper drones. The base covers the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin

    Somalia: US commandos are operating from compounds in Kismayo and Baledogle.

    The Seychelles: Drone operations from a base on the island of Victoria.

    Senegal: The Senegal facility was used during the US military’s Ebola response.

    South Sudan: Nzara airfield is another base for US troops searching for Kony, and related surveillance operations. US special forces have also provided training to South Sudanese troops.

    Uganda: PC-12 surveillance aircraft fly from Entebbe airport as part of the US special forces mission helping the Ugandan army hunt for Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

    *This story was updated on 20 February 2017 to include a United Arab Emirates' base in Libya, and several US facilities in West and Central Africa not included in the original report



Oct 23, 2008
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3 Special Forces Troops Killed and 2 Are Wounded in an Ambush in Niger


WASHINGTON — Three United States Army Special Forces were killed and two were wounded on Wednesday in an ambush in Niger while on a training mission with troops from that nation in northwestern Africa, American military officials said.

“We can confirm reports that a joint U.S. and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger,” Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for the United States Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany, said in an email.

All five American soldiers were Green Berets, said two United States military officials. The attack took place 120 miles north of Niamey, the capital of Niger, near the border with Mali, where militants with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, have conducted cross-border raids. Niger’s troops were also believed to have suffered casualties, but details were not immediately known.

The deaths represent the first American casualties under hostile fire in a mission in which United States Special Forces have provided training and security assistance to the Nigerien armed forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. A Special Forces soldier died in a vehicle accident in Niger in February.

One of the military officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss continuing military operations, said American forces were rushing to the scene of the ambush, presumably to evacuate American and Nigerien casualties, and possibly to hunt down the attackers.

President Trump was briefed on the deaths of the Green Berets, said the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Details of the late-afternoon ambush were sketchy. Soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group were assisting their Nigerien counterparts with counterterrorism training when they came under attack in a remote part of the country. As of late Wednesday, there had been no claims of responsibility.

In his first eight months in office, Mr. Trump’s top military officials have shown few signs that they want to back away from President Barack Obama’s strategy to train, equip and otherwise support indigenous armies and security forces to fight their own wars instead of deploying large American forces to far-flung hot spots, including the Sahel, a vast area on the southern flank of the Sahara that stretches from Senegal to Sudan.

And that is what is happening in Niger, a desperately poor, landlocked country twice the size of California that is struggling, even with assistance from the United States and France, to stem a flow of insurgents across Niger’s lightly guarded borders with Mali, Nigeria and Libya.

But unlike recent commando raids in Somalia or Reaper drone strikes in Libya, the deadly ambush on Wednesday in a remote desert area came during what American military officials said was a routine training mission — not a combat operation — and yet the casualties by both American and Nigerien forces underscore the inherent risks of operating in a potentially hostile environment.

“These militants have proven remarkably resilient, exploiting local and/or ethnic grievances to embed themselves into communities as well as political borders and differences to escape capture,” said J. Peter Pham, a vice president at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center in Washington. “It was no accident that this attack took place near Niger’s border with Mali, an area that has seen numerous incidents in recent years.”

In May, a member of the Navy SEALs was killed and two other American service members were wounded in a raid in Somalia, the first American combat fatality there since the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” battle.

The government of President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger has proved to be a stalwart partner in the United States’ counterterrorism campaign in the Sahel. About a dozen Army Special Forces conduct, train and advise missions at any given time in the country, and just under 100 American military personnel help operate drone operations from the country.

Since 2013, unarmed American drones have soared skyward from a secluded military airfield in Niamey, starting surveillance missions of 10 hours or more to track fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda and other militants in Mali.

Over the years, MQ-9 Reapers that have been based there stream live video and data from other sensors to American analysts working with French commanders, who say the aerial intelligence has been critical to their success in driving jihadists from a vast desert refuge in northern Mali.

The United States is building a $50 million drone base in Agadez, Niger. When completed next year, it will allow Reaper surveillance drones to fly from hundreds of miles closer to southern Libya, to monitor Islamic State insurgents flowing south and other extremists flowing north from the Sahel region.


Oct 23, 2008
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More than 50 Egyptian police and conscripts are killed in deadly rocket and bomb ambush by Islamic militants near desert oasis

  • Islamic terrorists ambushed security forces with rockets, bombs and guns
  • The security forces were on the way to raid a suspected jihadi desert hide out
  • Officials claimed the attack took place some 185 miles south west of Cairo
  • The oasis is located in the Western Desert which is not known for jihadi violence
By Afp and Reuters and Darren Boyle for MailOnline

Published: 11:24, 21 October 2017 | Updated: 12:14, 21 October 2017

At least 52 Egyptian police and military have been killed with six wounded following an ambush by Islamic militants in the country's Western Desert.

The security forces were planning to raid a suspected jihadi hideout when the terrorists launched their attack using rockets, bombs and machine guns.

A number of the jihadis were also killed although officials have not released the number.

Egyptian security forces were about to raid a jihadi hideout when they were ambushed

The attack took place near the Bahariya oasis in the country's Western Desert some 125 miles outside Cairo , security and medical sources said Saturday, in a rare flare-up outside the Sinai Peninsula.

The interior ministry said security forces hunting down Islamist militants in the region were attacked late Friday on a road to the Bahariya oasis southwest of Cairo.

An official statement said a number of the attackers were killed, but did not give any figures for losses on either side.

According to a source close to the security services, the convoy was hit by rocket fire. The attackers also used explosive devices.

There has not yet been a claim of responsibility. A fake claim in the name of the small extremist group Hasm, reported by multiple local media, spread on social media soon after the attack.

Since the army removed President Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, extremist groups have increased their attacks on the military and police.

Authorities have been fighting the Egyptian branch of ISIS, which has increased its attacks in the north of the Sinai peninsula more than 300 miles away from the latest violence.

In response to the latest bloodshed Egyptian security forces appeared to step up their operations in the area of the attack.

Two truck drivers heading away from the scene told AFP they had seen heavy deployments of security personnel in the area and that aircraft were carrying out surveillance.

On October 13, the Egyptian army said six soldiers were killed in a 'terrorist' gun and grenade attack on a security post near the North Sinai provincial capital of El-Arish.


Oct 23, 2008
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US wants to ‘use LETHAL FORCE in terror war’ by arming drones after special forces killed

THE US will “expand its use of lethal force” if it chooses to persist with efforts to arm Reaper drones in Niger, it has been revealed.

By Joseph Carey

Both Niger and its neighbour, Mali, are considered to be ripe breeding grounds for terrorist ideals

The possibility of arming drones in the African nation has been escalated following the recent attack on a Green Beret unit that resulted in the deaths of four Americans.

Former Bush administration counterterrorism adviser, Juan Zarate, said: "It demonstrates that the US is expanding its use of lethal force.

“It also demonstrates that the war on terror is migrating."

According to military and intelligence officials, the latest casualties have prompted calls for the US to take a more aggressive stance in their African operations.

If the US arm their Reapers, it would follow in the footsteps of France that has already equipped its unmanned aircraft with lethal capabilities.

US officials are said to be confronting Niger’s government to allow US military forces to arm their drones.

Both Niger and its neighbour, Mali, are considered to be ripe breeding grounds for terrorist ideals with both ISIS and Al Qaeda said to be recruiting in the region.

