US send troops, advisors and cash to Africa for neo-colonialism

Islamist fighters have made a habit of quietly slipping across the border into Niger to rest, rearm and refit, officials say — a pipeline the African nation of Niger is eager to shut down with the Pentagon’s help.  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/05/world/africa/us-takes-training-role-in-africa-as-threats-grow-and-budgets-shrink.html?hp
With more than a decade of land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drawing to an end, the American military’s involvement in Niger illustrates how the Pentagon is trying to juggle two competing missions in Africa: contain the spread of Islamist militancy without having to pour a lot of soldiers or money into the region.
Army’s storied First Infantry Division are conducting more than 100 missions including sending two-man sniper teams to Burundi.
As part of a three-week exercise, Army Green Berets from Fort Carson, Colo., and instructors from other Western countries have trained African troops in Niger to conduct combat patrols and to foil terrorist ambushes.
“If you can develop a trusting relationship with people, you can gather any information you need,” Fougou Malam Saley, an American-trained sergeant in Niger’s army, said before the medical event and a meeting with 15 community leaders visiting from areas where Boko Haram uses subtle intimidation.
American officials point out that they will intervene directly when vital interests are at stake. In South Sudan, American soldiers and Marines positioned in the region after the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, rushed to help evacuate dozens of Americans from the embassy there last December. Commando raids last year in Libya (successful) and Somalia (failed) show the United States will not farm out its top counterterrorism missions, officials say.
But the weaknesses of the Pentagon’s strategy to outsource its security needs in stretches of Africa are also on display in Niger, where the government of President Mahamadou Issoufou is struggling to stem a flow of extremists across the country’s lightly defended borders with Mali, Nigeria and Libya. Even with Western aid, Niger’s top officials say the challenge is daunting.
“Niger is suffering the collateral fallout of the Libyan and Malian crises,” Niger’s foreign minister, Mohamed Bazoum, told a security conference in Niger last month.
In the past two years, the United States has spent $33 million to build Niger’s counterterrorism abilities, providing equipment such as radios, water and fuel trucks, spare parts, helmets, body armor, uniforms and GPS devices.
Here in this remote southeastern city, Niger’s security forces have stepped up patrols and created a new intelligence unit to ferret out infiltrators.
Just across the border in Nigeria, there has been a recent surge of attacks by Boko Haram, which the State Department last November branded a terrorist group with links to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. “A new generation of Boko Haram militants is displaying a greater appetite for violence,” said a report issued last month by the United Nations office that monitors sanctions on Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
American officials are putting the finishing touches on a plan for United States Army instructors to help train an 850-member battalion of rangers as part of Nigeria’s new special forces command.
Some American lawmakers say the administration’s level of involvement makes sense, but argue that direct American military engagement may have to increase if threats in the region rise. “It’s a balancing act,” said Representative Frank A. LoBiondo, a New Jersey Republican on the Intelligence Committee who specializes in Africa and visited Niger and Nigeria in January. “Many of these countries consider the U.S. a partner and strong ally, but they have serious concerns about what our footprint looks like.”
The American strategy in Africa also hinges on European partners. In January, France began to reorganize its 3,000 troops in the Sahel region — a vast area on the southern flank of the Sahara that stretches from Senegal to Chad — to carry out counterterrorism operations more effectively, officials said. France will concentrate its air power in Chad, its new reconnaissance drones in Niger, its special operations troops in Burkina Faso and its logistics hub in Ivory Coast.
The United States has provided intelligence, as well as refueling and transport planes, to France, which intends to keep about 1,000 soldiers in Mali to conduct counterterrorism missions.
“Leveraging and partnering with the French is a way to go,” James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told Congress last month. “They have insight and understanding and, importantly, a willingness to use the forces they have there now.”
Against this backdrop, the Pentagon’s Africa Command is running an annual exercise conducted since 2005 called Flintlock. This year, about 600 African troops and 500 Western trainers and support personnel, including about 300 Americans, participated here and in two cities in central Niger, Agadez and Tahoua.
In temperatures often soaring above 100 degrees, African troops in groups of up to 40 teamed up with advisers from the United States or European allies like Italy, France, Britain and Norway. They practiced marksmanship, patrolling harsh desert terrain and conducting checkpoints against suspicious vehicles.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: