Above photo: Opening ceremony in Northern Uganda marking the beginning of joint exercises with U.S. Army soldiers in 2009. AFRICOM/flickr/cc.
If AFRICOM’s mission is to fight terrorism, then why have terror attacks increased five-fold since the US began its military occupation of the continent?
“Entities that threaten a liberated, autonomous Africa are the real terrorists, and the United States is the biggest terrorist in the world.”
While politicians of both the Republican and Democratic parties allege that the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) is leading the fight against terrorism on the African continent, U.S. military operations in Africa have fostered the rise of terrorist activity.
Data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland shows that attacks have spiked since AFRICOM was established. In 2007, just before it became a command, there were fewer than 400 such incidents annually in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2016, the number reached nearly 2,000. By AFRICOM’s own official standards, this is a massive failure, but AFRICOM’s true purpose is not fighting terrorism.
General Stephen Townsend, head of AFRICOM, said “the growing threat in Africa from terrorist networks is significant and impacts not only Africans but also the U.S. and our international allies.” But militant groups like Al-Shabaab, ISIS, and Al-Qaeda are actually products of the destabilization caused by U.S. wars and occupation in Africa and the so-called Middle East, and U.S. military activities continue to grow the numbers of those groups. This pushes African countries to rely on the U.S. military to support a fight against growing terrorist threats. Through this process, the U.S. creates a “desire” for AFRICOM by African compradors.
“AFRICOM’s true purpose is not fighting terrorism.”
In the eyes of the U.S. ruling class, entities are classified as terrorists based on how they relate to the U.S. empire. Entities that threaten a liberated, autonomous Africa are the real terrorists, and the United States is the biggest terrorist in the world. U.S. military activity has killed more people than the terrorist groups that they are supposedly fighting against combined.
The occupation of foreign countries and the devastating bombings that the United States has used to achieve its goals in Africa are acts of terror. The U.S. also leverages economic terrorism with the World Bank and IMF to transfer wealth and force austerity measures, and it enforces murderous sanctions on African countries. Al-Shabaab, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and their counterparts cannot come close to the kind of death, destruction, and destabilization that the U.S. has brought about in Africa.
“Counter-terrorism” is a pretense that the United States utilizes to re-colonize Africa as China, Russia, and others challenge their dominance on the continent. Yet China has only one base in Djibouti, and Russia does not yet have military bases in Africa, while the U.S. has 46 military bases on the continent and military to military relations with 53 out of 54 African countries.
China, especially, has been lessening the dependence of African countries on U.S. and Western economic influence, though, like any country, China has its own motivations that are not in service of African liberation. When, in the past, African leaders would be forced to accept predatory loans from the World Bank and IMF, they can now turn to China for investment. According to the China-Africa Research Initiative at John Hopkins University, Chinese investment in Africa has risen steadily since 2003 while U.S. foreign direct investment in Africa has declined. China’s signature ‘One Belt One Road’ policy – to which President Xi Jinping has pledged $124 billion to create global trade routes designed to facilitate $2 trillion worth of annual trade – will also improve African links with China.
“Chinese investment in Africa has risen steadily since 2003 while U.S. foreign direct investment in Africa has declined.”
The U.S. response to growing Chinese economic influence has been focused on military operations to promote endless war and instability in Africa. U.S. militarism in Africa is not new, and the U.S. has waged war against African liberation movements since the 1950s – in Angola, the DRC, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Morocco, Libya, and Djibouti, to name a few countries. In some countries, they used U.S. troops, but in most cases the U.S. financed, armed, and supervised the support of other forces.
The war in DR Congo is an illustrative example. The U.S. initially worked with Belgium to assassinate the first Prime Minister of the newly independent Democratic Republic of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba, because of the threat his leadership posed to U.S. and Western control of strategic raw materials in the DRC. The U.S. also worked with Paul Kagame’s forces to win a coup in Rwanda. Then, in 1996, the U.S. supported the Rwandan and Ugandan invasion of the DRC, which resulted in the deadliest war since World War II with over 6 million deaths, half of those killed were children under the age of five.
According to a U.S. Congressional Research Service study, Washington has dispatched combat troops, fighter planes, and warships to buttress client dictatorships or to unseat adversarial regimes in dozens of countries, on almost a yearly basis.
Conflict Armament Research, a UK organization that monitors armament transfers and supply chains, published an important report in late 2016, confirming that a flow of weapons from the government led by Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi after the U.S. and NATO successfully waged war on that country played a major role in the rise of terrorism in Mali, Niger, and the Sahel.
The Trump administration has laid bare many of the motives of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, and AFRICOM’s purpose in furthering U.S. geopolitical, economic, and military interests has also been exposed. Their primary motives are colonizing the continent and winning the New Scramble for Africa, which resembles the scramble of the 1800s. AFRICOM works to prevent the rise of any autonomous forces on the continent.
Like the Obama administration before it, the Trump administration has increased the number of drone attacks and decreased restrictions on rules of engagement, which has increased the number of those killed. He has also significantly decreased aid to Africa since the U.S. is losing to China in that area.
“The New Scramble for Africa resembles the scramble of the 1800s.”
Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana addressed foreign military intervention in Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism. He warned instructively that “military aid … marks the last stage of neo-colonialism and its effect is self-destructive.”
As Dr. Ama Biney writes in The Political and Social Thought of Kwame Nkrumah, the former President is the ideological originator of the Africa High Command, which was intended to create an environment of peace in an autonomous, unified Africa. The question she asks in light of the twisted U.S. version of Nkrumah’s idea is “whose interests will AFRICOM genuinely serve in the medium to long term? The interests of ordinary African people are unlikely to be served by AFRICOM.”
AFRICOM is a deadly tool used to further U.S. interests in Africa, and Kwame Nkrumah would be vehemently opposed to the co-optation of his ideas in service of the re-colonization of Africa by the U.S. empire.
Terrorism is a useful pretext for the U.S. to assert its power, and the lives of millions of African people are bargaining chips that are played by the United States in the New Scramble for Africa. In that sense, the War on Terror has been a success. The United States has vastly expanded its power and influence on the continent through AFRICOM as it vies for full spectrum global dominance over competitors like China and Russia. If the goal is to fight and end terrorism, AFRICOM is a woeful failure.
Terrorism is a by-product of imperialism, and claims of fighting against it are used for public relations purposes. Ending terrorism and liberating Africa from the clutches of U.S. imperialism means shutting down AFRICOM and removing all U.S. forces from the continent and world. That is why we say U.S. Out of Africa!
Tunde Osazua is on the Africa Team of the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) and Coordinator of BAP’s U.S. Out of Africa Network.