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Vol. 77/No. 9      March 11, 2013

Growing unrest, capitalist rivalries
draw US military deeper into Africa
(lead article)
While training its military attention on China and the Asia-Pacific region, Washington has also been stepping up its presence across Africa, with plans in the works to expand use of drone air bases and special operations forces there. The U.S. rulers’ rivalry with Beijing is also part of the picture driving their growing interest in Africa, where investment and trade from China has been rapidly expanding.

Since its inception in 2007, the U.S. Africa Command sought to maintain a light U.S. footprint on the continent, focusing on training local armies and providing logistics support. But over the past several years its intervention has expanded in response to developments on the continent that affect U.S. imperialist interests.

In a written statement presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb. 14, Gen. David Rodriguez, President Barack Obama’s nominee to command the U.S. Africa Command, called for increasing U.S. military “intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa by nearly 15-fold,” reported the Washington Post.

Since 2007, the Pentagon has established about a dozen air bases in Africa, out of which surveillance flights are flown under direction of U.S. special operations forces, an unnamed senior U.S. commander told the Post last June.

The Pentagon is establishing a new drone air base in Niger, near the border with northern Mali where several Islamist groups are battling government, French and allied forces. U.S. officials “envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base,” the New York Times reported, “though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes.” About 100 U.S. military personnel have already arrived in Niger, Obama told Congress Feb. 22.

The U.S. military has been conducting armed aerial drone attacks against purported members and supporters of the Islamist group al-Shabab in Somalia. Drones are flown out of the U.S. air base in Djibouti—where 3,500 U.S. military personnel are stationed—and air bases in southern Ethiopia and in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean.

In his statement, General Rodriguez also called for expanding the presence of special operations forces with an emphasis on 10 countries—Nigeria, Libya, Niger, Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, Cameroon, South Sudan and Kenya—according to an article on the Global Research website.

The U.S. rulers aim to gain a competitive edge for markets and raw materials against rival powers from Europe to Beijing. “China is all over Africa—I mean all over Africa. … And we got to get in,” said John Kerry at his confirmation hearing Jan. 24, shortly before being sworn in as secretary of state.

This year the Pentagon has assigned groups of soldiers from an army brigade of some 3,500 troops to train militaries in 35 African countries.

Since October 2011, some 100 U.S. special operations forces have been participating in military actions in four countries in Central Africa—Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and Democratic Republic of the Congo—targeting the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group of armed bandits operating in the region.
Related articles:
Mali: Class antagonisms grow with commodification of land
Capitalism and the Transformation of Africa
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