Is Trump Militarizing U.S.-Africa Policy? By Peter Fabricius - The Institute for Security Studies
‘The US is waging a massive shadow war in Africa … The war you’ve never heard of,’ the online journal VICE News recently announced. ‘Today, according to U.S. military documents obtained by VICE News, special operators are carrying out nearly 100 missions at any given time – in Africa alone.’
It was the latest sign of the military’s ‘quiet but ever-expanding presence on the continent’, one that represented the ‘most dramatic growth in the deployment of America’s elite troops to any region of the globe’, it said. Donald Bolduc, the US Army general who runs Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA), says Africa’s challenges ‘could create a threat that surpasses the threat that the United States currently faces from conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria’, according to VICE News.
‘He went on to cite a laundry list of challenges with which he and his personnel must contend: ever-expanding illicit networks, terrorist safe havens, attempts to subvert government authority, a steady stream of new recruits and resources,’ says VICE News. ‘At the same time, Bolduc says the U.S. is not at war in Africa. But this assertion is challenged by the ongoing operations aimed at the militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia.’
Some associate this apparent increased US military activity in Africa with Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House and his supposed greater focus on seeking solutions to the continent’s problems by military force rather than non-violent means. Critics point to the Trump administration’s decision to slash the US State Department budget by 30% and cut back on development aid.
But is it true that Trump is militarising US-Africa policy? Certainly you might think so if you read the website of America’s Africa Command (US AFRICOM). On 4 August, for instance, AFRICOM announced that on 30 July it had conducted a successful ‘kinetic strike’ near Tortoroow in southern Somalia, killing senior al-Shabaab terrorist Ali Muhammad Hussein. On 5 July, AFRICOM said that the day before, it had ‘conducted a successful collective self-defense strike operation against an al-Shabaab troop concentration … approximately 300 miles southwest of Mogadishu’. And so on.
But is there really an increase in ‘kinetic activity’ (a US military euphemism for warfare)? Is it outweighing diplomacy and other tools in Africa? And is it due to Trump moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
It is true that in March Trump gave AFRICOM greater leeway in attacking al-Shabaab by easing more stringent requirements on the need for the military to demonstrate near-certainty that no civilians would die in the attacks, and that the targets posed a threat to Americans…