US plans to attack Africa
In the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defence Report completed in February this year, the Horn of Africa and the East African coast are specifically listed as definite ‘anti-terror’ military operation areas in the “long war” against Islamist militants. According to the report, “The Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) is currently helping to build host-nation capacity in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.” This effectively means that the US military is establishing bases in the three countries from which to launch attacks on terrorists. Such activities will be over and above current military operations already being staged in the region as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq. When making public the report, Ryan Henry, the principal deputy undersecretary for policy in the Pentagon was quoted in the international media saying: “We are engaged in things in the Philippines and in the Horn of Africa. There are issues in the pan-Sahel region of north Africa.” The Pentagon also indicated that its long-term strategy also involved greater co-option of what it called friendly forces that would duly be trained in reconnaissance counter-insurgency. To date, Kenyan military troops have already been trained. The Quadrennial Defence Report refers to the existing American military base in Djibouti as “a prime example of distributed operations and economy of force” that the US defence forces hope to build upon regionally in coming years. The Djibouti base was created in 2001 following attacks on American personnel in the region. The American State Department and the Department of Defence have made it clear that they view Somalia and Tanzania as potential seedbeds for Al Qaeda elements and the growth of anti-US terrorism on the African continent. According to the report: “Military, civilian and allied personnel work together to provide security training and to perform public works and medical assistance projects, demonstrating the benefits of unity of effort.” “Steps toward more effective host nation governance have improved local conditions and set the stage to minimise tribal, ethnic and religious conflict, decreasing the possibility of failed states or ungoverned spaces in which terrorist extremists can more easily operate or take shelter.” The Pentagon has also indicated that it will not hesitate to carry out unilateral strikes wherever and whenever it feels such a move will further American interests. Observers have said the proposed 15 percent increase in special operations forces as well as additions to the already formidable US arsenal point to a continued, if not increased, occurrence of pre-emptive strikes in countries where Islamist militants operate or where they are thought to be gaining a significant foothold. Anti-piracy operations could also be upgraded following a series of ship hijackings off the East African coast over the past year or so. Behind the report are Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – who many observers have labelled a “neo-conservative war monger” and Marine General Peter Pace, who is the Joint Chief of Staff among other State Security and Defence officials and strategists. Observers have said the report draws its context from a 2001 speech by President George W. Bush who said: “This war (‘war on terror’) will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. “It will not look like the air war above Kosovo’Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes.” President Bush said America should prepare itself for a long drawn out war that would last for many years. In addition to this, observers have said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw helped lay the groundwork for this American policy move when in a recent visit to Nigeria he said: “The terrorist threat to and from Africa is likely to grow in the next 10 years.” What has had people worrying is the fact that at any given time, the US military has some 350 000 service men and women stationed across the world who can easily be called in to carry out operations in virtually any region of the globe. Furthermore, it is known that the US plans to use its economic leverage through signed bilateral agreements to pressure governments in the Third World to support its ‘war on terror’. Unwilling governments could find access to bilateral and multilateral financial support through the US and the IMF and World Bank difficult to access if they do not display a willingness to give succour to American ambitions within their home territories or regions. On the other hand, Africa has been the scene of a number of terrorist attacks, mostly directed at Americans and Israelis, and these, some observers have said, have necessitated this sort of reaction from the US. There have been terrorist strikes on US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 and on an Egyptian resort town this year. Al-Qaeda has been linked to all three attacks. There was also the 2002 suicide bombing targeted at an Israeli-owned hotel near the Kenyan resort of Mombasa while a few hours later a missile narrowly missed a plane carrying Israeli tourists back home from the Indian Ocean resort. The 2005 London terror attacks investigations have reached Africa with information coming out of Scotland Yard indicating that officials there had strong reason to believe a sizeable number of North Africans were involved in the planning of the bombings. Three of the suspects being held in connection with the failed London bombings are said to be of East African extraction. The region’s links to al-Qaeda date to 1991, when Osama Bin Laden set up training camps in Sudan, before moving to Afghanistan. Regardless, observers have said it is imperative that African governments come up with their own anti-terror strategies that preclude American involvement. This would have the effect of ensuring perpetrators of terror do not link African governments to the American global hegemony agenda while also averting any sort of US military involvement on the continent.