The chief of the US African Command (AFRICOM), General Thomas Waldhauser, warned last week in an annual report to Congress that resource constraints on his forces are threatening to undermine Washington’s influence over Africa.
Headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, AFRICOM was created with the mission of exerting greater military influence over Africa in order to maintain and facilitate Western capitalism’s exploitation of the continent’s vast economic resources and its working masses.
In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, General Waldhauser warned that AFRICOM’s “inadequate surveillance, poor supply chain networks, and lack of personnel” are putting US interests at increased risk.
“These constraints risk our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, Coast Guardsmen, and civilians executing activities on the African continent.” General Waldhauser stated.
He testified further that AFRICOM’s capability restraints are most grave in relation to its support for the Department of State-led mission to protect US personnel and facilities.
Waldhauser also stated that only 20-30 percent of the command’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements are being met, due to a lack of resources. To offset this shortfall, AFRICOM has relied primarily on private security contractors.
Further highlighting AFRICOM’s resource constraints, the US maintains one military base overseeing the entire continent, Camp Lemonnier, a base shared jointly with France in the tiny nation of Dijibouti on the Horn of Africa. Washington is keen to upscale its military presence on the continent.
Waldhauser outlined before the Senate committee potential problems for the United States exertion of power in Africa, specifically in relation to Washington’s military debacles in Somalia and Libya.
He underscored the necessity for AFRICOM’s continuing role in perpetuating these crimes by appealing to the Senate committee for more resources and an escalation of militarism.
In a reflection of the crisis and divisions over the direction of US foreign policy, Waldhauser invoked the threat of Russia’s influence in Libya: “Russia is trying to exert influence on the ultimate decision of who becomes, and what entity becomes, in charge of the government inside Libya.”
Addressing the committee’s Republican chairman Senator John McCain, he stated that General Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army, has been engaged in talks with various representatives from Moscow.
“General Haftar has visited, as you said, on the carrier with the Russians. He’s also visited in the country of Russia. Also, this week it’s reported in the open press, Serraj from the Government of National Accord has also visited Russia,” Waldhauser said.
Last week, there were reports that Moscow deployed Special Forces troops to Egypt near the Libyan border. Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov denied the deployment, telling the RIA Novosti news agency, “Certain Western mass media have been stirring up the public for years with such false information from anonymous sources.”
When Senator Lindsey Graham asked General Waldhauser his thoughts on the importance of the involvement of Secretary of State and former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson in influencing the outcome of the AFRICOM’s mission, Waldhauser stressed, “Very important.”
Washington’s aim is to neutralize China’s influence on the continent. China is set to complete later this year the construction of a naval base in Djibouti, a mere four miles from the US/French base.
In recent years, China has massively increased its economic influence in Africa, with Beijing investing heavily in mining, infrastructure, oil and agriculture. Alongside this, Germany and France appear keen to not be left behind in the “resource rich” in Africa.
Germany has constructed a military base in Niger, and has its troops deployed across the sub-Saharan region.
France not only maintains several military bases in Africa, but has an ongoing deployment of several thousand troops in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania, where French forces are engaged in ongoing bloody conflicts.
In 2015 in Burkina Faso, France played an influential role in the removal of President Blaise Compaoré. Underlying these developments, the two European nations are attempting to assert a greater role for themselves in the unfolding “Scramble for Africa”.
– By Eddie Haywood,WSWS