Pentagon Seeking New Access Pacts for Africa Bases
furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Sat Jul 12 11:17:41 MDT 2003
***** New York Times July 5, 2003
Pentagon Seeking New Access Pacts for Africa Bases
By ERIC SCHMITT
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
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
"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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