The US believes that the group that ambushed the Green Berets were part of a group with an allegiance to ISIS.

The Obama administration was a big proponent of not allowing the armament of drones, however, moves to reverse the decision have been brewing for a while, according to NBC.

If US drones in the Niger were to be armed, they would join the likes of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and Syria that have all been occupied by armed Reapers.

Colonel Rob Manning, a Defence Department spokesman, stated that he would not comment on “possible initiatives by the administration”.

He added: “The Department of Defence will always ensure our forces are properly equipped and have the necessary capabilities to accomplish their mission and defeat any threat."

Officials claim that the Green Berets were targeted while performing a counterterrorism mission in the area from which only scarce details have emerged since the incident took place three weeks ago.

Officials claim that the Green Berets were targeted while performing a counterterrorism mission


Aug 10, 2010
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Officials claim that the Green Berets were targeted while performing a counterterrorism mission in the area from which only scarce details have emerged since the incident took place three weeks ago.

Given the apparent inability of the President of the United States to resist a social media row, more news about the mission might emerge.

One snippet of chatter reported was something along the lines of "...armed opposition to the mission was not anticipated." A comment I heard on a very early morning BBC radio World Service broadcast.

I can't decide if such a statement—even if it came from a credible source—was ill-informed or just plain daft. Or possibly both.


Oct 23, 2008
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Shadow armies: The unseen, but real US war in Africa

Jan 02,2018 - Last updated at Jan 02,2018

There is a real — but largely concealed — war which is taking place throughout the African continent. It involves the United States, an invigorated Russia and a rising China. The outcome of the war is likely to define the future of the continent and its global outlook.

It is easy to pin the blame on US President Donald Trump, his erratic agenda and impulsive statements. But the truth is, the current US military expansion in Africa is just another step in the wrong direction. It is part of a strategy that had been implemented a decade ago, during the administration of President George W. Bush, and actively pursued by President Barack Obama.

In 2007, under the pretext of the "war on terror", the US consolidated its various military operations in Africa to establish the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM). With a starting budget of half a billion dollars, AFRICOM was supposedly launched to engage with African countries in terms of diplomacy and aid. But, over the course of the last 10 years, AFRICOM has been transformed into a central command for military incursions and interventions.

However, that violent role has rapidly worsened during the first year of Trump's term in office. Indeed, there is a hidden US war in Africa, and it is fought in the name of "counter-terrorism".

According to a VICE News special investigation, US troops are now conducting 3,500 exercises and military engagements throughout Africa per year, an average of 10 per day. US mainstream media rarely discusses this ongoing war, thus giving the military ample space to destabilise any of the continent’s 54 countries as it pleases.

"Today’s figure of 3,500 marks an astounding 1,900 per cent increase since the command was activated less than a decade ago, and suggests a major expansion of US military activities on the African continent," VICE reported.

Following the death of four US Special Forces soldiers in Niger on October 4, US Secretary of Defence James Mattis made an ominous declaration to a Senate committee: These numbers are likely to increase as the US is expanding its military activities in Africa.

Mattis, like other defence officials in the previous two administrations, justifies the US military transgressions as part of ongoing "counter-terrorism" efforts. But such coded reference has served as a pretense for the US to intervene in, and exploit, a massive region with a great economic potential.

The old colonial "Scramble for Africa" is being reinvented by global powers that fully fathom the extent of the untapped economic largesse of the continent. While China, India and Russia are each developing a unique approach to wooing Africa, the US is invested mostly in the military option, which promises to inflict untold harm and destabilise many nations.

The 2012 coup in Mali, carried out by a US-trained army captain, Amadou Haya Sanogo, is only one example.

In a 2013 speech, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cautioned against a "new colonialism in Africa [in which it is] easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave". While Clinton is, of course, correct, she was disingenuously referring to China, not her own country.

China's increasing influence in Africa is obvious, and Beijing’s practices can be unfair. However, China's policy towards Africa is far more civil and trade-focused than the military-centred US approach.

The growth in the China-Africa trade figures are, as per a UN News report in 2013, happening at a truly "breathtaking pace", as they jumped from around $10.5 billion per year in 2000 to $166 billion in 2011. Since then, it has continued at the same impressive pace.

But that growth was coupled with many initiatives, entailing many billions of dollars in Chinese credit to African countries to develop badly needed infrastructure. More went to finance the "African Talents Programme", which is designed to train 30,000 African professionals in various sectors.

It should come as no surprise, then, that China surpassed the US as Africa's largest trading partner in 2009.

The real colonialism, which Clinton referred to in her speech, is, however, under way in the US' own perception and behaviour towards Africa. This is not a hyperbole, but in fact a statement that echoes the words of US President Trump himself.

During a lunch with nine African leaders last September at the UN, Trump spoke with the kind of mindset that inspired Western leaders’ colonial approach to Africa for centuries.

Soon after he invented the none-existent country of "Nambia", Trump boasted of his "many friends [who are] going to your [African] countries trying to get rich." "I congratulate you," he said, "they are spending a lot of money”.

The following month, Trump added Chad, his country's devoted "counter-terrorism" partner to the list of countries whose citizens are banned from entering the US.

Keeping in mind that Africa has 22 Muslim majority countries, the US government is divesting from any long-term diplomatic vision in Africa, and is, instead increasingly thrusting further into the military path.

The US military push does not seem to be part of a comprehensive policy approach, either. It is as alarming as it is erratic, reflecting the US constant over-reliance on military solutions to all sorts of problems, including trade and political rivalries.

Compare this to Russia's strategic approach to Africa. Reigniting old camaraderie with the continent, Russia is following China's strategy of engagement (or in this case, re-engagement) through development and favourable trade terms.

But, unlike China, Russia has a wide-ranging agenda that includes arms exports, which are replacing US weaponry in various parts of the continent. For Moscow, Africa also has untapped and tremendous potential as a political partner that can bolster Russia’s standing at the UN.

Aware of the evident global competition, some African leaders are now labouring to find new allies outside the traditional Western framework, which has controlled much of Africa since the end of traditional colonialism decades ago.

A stark example was the late November visit by Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir to Russia and his high-level meeting with President Vladimir Putin. "We have been dreaming about this visit for a long time," Bashir told Putin, and "we are in need of protection from the aggressive acts of the United States".

The coveted "protection" includes Russia's promised involvement in modernising the Sudanese army.

Wary of Russia’s Africa outreach, the US is fighting back with a military stratagem and little diplomacy. The ongoing US mini war on the continent will push the continent further into the abyss of violence and corruption, which may suit Washington well, but will bring about untold misery to millions of people.

There is no question that Africa is no longer an exclusive Western "turf", to be exploited at will. But it will be many years before Africa and its 54 nations are truly free from the stubborn neocolonial mindset, which is grounded in racism, economic exploitation and military interventions.


Oct 23, 2008
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View from another angle....

Mixed outlook for Africa in 2018

Alex Vines 05 Jan 2018 00:00


Last year was a year of leadership changes and unprecedented events in a number of sub-Saharan African countries — several that were not predicted for that year.

Regional leaders from the Economic Community of West African States ensured that President Yahya Jammeh obeyed the will of the Gambian people to end his 22-year reign. President Robert Mugabe was forced from office, the only leader independent Zimbabwe has known in its 37 years.

In Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, also president for 37 years, ended his own tenure, enabling a smooth transition. Somalia’s Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmaajo” Mohamed defeated his more established rivals to win the February presidential election, and the Kenyan supreme court made history by declaring the result of the August election void.

Post-conflict Liberia has taken charge of organising its elections without the involvement of the United Nations for the first time, and what challenges there were in the first round were made through the courts and not on the streets, resulting in the first peaceful transfer of civilian presidents since 1944.

Increasing resort to the courts reveals growing trust in and independence of the judiciary, and shows how the entrenchment of the rule of law and stronger institutions can take the heat out of political crises.

But the past year has also seen democratic principles undermined, with mounting state repression in Ethiopia, Zambia, Tanzania and Cameroon, among others, as well as seemingly deadlocked crises in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Presidential elections in 2018 will challenge a number of long-standing leaders and test new ones. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is assured of victory in Egypt; Cameroon’s President Paul Biya is likely to extend his 35 years in office by winning another term in October, as is Mali’s President Ibrahim Keita in August.

Less certain is who will prevail in Sierra Leone’s elections in March as the governing All People’s Congress fields Kandeh Yumkella against Sierra Leone People’s Party repeat candidate Julius Maada Bio.

Uncertainty continues into 2018 over the delayed (since 2016) presidential elections of the DRC. Joseph Kabila has served as president for 16 years and remains reluctant to step down but does not seem strong enough, unlike many of his neighbours in Brazzaville, Kampala and Kigali, to change the Constitution to run again. President Salva Kiir of South Sudan wants to hold an election in July but the UN is arguing that without lasting peace these should not take place. Zimbabwe’s elections in July or August will be closely watched. President Emmerson Mnangagwa will seek a democratic mandate after the removal of Mugabe by the military in November last year. If the elections are peaceful and credible, this could quicken the pace of reforms and result in a more ambitious new government.

Local elections in Mozambique in 2018 will see gains for opposition Renamo. Its ceasefire has lasted a year and negotiations are likely in early 2018 to reach agreement on direct gubernatorial elections in 2019 in exchange for disarmament and reintegration of its armed wing.

Togo will hold national assembly and local elections in June or July and the opposition, emboldened by successful demonstrations in 2017, are likely to do well in these, putting further pressure on President Faure Gnassingbé as he enters his 13th year of rule.

As sub-Saharan Africa’s political trends diverged, so too did its economic development. Although growth increased slightly across the continent on average — to about 2.4%, up from 1.3% in 2016 — this figure masks immense heterogeneity in the experiences of different countries.

Nigeria and South Africa, the former continental powerhouses, went through periods of recession as a result of low global energy and metals prices, but the more dynamic economies, including Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda, managed to sustain growth rates of over 7%.

The year ahead is likely to provide some respite for mineral and oil and gas exporters as the prices for these commodities are rising too. But the hangover from the recent commodity price crash remains. Key areas of concern in 2018 are rising debt levels and debt-servicing costs. There will also be continued pressure by African governments on multinational resource companies to justify their profits — as Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli did in 2017.

This year will also see conflict hotspots resulting in more internally displaced persons.

The DRC will see additional insecurity in the Kivu and Kasai regions. Burundi will remain in crisis as President Pierre Nkurunziza clamps down on all nonviolent means of opposition. South Sudan remains in crisis despite a new ceasefire while rebel leader Riek Machar is still under house arrest in South Africa.

Boko Haram will continue to destabilise northeast Nigeria and over-spill into neighbours — Niger, Chad and Cameroon — and attacks will continue in the Sahel and parts of North Africa.

The African Union will start its drawdown of troops in Somalia, but al-Shabab fighters are far from being a spent force and their attacks will continue in 2018, given that a Somalia National Army is far from operational to replace the AU’s Amisom.

Africa’s insecurity is drawing in other nations. More than 2 500 Chinese troops, police and military experts are deployed to six UN missions in Africa, four of which are in Darfur, the DRC, Mali and South Sudan; there are also smaller contingents in Côte d’Ivoire and Western Sahara. President Xi Jinping pledged $100-million in military aid to the AU in 2015 and China supports African countries’ capacity-building in areas such as counterterrorism.

Since 2008, China has supported counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and, significantly, in August last year, China opened in Djibouti, its first military base abroad to support its naval efforts.

China joins others. In February last year, the United Arab Emirates secured a foreign military base in Somaliland. It opened a military facility in Eritrea in 2015. Saudi Arabia is also planning a military facility in Djibouti. Last year Turkey opened a military training base in Somalia.

France remains the key foreign military power in Africa — 4 000 troops for Operation Barkhane in the Sahel and another 3 000 in its military bases and training facilities of Senegal, Djibouti, Côte d’Ivoire and Chad. Africa remains a key foreign policy priority for France under the Emmanuel Macron presidency.

The United States is also scaling up and 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of US Africa Command. There are roughly 4 000 troops in Djibouti at its Camp Lemonnier — the only official permanent US military installation in Africa — and roughly 800 in Niger. Washington has doubled its military presence in Somalia to 500 over the past six months.

There is talk of the Russians seeking military facilities in Sudan (following a Djibouti rejection) and that India still wants to broaden its Indian Ocean naval footprint, including in the Seychelles.

Africa’s security arrangements, just like its political and economic trends, will continue to diverge in 2018. Countries and regions will themselves diverge as Africa increasingly globalises and becomes more tied to international trade and politics.

Alex Vines is head of the Africa programme at Chatham House, London, and a senior lecturer at Coventry University


Oct 23, 2008
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Britain to join France in West Africa counter-terrorism mission

British surveillance aircraft and helicopters are expected to support the 4,500 French troops engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Sahel

Amandla Thomas-Johnson

Thursday 11 January 2018 16:43 UTC

Last update:

Friday 12 January 2018 0:41 UTC

Britain is in talks with France to join a French-led campaign in West Africa, with British deployment looking set to include military helicopters and surveillance aircrafts, according to a British government source.

British deployment would bolster French ground forces that have been sent to quell militancy across the restive Sahel region. British troops are not thought to be on the cards.

“We are looking at rotary support or Istar [Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, reconnaissance],” a Whitehall source said to the Times. “The effort is counter-terrorism, to counter organised crime and to help re-establish state authority.”

The talks come amid French efforts to secure funding and military support for Operation Barkhane, which includes 4,500 French troops deployed across the former French colonies of Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, known collectively as the G5.

According to the Times report, Paris is also considering whether to increase its commitment to the US-led campaign against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria in return.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to announce the agreement at a Franco-British summit next week in London.

Government sources said the move will build on the close military cooperation enjoyed by the two countries, who possess the leading armed forces in the EU, as Brexit approaches.

Hundreds of millions have been pledged to assist operations from the European Union, the Saudis and the Americans.

Founded in 2014, the mission is a successor to the one that dislodged militants from northern Mali earlier that year, with groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its network of Mali-based affiliates now presenting the main danger.

Boko Haram is also known to pose a threat, roaming across Nigeria’s porous border regions into Niger and Chad.

Bolstering French efforts

British forces - which could include Chinook helicopters and the army’s Watchkeeper surveillance drones in what would be their first deployment overseas - would benefit French forces stretched to their limit across a vast area, said Andrew Lebovich, visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

"The French definitely could benefit from logistical, intelligence, and other support given the constraints on French assets, and have at different times tried to adapt to the changing circumstances in the region," Lebovich told Middle East Eye.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in November last year that transnational and climate hazards continue to blight the Sahel, triggering a perfect storm of poverty and food shortages.

