By Rick Rozoff
Although the regular U.S.-run multinational special forces exercise in Africa, Operation Flintlock, was cancelled this year because of unrest in the intended host country, Mali, over the last seven years the exercises have played a key role in integrating the militaries of the West Sahel into the orbit of the Pentagon and NATO.
Run by U.S. Africa Command’s Special Operations Command Africa, Flintlock 2011 included forces from the U.S., its NATO allies Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, and African states Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal.
As NATO and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) share a common top commander, and as EUCOM was in charge of Pentagon operations in almost all of Africa until Africa Command (AFRICOM) achieved full operational capability on October 1, 2008, the relationship between U.S. and NATO in Africa is one of cooperation between master and subordinates engaged in a joint endeavor: The repenetration and domination of the world’s second-most populous continent by Western powers.
By training, modernizing, arming and integrating the armed forces of the 54-nation African Union (in the case of Egypt through U.S. Central Command and NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue), the U.S. and its main NATO allies are developing regional proxy forces – most notably the African Standby Force – for armed interventions against nations whose governments are not to the West’s liking. Hence the talk of a joint brigade from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the foundation for a projected West African Standby Force, intervening in Ivory Coast last year and Mali this.
Since its activation AFRICOM has assisted in the creation of the African Standby Force, originally envisioned to have five components, one each for North, South, East, West and Central Africa, and NATO has done so since 2007 through its Joint Force Command Lisbon, training African officers at the NATO School in Oberammergau and in African nations.
Indeed the North Atlantic military bloc has committed itself, in its own words, to “the operationalisation of the African Standby Force – the African Union’s vision for a continental, on-call security apparatus similar to the NATO Response Force.” The latter was launched in the African island nation of Cape Verde in 2006 with the large-scale Steadfast Jaguar war games, to indicate where from its inception the NATO Response Force was concentrating its attentions.
AFRICOM concluded this year’s Africa Endeavor, the largest command, control, communications and computers (C4) interoperability training event in Africa, whose role includes preparing the African Standby Force, in Cameroon on June 27. It included the participation of 35 African nations, the U.S., Canada, European NATO member states, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of East African States. The past four Africa Endeavor exercises have also been held on or near the strategic Gulf of Guinea: Gambia in 2011, Ghana on 2010, Gabon in 2009 and Nigeria in 2008.
Africa Endeavor is modeled after European Command’s Combined Endeavor C4 interoperability training, the largest in the world. Combined Endeavor includes 40 NATO and Partnership for Peace members, “other strategic security partners” like Afghanistan and NATO’s Multinational Corps Northeast (headquartered in Poland).
In June representatives from 36 NATO and Partnership for Peace nations participated in the week-long final planning conference for Combined Endeavor 2012 in Montenegro, which became a member of the Partnership for Peace in 2006, the year it declared independence. This year’s exercise will be held in Grafenwöhr, Germany from September 6-20.
Africa Endeavor is a replication and extension of the Pentagon-NATO model.
On June 28 the AFRICOM website reported on the visit of African defense attaches to AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany to “[expand] their knowledge of U.S. Africa Command and its key programs and objectives…”
An American general told the attaches from Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, “This is the first step to building a long, lasting relationship with all of you.” This is the first confirmation of Zimbabwean involvement with AFRICOM the current writer has seen, all but completing the integration of African armed forces into the AFRICOM matrix.
The above claim was confirmed by the organizer of the visit, Bradford Sellers, a Capstone Corporation contractor working as a member of the AFRICOM Cooperation Center staff, who added:
“This visit is a first step in building and enhancing relationships with these African officers posted to our host country. By inviting the DATTs [defense attaches] here from Berlin, we can leverage their nearby location and knowledge of Western and NATO military practice to augment our engagement efforts in Africa…Reaching out to African officers already in Germany is a natural step to building closer ties with their home countries.”
A civilian AFRICOM official, one Eric Wills, also reiterated the point:
“DATTs are our link to their government leaders. We are asking them to talk with their leadership, to be a liaison to initiate discussions leading to decisions to work with the United States via AFRICOM.”
AFRICOM’s website featured an article on a U.S.-led military exercise recently conducted in Botswana that began with this sentence: “With more than 187,000 soldiers based in nearly 160 countries, the U.S. Army presence around the globe points to its commitment to strengthening relationships and assisting with building military capacity in partner nations.”
The following day the same site provided details of the statement in June by AFRICOM commander Major General David Hogg that U.S. Army Africa will begin the regular deployment of a brigade of 3,000 or more troops to Africa.
That unit will be the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, which “will be the main force provider for security cooperation and partnership-building missions in Africa.”
Citing Pentagon officials, the report added, “The effort is a first step toward fulfilling national strategic and defense guidance that includes military services partnering with allies around the world to build capacity and security capability.”
An Army officer was quoted in reference to the shift from the Central Command area of responsibility (essentially from Egypt in the west to Kazakhstan in the east) after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, stating, “what we’re working on now is the organization of the Army beyond the current conflict to provide the capability required and maintain an expeditionary mindset in the Army.”
With most every nation in Europe brought into the Pentagon’s fold through NATO expansion and with only a handful of Middle Eastern and Asia-Pacific nations not in the same category or headed in that direction, the consolidation of military control of Africa by the U.S. and its NATO partners has achieved priority status.