U.S. military outreach to odd corners of the world coincides with hits to the military budget. President Obama announced recently that 2500 U.S. marines were heading for Darwin, Australia. And in a development barely touched upon in the mainstream media, U.S. military activities have accelerated in Africa.

Apologists for military expansion in Africa undoubtedly tell budget cutters the stakes are high. For example, Vice-Admiral Robert T. Moeller, then Deputy Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), articulated U.S. imperatives as of 2008. They included “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market,” anti-terrorist war, and the “growing influence” of China.  http://www.africafocus.org/editor/africom0903.php

U.S. military assistance agreements are in place with 53 African countries.  The United States is “the principal military partner of most African countries,” according to Afrol News.

While AFRICOM was quarterbacking U.S. air war over Libya – its first big project – U.S. officials were setting up regional alliances to counter Islamic al-Shabab insurgents in Somalia. Having overwhelmed the U.S. supported Trans­itional Federal Government (TFG), they control most of Somalia’s South. 

Over 2000 Kenyan soldiers invaded Somalia in October ostensibly to protect foreign tourists and Kenyan ports and transportation routes from Al-Shabab attacks. With those troops bogged down in Somalia’s wet season, Kenya has requested U.S. military intelligence and logistical support. Israel is providing troops, heavy equipment and drones. The United States this year provided Kenya with $700 million in mostly military aid.  

U.S attack drones are based at Kenya’s Manda Bay facility and at two new bases in Ethiopia costing millions of dollars. By late November U.S. ally Ethiopia was invading Somalia which it occupied in 2006-2009. .

The island nation of Seychelles hosts 100 U.S. troops and contractors servicing drones used over Somalia. Under the original U.S. – Seychelles agreement, drones were restricted to attacks on pirates.  

Drone attacks killed 66 Somali people on October 20-21. More recently, they killed 26 civilians on November 16, 25 on November 20, and seven on November 23. Death and destruction from U.S. drone attacks in Somalia complement humanitarian disaster from drought and terrible famine.

The highly developed U.S. military base at Uganda’s Entebbe airport is crucial for U.S. military operations in East Africa and the oil-rich Great Lakes region, which includes northern Uganda. That’s home territory for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which contests Ugandan access to oil deposits. Some 100 U.S. military advisors entered Uganda in early November to engage with the LRA, which has long ravaged Uganda and eastern Congo.

The LRA has moved into newly independent South Sudan, which claims 80 percent of Sudan’s oil wealth. Most of the crude oil produced there moves via pipelines through North Sudan to waiting Chinese tankers. LRA, North Sudan’s ally, sabotages the pipelines.  .

In West Africa, the United States will build a military base on the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe. Plans are for use of that base and an existing one in Senegal to monitor oil-rich Nigeria and other resource-rich nations in the region. U.S. troops heading for Liberia and Mauritania passed through the Senegalese installation.  The U.S. military trains Nigerian soldiers and conducts naval war games in the Gulf of Guinea. U.S. troops may soon be assisting Nigerian counterparts in neutralizing the violent Islamic Boko Haram group, active in northern Nigeria.

The U.S. base at Djibouti, recently expanded to 500 acres, hosts 1500 military personnel plus drones used over Yemen and Somalia. Its location on the Red Sea is close to shipping lanes and Middle Eastern oil fields.

The U.S. military’s Africa project continues despite public disenchantment with a prolonged, inconclusive Afghan war and despite the humanitarian disasters, waste, and corruption of the Iraq war. U.S. insertion into Africa persists in the face of looming uncertainties over Pakistan and Iran, not to speak of street protests, financial jitters, and budget cutting at home.

Congress in August passed the Budget Control Act which reduces military spending over ten years by $450 billion.  The congressional “super committee” failed to agree on a debt reduction plan. Failure of the committee to reach an agreement was supposed to have triggered automatic spending cuts. Should they materialize, the U.S. military would be out $500 billion more.

The fight is on to maintain funding.Testifying on November 14, Defense Secretary Panetta warned senators of “devastating” consequences of a 23 percent cut in military spending he predicted for 2013. Fox news, pointing to “America’s global responsibilities,” labeled military spending cuts as “simply unacceptable.” http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/11/25/investors-beware-after-super-committees-failure/#ixzz1ekJg0Vev 

One speculates that ongoing military actions become useful in embellishing the case for continued military funding, especially when they are held up as making good on commitments. The U.S. move into Africa, without the potential baggage of heavy casualties, fits in with such a scenario.

And there’s one overarching incentive. Military spending doubled over the past ten years to $700 billion annually.  The Financial Times reports “profits of the U.S. defense industry have quadrupled.”  

December 6, 2011