Hillary Clinton Launches Neo-Colonial Tour of Africa
America's top diplomat, Hillary Clinton, arrived in Senegal on July 31 to begin an eleven-day, six-nation tour of the world's second most populous continent, the target of the Pentagon's first post-Cold War overseas multi-service military command, Africa Command.
After Senegal she will travel to South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. With the exception of Malawi, a stopover point on the way to South Africa, and South Sudan, the world's newest nation, the countries on her itinerary are major regional powers on the continent. Kenya, Senegal and Uganda are key U.S. military allies and South Africa is an intended one.
Senegal is the main hub of the U.S.'s interagency Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative and the Pentagon's chief military cohort in the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative is an enlarged successor to the State Department's Pan-Sahel Initiative, established by the State Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism in 2002 in a ballyhooed effort to confront non-existent or wildly exaggerated al-Qaeda threats in the area stretching from the western border of Sudan to the Atlantic Ocean, taking in nations in the Maghreb and the Sahel: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.
Since 2005 the U.S., initially under U.S. European Command and since 2008 under AFRICOM, has been conducting multinational special forces exercises codenamed Operation Flintlock, the largest special operations drills in Africa's history, as part of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative.
This year's, scheduled to occur in Mali, was cancelled because of the fighting between government forces and Tuareg rebels and a military coup d'etat in March.
However, Flintlock 2011, held in Senegal, included over 800 personnel from twelve nations, half NATO member states - the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain - and the other half African nations: Senegal and its neighbors Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Nigeria. Four of the five European NATO participants, all except for the Netherlands, are former colonial powers in the region.
The exercise was run by Special Operations Command Africa under the auspices of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative which subsumes the Pentagon's Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara, now under AFRICOM.
Last year's Flintlock in Senegal saw the inclusion of the Trans-Sahara Security Symposium civil-military operations program coordinated by Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The two-week AFRICOM, Marine Forces Africa-led Exercise Western Accord 2012 conducted in Senegal ended twelve days before Clinton's arrival in the country.
The exercise included, in the words of the U.S. Marine Corps website, "live-fire and combat marksmanship training, peace keeping operations, disaster response [and] intelligence capacity building [components]."
Senegal is the most unabashedly pro-Western and belligerently aggressive member of ECOWAS which early last year pushed for an ECOWAS military force to be deployed to Ivory Coast. It is also the main member of the organization the U.S. can count on it developing a collective military intervention force to serve as the nucleus of and prototype for a West African component of the U.S.- and NATO-backed African Standby Force, modeled after the NATO Response Force.
After Ghana in the first place and Nigeria in the second blocked Senegal's plans to invade Ivory Coast to depose President Laurent Gbagbo, in April French troops and military helicopters attacked Gbagbo's residence where he was abducted, with Hillary Clinton celebrating the action as "send[ing] a strong signal to dictators and tyrants." The former Ivorian president now faces the inevitable "crimes against humanity" and no doubt "war crimes" charges at the International Criminal Court. The above led to the installation of U.S. and French front man Alassane Ouattara as head of state. In recent days Ouattara, former International Monetary Fund official in Washington, D.C., has been clamoring for ECOWAS military intervention in Mali. A subject sure to have been on Clinton's agenda in Senegal.
Clinton's second stop is in South Sudan, where her commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, last year ordered U.S. special operations troops deployed as part of a four-nation mission that also includes Uganda, Congo and the Central African Republic.
Last August the commander of AFRICOM, General Carter Ham, visited the new nation the month after it became independent. As with the world's newest nation before it, Montenegro, the Pentagon pounced on South Sudan before its official stationery arrived from the printer.