In October 2017 United States African Command confirmed that three Green Berets had been killed and two more had been wounded when their patrol was ambushed in Niger. Reaction to this news from the non-Corbett Report audience was: “What? There’s a United States African Command?” followed swiftly by “What are Green Berets doing conducting patrols in Niger, anyway?”
First things first: As my long-time viewers will be aware, there is indeed a United States African Command (AFRICOM). It was established in 2007 and has been the spearhead of Uncle Sam’s attempts to gain a military foothold on the African continent. My viewers will likewise be aware that the whole Kony 2012 psyop was similarly used as a cynical ploy to increase American military intervention in Africa.
But the extent of US Special Forces penetration in Africa (also reported on in these pages in recent years) is a reality that is still only gradually being revealed to the public. A recent congressional review of the incident in Niger has again cast a spotlight on the use of Special Forces around the world, with the Pentagon now floating the possibility that they will cut back on commandos in Africa to concentrate on the “real” enemies: Russia and China.
There are two things wrong with this narrative. First, as a recent investigation by Nick Turse points out, the number of US Special Forces deployed in Africa has not budged at all so far. In fact, the use of such forces has dramatically expanded over the past decade. Back in 2006, just 70 Special Operations troops were operating in Africa, equivalent to 1% of Uncle Sam’s global deployment of Special Forces. By the time of the Niger operation last year, that number had swelled to nearly 1,400, or 16.5% of all US commandos deployed overseas. So far, despite rhetoric about reducing African deployments, that number has not changed.
But perhaps more importantly, the Pentagon’s assertion that they will cut back on Special Forces in Africa to concentrate on enemies like China is a misdirection. Even a cursory review of the evidence shows that one important reason the US is deploying so many commandos to Africa in the first place is precisely to counter Chinese interests on the continent.
Oh, yes, of course these forces’ official mission (to the extent that this is ever acknowledged) is to conduct (as the Old Grey Presstitute puts it) “shadow wars against terrorists in Yemen, Libya, Somalia and other hot spots.” But consider this: US participation in the NATO intervention in Libya in 2011 was motivated by a number of factors, one of them being a desire to block Chinese oil companies from continuing their development of the country’s resources.
The Libyan case is but one example of a much broader phenomenon. The truth is that there is a concerted battle taking place between the US and China right now for the jewel of Africa’s resources. But this battle is taking place almost entirely in the shadows, as the central role of Special Forces operators might suggest….