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The Pentagon Is Using Your Tax Dollars to Turn Italy into a Launching Pad for the Wars of Today and Tomorrow

By David Vine | TomDispatch | October 3, 2013

The Pentagon has spent the last two decades plowing hundreds of millions of tax dollars into military bases in Italy, turning the country into an increasingly important center for U.S. military power. Especially since the start of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the military has been shifting its European center of gravity south from Germany, where the overwhelming majority of U.S. forces in the region have been stationed since the end of World War II. In the process, the Pentagon has turned the Italian peninsula into a launching pad for future wars in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.

At bases in Naples, Aviano, Sicily, Pisa, and Vicenza, among others, the military has spent more than $2 billion on construction alone since the end of the Cold War—and that figure doesn’t include billions more on classified construction projects and everyday operating and personnel costs. While the number of troops in Germany has fallen from 250,000 when the Soviet Union collapsed to about 50,000 today, the roughly 13,000 U.S. troops (plus 16,000 family members) stationed in Italy match the numbers at the height of the Cold War. That, in turn, means that the percentage of U.S. forces in Europe based in Italy has tripled since 1991 from around 5 percent to more than 15 percent.

Last month, I had a chance to visit the newest U.S. base in Italy, a three-month-old garrison in Vicenza, near Venice. Home to a rapid reaction intervention force, the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), and the Army’s component of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the base extends for a mile, north to south, dwarfing everything else in the small city. In fact, at over 145 acres, the base is almost exactly the size of Washington’s National Mall or the equivalent of around 110 American football fields. The price tag for the base and related construction in a city that already hosted at least six installations: upwards of $600 million since fiscal year 2007.

There are still more bases, and so more U.S. military spending, in Germany than in any other foreign country (save, until recently, Afghanistan). Nonetheless, Italy has grown increasingly important as the Pentagon works to change the make-up of its global collection of 800 or more bases abroad, generally shifting its basing focus south and east from Europe’s center. Base expert Alexander Cooley explains: “U.S. defense officials acknowledge that Italy’s strategic positioning on the Mediterranean and near North Africa, the Italian military’s anti-terrorism doctrine, as well as the country’s favorable political disposition toward U.S. forces are important factors in the Pentagon’s decision to retain” a large base and troop presence there. About the only people who have been paying attention to this build-up are the Italians in local opposition movements like those in Vicenza who are concerned that their city will become a platform for future U.S. wars.

Base Building

Most tourists think of Italy as the land of Renaissance art, Roman antiquities, and of course great pizza, pasta, and wine. Few think of it as a land of U.S. bases. But Italy’s 59 Pentagon-identified “base sites” top that of any country except Germany (179), Japan (103), Afghanistan (100 and declining), and South Korea (89).

Publicly, U.S. officials say there are no U.S. military bases in Italy. They insist that our garrisons, with all their infrastructure, equipment, and weaponry, are simply guests on what officially remain “Italian” bases designated for NATO use. Of course, everyone knows that this is largely a legal nicety.

No one visiting the new base in Vicenza could doubt that it’s a U.S. installation all the way. The garrison occupies a former Italian air force base called Dal Molin. (In late 2011, Italian officials re-branded it “Caserma Del Din,” evidently to try to shed memories of the massive opposition the base has generated.) From the outside, it might be mistaken for a giant hospital complex or a university campus. Thirty one box-like peach-and-cream-colored buildings with light red rooftops dominate the horizon with only the foothills of the Southern Alps as a backdrop. A chain link fence topped by razor wire surrounds the perimeter, with green mesh screens obscuring views into the base.

If you manage to get inside, however, you find two barracks for up to 600 soldiers each. (Off base, the Army is contracting to lease up to 240 newly built homes in surrounding communities.) Two six-floor parking garages that can hold 850 vehicles, and a series of large office complexes, some small training areas, including an indoor shooting range still under construction, as well as a gym with a heated swimming pool, a “Warrior Zone” entertainment center, a small PX, an Italian-style café, and a large dining facility. These amenities are actually rather modest for a large U.S. base. Most of the newly built or upgraded housing, schools, medical facilities, shopping, and other amenities for soldiers and their families are across town on Viale della Pace (Peace Boulevard) at the Caserma Ederle base and at the nearby Villaggio della Pace (Peace Village).

