The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 70/No. 3           January 23, 2006  
U.S. gov’t boosts oil exploitation,
military presence in West Africa
(front page)
WASHINGTON—Within a decade 25 percent of U.S. oil imports will come from West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, according to projections by the Department of Energy and the CIA. This growing exploitation of African oil is bringing with it an increased U.S. military presence in the region.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development estimates Africa’s total oil reserves as 80 billion barrels, or eight percent of the world’s crude reserves. With output of more than 4 million barrels a day, sub-Saharan Africa already produces as much as Iran, Venezuela, and Mexico combined. The region’s output has increased 36 percent in 10 years, compared with 16 percent for the rest of the world. The Gulf of Guinea, with estimated reserves of 24 billion barrels, is likely to become the world’s leading deep water offshore production center.

Equatorial Guinea currently holds the record, along with Angola, for issuance of oil prospecting permits. Over the next 20 years it could become Africa’s third-largest oil producer, with 740,000 barrels a day. A dozen facilities for production, storage, and offshore loading of liquefied natural gas are being built across West Africa, including on Equatorial Guinea’s main island of Bioko, noted a December 28 “National Security Analysis” carried by the Newhouse News Service.

Africa’s largest oil producer, Nigeria, is 11th in the world and the fifth-largest supplier to companies in the United States. According to a CIA report, Nigeria plans to increase daily production from 2.6 million barrels in 2005 to 3 million barrels in 2006, reaching 4 millions barrels by 2010.

Washington has scrambled to displace its imperialist rivals in the region to tap into its rich oil reserves, the bulk of which can be shipped rapidly and relatively securely to U.S. ports.

The growing reliance on African oil would seem to “scream out for a robust Navy presence, including warships, coastal patrol boats and maritime aircraft surveillance,” said the Newhouse News report.

But Washington is instead fashioning a military approach more in line with its “war on terrorism,” focused on lightly armored, fast moving elite forces. Washington has negotiated the rights to establish a military base patterned along these lines in São Tomé and Príncipe, an island nation in the Gulf of Guinea.

“We can’t afford to have a ship there 365 days a year,” said Rear Adm. D.C. Curtis. “The days of getting an aircraft carrier off the coast are gone.” The size of the U.S. Naval fleet is below 300, its lowest number since 1916. Curtis heads the U.S. 6th Fleet, which oversees naval responsibilities in Europe and Africa from its headquarters in Italy.

To secure its interests on the continent the U.S. government will spend $500 million over the next five years training African armies. Last June 700 U.S. Special Forces troops and 2,100 troops from Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Morocco, Nigeria, and Tunisia joined 3,000 troops from Saharan countries in “Exercise Flintlock ’05,” ostensibly to improve border security.
Related articles:
UK, Sweden events take up Africa, anti-imperialist struggle  
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