Lebovich, who has argued for a holistic response, promoting good governance, food security, and the needs of human development, added that a purely military solution would fail on its own.

“It is clear from the increase in military activity over the past several years that Barkhane itself and strictly military solutions more broadly are not sufficient to decrease militancy in the Sahel.”

Akinyemi Oyawale, a researcher at the University of East Anglia, said that the French and British alliance is borne out of fears over militant attacks on home soil which have increased in intensity in recent years.

"The partnership is primarily meant to prevent obscure countries from becoming sanctuaries and breeding grounds for militants which could serve as a launch pad for an attack on a Western homeland," Oyawale told MEE.

Lebovich added that foreign interventions carry a risk of blowback from a region where American forces also known to operate, battling insurgencies through ground operations and drone strikes launched from a sprawling military base in Niger. But he said the "the Sahel is not as important an issue to international jihadists as others, such as Iraq and Syria or Libya”.

Last month four US soldiers and four Nigerian troops were killed in a joint operation in Niger against an offshoot of the Islamic State group.


Aug 10, 2010
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Just to add to the posts above about US military expansion in Africa:

In October 2017 in the aftermath of the fatal ambush of US troops in Niger it was noted that there is an unprecendented lack of US diplomatic representation in Africa. Some sources suggest that this demonstrates an incoherent Africa policy directly attributed to President Trump's apparent indifference:

"Outside of inventing an African country, deflecting criticisms on Niger, and praising the continent for its business potential, he hasn’t said much on Africa, despite humanitarian crises, rising instability, and growing terrorism threats."

[The president had previously made references in a key speech to the non-existent African country of 'Nambia'. :)]

"Only five ambassadors have been confirmed and deployed to Africa during the Trump administration. Ten others have been nominated but are either awaiting Senate confirmation or haven’t assumed their posts, leaving many of the 54 African countries without senior U.S. representation. This includes strategically important countries like South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo."



Oct 23, 2008
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· Russia Revisits an Old Cold War Battleground

  • Jan 15, 2018 | 09:00 GMT o

  • The Wagner Group, a private military company with ties to the Kremlin, may secure military contracts in Sudan and the Central African Republic.

  • Military engagement with Russia will enable Sudan to maintain a greater balance in its foreign policy.

  • Entering the Central African Republic will allow the Kremlin to earn more cash and drum up more business across the continent.

    Moscow looms large in sub-Saharan Africa's Cold War history. Across the continent, the Soviet Union competed with the United States and its Western allies for influence in a series of long-running proxy battles. Russia's interest in sub-Saharan Africa waned, however, after the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991. The region may have lost much of its geopolitical significance in the intervening time, but as the Kremlin asserts its influence in more and more conflicts abroad, sub-Saharan Africa presents Russia another opportunity to extend its global reach — should it so desire.

    A Return to the Red Sea

    On Jan. 5, reports emerged that the Wagner Group, a private military company with close connections to the Kremlin that has been active in Syria, had sent an unknown number of employees to Sudan. The group's deployment is unsurprising considering the decades of close ties between Khartoum and Moscow and in light of a visit by Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to the Kremlin in November. During the trip, al Bashir invited his hosts to construct a military base on the Red Sea, noting that Russian assistance was necessary to counteract U.S. interference in the area. Sudan's request followed similar moves by nearby Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia to persuade foreign powers to construct bases on their soil in exchange for much-needed money and a boost to their global stature.

    Al Bashir's plea — which has yet to receive Russian approval — seemed to represent a reversal in Sudanese foreign policy after his country's efforts in recent years to rebuild its relations with the United States. Khartoum's overtures, including cooperation over intelligence sharing, bore fruit in October 2017 when U.S. President Donald Trump's administration agreed to formally lift some sanctions against Sudan, following his predecessor's decision to suspend the measures by executive order on his way out of office. In addition, the African country has increasingly tried to distance itself from Iran, one of Russia's most prominent regional allies, in favor of cozying up to Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council — a lucrative reorientation for Sudan. But Khartoum is wary of putting all its eggs in one foreign policy basket.

    Russian and Sudanese leaders share a hostility toward real or imagined interference in their domestic affairs. They also harbor a mutual disdain toward institutions like the International Criminal Court, which issued an arrest warrant for al Bashir in 2009 for crimes against humanity. Furthermore, Sudan serves as an important cog in Moscow's strategy to contain growing extremism in countries such as Egypt, Libya and, to a lesser extent, Syria, while offering a market for foodstuffs and military hardware. A country of approximately 40 million people, Sudan has a voracious appetite for Russian grain — the Kremlin has promised to sell 1 million metric tons of grain to the country this year. It is no less eager for energy assistance, arms and ammunition. In November 2017, Sudan became the first Arab country to receive the fourth generation of Russia's SU-24 fighter jets as part of a deal for equipment upgrades and training worth an estimated $1 billion. That agreement could be a harbinger of more deals to come: Khartoum has struggled to manage its various internal conflicts for many years and may welcome the battle-tested expertise of more Russian military trainers.

    Keeping Up With an Ambitious Foreign Policy

    Moscow's activities in Africa don't stop there, either. Other reports suggest that the Wagner Group may soon turn its attention to the Central African Republic. News that the company will deploy a contingent to the Central African Republic fits with Moscow's increasingly ambitious foreign policy. Russia has long used its arms industry and military prowess as a tool to enhance its influence around the world. Last month, it successfully lobbied the U.N. Security Council to let it send three shipments of light arms and ammunition to the Central African Republic's military despite an arms embargo that has been in place since 2013. Of little geostrategic importance, the African country relies on its former colonial ruler, France, for external support. With little competition on the ground, Russia stands to gain greater business opportunities and perhaps even increase its influence in the surrounding region by making inroads there.

    These prospective forays into Sudan and the Central African Republic don't presage a full-scale Russian military deployment to Africa. Moscow seems more interested in filling its coffers through the Wagner deals than in preparing for a massive investment drive on the continent. Even so, the potential presence of a Kremlin-backed private military company in two countries in sub-Saharan Africa could pave the way for more robust Russian involvement elsewhere in the region.



Oct 23, 2008
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The Destabilizing Dangers of U.S. Counterterrorism in the Sahel

Nathaniel Powell

February 8, 2018

Sub-Saharan Africa has long been a strategic backwater for American foreign policy. Until the mid-2000s, American engagement in the region was sporadic and limited to areas of Cold War conflict or humanitarian crisis. However, the October deaths of four U.S. Green Berets and five Nigerien soldiers in Niger has thrown a public spotlight on a growing U.S. military presence in Africa. At present, AFRICOM, the U.S. military command responsible for Africa, oversees the activities of some 6,000 troops on the continent, of which over 800 are based in Niger. Apart from the large base at Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti, the United States maintains a dozen or so “cooperative security locations,” i.e. small semi-permanent military installations across Africa. This will soon include a substantial $100 million dollar base in the central Nigerien city of Agadez to host and support drone operations.

This African presence is neither new nor secret, but it is not well-publicized. It encompasses a variety of missions, ranging from classic security assistance to counterterrorism operations. AFRICOM’s activities also bleed into areas typically the preserve of civilian U.S. government agencies such as public health, medicine, and humanitarian response.

In recent months, the Pentagon has indicated it aims to intensify its counterterrorism-related operations on the continent. This includes a loosening of rules of engagement to allow “status-based targeting” which authorizes the killing of “terrorist suspects” even in the absence of direct or imminent threats. In that vein, the American and Nigerien governments have agreed to the use of armed drones in the country, in contrast to previous U.S. drone activity, which was limited to surveillance missions. Such a policy would be counterproductive and deeply destabilizing, because it is largely premised on a flawed understanding of the political dynamics of conflict in the region. The United States also vastly overestimates the capacities of its forces, or any external actors, to improve regional stabilization and good governance. Finally, the policy poses a serious moral hazard problem by undercutting the connections between local and national elites and their domestic constituencies.

First, American counterterrorism policy in the Sahel is based on a dangerously simplistic and security-centric view of threats to regional stability. The Sahel is simply not a vast territory of “ungoverned space” prone to the infiltration of global jihad. Though some armed groups have adopted jihadist ideologies, the proliferation of these groups remains an intensely local phenomenon. The central cause of conflict in most cases is the behavior of state actors, not the spontaneous appearance of foreign jihadists. The region’s armed conflicts are direct products of political and economic marginalization and repression of peripheral communities. The jihadist groups that do operate in the region, even those affiliated with international organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIL, are interwoven with local uprisings against exploitative and alienating state authority. Especially for the rank and file of these local groups, jihad is a negligible consideration.

Terrorism is not a useful lens for understanding violence in the Sahel, nor is counterterrorism a proper policy response. Viewing conflicts in the region as part of a global “war on terror” is redolent of Cold War-era policies that viewed a plethora of local and regional conflicts in starkly internationalized East-West terms. Most jihadist and other armed groups in the Sahel are guerrillas. Their success and growth emerge from the strategies that states in the region use to maintain political orders favorable to national elites. Armed groups in the Sahel will continue to employ terrorism, among other forms of violence, as a political strategy as long as states there continue to govern as they do. For example, the Malian state’s inability and unwillingness to manage conflicts over land and pasturage, combined with brutal human rights abuses by government security forces, has fueled major conflict in central Mali. This has provided vital openings for jihadist and other armed groups to establish themselves as viable alternatives to state authority.

Expanded counterterrorism operations can do nothing to alter these dynamics. They may even backfire by alienating key individuals and groups necessary for resolving local and national conflicts. The United States and France, which is heavily involved in the region with Operation Barkhane, a large-scale military operation aimed at stabilizing regional states, should acknowledge this.

Second, American policymakers should understand that external military actors are fundamentally limited in their ability to constructively intervene, and often make things worse. Various security assistance efforts have provided good examples of how interventions fail, particularly in Africa. In part this is due to their frequently narrow and technical focus on training and equipment at the expense of a broader political strategy. The collapse of the Malian Army in 2012, despite significant American security assistance and training, is a prime example. Subsequent French and European training efforts in the country have also generated limited results.

Targeted efforts to train host nation armies cannot overcome what is ultimately a political problem linked to national identity, state legitimacy, and the distribution of resources. At best, security assistance may offer marginal improvements, but it can also miscarry. In much of Mali, particularly in the north, human rights abuses by the national army mean it is often viewed with suspicion, if not hostility. Simply improving the army’s operational capacities does little to change this: Better units, in the absence of a clear political process and oversight, may simply become better oppressors. For instance, in Chad, French assistance has helped create an elite ethnic militia that serves as a praetorian guard with a terrible human rights record. Despite this, Chad remains a major French client, and has also become an important partner in American counterterrorism efforts, despite the Trump administration’s recent travel ban.

In Niger, the effectiveness of American security assistance is threatened by a serious crisis of civil-military relations. Niger’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, has accused the army of a coup attempt in 2015. He subsequently purged or marginalized a substantial proportion of senior officer corps whom he accuses of collaborating with former Prime Minister Hama Amadou. At the same time, Niger’s fight against Boko Haram and other armed groups has led to an explosion in defense spending. This has multiplied fivefold since 2012, from $73.1 million to over $370 million in 2016, 11 percent of the country’s budget. In 2017 this increased to 15 percent. The defense spending increase has been accompanied by dizzying levels of corruption that have deprived units of needed equipment while Issoufou’s presidential guard receives favored treatment. Furthermore, a 2016 survey suggests that many within the Nigerien army and security services, of all ranks, resent the presence of American and French troops. This could aggravate tensions between the army and civilian authorities in a country that has seen four military coups. This context should give U.S. policymakers pause as they aim to make Niger a centerpiece of regional security assistance efforts.

Finally, and relatedly, the American commitment to counterterrorism in the Sahel poses a moral hazard problem. Major security obligations to regimes whose practices are the main causes of conflict risk exacerbating the very instability such commitments aim to combat. External support incentivizes local strongmen to avoid the reforms necessary to de-escalate conflict. As long as Sahelian leaders know the survival of their regimes is a priority of Western policymakers, they have little reason to alter their behavior. On the contrary, money and other resources derived from the “war on terror” provide lucrative alternatives to engaging with local and regional stakeholders, discouraging governance reform. This dynamic has often characterized external support to African regimes, particularly during the Cold War.

Chad offers an illustrative example. The country has hosted a number of important military exercises organized by the United States, receives U.S. security assistance, shares intelligence, and plays a key role in international efforts to combat Boko Haram. All of this has made Chad’s dictator, Idriss Déby, a vital Western partner. Unfortunately, his regime commits serious human rights abuses, violence is endemic, and Déby has effectively used international security assistance to consolidate his rule.

In Niger, though nominally more democratic than Chad, external actors, including the United States, may also undermine the effectiveness of longstanding mediation mechanisms that previously kept the country more peaceful than its neighbors. Cash and other kinds of support that flow into an increasingly corrupt government radically distort existing patronage networks and institutions that help to regulate local conflicts. This can alter crucial relationships between actors in the center and periphery, and erode incentives for accountability and transparency.

The United States and other international actors, including France, need to significantly limit their military and security commitment in the Sahel. The region’s security problems have their roots in corrupt and predatory states, not the infiltration and expansion of jihad. Reforming governance and radically restructuring state-society relations are the only ways to address these deep-seated issues. Unfortunately, the processes of building national-level legitimacy and accountable governance must start within the countries themselves. Outside actors can do little to help this process along, but can do much to damage it. Counterterrorism is perhaps the most harmful approach outsiders can take. Despite its intentions, it targets communities rather than jihadists, and strengthens the worst elements of state predation. This is because it encourages national government counterinsurgency practices, which often lack the means, or the desire, to discriminate between terrorists and other armed groups, and between armed groups and the communities from which they spring.

America and its allies should focus on areas where they can help, recognizing that their value may only be at the margins. First and foremost, international humanitarian efforts, particularly in the Lake Chad region, are underfunded. This shortfall should be addressed, with further commitments made for the coming years. The United States and its partners could invest more in local and regional peacebuilding entities, such as Niger’s Haute Autorité à la consolidation de la paix (HACP), and encourage the creation of analogous bodies in Mali. The United States could also get involved in funding demobilization programs, facilitate the work of civil-society organizations promoting transparency and independent press outlets, and work through international fora to achieve more equitable trade relations between the region and the rest of the world. By maintaining its terrorism-centered focus, however, America risks repeating the same mistakes it and others made during the Cold War. Long-standing support for authoritarian or repressive regimes prolongs wars, increases instability, and sows fertile ground for terrorism and conflict.

