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Some years ago I was sitting around with a bunch of colleagues at the Wall Street firm I worked for. These were "two-year analysts" — kids recruited straight out of college to do two years drudge work in the firm's back offices ("turning out equity margin crap for little old ladies," as one of them... Read More
BRUSSELS - How many Madonnas spreading a "Ray of Light" or how many Stings stressing "we'll be watching you" does it take to sway the alleged leaders of the world who meet this Wednesday at the annual Group of Eight (G8) summit near a remote golf course in Scotland? The hyped-up British media dubbed Live8... Read More
Once as a colonial project, now as a moral playground, the ancient continent remains the object of Great Power maneuvering
George W. Bush’s seven-day, five-country trip around Africa generated much surprised comment about how popular our president is over there. The leaders of the nations Bush visited beamed with pride through their photo-ops. In Tanzania, local artists had emblazoned the president’s smiling face on fabric, which was made into dresses and smocks worn by citizens... Read More
Since the recent Russian presidential election of Medvedev (which shifted Vladimir Putin to the less prominent post of Prime Minister) and even for a while before that, Russian foreign policy was a matter of guesswork. There was a widely-held view that Mr Medvedev would take a more submissive line towards the US and the West,... Read More
I have a certain respect for what I see as President Obama’s clear-eyed exercises in foreign affairs triage. Obviously, his plate is full with Iraq/Iran/Pakistan/Afghanistan and keeping Europe on board for the whole global-recession-fighting deal, and the Obama administration has shown little interest in looking for solutions (or trouble) in strategic backwaters of the world... Read More
The US bombing of Libya in support of rebel clients in the spring of 2011 is part and parcel of a sustained policy of military intervention in Africa since at least the mid 1950’s. According to a US Congressional Research Service Study[1] published in November 2010, Washington has dispatched anywhere between hundreds and several thousand... Read More
If United States President Barack Obama really wanted to get rid of the new bogeyman du jour, Uganda's Joseph Kony - a former altar boy turned mystical Christian prophet/politico, sporting at least 60 wives - he would order US Attorney General Eric “The Fast and the Furious" Holder to concoct a plot subcontracting the hit... Read More
Beware of strangers bearing gifts. Post-modern Amazon and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally landed in Tripoli - on a military jet - to lavish praise on the dodgy Transitional National Council (TNC), those pportunists/defectors/Islamists formerly known as "North Atlantic Treaty Organization rebels". Clinton was greeted on Tuesday "on the soil of free... Read More
Wasted $1 trillion in the futile Iraq war? Being defeated by medieval Afghan tribesmen? Can’t pay your bills at home or abroad? Government paralyzed? Worried about China? What’s the answer? Simple. A new little war in Africa. Having finished off former ally Muammar Gadaffi, the US Pentagon, CIA, and the new US Africa Command are... Read More
The Obama administration is enhancing the U.S. presence in Africa, which it is increasingly identifying as the new front in the war against Islamic militants. New drones for the CIA will be partially deployed in Afghanistan in an attempt to take up the slack as Western troop presence wanes over the next year, but most... Read More
The Startling Size, Scope, and Growth of U.S. Military Operations on the African Continent
They’re involved in Algeria and Angola, Benin and Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi, Cameroon and the Cape Verde Islands. And that’s just the ABCs of the situation. Skip to the end of the alphabet and the story remains the same: Senegal and the Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia. From north to south, east... Read More
Here’s a question for you: Can a military tiptoe onto a continent? It seems the unlikeliest of images, and yet it’s a reasonable enough description of what the U.S. military has been doing ever since the Pentagon created an
Our major post-9/11 wars are goners and the imagery of American war-making is heading downhill. The Iraq War was long ago
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America’s New Model for Expeditionary Warfare
Lion Forward Teams? Echo Casemate? Juniper Micron? You could be forgiven if this jumble of words looks like nonsense to you. It isn’t. It’s the language of the U.S. military’s simmering African interventions; the patois that goes with a set of missions carried out in countries most Americans couldn’t locate on a
Documents Reveal Blinding Pace of Ops in 2013, More of the Same for 2014
The numbers tell the story: 10 exercises, 55 operations, 481 security cooperation activities. For years, the U.S. military has publicly insisted that its efforts in Africa are small scale. Its public affairs personnel and commanders have repeatedly
After years in the shadows, U.S. Navy SEALs emerged in a big way with the 2011
U.S. Officials Talk Candidly (Just Not to Reporters) about Bases, Winning Hearts and Minds, and the “War” in Africa
What the military will say to a reporter and what is said behind closed doors are two very different things -- especially when it comes to the U.S. military in Africa. For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has maintained a
Let me explain why writing the introduction to today’s post by TomDispatch Managing Editor Nick Turse is such a problem. In these intros, I tend to riff off the ripples of news that regularly surround whatever subject an author might be focusing on. So when it comes to the U.S. military, if you happen to... Read More
A Secret African Mission and an African Mission that’s No Secret
What is Operation New Normal? It’s a question without an answer, a riddle the U.S. military refuses to solve. It’s a secret operation in Africa that no one knows anything about. Except that someone does. His name is Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee Magee. He lives and breathes Operation New Normal. But he doesn’t want... Read More
Amid the horrific headlines about the fanatical Islamist sect Boko Haram that should make Nigerians cringe, here’s a line from a
Is the Conflict in South Sudan the Opening Salvo in the Battle for a Continent?
