US plans to increase troops in Africa

Updated: 2012-12-28 03:07

By ZHOU WA (China Daily)

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Washington's plan to boost its military presence in Africa is viewed as more than an attempt to combat terrorism, analysts said, as the United States announced it will send troops to 35 African countries.

Sending the troops to Africa is in line with US desire to wield stronger influence in the region, but it may not resolve the terrorism issue, said Jin Canrong, a professor of international studies at Renmin University of China.

Yin Zhuo, a military commentator, told China Radio International online that in addition to combating terrorism, the US also has economic and political concerns in Africa.

The move suggests that the US has much broader objectives in Africa than simply offering military training to soldiers across the largely impoverished continent, said the Iranian international news network Press TV.

"Economically, Africa is becoming a more and more important region of strategic resources and energy supplies for the US," Yin was quoted as saying.

"Wars and instabilities caused by Islamic extremism remain in the Middle East, while Africa is a place with fewer threats."

According to Yin, the US relies heavily on Africa for mineral resources.

The Associated Press reported that a US army brigade will begin sending small teams into 35 African nations early in 2013, as part of an intensifying Washington effort to provide training to battle extremists and to give the US a trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises emerge.

The brigades will go to countries such as Libya, Algeria and Niger, where groups linked to al-Qaida have been active. It will also assist countries such as Kenya and Uganda, which have been battling al-Shabab militants on the front lines in Somalia.

The sharper focus on Africa by the US comes against a backdrop of widespread insurgent violence across North Africa, and as the African Union and other nations discuss military intervention in northern Mali, where the US believes members of al-Qaida are based.

Officials believe that the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in September, which killed the ambassador and three other US citizens, may have been linked to al-Qaida, and that the terror threat in Africa has been growing steadily.

So far, there has been no response to the US plan from any of the African countries involved.

The US believes it is necessary to send troops to Africa because the attacks on US embassies in Africa could not have been achieved without al-Qaida's support, Yin said.

New attacks by terrorist organizations are most likely to happen in Africa, he added, because terrorists have been moving there following the effective US crackdown on the organization in the Middle East and North Africa.

The terrorism in African countries offers an excuse for the US to increase its military presence and consolidate its control over the region, said Jin.

The US has attempted to build military bases in Africa, but so far, no African countries have given it permission to do so.

Jin said the US may not achieve its goal of combating terrorism in Africa with its plan to send troops there. The continent, long plagued by underdevelopment, requires Washington to assist its economic and social development, he said.

AP contributed to this story.

Contact the writer at zhouwa@chinadaily.com.cn