Nathaniel K. Powell is a Research and Teaching Associate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. His research focuses on French security policy in Africa and he is currently completing a book on the history of French military interventions in Chad. He has a PhD from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.


Aug 10, 2010
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Pondering if the USA even has a coherent policy in sub-Saharan Africa. :confused:

Meanwhile on another continent China causes alarm in Washington DC by its long term, strategic economic investment in South American nations which have been relegated to junk status by the USA.


Oct 23, 2008
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China Is Filling the Africa-Sized Gap in US Strategy

  • By Marcel Plichta
March 28, 2018

While U.S. troops fight terror groups, Beijing is locking up supplies of raw materials key to the future of defense.

The Trump administration is hardly the first to give Africa short shrift in its national security considerations. The continent received a measly three paragraphs in the 2015 National Security Strategy, mostly concerning epidemic diseases and intrastate conflict, with bare mentions of economic and political engagement. But the stakes are higher now. China is spreading its economic influence across the continent, and securing the production of minerals key to modern electronics. The Africa-sized gap in U.S. strategic thinking must be closed with comprehensive policy before it threatens the interests of Americans and Africans alike.

Unfortunately, U.S. foreign policy toward Africa has stalled. No appointed official has filled the post of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs since March 2017. (The acting official, Donald Yamamoto, was evasive when asked about substantive policy in a January interview with NPR and had little to say in terms of new initiatives or U.S. leadership on the continent.) On the policy front, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon signaled a major shift toward Africa in September, then departed in early February.

Trump’s new NSS mentions China’s rising influence in Africa, but offers no specific policy to counter with it. Instead, it presents a vague direction to “expand trade and commercial ties” — but Obama-era programs intended for this purpose may be defunded or cut entirely by proposed cuts to the State Department and USAID. Indeed, the most newsworthy events related to U.S.-African diplomatic relations are President Trump referring to Namibia as “Nambia” in September and deriding African countries as “sh*tholes” in January.

The sole area where policymakers have consistently shown strategic interest in Africa is counterterrorism. At any given time, U.S. Africa Command is conducting 100 missions in Africa against jihadist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Al-Shabaab in East Africa. The military has stepped up African engagement as part of the broader war on terror, but this approach alone is insufficient.

The lack of initiative outside counterterrorism leaves the U.S. woefully unprepared to deal with China’s growing influence in Africa. Sino-African economic engagement has grown rapidly since the first Forum on Chinese-Africa Cooperation in 2000, and China now stands as Africa’s largest economic partner. Chinese firms handle half of the continent’s internationally contracted construction projects, and account for ten percent of its industrial production. Chinese loans underpin many of Africa’s largest infrastructure projects, including new rail networks in Kenya. Most dangerous to American interests, China is gaining near-monopolistic control of extractive resources such as oil and minerals.

Nor is China’s growing influence limited to the economic realm. In an attempt to step up its military presence, Beijing now fields over 2,000 peacekeepers across Africa, and last year opened its first overseas base, in Djibouti. China is also accelerating its military support to African governments. It funded Tanzania’s new military training center, which opened in early February, and has long been among the largest exporters of arms to Africa. Another key client is Sudan, which remains an international pariah for its complicity in the brutal conflicts in Darfur and South Kordofan.

Allowing China to wield unchecked power in Africa and gain control over natural resource production is a serious threat to U.S. strategic interests for two reasons. Firstly, its preference for political and economic stability over democratization means it may find allies amongst the remaining dictatorships on the continent. The U.S. and its allies may lose the ability to pressure authoritarians such as Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila towards political reform if China is willing to back them on the world stage.

Secondly, China is working to secure resources vital to the economies and militaries of the future. Africa is famously rich in natural resources such as oil and diamonds, but it also has large reserves of key minerals used in the production of electronics. While much of American strategic focus is oriented towards ensuring the continuous supply of oil and natural gas, the increase in the number of electronics such as phones, computers, and solar panels will drive up demand for these minerals and make their continued supply a priority for maintaining healthy economies. The Democratic Republic of Congo alone is thought to have one of the world’s largest deposits of cobalt, a key component of the lithium-ion batteries that power most electric cars, laptops, and phones. The Central African region in general produces a great deal of tin, copper, gold, and much of the world’s coltan, which is an essential component in electronic circuit boards.

The U.S. military is no less dependent on these materials. Should the U.S. and its allies fail to diversify their supplies, China may be able to undermine the defense economies of its rivals and privilege those of its friends.

It is not too late to reverse these trends. Doubling down on programs like the African Growth and Opportunity Act and Trade Africa will encourage mutually beneficial relationships between the U.S. and African countries. Promoting free-trade initiatives will help secure the supply of vital minerals and give Africans a competitive marketplace to sell their natural resources. These efforts, combined with development aid through USAID, would foster a healthy African middle class able and willing to purchase American goods. Given the economic potential of developing such a relationship, and the strategic risk of abdicating the continent to China, the U.S. needs to formulate a comprehensive Africa strategy – and soon.

  • Marcel Plichta is a postgraduate student in Global Security at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow.


Oct 23, 2008
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Whilst in Ghana......

The US Base in Ghana: What Does the Pentagon Want From the Deal?

Posted by D Society on March 29, 2018

By Scott Morgan

On March 23rd, the Parliament of Ghana voted on a deal which will allow for the United States to build and maintain a base in the Country. Even though the Political Opposition boycotted the vote the deal was approved.

There are two ways to look at this decision:

  • What does Ghana need?
  • Secondly, is what does the Pentagon want?

    For several reasons, Ghana realizes that it is in a Geopolitically important area. It has received in recent months an investment (in its emerging Petroleum Industry) from Qatar. There are several other factors that may have impacted this decision as well. Security Challenges rise to the forefront. First of all is the Gulf of Guinea in which Ghana has a coastline.

    The first challenge of course is Piracy. The initial knee jerk reaction is to focus on the situation in Nigeria where Bunkered Oil seems to make its way to the neighboring nations. The emerging Oil sector in Ghana may present itself as a tantalizing target to be exploited by this criminal element. There are other reasons for concern with the same elements trafficking in narcotics, weapons and even Humans on their way to Europe.

    The other concern that has to be watched is the overfishing of the Gulf of Guinea by outside parties (China and South Korea). It has been acknowledged that China does have access to Freeport in Sierra Leone. But if the fishing industry, in Ghana and its neighbors, takes a hit from the exploitation then the possibility of an increase in Economic Refugees has to be taken into account after an increase on Pressure on the Ghanaian Economy.

    The other issue that would encourage Ghana to take this decision is Regional Security. The Piracy issue in the Gulf of Guinea is just the tip of the Iceberg when taking these concerns into account. Both immediate neighbors Côte D’Ivoire and Togo are facing major security issues.

    Within the last twelve months there have been at least three mutines by Ivorian Security Forces over lack of pay. In a country which is showing modest Economic Growth of around 2% annually that presents a problem. The question of into whose pockets is the money going has to be answered to relieve the pressure.

