President Barack Obama‘s “secret wars” against al-Qaida are steadily widening, most notably in Africa, with the U.S. military’s Special Forces Operation Command doubling in size and the CIA’s strike capabilities undergoing a radical expansion, international analysts said.
“Ad hoc global ‘counter-terrorism’ efforts that began under President George W. Bush, and were encouraged by Obama, have now become institutionalized — and the bureaucracy that wages U.S. ‘secret wars’ will continue to expand for the next couple of years, particularly in Africa,” Oxford Analytica observed in a recent assessment.
“Reliance on Special Forces and the CIA will increase in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future as conventional force numbers decline and move into a supporting role.”
This marks a significant shift in the U.S.-led strategy in Afghanistan from conventional military power, as the Americans and their allies scale down forces in Afghanistan after an inconclusive 11-year-old war.
As al-Qaida’s organization has broken into regional networks because of heavy losses suffered by al-Qaida Central from drone strikes in Pakistan, these groups have become independent operationally and have had some successes in North and West Africa.
The Americans’ ability to wage Special Operations wars on a global scale has been strengthened by the creation of relatively small, often unobtrusive, military bases.
“Washington is in the process of a massive expansion of what are referred to internally as ‘lily pads’ that allow it a global strike capability,” Oxford Analytica noted.
These include facilities in Kenya, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean off East Africa. Western military sources say the Americans are seeking to establish a base in newly independent South Sudan as well.
It’s not hard to see why the Americans are suddenly so interested in Africa after virtually ignoring it for decades.
West Africa is emerging as a vital oil-producing zone, that’s attracting China and India because of its mineral resources, including arable farmland, which they need to sustain their burgeoning economies.
East Africa is on the cusp of a major oil and natural gas bonanza, which makes it of particular interest to Beijing and New Delhi because its energy and mineral wealth can be shipped directly eastward across the Indian Ocean.
Some analysts view the Indian Ocean as a future conflict zone between China and India because of its sea lanes.
In 2007, the United States inaugurated the Africa Command to coordinate U.S. military affairs with governments across a continent wracked for decades by war and famine.
As it happens, most of these are autocratic and even dictatorial regimes with a grotesque record of brutality, corruption and coups as they plunder their countries’ wealth.
Here Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau and Burkina Faso spring to mind.
The energy booms under way will only strengthen those regimes and forestall any move toward democracy and good governance.
Recent events in the Arab world have shown the dangers lurking in Africa for the United States.
For decades, the Americans indulged and propped up pro-Western dictators in the interests U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Over the last 18 months, four of these dictators have fallen to pro-democracy uprisings, leaving U.S. strategy in the region in tatters.
Africans see the U.S. Africa Command as little more than an instrument to protect U.S. investment, particularly oil and gas, rather than Washington’s state aim of improving links with African nations and training their largely inept and abysmally led military forces.
Indeed, some analysts suspect these developments will drive Africans toward groups like al-Qaida and its allies in North Africa, Nigeria and Somalia, which will in turn trigger U.S. “secret war” military operations to contain them, as are now taking place in Somalia and nearby Yemen.
The United States “under AFRICOM, is not likely to be as concerned with women’s safety as they are their oil and mineral operations, and the draw of fundamentalist Islam,” African expert Toby Leon Moorsom of Canada’s Queen’s University observed.
“Yet interest in Islamic fundamentalism is that much more appealing to people who’ve lost everything for the sake of the 1 percent intent on taking it all.
“Armies are not signs of hope for those who have recently lost their land in mining concessions and land grabs.”