Last month Associated Press reported that "drawing on lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan," U.S. Marines joined American military contractors at a remote base in Uganda to train local soldiers in combat skills, including house-to-house fighting, under the auspices of the State Department's Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program (which "includes marksmanship, urban warfare and explosives handling") with a budget of $3.8 million this year.
U.S.-based Military Professional Resources Inc. is under contract to run the program at the Ugandan base, which also includes the participation of British and French military personnel. According to the report, the private contractors "all are ex-military and most have had experience in either Iraq or Afghanistan."
The training is to prepare Ugandan troops for fighting in Somalia, where thousands of Ugandan and Burundian troops have been airlifted by NATO since 2010.
The Marines are assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force, which was established in October of last year, is based at the Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily and has been deployed to Uganda and Burundi for the Somali mission.
The commander of AFRICOM, General Carter Ham, was quoted in a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force press release as stating:
"One of our primary foci is support of African nations who are willing and able to provide forces to the African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM], and other peacekeeping operations. In support of the State Department's Global Peace Operations Initiatives and the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance programs, we provide military mentors to support pre-deployment training. We work extensively with the nations of Uganda and Burundi as they provide the majority of forces to AMISOM to date."
The U.S. Marine Corps website reported that the unit's African deployment -- which "could become more commonplace as troop levels in Afghanistan drop in line with an approaching 2014 combat mission end date" - is part of a broader redeployment of Marines abroad:
"Already, a separate Marine Air Ground Task Force is planned for the Asia-Pacific region with troops basing in Darwin, Australia. The Black Sea Rotational Force first stood up in 2010 and is tasked with similar regional security partnership missions with southern and central European countries."
Seventy-seven U.S. Marines are currently in Mozambique training troops from the host country as part of an Africa Partnership Station mission.
In April 1,200 U.S. Marines led the annual bilateral African Lion exercise in Morocco.
When AFRICOM achieved full operational capability on October 1, 2008 it became the first U.S. overseas regional military command established after the Cold War (since U.S. Central Command was created in 1983).
Washington, in its plan to achieve military presence throughout and superiority over the rest of the world, reserved Africa for last. Now its hour, too, has arrived.
* U.S.'s Post-Afghanistan Counterinsurgency War: Colombia