A Pentagon Spending Spree

Beyond Vicenza, the military has been spending mightily to upgrade its Italian bases. Until the early 1990s, the U.S. air base at Aviano, northeast of Vicenza, was a small site known as “Sleepy Hollow.” Beginning with the transfer of F-16s from Spain in 1992, the Air Force turned it into a major staging area for every significant wartime operation since the first Gulf War. In the process, it has spent at least $610 million on more than 300 construction projects (Washington convinced NATO to provide more than half these funds, and Italy ceded 210 acres of land for free.) Beyond these “Aviano 2000” projects, the Air Force has spent an additional $115 million on construction since fiscal year 2004.

Not to be outdone, the Navy laid out more than $300 million beginning in 1996 to construct a major new operations base at the Naples airport. Nearby, it has a 30-year lease on an estimated $400 million “support site” that looks like a big-box shopping mall surrounded by expansive, well-manicured lawns. (The base is located in the Neapolitan mafia’s heartland and was built by a company that has been linked to the Camorra.) In 2005, the Navy moved its European headquarters from London to Naples as it shifted its attention from the North Atlantic to Africa, the Middle East, and the Black Sea. With the creation of AFRICOM, whose main headquarters remain in Germany, Naples is now home to a combined U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa. Tellingly, its website prominently displays the time in Naples, Djibouti, Liberia, and Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, Sicily has become increasingly significant in the Global War on Terror era, as the Pentagon has been turning it into a major node of U.S. military operations for Africa, which is less than 100 miles away across the Mediterranean. Since fiscal year 2001, the Pentagon has spent more on construction at the Sigonella Naval Air Station—almost $300 million—than at any Italian base other than Vicenza. Now the second busiest naval air station in Europe, Sigonella was first used to launch Global Hawk surveillance drones in 2002. In 2008, U.S. and Italian officials signed a secret agreement formally permitting the basing of drones there. Since then, the Pentagon has put out at least $31 million to build a Global Hawk maintenance and operations complex. The drones provide the foundation for NATO’s $1.7 billion Alliance Ground Surveillance system, which gives NATO surveillance capabilities as far as10,000 miles from Sigonella.

Beginning in 2003, “Joint Task Force Aztec Silence” has used P-3 surveillance planes based at Sigonella to monitor insurgent groups in North and West Africa. And since 2011, AFRICOM has deployed a task force of around 180 marines and two aircraft to the base to provide counterterrorism training to African military personnel in Botswana, Liberia, Djibouti, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Tunisia, and Senegal.

Sigonella also hosts one of three Global Broadcast Service satellite communications facilities and will soon be home to a NATO Joint Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance deployment base and a data analysis and training center. In June, a U.S. Senate subcommittee recommended moving special operations forces and CV-22 Ospreys from Britain to Sicily, since “Sigonella has become a key launch pad for missions related to Libya, and given the ongoing turmoil in that nation as well as the emergence of terrorist training activities in northern Africa.” In nearby Niscemi, the Navy hopes to build an ultra high frequency satellite communications installation, despite growing opposition from Sicilians and other Italians concerned about the effects of the station and its electromagnetic radiation on humans and a surrounding nature reserve.

Amid the build-up, the Pentagon has actually closed some bases in Italy as well, including those in Comiso, Brindisi, and La Maddalena. While the Army has cut some personnel at Camp Darby, a massive underground weapons and equipment storage installation along Tuscany’s coast, the base remains a critical logistics and pre-positioning center enabling the global deployment of troops, weapons, and supplies from Italy by sea. Since fiscal year 2005, it’s seen almost $60 million in new construction.

And what are all these bases doing in Italy? Here’s the way one U.S. military official in Italy (who asked not to be named) explained the matter to me: “I’m sorry, Italy, but this is not the Cold War. They’re not here to defend Vicenza from a [Soviet] attack. They’re here because we agreed they need to be here to do other things, whether that’s the Middle East or the Balkans or Africa.” 

Location, Location, Location

Bases in Italy have played an increasingly important role in the Pentagon’s global garrisoning strategy in no small part because of the country’s place on the map. During the Cold War, West Germany was the heart of U.S. and NATO defenses in Europe because of its positioning along the most likely routes of any Soviet attack into Western Europe. Once the Cold War ended, Germany’s geographic significance declined markedly. In fact, U.S. bases and troops at Europe’s heart looked increasingly hemmed in by their geography, with U.S. ground forces there facing longer deployment times outside the continent and the Air Force needing to gain overflight rights from neighboring countries to get almost anywhere.

