‘Massive expansion’ in US covert operations in Africa
June 14, 2012 4 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States administration of President Barack Obama is implementing a near-unprecedented expansion of covert operations by American military forces throughout Africa, aimed at a host of armed groups deemed extremist by Washington. A lead article published yesterday in The Washington Post quotes over a dozen unnamed American and African officials, as well as military contractors, who refer to the US military-led effort as Project CREEKSAND. It allegedly involves secret operations in several African countries, conducted out of a large network of small air bases located in strategic locations around the continent. According to The Post, most of the airplanes used in Project CREEKSAND are small, unarmed, disguised to look like private aircraft, and bear no military markings or government insignia. In reality, however, they carry sophisticated electronic equipment designed to collect signals intelligence, while some are used to transport US Special Forces troops during capture or kill missions. The paper quotes an unnamed “former senior US commander [...] involved in setting up the [air bases] network”, who alleges that the US government has built about a dozen such bases throughout Africa since 2007. These secret air bases are located in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Seychelles. Most of the US personnel involved in Project CREEKSAND consists of Special Operations forces tasked with “training foreign security forces [and] performing aid missions”. However, The Post alleges that there are also small teams of US operatives who are “dedicated to tracking and killing suspected terrorists”. Their targets include groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabaab in Somalia, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, as well as Azawad, the newly established state in northern Mali, whose independence was declared recently by Islamist separatists. Some US forces are also involved in gathering intelligence on Joseph Kony, the elusive Ugandan leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Interestingly, the article mentions skepticism by some critics, who wonder why the US military, rather than the Central Intelligence Agency, is in charge of Project CREEKSAND. Others warn that the groups targeted by the Obama administration in Africa are local in scope and fight for regional goals, not global, and thus do not pose any direct threat to the US. Thus, by interfering in their local religious or nationalist struggles, Washington risks creating unwanted backlash. The Post says that it sent an email with several questions about Project CREEKSAND to the US Pentagon’s Africa Command, which refused to provide “specific operational details”.