    Togo has been facing Political unrest as the Opposition calls for the Gnassingbe dynasty which has been ruling the Country for the last 50 years seeks to extend its hold on power. What is interesting is the direct road and rail links between the Togolese Capital of Lome and Accra. Civil Servants in both Countries make this daily trek. Having this interrupted will place a strain on the other country.

    What does the Pentagon Want from this Deal?

    There are two parts of this answer. The first part is to deter the Chinese Presence in Sierra Leone which has been mentioned earlier in this report. The Second answer can best be answered by the debacle in Niger.

    We know last fall that 4 US Green Berets were ambushed in the Remote Southwestern Part of Niger near the Malian Border. The response by AFRICOM and its partners inside the Pentagon was less than stellar to put it mildly,

    There have been concerns about the US having too large of a footprint in Africa. Therefore, the Force Planners decided that using UAVs and Special Forces to conduct Intelligence Gathering and the occasional raid against Jihadist Groups would be sufficient. The Niger Ambush has shown that strategy to be flawed.

    The response by the US to the Ambush was lackluster. Having lack of Aircover (which actually had to be provided by France) and No Backup (Closet US Assets are a Marine FAST team based in Rota, Spain) proved that a reassessment of US Strategy in West Africa was warranted and needed to be updated as soon as possible.

    The deal with Ghana takes care of most of the issues involving Communications, Logistics and even Support when it is deemed vital in the National Interest of the US. There are some aspects which should cause concern such as access to the National Communications System of Ghana and that US Forces will be allowed to move around the Country Armed and even not paying duties on material imported into Ghana.

    That being said this has the potential of being a win/win deal.


Oct 23, 2008
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China says it will increase its military presence in Africa
  • China is looking to strengthen defense engagement with African countries, adding to its economic and commercial profile on the continent.

  • That would compliment existing Chinese ventures, such as peacekeeping activities and weapons sales, as well as protecting Chinese assets, experts say.

    Nyshka Chandran | @nyshkac

    Published 1:05 AM ET Wed, 27 June 2018 Updated 2:29 AM ET Wed, 27 June 2018

For decades, China's presence in Africa has largely focused on economic, commercial and peacekeeping activities. Now, Beijing is building on that by establishing greater military links to protect its national assets on the continent and gain greater geopolitical influence.

The People's Liberation Army conducts regular joint training exercises across the region and, in certain countries that are home to major Chinese infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road initiative, the communist state has been especially active.

In Djibouti, where Chinese companies have constructed strategic ports and Africa's first electric transnational railway, Beijing last year formally launched its first overseas military base, which also operates as a logistics and intelligence facility. Many experts now anticipate more Chinese bases in the years to come, with Namibia rumored as a potential location.

Meanwhile in Tanzania, where the state-run conglomerate China Merchants Holdings International is hoping to invest in the Bagamoyo mega port, China built a complex designed to train local armed forces earlier this year. And, at the first-ever China-Africa Defense and Security Forum in Beijing on Tuesday, the communist state announced it will provide African countries with "comprehensive support" on matters such as piracy and counter-terrorism. That includes providing technologies, equipment, personnel and strategic advice, local media reported.

All that comes amid expectations for the U.S. to reduce troops in Africa under President Donald Trump's "America First" policy, which is set to boost Chinese President Xi Jinping's government as the dominant foreign power on the continent.

The strengthened defense ties compliment China's existing ventures, particularly weapons sales, according to specialists.

"In recent years, Chinese arms sales to Africa have surpassed the United States," said Luke Patey, senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies: "In particular, Chinese small arms and light weapons have spread rapidly since China is less inhibited by selling arms to countries in the midst of conflict than Western providers." That goes hand in hand with Beijing's expanding military cooperation, he continued.

A desire to safeguard Chinese workers and Chinese-funded projects on the continent is likely behind the government's efforts.

"China’s security concerns are actually aimed at its own nationals, and military diplomacy is skillfully used to protect them and their interests," the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, or Clingendael, said in a recent report.

"The evacuation of hundreds of Chinese and foreign nationals from Yemen in 2015 — on a People’s Liberation Army frigate that sailed from the coasts of Somalia — proves just how crucial the presence of a military logistics base on the eastern coast of Africa is for China," it continued.

The world's second-largest economy has long described Sino-Africa cooperation as a "win-win" arrangement — one that provides China with natural resources and African economies with badly-needed infrastructure. But while the flood of Chinese resources may be welcomed by the region's cash-strapped governments, the fear is that increased capital could translate into political leverage.

In fact, many speculate that it was Beijing's concerns over its investments that resulted in the 2017 coup that ousted Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe — a charge that Xi's administration has denied.

"The concern from a lot of partners is exactly what role China is going to be playing in the region and how it's going to fit with existing military organizations and security forums," said Duncan Innes-Ker, Asia regional director at The Economist Intelligence Unit. "It's really an unsettling element of something new coming into the equation that's got a lot of people concerned."

"African countries should be clear-eyed that the days of China’s strict adherence to its longstanding noninterference policy are over," Patey added.

Nyshka ChandranReporter, CNBC Asia-Pacific


Oct 23, 2008
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The Dark Side Of America’s ‘Train, Advise, And Assist’ Missions


James Fahy

on July 11, 2018

Cameroon, the central African country once known as an oasis of stability amongst volatile neighbors, is falling apart. Recent disturbing images emerging depict a country descending into violent civil war as the Cameroonian government fights to quash an Anglophone separatist movement. Thousands of innocent civilians have fled to neighboring Nigeria and Chad to avoid the violent atrocities orchestrated by both sides.

The most notable among some of these recent images, however, is the participation of members of Cameroon’s elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), a unit previously investigated for humanitarian abuses that have also been trained and equipped by the American military.

This training has been part of broader deployments of U.S. military personnel in support of regional security operations against Boko Haram and ISIS, deployments which have made Cameroon host to the fourth largest contingent of American forces on the continent, as well as critical drone base. BIR has proven to be effective in fighting Boko Haram, but their involvement in repeated humanitarian abuses warrants a debate about the United States’ long-term strategy and if such abuses are something we simply accept when engaged in such unstable regions.

This points to a larger problem: just as lawmakers were frustratingly unaware of U.S.-led operations in Niger when four soldiers were killed in an ambush there in October 2017, it is doubtful that policymakers have given informed consideration as to why the U.S. military is in Cameroon — or, even more worrying, the potentially bloody long-term effects of those training missions there. The lack of conversation over why U.S. military personnel are currently in harm’s way in Africa speaks to civil disengagement with what the military is doing and where it is operating — and it is urgent that we question our current role there.

The origins of the separatist conflict in Cameroon date to a 1960s referendum, when the southern Anglophone portions of British Cameroon elected to join the newly-independent, French-speaking state of Cameroon as part of a federal system. Since joining that federal system, the Anglophones, who comprise less than a fifth of the population, have felt increasingly marginalized by what they perceive as a neglectful government that has dissolved the federal system while paying little attention to the state of their infrastructure, health, and education in addition to excluding them from power and the best government jobs.

These tensions came to a head in October 2016, when protests about the use of French in education and law resulted in a heavy-handed government response that only inflamed Anglophone separatist sentiment. Demonstrators were imprisoned and internet services to the Anglophone regions were cut. A year later, more demonstrators took to the street to demand independence and were met with military force. Just a month following the protests, the first guerrilla attacks in support of an independent state called “Ambazonia” launched.