Troops based in Italy, by contrast, have direct access to the international waters and airspace of the Mediterranean. This allows them to deploy rapidly by sea or air. As Assistant Secretary of the Army Keith Eastin told Congress in 2006, positioning the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Dal Molin “strategically positions the unit south of the Alps with ready access to international airspace for rapid deployment and forced entry/early entry operations.”

And we’ve seen the Pentagon take advantage of Italy’s location since the 1990s, when Aviano Air Base played an important role in the first Gulf War and in U.S. and NATO interventions in the Balkans (a short hop across the Adriatic Sea from Italy). The Bush administration, in turn, made bases in Italy some of its “enduring” European outposts in its global garrisoning shift south and east from Germany. In the Obama years, a growing military involvement in Africa has made Italy an even more attractive basing option. 

“Sufficient Operational Flexibility”

Beyond its location, U.S. officials love Italy because, as the same military official told me, it’s a “country that offers sufficient operational flexibility.” In other words, it provides the freedom to do what you want with minimal restrictions and hassle.

Especially in comparison to Germany, Italy offers this flexibility for reasons that reflect a broader move away from basing in two of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nations, Germany and Japan, toward basing in relatively poorer and less powerful ones. In addition to offering lower operating costs, such hosts are generally more susceptible to Washington’s political and economic pressure. They also tend to sign “status of forces agreements”—which govern the presence of U.S. troops and bases abroad—that are less restrictive for the U.S. military. Such agreements often offer more permissive settings when it comes to environmental and labor regulations or give the Pentagon more freedom to pursue unilateral military action with minimal host country consultation.

While hardly one of the world’s weaker nations, Italy is the second most heavily indebted country in Europe, and its economic and political power pales in comparison to Germany’s. Not surprisingly, then, as that Pentagon official in Italy pointed out to me, the status of forces agreement with Germany is long and detailed, while the foundational agreement with Italy remains the short (and still classified) 1954 Bilateral Infrastructure Agreement. Germans also tend to be rather exacting when it comes to following rules, while the Italians, he said, “are more interpretive of guidance.”

War + Bases = $ 

The freedom with which the U.S. military used its Italian bases in the Iraq War is a case in point. As a start, the Italian government allowed U.S. forces to employ them even though their use for a war pursued outside the context of NATO may violate the terms of the 1954 basing agreement. A classified May 2003 cable sent by U.S. Ambassador to Italy Melvin Sembler and released by WikiLeaks shows that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government gave the Pentagon “virtually everything” it wanted. “We got what we asked for,” wrote Sembler, “on base access, transit, and overflights, ensuring that forces… could flow smoothly through Italy to get to the fight.”

For its part, Italy appears to have benefited directly from this cooperation. (Some say that shifting bases from Germany to Italy was also meant as a way to punish Germany for its lack of support for the Iraq War.) According to a 2010 report from Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment, “Italy’s role in the war in Iraq, providing 3,000 troops to the U.S.-led effort, opened up Iraqi reconstruction contracts to Italian firms, as well as cementing relations between the two allies.” Its role in the Afghan War surely offered similar benefits. Such opportunities came amid deepening economic troubles, and at a moment when the Italian government was turning to arms production as a major way to revive its economy. According to Jane’s, Italian weapons manufacturers like Finmeccanica have aggressively tried to enter the U.S. and other markets. In 2009, Italian arms exports were up more than 60 percent.

In October 2008, the two countries renewed a Reciprocal Defense Procurement Memorandum of Understanding (a “most favored nation” agreement for military sales). It has been suggested that the Italian government may have turned Dal Molin over to the U.S. military—for free—in part to ensure itself a prominent role in the production of “the most expensive weapon ever built,” the F-35 fighter jet, among other military deals. Another glowing 2009 cable, this time from the Rome embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Dibble, called the countries’ military cooperation “an enduring partnership.” It noted pointedly how Finmeccanica (which is 30 percent state-owned) “sold USD 2.3 billion in defense equipment to the U.S. in 2008 [and] has a strong stake in the solidity of the U.S.-Italy relationship.”

Of course, there’s another relevant factor in the Pentagon’s Italian build-up. For the same reasons American tourists flock to the country, U.S. troops have long enjoyed la dolce vita there. In addition to the comfortable living on suburban-style bases, around 40,000 military visitors a year from across Europe and beyond come to Camp Darby’s military resort and “American beach” on the Italian Riviera, making the country even more attractive.

