MOSCOW, May 29 (RIA Novosti), Rick Rozoff - For the United States in the second decade of the 21st century war is being conducted in as risk-free a manner as practicable. In place of large contingents of land forces, armored vehicles and artillery, Hellfire missiles fired from unmanned aerial vehicles and low-profile special operations are the preferred mode of killing adversaries abroad, having the domestic political advantage of not resulting in flag-draped coffins returning to the U.S. in cargo planes.
As the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization war in South and Central Asia - Afghanistan and frequently across the border in Pakistan, with military forces also stationed in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - continues to wind down, drone and special operations warfare are being shifted to the African continent.
The New York Times ran a feature on May 26 reporting that the U.S. Department of Defense has allotted several tens of millions of dollars for training hundreds of elite commandos in the northern African nations of Libya, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. The bulk of the train and equip programs targeting the four nations are, according to the Times, being conducted by U.S. Army's Green Berets and Delta Force (the Army's contribution to Joint Special Operations Command).
The program is described as being secretive and financed by what the newspaper characterizes as "classified Pentagon spending." Unlike smaller, independent news outlets, U.S. newspapers of record like the New York Times and Washington Post don't have to cite sources or in other manners substantiate their contentions, especially when regurgitating State Department propaganda and leaking information Washington wants to get out to the public one degree removed.
The Pentagon has budgeted over $16 million in Libya to instruct and equip two companies of elite troops for what appear to be counterinsurgency operations; in Mauritania $29 million has been apportioned for comparable purposes; in Niger $15 million and in Mali an undisclosed amount.
A few days earlier U.S. commander-in-chief Barack Obama announced the deployment of 80 U.S. troops to Chad allegedly to assist in the search for 300 Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haram.
A Washington Post article of May 21 has a map showing where U.S. military personnel (largely special forces) are already stationed in sub-Saharan Africa. It shows twelve countries colored in, most all in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and Central Africa: Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Kinshasa), Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda. This list doesn't include the island nation of Seychelles where the U.S. has based Reaper drones and troops since 2009 and the nations of North Africa, including Libya and Morocco, where the U.S. has what is assumed to be a permanent military presence.
Earlier this month the Pentagon signed a new ten-year agreement with the diminutive Horn of Africa nation Djibouti for the continued use of Camp Lemmonier, where the U.S. has deployed thousands of troops, including special operations forces, with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa since 2003. Washington has used Djibouti and Ethiopia for drone attacks inside Somalia and Yemen and has employed Niger for drone flights over Mali as part of the Pentagon's support for the French counterinsurgency war in the latter country. The U.S. has been directly involved in the war there against Tuareg militias for perhaps a decade, where in 2007 an American C-130 Hercules military transport plane was hit by rifle fire while dropping supplies to Malian troops under siege by Tuareg forces.
Also earlier this month, the Defense Department announced an $8.5 million contract to the Florida-based AAR Airlift Group to supply services for the U.S. Army in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Congo and Uganda, the four nations the Obama administration dispatched special forces troops to in 2011 for counterinsurgency operations against the Lord's Resistance Army.
In March President Obama ordered what the news media referred to as a sharp increase in U.S. special operations forces deployed to Uganda and also sent CV-22 Osprey aircraft to that nation for the first time.
The preceding month U.S. Africa Command led this year's iteration of the (since 2005) annual Flintlock special forces/counterinsurgency military exercise in Niger. Over 1,000 troops from the U.S. and its NATO allies Britain, Canada, France and the Netherlands and this year's host country, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal participated. Past participants have also included NATO's Germany, Italy and Spain and Africa's Algeria, Mali, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia.
The opening ceremonies included addresses by Special Operations Command Africa Commanding General Brigadier General James Linder and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara Commander Colonel Kenneth Sipperly of the U.S.
The large-scale Flintlock exercises grew out of the State Department's Pan-Sahel Initiative, which was superseded in 2005 by the Pentagon's Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative, now subsumed under U.S. Africa Command.
(Incidentally, the current head of U.S. Special Operations Command is Admiral William Harry McRaven, who before arriving at his current post was in charge of Joint Special Operations Command and was the first director of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre, overseeing the enhanced interoperability of all NATO special operations forces.)
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the first and to date sole overseas regional military command the Pentagon has inaugurated in the post-Cold War era. Washington will continue to wage bloody proxy wars from Syria to Ukraine, but its direct operations seem to be focused on Africa, with the 2011 six-month AFRICOM-NATO war against Libya, Operations Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector, the opening salvo in the current phase.