About AFRICOM’ withdrawal and foreign military presence
The recently appointed US AFRICOM commander, Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, revealed on July 29, 2020 that AFRICOM will leave its headquarters in Stuttgart Germany: “While it will likely take several months to develop options, consider locations, and come to a decision, the command has started the process.” He added, “We will ensure we continue to support our host nation and African partners and our families and forces throughout.”
We welcome this decision to pull out troops dedicated to Africa. GRILA was among the first on the continent to stand in the way of the expansionist aims of the post-apartheid era, notably with Warren Christopher’s African crisis response force , and to propose our pan-African option, the Africa Pax. GRILA is also the first group that denounced AFRICOM at its inception in 2007, also when it settled in Stuttgart a year later. On May 25, 2013, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of African “independence”, we launched a declaration co-signed by 50 prominent African and German personalities, entitled “AFRICOM go home, neither in Africa nor in Germany” . We have campaigned for the withdrawal of the AFRICOM base as well as against military occupation and aggression on the African continent. In addition, we have almost succeeded in convincing some major parts of the German population that the base violates their own constitution, however the terrorist attack in Berlin jeopardized our peace effort. During this period, Germany became more proactive, and has now taken on a more aggressive stance on the African continent. We remain thankful to German pacifists like Gesellschaft Kultur des Friedens, and some of the progressive German deputies as well as members of civil society, including American activists like the Black Alliance for Peace, who have courageously opposed AFRICOM over the past while.
It is very likely that some of the alleged 1200 US AFRICOM soldiers will be redeployed elsewhere in Europe, in the U.S. European Command and in Special Operations Command Europe as well as in facilities on the African continent. The relocation plan which it might take some time to implement does not mention what may happen with forward bases such as the Ramstein Air Base, a strategic hub for operations in the Middle East and Africa that is headquarters to the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa; the U.S. Special Operations Command Africa or the Theater Special Operations Command located in Stuttgart. We ask all progressive Americans to pressure their government to close these imperialist bases and to dismantle the so-called US strategic control of the African continent.
The U.S. defense budget exceeds the combined budget of the seven countries that follow it, like an alpha male in a wolf pack, but in addition this pack of US allies accounts for 75 percent of the world’s military spending. Bilateral relations between the US and Germany are difficult these days, and, in June 2020, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, resigned. There were issues such as Germany’s gold which was repatriated from its American British and French allies, and Germany’s refusal to spend 2% of its GDP in Western collective defense all of which probably served to convince the Trump administration to redeploy its troops in other strategic areas of American expansionism.
However, the extension of the American system and the cooptation of our military regimes are ultimately of greater significance. We should not underestimate the presence of France, which has assets linked to secret defense agreements conditional to neo-colonial independence and the militaristic connivance of business networks. The introduction of other players like Russia, Germany, China or Turkey also demands more scrutiny. There is a continuous escalation of insecurity in Africa because of the presence of foreign forces.
As predicted in the film AFRICOM go home, foreign bases out of Africa , an independent study from the University of Maryland (National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism) illustrates the dramatic increase in transnational attacks since the establishment of AFRICOM. France and the United States bear the burden of military responsibility for this state of affairs. On March 19, 2011, AFRICOM launched Operation Odyssey Dawn, the first phase of a war, which was completed by France, in overthrowing the government in Tripoli. The sinister result is the dislocation of Libya amidst subversive activities by France, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Emirates, jihadist forces, Syrian mercenaries, Libyan tribes, Sudanese and Chadian ethnic militia groups, and all kinds of trafficking. This destabilization in the Sahelistan model extends to Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, creating dislocation, as far as Mozambique, in the sub-region.