The Costs of the Pentagon’s Pivots

Italy is not about to take Germany’s place as the foundation of U.S. military power in Europe. Germany has long been deeply integrated into the U.S. military system, and military planners have designed it to stay that way. In fact, remember how the Pentagon convinced Congress to hand over $600 million for a new base and related construction in Vicenza? The Pentagon’s justification for the new base was the Army’s need to bring troops from Germany to Vicenza to consolidate the 173rd brigade in one place.

And then, last March, one week after getting access to the first completed building at Dal Molin and with construction nearly finished, the Army announced that it wouldn’t be consolidating the brigade after all. One-third of the brigade would remain in Germany. At a time when budget cuts, unemployment, and economic stagnation for all but the wealthiest have left vast unmet needs in communities around the United States, for our $600 million investment, a mere 1,000 troops will move to Vicenza.

Even with those troops staying in Germany, Italy is fast becoming one of several new pivot points for U.S. warmaking powers globally. While much attention has been focused on President Obama’s “Asia pivot,” the Pentagon is concentrating its forces at bases that represent a series of pivots in places like Djibouti on the horn of Africa and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, Bahrain and Qatar in the Persian Gulf, Bulgaria and Romania in Eastern Europe, Australia, Guam, and Hawai’i in the Pacific, and Honduras in Central America.

Our bases in Italy are making it easier to pursue new wars and military interventions in conflicts about which we know little, from Africa to the Middle East. Unless we question why we still have bases in Italy and dozens more countries like it worldwide—as, encouragingly, growing numbers of politiciansjournalists, and others are doing—those bases will help lead us, in the name of American “security,” down a path of perpetual violence, perpetual war, and perpetual insecurity.

Copyright 2013 David Vine

October 12, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US general urges Pentagon to boost its African spying missions by 15-fold

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Press TV – February 15, 2013

A US general nominated to lead the American military’s Africa Command has called for a 15-fold surge in US spying missions in Africa amid reports of Pentagon’s plans to further expand its growing military presence in the continent.

Army General David Rodriguez estimated in a written statement submitted to the US Senate Arms Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Thursday that the American military needs to boost its “intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa by nearly 15-fold,” The Washington Post reports Friday.

“I believe additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities are necessary to protect American interests and assist our close allies and partners,” said the four-star general who has previously commanded US-led intervention forces in Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The recent crises in North Africa demonstrate the volatility of the African security environment,” he added.

Rodrigues further emphasized during the hearing that Africa Command requires additional drones, other spying aircraft and more satellite imagery, adding that the US command currently gets only half of its “stated need” for North Africa and just seven percent of its total “requirements” for the entire continent, the report says.

The surging US military involvement in Africa has emerged despite earlier instructions by the Obama administration for the Pentagon to “pivot its forces and reorient its strategy toward fast-growing Asia,” the daily underlines.

The development comes as the American military has intervened over the past two years in internal conflicts in African nations of Somalia, Libya and Mali, as well as central Africa.

This is while the US Air Force is building its fourth assassination and spying drone base in the poor African state of Niger as American Navy warships are expanding their missions along the coastlines of East and West Africa, according to the report.

Despite insistence by US military authorities that they did not have plans to establish bases or move troops to Africa when they created the Africa Command in 2007, the Pentagon has since built a network of “staging bases,” including assassination drone facilities in Ethiopia and the Seychelles, and “a forward operating base for special operations forces in Kenya,” the report notes.

It further adds that the Pentagon has also expanded its military operations and construction at “the only permanent US base on the continent, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, which serves as a hub for ‘counterterrorism missions’ in Somalia and Yemen.”

Now, the daily emphasizes, there is a growing pressure to add even more bases in North and West Africa as the US military is set to build an assassination drone base in the West African country of Niger, which borders Mali, Libya and Nigeria, all nations that the Obama administration claims are threatened by an increasing influx of ‘al-Qaeda-linked’ Muslim militants.

The US Africa Command has been based in Stuttgart, Germany since it was established in 2007. Efforts to move the headquarters to an African country faced hurdles as numerous nations “expressed concern that the Pentagon was seeking to militarize US policy or infringe on their sovereignty,” according to the report.

