[dehai-news] (Chicago Tribune) US in 'Cold War Mode' in Africa


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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Wed Nov 19 2008 - 14:32:07 EST


'BACK IN COLD WAR MODE'
African armies receive U.S. expertise, ammo By Paul Salopek | Tribune
correspondent November 18, 2008

TADJOURA, Djibouti—In hundreds of military training programs from the Sahara
to the Seychelles, the U.S. is quietly bolstering Africa's ragtag armies to
fight extremism so the Pentagon won't have to.

Some experts have taken to calling this strategy—not always
admiringly—"America's African Rifles" after an indigenous African unit
organized by Britain to fight its bloody colonial wars of the 19th Century.

Over the past five years, 21 African countries have hosted military
instructors in the biggest-ever U.S. training effort on the continent.

Green Berets have taught troops from impoverished Niger how to parachute
from planes. Ugandans have been shown how to patrol their lakes in
speedboats. And some 39,000 African troops have cycled through U.S.
peacekeeping courses.

Soldiers in the Djibouti branch of this vast effort speak spare, unplaceable
English. They are U.S. military trainers from Guam—Bravo Company, 1/294th
Infantry Battalion.

"We've worked with hundreds of Kenyans, Ethiopians and now Djiboutians,"
said Staff Sgt. Albert Ignacio, 44, a fireplug of a man who had spent just
45 days at home during a three-year stint in Africa. "Africans are hungry
for our help. They have so little. Most of the time, they don't even have
ammo to shoot. We bring it."

In fact, the Pentagon has been bringing ammo and expertise to its African
allies with a single-minded purpose since 9/11. Maintaining such programs
will be one of the goals of AFRICOM. Yet in the Horn of Africa, the use of
such proxy forces has had alarming results.

Critics say the administration's decision to back the Ethiopian invasion of
Somalia in late 2006 has backfired, strengthening Somali extremist groups
and damaging counterterrorism efforts. Today a deadly Islamist insurgency
threatens to overrun the capital, Mogadishu, and topple a frail,
U.S.-supported government. Inviting comparisons with Iraq, the violence has
displaced roughly a million civilians.

Ignacio took a long view of U.S. involvement in Africa.

"We're back in Cold War mode," he said, recalling how he trained Honduran
forces during Ronald Reagan's shadow conflicts with the Soviets in Central
America. "When will we be done here? Not for a long time."

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