Major milestone in pattern of aggressive U.S. activity on continent
The letter outlined operations that may, on the surface, seem somewhat limited: 100 U.S. troops deployed to provide “support for intelligence collection.”
In fact, the letter does not acknowledge its primary function—to expand the government’s deadly drone program on the continent. The administration prefers to hide the details of this program deeply in the shadows, but unnamed Pentagon officials admitted to the Washington Post that drones would in fact be deployed in the Niger operation.
The Pentagon official claimed the drones would be used purely for surveillance, but administration sources confirmed that the offensive use of drones had “not been ruled out.” In view of the murderous record of the U.S. drone program, it is hard to believe that drone strikes will not be coming soon to West Africa.
This is a significant milestone in a pattern of aggressive U.S. imperialist activity on the African continent. In Niger, this is a major expansion of the existing surveillance mission, of lesser capability, carried out by mercenaries—or, as the Post calls them, “military contractors.”
The expansion in Niger, to be run out of the capital of Niamey before moving to more remote areas, has a special focus on providing intelligence to the French-led intervention force in Mali. To the extent its mission will be purely “intelligence gathering,” the U.S. drones will play a crucial part in conducting deadly operations. Under U.S. legal code, a knowing accomplice to murder can receive the same sentence as those who carry out the actual crime. A similar judgment must be extended to U.S. forces in league with French neocolonialism.
The news of a drone base in Niger comes just as a U.S. Congressional delegation is touring Mali. Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware, head of the delegation, told reporters in Bamako that renewal of direct military support to Mali is “likely” following the next round of elections, which have been arranged by western imperialism and the Economic Community of West African States.
The role of Africom
The most direct purpose of the drone base is to stabilize the Sahel region, from which the United States and other Western powers are hoping to eliminate all opposition to their agenda. But it has implications across the entire continent.
The Niger operation must be seen in the broader context of the increasing U.S. military presence in Africa. Africom, the U.S. military command overseeing Africa, has recently organized a 4,000-person military unit that will be deploying missions in up to 35 African countries. According to the Army’s own website, these forces are participating in both “combined arms” and “wider-area security” training. In other words, they are training for wars of all types, which presumably have likewise “not been ruled out” by the Obama administration.
Adding insult to the anticipated injuries to be committed by these forces, former Africom commander General Carter Ham has emphasized that U.S. training missions must focus not just on the technical aspects of military training, but also “values” and “ethics.”
Newly confirmed Africom commander General David Rodriguez has stated that Africom has only met 50 percent of its “intelligence” needs. He plans for resources drawn down in Afghanistan to be shifted to Africa.
Africa as pivot to imperialist strategy
During Gen. Rodriguez’s confirmation hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of increasing U.S. influence on the African continent to counter China: “China is all over Africa. … [I]f we can organize ourselves in this sector we can win. … I mean win in terms of business contracts, business opportunities, jobs for Americans, ability to export.”
It is undeniable that the crosshairs of U.S. imperialism have increasingly turned to the African continent. The new Niger base must be connected to the expanding military relationships with African countries, the well-trained troops strung across the continent, the killer drone program, the CIA secret prison in Somalia and a major special operations base in Djibouti.
U.S. support for the French intervention in Mali has been steadfast, providing refueling and other logistical support, as well as intelligence-sharing. This vastly expanded military program comes on top of the stated goals of the administration to increase U.S. hegemony over African goods and markets.
Clearly, such ambitious plans are predicated on the belief by the American ruling elites that there will be no significant opposition to their policies of enriching themselves on the backs of others. However, there is opposition to the imperialist agenda both on the continent and in the United States.
On April 13, anti-war, anti-imperialist, African solidarity and African immigrant organizations, among others, will converge on the White House in Washington, D.C., to oppose the expansion of drone-led imperialism in Africa and everywhere. The bold moves by the warmongers in the White House, Pentagon and Langley require an equally bold response. Progressive-minded people in the United States should do all they can to support the April 13 demonstration and deliver a powerful message of defiance.