The crisis has only escalated since then with Amnesty International reporting that separatists had “stabbed to death and shot military personnel, burned down schools and attacked teachers, while security forces have tortured people, fired on crowds and destroyed villages, in a spiral of violence that keeps getting more deadly.”

Cameroon’s conflict is concerning given the country’s regional role, notwithstanding support from the U.S. military and its participation in the fight against Boko Haram and ISIS. As Central Africa’s biggest economy with strategically vital ports, Cameroon is a regional nexus whose failure could bring down neighboring states. A divided Cameroon could jeopardize international military efforts to stabilize the region and defeat Boko Haram and ISIS and make an area already filled with both extremist groups and cheap weaponry an even more viable terrorist sanctuary.

For these reasons, successive administrations have devoted not inconsiderable resources to defeating Islamic militancy in West Africa and maintaining regional stability. In the case of Cameroon, the BIR has received extensive training from U.S. Army Special Forces while the Cameroonian military at large has received training in surveillance techniques, drone-usage, as well as counter-IED and counter-insurgent strategies from both the U.S. Marines Corps and Army. This is in addition to the provision of military aircraft and armored vehicles, all ostensibly for defeating Boko Haram.

However, the recent usage of the BIR by the Cameroonian government in its violent suppression of the Anglophone insurgency raises questions about the viability of “advise and assist” as a strategy. Despite the recent efforts of the military to improve its advise and assist capability in the past several years through initiatives like the Security Force Assistance Brigades, American efforts to develop local forces as proxies through which to combat terrorism have been spotty at best.

Perhaps most famous is the example of Iraqi units that, after years and years of comprehensive training from American forces, fled in the face of a much smaller force of ISIS fighters leaving their American-provided equipment to be taken by the militants. Previously, in Mali, American armed and trained units did worse than flee but defected to the Islamic militants they were trained to fight; not only taking their skills but weapons and equipment with them. Things aren’t looking better in Afghanistan where hundreds of thousands of Afghan soldiers, supposedly being trained and equipped by the DoD, exist only paper, a fiction perpetuated by corrupt Afghan officers who proceed to sell American equipment to the Taliban. Unfortunately, fraud, defection, and unwillingness to fight are only some of the problems confronting advise and assist as a strategy.

While Cameroonian forces may not have outright defected to the enemy with their training and equipment, their participation in atrocities underlines the fundamental problem that host nations can direct American assistance towards targets other than those we intended. While the Pentagon has stated that military assistance is subject to monitoring to ensure that this is not the case, they have similarly acknowledged that sovereign nations are free to transfer units or personnel as they see fit.

The United States needs to examine whether the limited counterterrorism gains against Boko Haram are worth the undermining of good governance and rule of law. While U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) force posture statement recognizes that, “disenfranchisement from corrupt governments and abusive security forces” is what makes local populations “prime targets for exploitation by criminal and terrorist organizations across the continent,” establishing good governance is not supposed to be the job of the Department of Defense. Yet policymakers have increasingly come to rely on the Pentagon as a one-stop shop for all foreign policy problems. AFRICOM’s ideal stated strategy, in keeping with its interagency approach and strong State Department presence, is to utilize a whole-of-government approach to establish regional stability, but with foreign aid and diplomacy facing drastic cuts, the Pentagon is left solving non-military programs on its own.

Thus, we are left with train, advise, and assist, which likely does more to undermine good governance than enhance it. Studies have shown that American military presence in Africa has contributed to the backlash against local governments and the United States, and that sustained American military engagement in these advisory missions makes military coups more likely. Most importantly for the current mission in Cameroon, these advise and assist endeavors can strengthen a regime prone towards human rights abuses and make them more reliant on military force when dealing with domestic grievances. By strengthening a military that is then used to abuse a local population, advise and assist can lay the groundwork for more violence that further destabilizes the very country they were intending to make more peaceful.

Advise and assist also obfuscates the fact that many of these missions put soldiers in real danger, as evidenced by the deaths in Niger. If the Pentagon sees fit to include Cameroon as a location where deployed personnel receive danger pay, then those men and women deserve an actual discussion of why they are being sent into danger and if what they are being asked to do actually brings America any closer to its objectives. Otherwise, policymakers and the public will likely be surprised again when the breaking news is American casualties in a country no one was aware we were engaged in.

James Fahy is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve with a Master’s in War Studies from King’s College London.


Oct 23, 2008
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As Military Ties Deepen, China Advances its Ambitions in Africa

Beijing’s growing influence on the continent could be a win-win, or it could lead to Chinese dominance

Wednesday, July 18, 2018 / By: Kerry A. Moore; Jennifer Staats

Earlier this month, China’s Ministry of National Defense hosted senior military personnel from 50 African countries and the African Union for the first-ever China-Africa Defense and Security Forum. Held over two weeks in Beijing, the forum reflects two primary shifts in China’s Africa strategy that go beyond the traditional emphasis on trade, investment, and resource extraction: promoting improved security relations to help protect China's interests on the continent and enhancing China's reputation as a reliable security partner that is invested in Africa's future..

As China's investments, assets, interests, and number of citizens in Africa continue to grow, Beijing has also steadily expanded its military engagement on the continent. China’s approach to Africa has traditionally focused on economic issues, leaving security and military engagement to the United States. Over the past decade, however, Beijing has significantly increased its involvement in U.N. peacekeeping missions and humanitarian aid, participated in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, and strengthened military-to-military contacts with a wide range of African countries. Through joint drills and exercises, weapons sales, technical demonstrations, training workshops, and millions of dollars pledged in security assistance, China is helping countries develop their own military capacity.

At the China-Africa Defense and Security Forum this month, Beijing reportedly offered its military expertise to its African partners, taking them to visit army units and factories, sharing expertise and technical knowledge, and developing a security cooperation plan for approval at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in September.

China’s Soft Power Push

Increased engagement on security issues has provided another channel through which China can promote its soft power in Africa, largely through a narrative of win-win cooperation and generous assistance. Confucius Institutes across the continent teach Chinese language and culture, and government scholarships bring thousands of African students to China to study.

China's media presence on the continent has also expanded, and Chinese experts routinely offer professional training in areas such as education, medicine, and agriculture. Further, all-expenses-paid study tours and exchange trips bring stakeholders from other fields to China, where Beijing can educate visitors about its model of governance and economic development—including media and party building training—and enhance its reputation as a reliable partner who is committed to helping its African partners advance their own development.

Risks of Strategic Dependence

This multi-faceted engagement is attractive for many countries in the region. Yet despite calls for a "comprehensive strategic partnership" and a "shared future" with Africa, China's increased investments across the continent threaten to tip the power balance in a way that could give Beijing a substantial amount of political leverage. In Kenya, for example, Chinese companies have helped the country develop its infrastructure and grow its economy, but many fear that the debt burden may be unsustainable, and could ultimately force Nairobi to give China control over its port in Mombasa.

China will engage its African partners again in September at the FOCAC summit, where peace and security issues are likely to be on the agenda. As Beijing redoubles its efforts to "protect its overseas interests," these security relationships—and related efforts to expand China’s influence—will likely continue to grow deeper in the years to come. While many African countries are hopeful about the potential benefits of strengthened ties with the Asian giant, these activities could lead to an outsized and overbearing role for China in Africa.


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