AFRICOM CONTINUES AGGRESSION AND MANEUVERES ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

Seal of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)

Seal of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)

On the same day, September 30, that two U.S. Muslim citizens were assassinated in Yemen by the Pentagon-Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drones, it was announced that 21 Somalians were also killed in similar military actions that resulted in one of these unmanned weapons being downed over Kismayo in this Horn of Africa nation. The drone attacks in southern Somalia resulted in many people being forced to flee the Qooqani and Taabto districts.

Somalia is among at least six countries where the U.S. has carried out drone attacks that have resulted in the deaths of many civilians. These aerial strikes also take place on a regular basis in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen (Press TV, September 30).

Although the White House and the Pentagon claims that the strikes target those individuals and organizations labeled as “terrorists” by the State Department, in most instances the people most adversely affected by the attacks are people who are not armed and constitute no direct threat to the U.S. government and its allies.

On October 4, the Al-Shabaab Islamic resistance movement in Somalia claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Ministry of Education that resulted in the deaths of over 50 people. The U.S. has targeted Al-Shabaab as a threat to Washington’s interests in Somalia and throughout the region.

In order to justify the targeted assassinations of Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, President Barack Obama stated that the organization they purportedly represented, Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) “remains a dangerous, though weakened organization” (Los Angeles, September 30). Obama went on to claim that Al-Awlaki “directed attempts to murder innocent Americans. He repeatedly called on individuals in the U.S. and around the globe to kill innocent men, women and children.”

Yet it is the U.S. military and the CIA that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people since the beginning of its so-called “war on terrorism” a decade ago. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Palestine and Libya, the bulk of U.S. military action, and support for such actions through the backing of client regimes, has done more to destabilize those states and regions than any other forces operating in these areas.

Even the corporate media has admitted that al-Awlaki was not a member of the armed wing of al-Qaeda. Fox News said that “He was not believed to be a key operational leader, but as a spokesman. His English skills gave him reach among second and third generation Muslims who may not speak Arabic” (FoxNews.com, September 30).

In the aftermath of the seizure of Tripoli in Libya and the ongoing struggle for control of this oil-producing state, the commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Gen. Carter Ham, has pointed out that this special regional force geared towards the continent will build upon its operations in Libya to extend further military involvement throughout other geographic areas of the Africa. In Libya, the fighting continues in Bani Walid, Sirte and other areas of the central, west and south of the country.

The NATO-led National Transitional Council (NTC) rebels who are now recognized by the imperialist states as the government in Tripoli, have failed repeatedly to subdue the regions of Libya that are still loyal to the Gaddafi government and have abandoned efforts to create a provisional government. During the latter days of September there were also reports of growing resistance in Tripoli with the emergence of anti-rebel demonstrations and the hoisting of the green flag of the Gaddafi loyalists.

Nonetheless, in East Africa, the AFRICOM forces have engaged in joint military exercises with member-states of the region. On September 16 the East Africa Community (EAC) states along with AFRICOM began these operations in Zanzibar off the coast of mainland Tanzania.

Codenamed Natural Fire 11, the joint AFRICOM-EAC exercise brought together 300 military personnel from five member-states in the region. These governments represented the armed forces of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.

Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General James Owens stressed that “This collaboration between the EAC defense forces and the U.S. is another positive step towards a more stable and secure region. Let’s ensure that what is gained here will have a lasting impact on the ability of our militaries to respond to complex challenges we face today and in the future.” (Kenya Daily Nation, September 17)

Echoing the statements made by the AFRICOM representative, Tanzanian Defense and National Service Minister Dr. Hussein Mwinyi said that “Peace, security and stability are the lynchpins for accelerating socio-economic development. It is in this regard that the EAC partner states recognized that collective defense enhances regional peace and security.”

Yet in neighboring Somalia it has been the intervention of the U.S. that has fostered instability for over three decades. In recent years the failure of the people to form a viable government of national unity is largely the result of the interference in their internal affairs by successive governments in Washington.

In southern Somalia there are hundreds of thousands of people who are in need of food assistance despite the fact that the Pentagon and other military forces maintain a substantial presence in the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean and at the U.S. military base in neighboring Djibouti. This military presence, which includes flotillas of warships off the coast of Somalia, has not translated into food security and the lessening of hostilities on land or in the waterways surrounding the Horn of Africa.

At the same time that the Natural Fire 11 joint military exercises between AFRICOM and the EAC were taking place, a workshop was being held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and AFRICOM on cooperative border security. The workshop also involved seven East African governments, the African Union, South Africa and other international organizations.

In a press release issued by AFRICOM, it quotes Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Balisky, chief of the Office of Security Cooperation, saying that “The Department of Defense and other U.S. Government agencies are cooperating with their counterparts in East Africa to facilitate a comprehensive approach to counter illicit trafficking. Together, we have opened a door for deeper exchanges of assistance among regional partners” (AFRICOM, September 16).

Altogether in Dar es Salaam, officials within departments of customs, defense, police and law enforcement from Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti sat down with so-called experts from the NNSA, AFRICOM, Homeland Security, the State Department, the World Customs Organization, the United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa and the Stimson Center to discuss what they called border protection strategies for East Africa. Formed by the U.S. Congress in 2000, the NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy that is responsible for enhancing national security utilizing the military application of nuclear science through national security enterprises.

A security conference held in Algeria during September also raised the question of border patrols and the purported threat of weapons proliferation in North Africa. AFRICOM leader General Ham described the region as a “powder keg” that was a “threat to the United States” and other western nations (The Hill, October 3).

The Pentagon has cited the Polasario Front, the liberation movement fighting for the independence of the former Spanish colony of the Western Sahara, as an impediment to U.S. objectives in the region. According to The Hill publication, the Algerian government’s failure to support the U.S.-NATO war against Libya has hampered Washington’s interests in North Africa.

The Hill states that “This year’s State Department Counterterrorism Report describes Algeria’s ongoing disagreement with Morocco over the Western Sahara as an “impediment to deeper counter-terrorism cooperation and a weakness for terrorist groups such as AQIM to exploit.” Articulating Washington’s view of the current situation in the region, Edward M. Gabriel, the former Ambassador to Morocco, wrote in The Hill that “For the U.S. the imperative is clear: use America’s leverage more forcefully to broker a responsible Western Sahara solution. This will enable the increased Maghreb cooperation needed to support continued democratic transitions in Libya and Tunisia, and promote the regional unity necessary to more effectively stem the encroaching tide of terrorism.”

Nonetheless, it is the growing reliance on the part of the oil industry and various transnational corporations on the petroleum and other natural resources coming out of Africa that is fueling the increased militarization of the continent. The people of Africa and the entire Middle East region will inevitably oppose this intervention and the anti-war and peace movements inside the United States must fashion their programs and demands to address these enhanced threats against the people of the region.

By Abayomi Azikiwe
(The writer is the Editor of the Pan-African News Wire and the article is distributed by The Pan-African Research and Documentation Project)