Report: SOCOM Has More Troops In Africa Than Anywhere Except The Middle East

news
A U.S. Army Special Forces weapons sergeant speaks to a group of Nigerian soldiers prior to the start of a buddy team movement class during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017.
Photo via U.S. Army/Spc. Zayid Ballesteros

There are now more U.S. Special Operations Command personnel deployed to Africa than anywhere outside the Middle East. That's just one revelation from a newly unearthed 2016 internal military report that paints Africa as a possible future source of instability greater than "the threat that the United States currently faces from conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria."


Nearly one-fifth of U.S. Special Operations Command personnel deployed overseas are on missions in Africa, running almost a hundred active missions a day in 20 countries, according to documents and data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Vice News's Nick TurseThose figures represent a 17-fold increase over the share of SOCOM deployments to Africa a decade ago.

The figures come from the end of the Obama administration, but the newly minted Trump administration shows no signs of slowing U.S. interventions in Africa. Recent domestic news headlines have highlighted the military’s rising operational tempo on the continent, including U.S. troop movements to the Horn of Africa, operations to find notorious Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, and American casualties in the fight against al Shabab, an al Qaeda-aligned jihadi group based in East Africa.

But the 14-page strategic planning guidance obtained by Turse sheds more light on SOCOM’s broad aims across the world’s largest continent.

“The United States is not at war in Africa, but our African partners are,” Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, the head of Africa Special Operations Command (SOCAFRICA), wrote in the October 2016 guidance. Bolduc’s report “paints a picture of reality on the ground in Africa today and what it could be 30 years from now,” Turse explains:

That picture is bleak.

“Africa’s challenges could create a threat that surpasses the threat that the United States currently faces from conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria,” Bolduc warned. He went on to cite a laundry list of challenges with which he and his personnel must contend: ever-expanding illicit networks, terrorist safe havens, attempts to subvert government authority, a steady stream of new recruits and resources.

Terror attacks have multiplied throughout Africa over the past decade, and violent extremist organizations across the continent “have been some of the most lethal on the planet,” Bolduc writes. “We believe the situation in Africa will get worse without our assistance.”

Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and other specops personnel have a major role to play in that assistance. “The problem we assist AFRICOM in solving is countering violent extremism in order to provide time for African partners to expand good governance and self-secure,” Bolduc writes. “This is by no means an easy task due to the extent of destabilization throughout Africa.”

If the trend lines continue and more U.S. troops — conventional or otherwise — deploy to Africa, FOIAs like Turse’s may be a key conduit of information for the American public, since the White House and Pentagon in March decided to stop disclosing major troop movements publicly.

Even with reports like these, fresher data remains hard to come by. Vice News “reached out to SOCAFRICA and U.S. Africa Command for clarification” on the troop numbers in Bolduc’s guidance, Turse writes.

“[E]mail return receipts show an AFRICOM spokesperson ‘read’ three such requests,” he writes, “but the command did not offer a reply.”

"Just walk it off," is typically the go-to solution for a scrape, a light sprain, or some other superficial injury.

Read More Show Less

Syrians threw potatoes and yelled at United States armored vehicles on Monday as U.S. troops drove through the northeast border town of Qamishli, after Trump vowed to pull U.S. troops from Syria.

Read More Show Less

(Reuters) - In the summer of 2004, U.S. soldier Greg Walker drove to a checkpoint just outside of Baghdad's Green Zone with his Kurdish bodyguard, Azaz. When he stepped out of his SUV, three Iraqi guards turned him around at gunpoint.

As he walked back to the vehicle, he heard an AK-47 being racked and a hail of cursing in Arabic and Kurdish. He turned to see Azaz facing off with the Iraqis.

"Let us through or I'll kill you all," Walker recalled his Kurdish bodyguard telling the Iraqi soldiers, who he described as "terrified."

He thought to himself: "This is the kind of ally and friend I want."

Read More Show Less

The winner of an Army competition searching for innovative technology for troops would let soldiers see their enemies through walls.

Read More Show Less

The U.S. military has pulled about 2,000 troops from Afghanistan over the past year, the top U.S. and coalition military commander said Monday.

"As we work in Afghanistan with our partners, we're always looking to optimize the force," Army Gen. Austin Miller said at a news conference in Kabul. "Unbeknownst to the public, as part of our optimization … we reduced our authorized strength by 2,000 here."

"I'm confident that we have the right capabilities to: 1. Reach our objectives as well as continue train, advise, and assist throughout the country," Miller continued.

The New York Times was first to report that the U.S. military had reduced its troop strength in Afghanistan even though peace talks with the Taliban are on hiatus. The number of troops in the country has gone from about 15,000 to 13,000, a U.S. official told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity.

Separately, the U.S. military is considering drawing down further to 8,600 troops in Afghanistan as part of a broader political agreement, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Oct. 19.

"We've always said, that it'll be conditions based, but we're confident that we can go down to 8,600 without affecting our [counterterrorism] operations, if you will," Esper said while enroute to Afghanistan.

So far, no order has been given to draw down to 8,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. official said.

After President Donald Trump cancelled peace talks with the Taliban, which had been expected to take place at Camp David around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. military has increased both air and ground attacks.

In September, U.S. military aircraft dropped more ordnance in Afghanistan than they have since October 2010, according to Air Force statistics.

However, the president has also repeatedly vowed to bring U.S. troops home from the post 9/11 wars. Most recently, he approved withdrawing most U.S. troops from Syria.

On Monday, Esper said the situations in Syria and Afghanistan are very different, so the Afghans and other U.S. allies "should not misinterpret our actions in the recent week or so with regard to Syria."