From 2008 to 2013, the number of missions, exercises, operations, and other activities under AFRICOM's purview has skyrocketed from 172 to 546, but little substantive information has been made public about what exactly most of these missions involved and just who U.S. forces have trained. Since 2011, U.S. Army Africa alone has taken part in close to 1,000 "activities" across the continent, but independent reporters have only been on hand for a tiny fraction of them, so there are limits to what we can know about them beyond military talking points and official news releases for a relative few of these missions. Only later did it become clear that the United States extensively mentored the military officer who overthrew Mali's elected government in 2012, and that the U.S. trained a Congolese commando battalion implicated by the United Nations in mass rapes and other atrocities during that same year, to cite two examples.
Since its inception, U.S. Africa Command has consistently downplayed its role on the continent. Meanwhile, far from the press or the public, the officers running its secret operations have privately been calling Africa "the battlefield of tomorrow, today."
After years in the dark, we now know just how "extremely active" -- to use General David Rodriguez's phrase -- AFRICOM has been and how rapidly the tempo of its missions has increased. It remains to be seen just what else we don't know about U.S. Africa Command's exponentially expanding operations.
Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute. A 2014 Izzy Award winner, his pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, at the BBC and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author most recently of the New York Times bestseller Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (just out in paperback).
Copyright 2014 Nick Turse