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Drone strikes widening? Mystery airstrikes reported in Mali and the Philippines

Drone Wars UK – 30/06/2012

This week we have seen a US drone strike in Pakistan which was reported to have killed six people (or ‘militants’ as those killed by drones are normally labelled) and a strike in Yemen which was reported to have killed three “suspected al-Qaida militants” on the outskirts of Aden. Such strikes have become almost routine, even though international condemnation is growing with both UN representatives  and former US president Jimmy Carter  speaking out in recent days.

Less routine was a “mystery” strike on a convoy of trucks in Northern Mali which was also reported this week.  According to the Magharebia website (which it should be notedis supported by United States Africa Command) seven “terrorists” of a brigade linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were killed while several others were injured.  US intelligence officials contacted by the Long War Journal would neither confirm nor deny US involvement in the strike.

The airstrike echoed that of a similar ‘mysterious’ airstrike in the Philippines in February 2012 when 15 people were killed including three senior alleged leaders of Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.

Although the Philippines insists that it carried out the strikes using  their Bronco OV10 aircraft – experts have suggested this is unlikely.   We know from the Wikileaks cables that similar claims by the then Pakistani and Yemeni governments were actually lies and that US drones had indeed carried out the strikes.  President Benigno Aquino, admits that US drones operate over the Philippines but insists they are only for surveillance purposes.

While it remains unclear whether the US has undertaken drone strikes in Mali and the Philippines it looks increasingly likely  that drone strikes will continue in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the bulk of US forces leave at the end of 2014.  Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry  (and previously a US General serving in Afghanistan) argued  in a keynote speech to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS)  that “drones play a very important role in Afghanistan and Pakistan” and would in fact ”play an even more important role” in the region after US withdrawal.

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

U.S. Escalates Military Penetration of Africa

By Glen Ford | Black Agenda Report | June 13, 2012

According to the Army Times newspaper, the United States will soon deploy a brigade of about 3,000 troops – “and likely more” – for duty “across the continent” of Africa. The “pilot program”has all the markings of a permanent, roving presence, joining the 1,200 U.S. soldiers stationed in Djibouti and the 100-plus Special Forces dispatched to Central Africa by President Obama, last October.

As always and everywhere, the U.S. is looking for bases to occupy – although the U.S. military command in Africa doesn’t call them bases. Rather, “as part of a ‘regionally’ aligned force concept,’ soldiers will live and work among Africans in safe communities approved by the U.S. government,” said AFRICOM’s Maj. Gen. David Hogg.

The First Black U.S. President, who in 2009 lectured Africans that “corruption” and “poor governance,” rather than neocolonialism, were the continent’s biggest problems, has made the U.S. military the primary interlocutor with African states. Functions that were once the purview of the U.S. State Department, such as distribution of economic aid and medical assistance, are now part of AFRICOM’s vast portfolio. In Africa, more than anyplace in the world, U.S. foreign policy wears a uniform – which should leave little doubt as to Washington’s objectives in the region: Africa is to be dominated by military means. Obama’s “good governance” smokescreen for U.S. neocolonialism is embedded in AFRICOM’s stated mission: “to deter and defeat transnational threats and to provide a security environment conducive to good governance and development.” Translation: to bring the so-called war on terror to every corner of the continent and ensure that U.S. corporate interests get favorable treatment from African governments.

AFRICOM’s array of alliances and agreements with African militaries already embraces virtually every nation on the continent except Eritrea and Zimbabwe. All but a handful of Black African states routinely take part in military maneuvers staged by Americans, utilizing U.S. command-and-control equipment and practices. The new, roving U.S. brigade will further institutionalize U.S. ties with the African officer class, part of AFRICOM’s mission to forge deep “soldier-to-soldier” relationships: general-to-general, colonel-to-colonel, and so forth down the line. The proposed network of “safe communities” to accommodate the highly mobile U.S. brigade is a euphemism for joint bases and the most intense U.S. fraternization with local African militaries. Regime change will never be farther away than a drink at the officers club.

According to the Army Times article, the composition of the new brigade, in terms of military skills, is not yet known. However, the brigade is conceived as part of the “new readiness model,” which “affords Army units more time to learn regional cultures and languages and train for specific threats and missions.” This sounds like special ops units – Rangers and Special Forces – which have been vastly expanded under President Obama (and are quite capable of carrying out regime-change operations on their own or in close coordination with their local counterparts).

