Pentagon Seeking New Access Pacts for Africa Bases

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Jul 12 11:17:41 MDT 2003

*****   New York Times   July 5, 2003
Pentagon Seeking New Access Pacts for Africa Bases

WASHINGTON, July 4 - The United States military is seeking to expand 
its presence in the Arab countries of northern Africa and in 
sub-Saharan Africa through new basing agreements and training 
exercises intended to combat a growing terrorist threat in the region.

Even as military planners prepare options for American troops to join 
an international peacekeeping force to oversee a cease-fire in 
Liberia, the Pentagon wants to enhance military ties with allies like 
Morocco and Tunisia.

It is also seeking to gain long-term access to bases in countries 
like Mali and Algeria, which American forces could use for periodic 
training or to strike terrorists. And it aims to build on aircraft 
refueling agreements in places like Senegal and Uganda, two countries 
that President Bush is to visit on his five-nation swing through 
Africa that begins on Tuesday.

There are no plans to build permanent American bases in Africa, 
Defense Department officials say. Instead, the United States European 
Command, which oversees military operations in most of Africa, wants 
troops now in Europe to rotate more frequently into bare-bones camps 
or airfields in Africa. Marines may spend more time sailing off the 
West African coast.

This fall the command will send trainers to work with soldiers from 
four North African nations on patrolling and gathering intelligence.

Some plans are still on the drawing board and will need the approval 
of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld or his top aides. But other 
military initiatives in Africa are already under way or will soon 

Since late last year, for example, more than 1,800 members of the 
American military have been placed in Djibouti to conduct 
counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa....

United States military and intelligence officials say vast swaths of 
the Sahara, from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east, which 
have been smuggling routes for centuries, are becoming areas of 
choice for terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda.

General [James L. ] Jones [of the Marine Corps, the head of the 
European Command] said an allied maritime armada in the Mediterranean 
had forced international drug smugglers, weapons traffickers, Islamic 
extremists and other terrorists south to overland routes through 

The countries in the area are some of the poorest in the world and 
have scant resources to monitor their borders or patrol the large 
remote areas of their interiors....

Since the end of major combat in Iraq, the United States has diverted 
reconnaissance aircraft and satellites to watch the region more 
closely and share that information with governments there, a senior 
military official said....

In a sign of Africa's growing prominence, General [Charles F.] Wald 
[of the Air Force, the European Command's second-in-charge], who led 
American air forces in the Afghan war, now spends about half of his 
time on African-related issues.

The European Command is preparing to hold a conference of the defense 
attachés from United States embassies on the continent and, 
increasingly, ambassadors as well, General Jones said.

The military's entreaties to expand and deepen ties to Africa are 
receiving largely positive responses from many of those countries. 
"We are very much interested in expanding our cooperation with the 
U.S. in civilian and military fields," said Idriss Jazairy, Algeria's 
ambassador to the United States. "We would be ready to cooperate in 
training African antiterrorist teams to address this common 

But some Africa experts warn that the Pentagon, which promotes the 
idea of democratization in other Arab states, ought not compromise 
those values by dealing with governments with heavy military 
influence, like Algeria. "The downside of this is that you can take 
on the agenda of local leaders," said Herman J. Cohen, who was 
assistant secretary of state for Africa in the administration of the 
first President Bush.

The military's renewed focus on Africa pre-dates Mr. Bush's trip, and 
is part of an effort by the European Command to reshape where and how 
many American troops are based in a 93-country area of responsibility 
that arches from South Africa to Russia. That review is a portion of 
a global effort by the Defense Department to determine where to 
position United States forces.

General Jones said he envisioned what he called a family of bases. In 
Africa this would include forward-operating bases, perhaps with an 
airfield nearby, that could house up to a brigade, or 3,000 to 5,000 
troops. "It's something that could be robustly used for a significant 
military presence," General Jones said.

A second type of base would be a forward-operating location, which 
would be a lightly equipped base where Special Forces, marines or 
possibly an infantry rifle platoon or company could land and build up 
as the mission required.

"Over all, we're trying to come up with a more flexible basing option 
that allows more engagement through our area of responsibility," 
General Jones said.

The Pentagon made early strides a few years ago, when it negotiated 
agreements with Ghana, Senegal, Gabon, Namibia, Uganda and Zambia to 
allow American aircraft flying through the region to refuel at local 
air bases.

In the fall, the Defense and State Departments will begin a $6.25 
million program to provide training, as well as radios and Toyota 
pickup trucks, to company-size army units in Mauritania, Mali, Niger 
and Chad.

"If we do this we can make friends who, when they get information out 
on patrol, can share with us," said one senior military officer.

American Special Forces and the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade have 
conducted joint exercises with Moroccan troops in the last three 
years, and military officials say they would like to expand and 
increase those contacts.

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