In the 2010s, I would, in fact, help reveal that the U.S. had conducted at least 36 named operations and activities in Africa—more than anywhere else on earth, including the Middle East.
NICK TURSEOctober 25, 2022 by TomDispatch
What’s the U.S. military doing in Africa? It’s an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, straight-jacketed in secrecy, and hogtied by red tape. Or at least it would be if it were up to the Pentagon.
Ten years ago, I embarked on a quest to answer that question at TomDispatch, chronicling a growing American military presence on that continent, a build-up of both logistical capabilities and outposts, and the possibility that far more was occurring out of sight. “Keep your eye on Africa,” I concluded. “The U.S. military is going to make news there for years to come.”
I knew I had a story when U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) failed to answer basic questions honestly. And the command’s reaction to the article told me that I also had a new beat.
Not long after publication, AFRICOM wrote a letter of complaint to my editor, Tom Engelhardt, attempting to discredit my investigation. (I responded point by point in a follow-up piece.) The command claimed the U.S. was doing little on that continent, had one measly base there, and was transparent about its operations. “I would encourage you and those who have interest in what we do to review our Website, www.AFRICOM.mil, and a new Defense Department Special Web Report on U.S. Africa Command at this link http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2012/0712_AFRICOM/,” wrote its director of public affairs Colonel Tom Davis.
A decade later, the link is dead; Davis is a functionary at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona; and I’m still keeping an eye on AFRICOM.
A few months ago, in fact, I revealed the existence of a previously unknown AFRICOM investigation of an airstrike in Nigeria that killed more than 160 civilians. A formerly secret 2017 Africa Command document I obtained called for an inquiry into that “U.S.-Nigerian” operation that was never disclosed to Congress, much less the public.
Since then, AFRICOM has steadfastly refused to offer a substantive comment on the strike or the investigation that followed and won’t even say if it will release relevant documents to members of Congress. Last month, citing my reporting, a group of lawmakers from the newly formed Protection of Civilians in Conflict Caucus called on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to turn over the files on, and answer key questions about, the attack. The Pentagon has so far kept mum.
Has AFRICOM then, as Davis contended so long ago, been transparent? Is its website the go-to spot for information about U.S. military missions on that continent? Did its operations there remain few and innocuous? Or was I onto something?
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