The Address | Benghazi – Libya
WASHINGTON – The Intercept, a U.S. online news publication, said on Saturday that it had obtained documents from the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) via the Freedom of Information Act which reveals network of U.S. military outposts in Africa, including previously undisclosed or unconfirmed sites in Libya.
According to a 2018 briefing by AFRICOM science adviser Peter E. Teil, the military’s constellation of bases includes 34 sites scattered across Africa, with high concentrations in the north and west as well as the Horn of Africa. These regions, not surprisingly, have also seen numerous U.S. drone attacks and low-profile commando raids in recent years. For example, Libya — the site of drone and commando missions, but for which President Donald Trump said he saw no U.S. military role just last year — is nonetheless home to three previously undisclosed outposts.
According to the documents obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act, AFRICOM’s network of bases includes larger “enduring” outposts, consisting of forward operating sites, or FOSes, and cooperative security locations, or CSLs, as well as more numerous austere sites known as contingency locations, or CLs. All of these are located on the African continent except for an FOS on Britain’s Ascension Island in the south Atlantic.
The documents reveal that AFRICOM has three unnamed and previously unreported contingency locations (CLs) near the Libyan coastline, two of which are located in the west of the country while the other is located in the east.
Since 2011, the U.S. has carried out approximately 550 drone strikes targeting al Qaeda and ISIS militants in Libya. During a four-month span in 2016, for example, there were around 300 such attacks, according to U.S. officials. That’s seven times more than the 42 confirmed U.S. drone strikes carried out in Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan combined for all of 2016, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a London-based nonprofit news organization. The Libya attacks have continued under the Trump administration, with the latest acknowledged U.S. drone strike occurring near Al Uwaynat on November 29. AFRICOM’s 2015 posture plan listed only an outpost at Al-Wigh, a Saharan airfield near Libya’s borders with Niger, Chad, and Algeria, located far to the south of the three current CLs.
“U.S. Africa Command’s posture plan is designed to secure strategic access to key locations on a continent characterized by vast distances and limited infrastructure,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the AFRICOM commander, told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, though he didn’t provide specifics on the number of bases. “Our posture network allows forward staging of forces to provide operational flexibility and timely response to crises involving U. S. personnel or interests without creating the optic that U. S. Africa Command is militarizing Africa.”
On November 17th, The Pentagon said U.S. military will withdraw hundreds of troops focused on counter-terrorism operations in Africa over the next several years to support the Pentagon’s increased focus on countering threats from China and Russia.
According to The Intercept, “the proliferation of bases in the Sahel, Libya, and Horn of Africa suggests that AFRICOM’s counter-terrorism missions in those regions of the continent will continue indefinitely.”