U.S. Military increases involvement in African conflict

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JANUARY 30, 2013

As confessed last week by Hillary Clinton, the world can expect the United States to continue balkanizing sensible regions of the planet indefinitely. With major combat operations ending in the Middle East, recently growing economic and political tension in Africa opened the door for the U.S. to launch another operation in a supposed effort to curb the spread of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates in that continent.

Now, the United States reached an agreement with the Government of Niger for immediate installation in that country of a drone base, which will be used to ‘support’ France’s military operation in Mali, which means the beginning of a greater U.S. military involvement in the fight in North Africa.

With this agreement, the Pentagon will start reconnaissance flights over Malian territory and deploy any number any number of troops anywhere in Mali or even neighboring countries. It is possible that, at a later stage, the drones could be used to directly attack the groups identified as enemies, as is being done in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, where the U.S., almost on a daily basis, murders men, women and children are thought to be members of terrorist organizations or who are deemed as collateral damage — as the military says.

The U.S. military presence in Niger, whose scope has not been officially confirmed in Washington, represents a significant shift in the so-called war against terrorism, so far concentrated in the Middle East and Asia. The steps taken by the Pentagon now open a new front in Africa. So far, the U.S. only had one official base in the small state of Djibouti, where the military stations about 2,000 soldiers and from where it launches attacks over Yemeni territory.

This base, however, is too far away for operations in ​​Mali, Algeria, Libya and Mauritania, where the U.S. Al-Qaeda affiliated groups concentrate their forces.

The agreement with Niger, which was confirmed by official sources in the country, will allow the U.S. to have military installations in the desert area of ​​Agadez, in northern Niger, near the borders with Mali and Algeria.

“Niger has given the green light for the use of its territory for collecting surveillance to improve data collection of Islamist movements,” said a source quoted by Reuters. Other U.S. media say that the U.S. is negotiating a similar agreement with Burkina Faso, on the southern border of Mali, and that the permanent presence of drones could be extended even to Algeria, a country with which Washington maintains good relations and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited last October to discuss the security situation and the supposed extremist threat.

The African command of U.S. armed forces (Africom) based in Germany, has refused to comment on this information, on strategic issues  and negotiations or possible agreements with any of the aforementioned countries. However, it is confirmed that General Carter Ham, visited Niger this month to negotiate the agreement.

The military penetration of Africa, though cautious and limited for now, is complex and risky. The U.S. is now engaged in a region where it does not have much experience and will fight against an enemy that has as many branches as the United States can use to destabilize governments all over the world. Any unexpected setback, as a direct Islamist attack against U.S. interests at home or abroad could accelerate a crisis of various magnitudes. Perhaps that is what the American government is looking for: a stronger reason to immerse itself in Africa.

The strategy being used in Africa certainly mirrors the pattern of military involvement that Barack Obama favors since he arrived to the White House. Incredulous on the effectiveness of large ground operations, the Government favors limited missions and precise in its objectives, such as the attack on Libya. Moreover, the danger that terrorist expansion in Africa represents has been recognized in recent days even by President Clinton and the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The U.S., a full supporter of the incursion of France in Mali, aims to coordinate its own deployment with the French Government. At the end of last week, Obama spoke by telephone with Francois Hollande, and the defense secretary, Leon Panetta and the French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

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About Luis Miranda
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