In most cases, coups will be unnecessary. Regional African “trade” blocs like ECOWAS, the 16-member Economic Community of West African States, and IGAD, the six-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development, in East Africa, have provided African cover for U.S. and French military/political designs in the Ivory Coast and Somalia, respectively. These blocs will doubtless become even more useful and compliant, as U.S. military commanders and their African counterparts get cozier in those “safe communities.”

Americans, no matter how bloody their hands, have always liked to think of themselves as “innocents abroad.” “As far as our mission goes, it’s uncharted territory,” said AFRICOM’s Gen. Hogg. Not really. The Americans are following a European chart in Africa that goes back centuries, and their own long experience in the serial rape of Latin America, where the close fraternization of U.S. and Latin American militaries in recent decades smothered the region in juntas, dirty wars, torture-based states, and outright genocide.

The U.S. and its African allies perpetrated of the worst genocide since World War Two: the death of six million in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Uganda, which acts as a mercenary for the U.S. in Africa, is complicit in mega-death in Congo and Somalia. As Milton Allimadi, publisher of Black Star News, reported: “In 2005 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Uganda liable for the Congo crimes. The court awarded Congo $10 billion in reparations. Uganda’s army plundered Congo’s wealth and committed: mass rapes of both women and men; disemboweled pregnant women; burned people inside their homes alive; and, massacred innocents.”

Naturally, as a henchman of the United States, Uganda has not paid the $10 billion it owes Congo. Ugandan leader Yoweria Museveni, who became Ronald Reagan’s favorite African after seizing power in 1986 with a guerilla army packed with child soldiers, and who for decades waged genocidal war against the Acholi people of his country, now plays host to the Special Forces continent sent by President Obama, ostensibly to fight the child soldier-abusing Joseph Kony and his nearly nonexistent Lord’s Resistance Army.

Rwanda, the Pentagon’s other hit man on the continent, has been cited by a United Nations report as bearing responsibility for some of the millions slaughtered in Congo, as part of its ongoing rape and plunder of its neighbor.

Gen. Hogg says AFRICOM’s mission is to combat famine and disease. Yet, the AFRICOM-assisted Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in late 2006 led to “the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa – worse than Darfur,” according to United Nations observers. The 2007 humanitarian crisis and the escalating U.S.-directed war against Somalia made the 2010 famine all but inevitable.

Ugandan soldiers, nominally working for the African Union but in the pay of the Pentagon, kept watch over western interests in the starving country, as did the 1,200 soldiers stationed at the U.S. base in neighboring Djibouti – a permanent presence, along with the French garrison.

There’s nothing “uncharted” or mysterious about AFRICOM’s mission. The introduction of the 3,000-strong mobile brigade and a network of supporting bases prepares the way for the arrival of much larger U.S. and NATO forces – the recolonization of Africa. Gen. Hogg swears up and down there are no such plans. “For all the challenges that happen and sprout up across Africa, it really comes down to, it has to be an African solution,” he said.

That’s exactly the same thing they said in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

June 14, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on U.S. Escalates Military Penetration of Africa

US expands secret spy operations in Africa

Press TV – June 14, 2012

The United States has been expanding its secret intelligence operations across Africa through a network of small air bases in the continent and under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the US military has established some small air bases across Africa and trained many army personnel in a bid to keep crucial African regions under surveillance.

The report, obtained from documents and people involved in the US military project, said that the US has kept small, unarmed turboprop aircraft in the bases which are disguised as private planes.

The aircraft are supplied with veiled sensors that are able to record full-motion videos, track infrared heat patterns and vacuum up radio and cell phone signals. They are refueled on remote airstrips, used by African bush pilots, broadening their flight range by thousands of miles.

The paper quoted a former US commander, who was engaged in establishing the network, as saying that the military has set up a dozen of such air bases in Africa since 2007.

The covert air bases are reportedly situated in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Seychelles.

The surveillance operations have increased recently as part of a move to “fight against al-Qaeda and other militant groups.” The operations are reportedly run by US Special Operations forces but largely depend on private military contractors and support from African forces.

Meanwhile, following the US Africa Command, the administration has been training and equipping militaries in several countries across the continent including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia under the pretext of stopping “terrorists from establishing sanctuaries.”

Moreover, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has also increased its counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering operations throughout Africa.

The US government has repeatedly claimed that such interventions are conducted to fight terrorism. However, it is strongly believed that there are no significant terrorist threats in Africa against the US.

June 14, 2012 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment