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US expands military presence in Africa

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afrol News- While abandoning much of its Cold War-era bases in Europe and Asia, the US military is relocating to Africa and the Middle East to “fight terrorism” and “protect oil” resources. In Africa, US bases are to focus on Uganda, Djibouti, Senegal and São Tomé and Príncipe, where flexible, small-scale “jumping off points” exist or are to be built.
The US Pentagon is in a period of major restructuring, in particular regarding American military bases abroad. While enormous bases in Germany and South Korea are abandoned or detracted, new and more flexible bases are constructed or planned all over the world, in particular in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.

The concept is creating strategically placed “jumping off points” with very few permanently stationed troops but with the infrastructure in place to rapidly launch major regional operations, according to a report published today by the US new agency Associated Press (AP). Bases are to cover all the world’s regions where the US government is concerned over potential instability or terrorism, or simply wants to protect key resources such as oil.

The plans for Africa are more or less developed, according to AP. An existing base in Entebbe, Uganda, is covering East Africa and the Great Lakes region. President Yoweri Museveni has, since he came to power in Uganda in 1986, developed a major US ally in Africa, often celebrated as the first in a “new breed of African leaders” by Washington. The Entebbe airport is already one of the best developed US bases in Africa.

Djibouti has already turned into one of the most important US military bases throughout the world. Here, US forces monitoring assumed terrorist groups in the Middle East, Africa’s Horn and East Africa are headquartered. Located only 50 kilometres south-west of the Arabian Peninsula, stable and pro-Western Djibouti is also a major US military safety net in the region as their presence becomes increasingly controversial on Arab soil.

Senegal is the latest focus point of the Pentagon in Africa. The US has achieved a wide range of concessions at a Dakar airfield, which already has been used as a landing point for several military operations in West Africa. These include the large-scale operation in Liberia, but also smaller missions as under the last coup attempt in neighbouring Mauritania. Under President Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal has made a major alliance shift from France towards the US.

According to the AP report, São Tomé and Príncipe is likely to become the next US military base. The small archipelago – an upcoming oil producer – is strategically placed in the Gulf of Guinea, sub-Saharan Africa’s major oil producing area. Here, the “US military could monitor the movement of oil tankers and protect oil platforms,” the news agency quotes high ranking military officers.

Also the bases in Djibouti and Senegal are strategically place to protect US oil interests. Djibouti is located at the narrow Bab el Mandeb Strait at the entrance of the Red Sea, at the “world’s busiest shipping lanes and close to Arabian oilfields,” according to the CIA. Senegal, at the West African coast is strategically placed in a region with intensive oil explorations, which the US hopes may become a new major oil supplier within some years.

In North Africa, often considered “the backyard” of the European Union, US military presence is still more limited but is in many ways covered by NATO cooperations. The US however has developed a close military and intelligence cooperation with several North African countries, in particular Morocco and Egypt. Cooperation with Algeria and Tunisia is also improving.

In addition to this new strategic network of flexible bases, the Pentagon is known to have signed a large number of military pacts with governments all over Africa during the last years. These include oil producers such as Gabon and Mauritania, but also less significant resource owners such as Guinea Conakry and Rwanda. The US has indeed developed into the principal military partner of most African countries, displacing ex-colonial powers.

By staff writers