US administrations change but the system remains. Since the US is a great power that tries to temper its decline by employing cunning and force, the African continent is now riddled with drones and military installations that, for the moment, make the presence of a mega-base useless. NATO and AFRICOM actually need no more than their current senior military liaison officer acting as a point of contact with the African Union. The African Union’s attitude at the moment is still pathetic. It has overseen the placing of national armies under the control of AFRICOM and NATO forces. It lives under the constant threat of seeing the AFRICOM base move to Africa. It also accepts the resurgence of French and other military interventions and even condones recently-created military bases under Japan and China in Djibouti, Germany in Niger, Turkey, and Israel influences. All of these developments culminate in jeopardizing any real African integration. The prospect of an AFRICOM base in Africa, although still rejected by most countries on the continent, is attractive to a few. It has indeed become a fait accompli as the strategy of indoctrination, encirclement and diffusion progresses across the continent and as hotbeds of tension are maintained. Indeed, AFRICOM and NATO’s arrangements, as well as unilateral initiatives by some NATO countries such as France, are undertaken in the exclusive interest of the countries of the Core and their comprador allies in Africa. The sole purpose of these bases is to secure, in the long term and for their own purposes, our raw materials and our strategic space as a counter to the appetite of the powerful emerging BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and the prospect of our own unity.
None of the NATO countries needs such a large military base in Africa. Not only do they have several bases and facilities, but they go wherever they want on the continent, because of bilateral clauses and other related agreements. Most of the armies of African countries have been co-opted by the forces of imperialist states, their private militias and other security companies. These forces, moreover, are fueling, directly or indirectly, the terrorist peril that thrives in the breeding ground of underdevelopment.
The placing of our national armies, or what remains of them, under the command and supervision of foreign imperial forces, and AFRICOM spreading in Africa, as well as the resurgence of French and other military interventions, are undermining any real African integration. Africa is gradually being forcibly brought under the umbrella of NATO. AFRICOM is helping NATO and vice versa without any discernible nuances. Both AFRICOM and NATO are crisscrossing the continent, practicing a sophisticated policy that goes back a long way. The impediments to independence and the overthrow of progressive regimes; the failure to contain the fight against apartheid; the errors of US policy in Somalia and Sudan and its dealings with El Qaeda as well as the jihadist attacks before those of September 11 added to the so-called anti-terrorist policy that followed, are some of the significant historical events of this era.
Unfortunately, Africa is still subservient to imperialism. The integrated nebula of transnational firms, mainly American and Canadian, imposes its iniquitous economic conditions on African countries and “legalizes” the plundering of mineral resources to the detriment of Africa’s peoples.
However, the emergence of more dynamic African social formations, the bulimic appetite of China and India for resources, the arrival on the scene of no less important players such as Brazil, Qatar or Israel, are blurring the situation.
The failure of neo-liberalism, the consequences of three decades of monetary liberalization and the dismantling of areas of sovereignty are giving rise to a new logic of multipolar partnerships. It’s a South/South type of logic, which changes the geopolitical, economic and cultural terrain. Some countries’ debts are being wiped out; raw materials are being exchanged for infrastructure projects or business opportunities without imposing conditionalities, while OECD official development assistance is declining. In fact, it is now less than the remittances and various monetary transfers that African immigrants send home from abroad. This worries the economically weak but geopolitically dominant powers. They are therefore playing the military card to maintain their pre-eminence.
So, there is now a constellation of facilities in our countries rubbing shoulders with NATO, AFRICOM, logistics intelligence networks side-by side with the total co-option of our armies and political leaderships. With technological dependency and voluntary servitude of entire depoliticized or misinformed sections of our modern skirmishers, we are less prepared to resist these complex phenomena than when we were able to resist colonization in the twentieth century. Now Chinese market socialism is also being hit by bourgeois tendencies and the impulses of mandarin oligarchs concerned only with their own interests. But the oligarchs are nothing without the Chinese state. There is a delicate balance of power and a deafening internal struggle going on in China. If the pro-business trend triumphs, Africa will have to guard against what will then become an assertive social imperialism. For the time being, apart from economic hegemony and its voracity for raw materials, under pretext of defending its economic and commercial interests in the Gulf of Aden, China has just followed Japan’s military model. In Djibouti, on top of the bases of the French, Americans and Japanese, China has a logistical space in Obock, which is currently under American control. Whether it’s there or more likely somewhere else, it sets a dangerous precedent. The industrial free zone signed with Djibouti and the security of the new silk road on African soil raise up the geopolitical covetousness of imperialism on the continent another notch. At that time, China is more likely to join the centres of imperialism and in so doing violate the principles of its non-aligned and south-south discourse. China, until that occurs, could be seen as mainly defending what is inside its walls, while cognizant of its increased power and what fear that is causing around the world. China therefore seems anxious to reassure both imperialism and the countries of Africa, which for the time being can still benefit from this south-south exchange when intelligently practiced with the interests of the people coming first.
Given China’s insatiable appetite for mining and trade, the rapid changes brought about by the mutations of its bourgeoisie and the inflation of the hegemonic threat it might represent on the world stage, as trumpeted by the United States, Europe and Japan, it becomes difficult to read the future of its use of bilateral cooperation. The AFRICOM go home film shows precisely that having lost the economic battle to China, the countries of the triad are forced to impose the security and geopolitical agenda in order to gain access to their “safe haven”. China has meanwhile opened a military base in Africa, and the battle rages between those who still believe in internationalist cooperation in China and those who want to close this parenthesis and opt for greater liberalization of market socialism – or social-capitalism – and reinvigorate an exhausted capitalism.
In the Sahel, the French President is both concerned about French human and material losses, as well as the disaffection of popular support in the face of the duplicity of French policies and his desire to build a new international coalition in the Sahel. He has inherited a militaristic policy of rival administrations entangled in paternalistic visions of France overseas, combined with his own disparate Franco-African networks.
The opaque or unofficial networks feed each other macabrely which makes it possible to manage the quagmire that is the status quo. At the same time, those networks are also essential to the survival of the regimes of French-speaking Africa, and one can recall, for example, the exfiltration of Blaise Compaoré towards the Ivory Coast.
It makes sense for US and NATO forces to count on the allegiance of their African allies, to help silence social discontent and to redistribute so-called democratic roles. This has been the case since the end of the 19th century, but is now taking place in a more complex way with refinements of the geostrategy of the 21st century and the transnational networks of destabilization adding nuance to the situation. African countries are no longer mere pawns. They also have their own agenda and are not passive in the wider game of NATO, AFRICOM and other extra-African and transnational state actors.
The war on terror has done everything but get rid of terrorism. The alliances and tactics used by the USA and France serve their interests and nothing will change that. They are doing everything possible to counter their loss of influence or credibility and are determined to protect their interests differently by dividing up the risks of their past policies.
It is up to us pan-Africans to make a lucid analysis of our own interests. It is clear that today our allies, during this global war, are besieging us and ‘assisting’ us at the same time. We can also see that our countries, which have been bruised by market fundamentalism and the disengagement of the State from the economy within ridiculous margins of sovereignty, cannot be complacent about any aid offered, especially military and strategic aid. Libya stands as a stark illustration of the situation, in both its pre-colonial and colonial phase, in the assassination of Gaddafi and also in the ongoing war and partition of the country.
 Warren Christopher: “[…] We would like to develop that force for use in various ways. Primarily, as a humanitarian concept at the present time, but also if the forces are there, trained, integrated and able to work together we have other options that we are completely deprived of, at the present time. George Moose, the assistant secretary for African affairs, has reported that his initial trip to Africa provided encouraging indications that African countries are prepared to supply the troops. We will consult with our European allies to see if they are prepared to help by providing the logistics and financial support […] at the same time, in each of the countries where I’ll be meeting with leaders, I’m going to be talking about the ACRF, urging them not only to contribute themselves, but also to urge other African leaders to participate”.
 Africa Pax, http://www.grila.org/index_grila.php?gri=org&org=231234&lang=fr Widerstand, Revolutionen, Renaissance: Stimmen zum sozialen Aufbruch in Afrika, Africavenir International, Berlin, p189
 The advocacy and awareness-raising work of the declaration Africom go home has been translated into 9 languages, which you can find on the website of the GRILA (Research and Initiative Group for the Liberation of Africa).
 Africom Go Home, Foreign bases out of Africa https://youtu.be/-HLjrzVHWPM