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. …