[This story was reported in partnership with the Michael Makuei Lueth tells it. After "midwifing" South Sudan into existence with billions of dollars in assistance, aid, infrastructure projects, and military support, the U.S. has the U.S. and otherbacked former vice president Riek Machar and his rebel forces in an effort to overthrow the country’s president,... Read More
For the last two years, TomDispatch Managing Editor Nick Turse has been AFRICOM, as they oversaw the special ops surge, training missions, bases (even if not called bases), another subject Nick has been following. With rare exceptions, only recently have aspects of the Obama
The Limits of America’s African Experiment in Nation Building
[This story was reported in partnership with the
On return from his recent reporting trip to Africa, Nick Turse told me the following tale, which catches something of the nature of our battered world. At a hotel bar in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, he attended an informal briefing with a representative of a major nongovernmental organization (NGO). At one point, the... Read More
In light of recent history, perhaps it’s time to update that classic U.S. Army
Hushed Pentagon Investigation Slaps U.S. Africa Command’s Humanitarian Activities
[This story was reported in partnership with the
In the Face of Rising Maritime Insecurity, AFRICOM Claims Success and Obama Embraces a Strongman
[This story was reported in partnership with the
A Base Camp, an Authoritarian Regime, and the Future of U.S. Blowback in Africa
Admit it. You don’t know where Chad is. You know it’s in Africa, of course. But beyond that? Maybe with a map of the continent and by some process of elimination you could come close. But you’d probably pick Sudan or maybe the Central African Republic. Here’s a tip. In the future, choose that vast,... Read More
Sometimes, to see the big picture you need to focus on the smallest part of it, as Nick Turse does in the latest of his
Military Missions Reach Record Levels After U.S. Inks Deal to Remain in Africa for Decades
For three days, wearing a kaleidoscope of camouflage patterns, they huddled together on a military base in Florida. They came from U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and U.S. Army Special Operations Command, from France and Norway, from Denmark, Germany, and Canada: 13 nations in all. They came to plan a years-long “Special Operations-centric” military campaign... Read More
There were those secret service agents sent to Colombia to protect the president on a summit trip and the prostitutes they
What U.S. Africa Command Doesn’t Want You to Know
Six people lay lifeless in the filthy brown water. It was 5:09 a.m. when their Toyota Land Cruiser plunged off a bridge in the West African country of Mali. For about two seconds, the SUV sailed through the air, pirouetting 180 degrees as it plunged 70 feet, crashing into the Niger River. Three of the... Read More
Off Lampedusa,
Presidential Waivers, Child Soldiers, and an American-Made Army in Africa
MALAKAL, South Sudan -- I didn’t really think he was going to shoot me. There was no anger in his eyes. His finger may not have been anywhere near the trigger. He didn’t draw a bead on me. Still, he was a boy and he was holding an AK-47 and it was pointed in my... Read More
President Obama couldn’t have been more eloquent. Addressing the Clinton Global Initiative, for instance, he
It’s been an incredibly quiet show. In recent years, the U.S. military has
Will Americans Support Them?
PIBOR, South Sudan -- “I’ve never been a soldier,” I say to the wide-eyed, lanky-limbed veteran sitting across from me. “Tell me about military life. What’s it like?” He looks up as if the answer can be found in the blazing blue sky above, shoots me a sheepish grin, and then fixes his gaze on... Read More
U.S. Special Ops Missions in Africa Fail to Stem Rising Tide of Terror Groups, Coups, and Human Rights Abuses
"Africa is a challenging place today and one that, if left unattended, is likely to be the birthplace of many more challenges in the future,” Army Secretary John McHugh
AFRICOM’s New Math, the U.S. Base Bonanza, and “Scarier” Times Ahead in Africa
In the shadows of what was once called the “dark continent," a scramble has come and gone. If you heard nothing about it, that was by design. But look hard enough and -- north to south, east to west -- you’ll find the fruits of that effort: a network of bases, compounds, and other sites... Read More
As I’ve written
Colonel Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), recently made a startling disclosure to Voice of America (VOA). AFRICOM, he said, is currently mulling over 11 possible locations for its second base on the continent. If, however, there was a frontrunner among them Cheadle wasn’t about to disclose it. All he would say... Read More
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Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee for 2016, has something in common with Donald Trump: Sinophobia. During a 2011 visit to Zambia, she
AFRICOM Clams Up After Commander Peddles Contradictory Statements to Congress
General David Rodriguez might be a modern military celebrity -- if he hadn’t spent his career ducking the spotlight. After graduating from West Point in 1976, he began his long march up the chain of command, serving in Operation Just Cause (the U.S. invasion of Panama) and Operation Desert Storm (Iraq War 1.0) before becoming... Read More
One of the strangest news developments of our time is the way the media now focus for days, if not weeks, 24/7, on a single event and its ramifications. Omar Mateen’s slaughter of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando is only the latest example of this. If no other calamitous or eye-catching event... Read More
Someday, someone will write a history of the U.S. national security state in the twenty-first century and, if the first decade and a half are any yardstick, it will be called something likeState of Failure. After all, almost 15 years after the U.S. invaded the Taliban’s Afghanistan, launching the second American Afghan War of the... Read More
When AFRICOM Evaluates Itself, the News Is Grim
It’s rare to hear one top military commander publicly badmouth another, call attention to his faults, or simply point out his shortcomings. Despite a seemingly endless supply of debacles from strategic setbacks to quagmire conflicts since 9/11, the top brass rarely criticize each other or, even in retirement, utter a word about the failings of... Read More
Keeping Track of U.S. Special Ops in Africa
Sometimes the real news is in the details -- or even in the discrepancies. Take, for instance, missions by America’s most elite troops in Africa. It was September 2014. The sky was bright and clear and ice blue as the camouflage-clad men walked to the open door and tumbled out into nothing. One moment
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