Lion Forward Teams? Echo Casemate? Juniper Micron?
You could be forgiven if this jumble of words looks like nonsense to you. It isn’t. It’s the language of the US military’s simmering African interventions; the patois that goes with a set of missions carried out in countries most Americans couldn’t locate on a map; the argot of conflicts now primarily fought by proxies and a former colonial power on a continent that the US military views as a hotbed of instability and that hawkish pundits increasingly see as a growth area for future armed interventions.
Since 9/11, the US military has been making inroads in Africa, building alliances, facilities and a sophisticated logistics network. Despite repeated assurances by US Africa Command (AFRICOM) that military activities on the continent were minuscule, a 2013 investigation by TomDispatch exposed surprisingly large and expanding US operations—including recent military involvement with no fewer than forty-nine of the fifty-four nations on the continent. Washington’s goal continues to be building these nations into stable partners with robust, capable militaries, as well as creating regional bulwarks favorable to its strategic interests in Africa. Yet over the last years, the results have often confounded the planning—with American operations serving as a catalyst for blowback (to use a term of CIA tradecraft).
A US-backed uprising in Libya, for instance, helped spawn hundreds of militias that have increasingly caused chaos in that country, leading to repeated attacks on Western interests and the killing of the US ambassador and three other Americans. Tunisia has become ever more destabilized, according to a top US commander in the region. Kenya and Algeria were hit by spectacular, large-scale terrorist attacks that left Americans dead or wounded. South Sudan, a fledgling nation Washington recently midwifed into being that has been slipping into civil war, now has more than 870,000 displaced persons, is facing an imminent hunger crisis, and has recently been the site of mass atrocities, including rapes and killings. Meanwhile, the US-backed military of Mali was repeatedly defeated by insurgent forces after managing to overthrow the elected government, and the US-supported forces of the Central African Republic (CAR) failed to stop a ragtag rebel group from ousting the president.