An analyst says Washington’s military plans to set up a base for US drones in Northwest Africa coincide with Africa’s ‘increased significance as a supplier of oil, natural gas and other vital resources.’
The comment comes as US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Monday that the US military command in Africa (AFRICOM) is preparing plans to establish a base for unmanned aircraft, which would likely be located in western Niger, in order to increase its spying operations in the region.
The officials also said the base would be used for flying reconnaissance drones only, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point in the future.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus Think Tank in Washington to further discuss the issue. What follows is a rough transcription of the interview.
Many thanks for joining us here on Press TV Miss Woods. This command center for drones in Niger is part of the so called Africa Command of the US. This Africa Command also includes stationing numerous US forces in different countries in Africa under the pretext of ‘training African militaries against insurgency and terrorism.’ What do you make of this increasing militarization of the continent by America?
Well, we have to begin by saying that AFRICOM, the US Africa Command was created under the Bush administration and continued and strengthened under the Obama administration it represents an expanded militarization of US Africa policy.
It coincides with Africa increasing its significance as a supplier of oil to the United States. AFRICOM stood up in October 2008 just as Africa was actually reaching over 25 percent of the oil input that come to the US from Africa, so Africa was increasing its significance not only for oil, natural gas but for other vital resources so we have seen the steady increase in the militarization.
Now AFRICOM is headquartered in Stuttgart Germany because of tremendous opposition on the continent particularly from governments in the region from South Africa to Nigeria to Algeria that refuse to host AFRICOM and encourage a continental stab against hosting headquarters for AFRICOM although AFRICOM actually established itself in Stuttgart Germany where it remains till today.
Now the programs of AFRICOM have extended from training and equipping African armies to as we see now the increased use of drone technology not only for intelligence gathering but also for what we see particularly in places like Somalia for more lethal purposes.
So I think what you see is an extended US military footprint in and around the African continent that coincides with the increased significance of resources from Africa over the past few years.
Well Miss Woods if the ultimate objective here is to secure African natural resources whatever happened to investing within the economy opening it to foreign market and investment?
Well, I think what we see is a thirst for key resources for the global economy and access and control of those resources have often been the key determinant of foreign policy. So it is not a new phenomenon.
Remember back in the days of colonialism where the colonizers look through the resources of Africa to drive their economies but the quest to dominate would often express most directly through military power and military might.
So it’s not a new phenomenon but it is increasingly worrisome in this twenty-first century that the dependence on vital resources particularly the natural resources coming from the African world, it’s not only the US but Europe and China and many other countries that are looking to Africa’s resources as a means of growing their own economies...
Miss Woods let me just interrupt you we are running out of time. What do you think this means for democracy as far as Africa goes the US as you’ve also pointed out is propping up militaries across the continent. These militaries are notorious for staging coups against democratically elected governments. This is going to see a depletion of democracy if anything in Africa, isn’t it?
Well, I think we have to look at Mali as the best example you have a US-trained military officer Capitan, Capitan Sanogo has been trained by the military. The US and has gone through training programs in Mali now for quite some years.
It is recorded that in the last eight years at least seven times Capitan Sanogo and other military officers from Mali have participated in the US military training program and yet it is that US-armed and trained military have launched a coup back in March 2012 that actually created this downward spiral for the country.
So one month before the elections in Mali you know this military trained and equipped by the US decided that they could do it better than the civilian leaders and so they launched a coup that has created a political vacuum that has led to both a political as well as a security and humanitarian crisis in the country that is spilling over throughout the region. I think we have to look at the consequences of this effort to train equip and strengthen military...