America’s top diplomat, Hillary Clinton, arrived in Senegal on July 31 to begin an eleven-day, six-nation tour of the world’s second most populous continent, the target of the Pentagon’s first post-Cold War overseas multi-service military command, Africa Command.
After Senegal she will travel to South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. With the exception of Malawi, a stopover point on the way to South Africa, and South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, the countries on her itinerary are major regional powers on the continent. Kenya, Senegal and Uganda are key U.S. military allies and South Africa is an intended one.
Senegal is the main hub of the U.S.’s interagency Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative and the Pentagon’s chief military cohort in the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative is an enlarged successor to the State Department’s Pan-Sahel Initiative, established by the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism in 2002 in a ballyhooed effort to confront non-existent or wildly exaggerated al-Qaeda threats in the area stretching from the western border of Sudan to the Atlantic Ocean, taking in nations in the Maghreb and the Sahel: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.
Since 2005 the U.S., initially under U.S. European Command and since 2008 under AFRICOM, has been conducting multinational special forces exercises codenamed Operation Flintlock, the largest special operations drills in Africa’s history, as part of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative.
This year’s, scheduled to occur in Mali, was cancelled because of the fighting between government forces and Tuareg rebels and a military coup d’etat in March.
However, Flintlock 2011, held in Senegal, included over 800 personnel from twelve nations, half NATO member states – the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain – and the other half African nations: Senegal and its neighbors Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Nigeria. Four of the five European NATO participants, all except for the Netherlands, are former colonial powers in the region.
The exercise was run by Special Operations Command Africa under the auspices of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative which subsumes the Pentagon’s Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara, now under AFRICOM.
Last year’s Flintlock in Senegal saw the inclusion of the Trans-Sahara Security Symposium civil-military operations program coordinated by Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The two-week AFRICOM, Marine Forces Africa-led Exercise Western Accord 2012 conducted in Senegal ended twelve days before Clinton’s arrival in the country.
The exercise included, in the words of the U.S. Marine Corps website, "live-fire and combat marksmanship training, peace keeping operations, disaster response [and] intelligence capacity building [components]."
Senegal is the most unabashedly pro-Western and belligerently aggressive member of ECOWAS which early last year pushed for an ECOWAS military force to be deployed to Ivory Coast. It is also the main member of the organization the U.S. can count on it developing a collective military intervention force to serve as the nucleus of and prototype for a West African component of the U.S.- and NATO-backed African Standby Force, modeled after the NATO Response Force.
After Ghana in the first place and Nigeria in the second blocked Senegal’s plans to invade Ivory Coast to depose President Laurent Gbagbo, in April French troops and military helicopters attacked Gbagbo’s residence where he was abducted, with Hillary Clinton celebrating the action as "send[ing] a strong signal to dictators and tyrants." The former Ivorian president now faces the inevitable "crimes against humanity" and no doubt "war crimes" charges at the International Criminal Court. The above led to the installation of U.S. and French front man Alassane Ouattara as head of state. In recent days Ouattara, former International Monetary Fund official in Washington, D.C., has been clamoring for ECOWAS military intervention in Mali. A subject sure to have been on Clinton’s agenda in Senegal.
Clinton’s second stop is in South Sudan, where her commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, last year ordered U.S. special operations troops deployed as part of a four-nation mission that also includes Uganda, Congo and the Central African Republic.
Last August the commander of AFRICOM, General Carter Ham, visited the new nation the month after it became independent. As with the world’s newest nation before it, Montenegro, the Pentagon pounced on South Sudan before its official stationery arrived from the printer.
From there Clinton will visit Uganda to discuss the joint U.S.-Ugandan counterinsurgency campaigns against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa and against Al-Shabaab militias in Somalia.
Uganda, a major American military client on the continent, invaded Congo in conjunction with fellow U.S. ally Rwanda in 1996 and 1998, triggering a catastrophe that has cost the lives of over five million Congolese in the interim.
Uganda provides the largest contingent for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) military force in Somalia, 5,700 troops.
Two years ago NATO transported Ugandan and Burundian troops to Somalia for fighting in the capital. European Union nations are training Ugandan troops at home for the war.
After Uganda, Clinton will go to Kenya which, like Uganda, is a key pillar in plans for the East African (or Eastern Africa) Standby Force, currently in formation as the Eastern African Standby Brigade Coordinating Mechanism (EASBRICOM). The Eastern African Standby Brigade (EASBRIG) is being prepared to intervene in a region that includes thirteen nations – Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda – at least two of whom, Eritrea and Sudan, are marked by the West for "regime change," with the island nations of Comoros and Madagascar subject to the same at any time.
Last October thousands of Kenyan troops invaded Somalia and this June 5,000 Kenyan troops were integrated into AMISOM.
Kenya has lost at least 13 troops in fighting in Somalia. Uganda has lost 50. Burundi 150.
Last autumn reports surfaced that the Pentagon was launching drone flights from Kenya in addition to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Seychelles.
While in Nairobi, Clinton is to meet with Somalia’s nominal president, Sheikh Sharif.
Her trip to Malawi will be short will be short and uneventful.
The final leg of her African journey will be in South Africa to participate in the third annual U.S.-South Africa Strategic Dialogue forum and to meet with former president Nelson Mandela. A reporter willing to lose his press credentials for life to accomplish it could ask Clinton why the Statement Department and White House branded Mandela and fellow African National Congress ruling party members terrorists until four years ago.
South Africa was one of only two members of the United Nations Security Council (Pakistan being the other) to abstain in the July 19 vote on a resolution supported by NATO states aimed against Syrian that was jointly vetoed by China and Russia. The third time the latter has occurred since last October. Clinton, who demanded China and Russia "pay a price" over Syria thirteen days before, will surely have a hectoring, chastising, patronizing comment or two to deliver to South African President Jacob Zuma on the score.
South Africa possesses Africa’s most advanced military infrastructure, one inherited from the preceding apartheid regime which developed it with Western assistance. AFRICOM would like the nation to serve as the main participant in a Southern African Standby Force.
Clinton may have arrived in Dakar, Senegal without a pith helmet, swagger stick and palanquin, but she nonetheless came as a modern-day avatar of Cecil Rhodes bent on reestablishing Western dominance in Africa. This time with a decided military dimension.