The United States is doubling down on its commitment to secure Africa from present and future threats of terrorism, according to Maj. General Andrew M. Rohling, the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa commander and the U.S. Army Europe and Africa deputy commanding general.
Commander Rholing made the assertion last week while answering questions from reporters about African Lion 21, a joint military exercise made up of 7,800 troops mostly from Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal with some NATO troops mixed in.
Although African Lion 20 was canceled the year prior, renewed efforts to continue with joint exercises come in the light of the G7’s commitment to combat the growing spread of terrorism within Africa.
During the G7 summit earlier this month, the world’s leading economies expressed their commitment to ensure stability and economic growth within the region. In addition, Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, addressed the need at the UN Security Council to combat the ever growing spread of terrorism in a post pandemic world.
Maj. General Andrew M. Rohling was asked about the level of inclusion that was allowed by American forces in the African Lion exercises. The explosive question-and-answer session seemed to expose America’s tactics and vulnerabilities in Africa. On numerous occasions, journalists from around the world stressed the need to include Sub-Saharan counties into the African Lion exercises as well.
Journalist Ali Laggoune from Al Bilad TV in Algeria, asked, “Did parts of the African Lion exercise take place in the Sahara region, and if so, what message does this send to neighboring countries such as Algeria?”
Pearl Power from South African radio station FM98.7 repeated the question when he asked why was Morocco selected as the location when some critics might consider countries like Morocco and Tunisia to be disconnected from the rest of Africa.
Such questions highlight a disconnect between what American leadership sees as Africa and what the rest of the world calls Africa.
The fact that the American military leadership decided to involve Sub-Saharan African nations as mere observers (equal to NATO) within their own region is a bleak reminder of what the future may hold for American involvement in the region.
How China is benefiting from U.S. war on terror in Africa
As of now, it is generally understood by political experts that China is benefiting from the security apparatus the US is setting up in Africa. The use of American blood, sweat, and treasure to rid the continent of terrorists like ISIS and Boko Haram has also served to embolden the Chinese industry to further develop in the region. This piggy-backing by the Chinese industry on the back of US security serves China’s long term interests as it can safely conduct business in the region without having to sacrifice its own military forces to do it.
Even more concerning is the fact that while the US is focused on North Africa, the Chinese are focused on Sub-Saharan Africa. Eventually, this may create fault lines in Africa, as countries friendly towards Beijing may begin to have differences with African countries closer to America.
It may be inevitable that as China continues to make inroads into Africa, they will begin to foster relations with those nations which may tilt their geopolitical interests towards Beijing. If the U.S. cannot overcome its fixation to finalize the war on terror, then they may very well risk disconnecting the Sahara nations from Africa as a whole, leaving fault lines open for future Chinese ambitions to exploit.
U.S., China and Russia in Africa
The renewed efforts by the US in the Sahara region are due to its fixation to finalize the war on terror. However, what many see at the moment is the rise of multipolar fault lines as China, Russia, and the US each carve out pieces of Africa for themselves.
In recent years, Russia has renewed its efforts to penetrate into Syria and Iraq for its larger geo-strategic interests. The Middle East and Africa have now become partition grounds for China, Russia, and the US.
It can be said that the US’s decision to include some nations in the African Lion 21 with the addition of NATO, while excluding others, is a coming premonition of the US to test the grand chess board within the region.
Whether this bubbling fault line will lead to future tensions between the US and China may be something to be seen throughout the course of the 21st century.