— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 22, 2014
Recently Politifact weighed in on a brazen statement made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her book Hard Choices. Clinton claimed “The U.S. military footprint in Africa is nearly nonexistent.” A claim Politifact ruled as “True” which is the highest ranking their evaluation system has and rangers from “True” to “Pants on Fire” for claims that are outright false. The “True” rating is the best rating for the truthfulness of a statement that is evaluated.
Unfortunately for Politifact, Clinton’s statement is, in fact, false. The US military footprint is extensive in Africa. The background information Politifact cites for its ruling involves quoting officials from the Department of Defense and noting how small the ostensible budget is for AFRICOM in relation to other areas. Amazingly Politifact also notes – in the ruling affirming the “non-existent footprint” in Africa – that Camp Lemonnier is Djibouti contains 2-4,000 personnel. Though they then try to minimize their own cited fact by claiming many of those people are “contractors” before concluding “There is a military presence in Africa, but it’s limited to one base with little combat infrastructure, and it’s commanded from a location that is not even located on the continent.”
The actual facts tell a different story.
As perhaps most comprehensively pointed out by Nick Turse, the AFRICOM footprint is quite large. Rather than a “non-existent footprint” the US is quite heavily involved in numerous military operations throughout the continent.
They’re involved in Algeria and Angola, Benin and Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi, Cameroon and the Cape Verde Islands. And that’s just the ABCs of the situation. Skip to the end of the alphabet and the story remains the same: Senegal and the Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia. From north to south, east to west, the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, the heart of the continent to the islands off its coasts, the U.S. military is at work. Base construction, security cooperation engagements, training exercises, advisory deployments, special operations missions, and a growing logistics network, all undeniable evidence of expansion — except at U.S. Africa Command…
The proof is in the details — a seemingly ceaseless string of projects, operations, and engagements. Each mission, as AFRICOM insists, may be relatively limited and each footprint might be “small” on its own, but taken as a whole, U.S. military operations are sweeping and expansive. Evidence of an American pivot to Africa is almost everywhere on the continent.
This next Scramble for Africa has American military personnel and “contractors” all over the continent conducting operations to further perceived US interests.