Ellen Brown can always be counted on to warn us of the nefarious plans of the banksters.
This is not even beyond belief any more.
November 22nd, 2015
In uncertain times, “cash is king,” but central bankers are systematically moving to eliminate that option. Is it really about stimulating the economy? Or is there some deeper, darker threat afoot?
. . . Four European central banks – the European Central Bank, the Swiss National Bank, Sweden’s Riksbank, and Denmark’s Nationalbank – have now imposed negative interest rates on the reserves they hold for commercial banks; and discussion has turned to whether it’s time to pass those costs on to consumers. The Bank of Japan and the Federal Reserve are still at ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy), but several Fed officials have also begun calling for NIRP (negative rates).
The stated justification for this move is to stimulate “demand” by forcing consumers to withdraw their money and go shopping with it. When an economy is struggling, it is standard practice for a central bank to cut interest rates, making saving less attractive. This is supposed to boost spending and kick-start an economic recovery.
That is the theory, but central banks have already pushed the prime rate to zero, and still their economies are languishing. To the uninitiated observer, that means the theory is wrong and needs to be scrapped. But not to our intrepid central bankers, who are now experimenting with pushing rates below zero.
The problem with imposing negative interest on savers, as explained in the UK Telegraphe, is that “there’s a limit, what economists called the ‘zero lower bound’. Cut rates too deeply, and savers would end up facing negative returns. In that case, this could encourage people to take their savings out of the bank and hoard them in cash. This could slow, rather than boost, the economy.”
Again, to the ordinary observer, this would seem to signal that negative interest rates won’t work and the approach needs to be abandoned. But not to our undaunted central bankers, who have chosen instead to plug this hole in their leaky theory by moving to eliminate cash as an option. If your only choice is to keep your money in a digital account in a bank and spend it with a bank card or credit card or checks, negative interest can be imposed with impunity. This is already happening in Sweden, and other countries are close behind. As reported on Wolfstreet.com:
The War on Cash is advancing on all fronts. One region that has hogged the headlines with its war against physical currency is Scandinavia. Sweden became the first country to enlist its own citizens as largely willing guinea pigs in a dystopian economic experiment: negative interest rates in a cashless society. As Credit Suisse reports, no matter where you go or what you want to purchase, you will find a small ubiquitous sign saying “Vi hanterar ej kontanter” (“We don’t accept cash”)
You may be left uncomfortable by Stephen Lendman's reporting, but you will never be left unmoved.
November 22nd, 2015
Most American are so out-of-touch with reality, they’ll believe most everything government sources or media scoundrels claim. Propaganda is effective because it works.
Media reports now hype videos attributed to ISIS, warning of impending US and European attacks. They feature militant-looking characters threatening to strike New York, Paris, Rome and the White House.
. . . Another video threatens Times Square, featuring it prominently in footage along with other midtown New York locations - with a militant-looking character appearing to strap on an explosive belt device, perhaps making sure he’s carrying his passport for easy ID.
ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra are US creations - armed, funded, trained and directed for use as US imperial proxy foot soldiers. The obvious question media scoundrels don’t ask or answer is why would these elements attack their paymasters - America, Britain, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other rogue partners in high crimes against humanity.
Assume the videos are fakes unless proved otherwise, no verification forthcoming so far, nor is any expected. Any individual or group can make statements or videos claiming, hyping or warning anything.
Ones hyped by screaming scoundrel media headlines are best ignored or challenged to prove authenticity or report nothing.
America’s only real threat is homegrown, residing in government offices in Washington, at the Pentagon, and other locations connected to the nation’s imperial agenda - featuring endless wars of aggression on humanity and growing internal tyranny.
Fear-mongering is longstanding rogue state strategy - hyped by media scoundrels gets most people to believe what they should ignore, along with condemning state-sponsored ruthlessness, humanity’s real threat, not ISIS.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III.
If you think trying to understand the facts about the USA/USA/USA's "owners" or its "Deep State" is a lot of wasted effort (or hooey), you'll be unimpressed with the documentation found in the essays below.
But if you'd like to know exactly what's going on in the new rush to war and the plans to use tax money for the further enrichment of the very, very, very rich (who pay little of any taxes) already . . . .
As we shall see in the following pages, one of the important sources of covert agencies’ power is their ability to falsify their own records, without fear of outside correction. Does this ability to rewrite their own history empower them to affect, if not control, the history of the rest of society? I believe the evidence in this book will justify a limited answer to this question: covert agencies, and the CIA in particular, were powerful enough to control and defuse a possible crisis in US political legitimacy. They did so by reinforcing an unsustainable claim: Oswald killed the President, and he acted alone.
The CIA and the International Drug Traffic
But the power of the CIA to influence history became even greater when, as we shall see, they acted in concert with forces allied to the powerful international drug traffic. Most people are unaware of the size of this unrecorded drug economy. In 2008 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated the profits from the global drug trade to be $352 billion; and reported that the funds from laundering illicit drugs, now often estimated to be third largest commodity in international trade, “became an important factor” in preventing a number of major banks from collapsing during the 2008 economic meltdown.
While estimates of the unrecorded drug traffic remain questionable, it is obvious that this traffic is large enough to be a major factor in both the economic and political considerations of government, even while it does not form part of recorded economic statistics. The unrecorded, illicit, but nonetheless important shadow economy is so large, and so powerful, that often governments have no choice but to plan to manage it, even before attempting to suppress it.
There is a third factor contributing to the invisible alliance of the CIA, the independently wealthy, and the banks that cater to them. Informed observers of American politics have more than once commented to me that most of the hundred wealthiest people in the US know each other, and in addition often have connections to both the CIA and to organized crime.
There is no shortage of anecdotal examples: James Angleton of CIA Counterintelligence delivering the sole eulogy at the small private funeral of Howard Hughes, or Joseph Kennedy Sr. being a point-holder in the same casino (the Cal-Neva) as Chicago mob figure Sam Giancana. Perhaps more relevant to the milieu of the JFK assassination is the example of Clint Murchison, Sr. Murchison paid for the horse-racing holidays of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at the same time as he sold stakes in his investments to mob figures like Jerry Catena, and enjoyed political influence in Mexico.
These connections are no accident. More often than not, as we shall see in examining the career of William Pawley, the extremely wealthy acquired their resources by ignoring or bending the rules of society, not by observing them. In corrupting politicians, or in bypassing them to secure unauthorized foreign intercessions, both the mob and the CIA can be useful allies.
In addition drug profits need to be laundered, and banks can derive a significant percentage of their profits by laundering them, or otherwise bending or breaking the rules of their host countries. Citibank came under Congressional investigation after having secretly moved $80 million to $100 million for Raul Salinas de Gortari, brother of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas.
As a rule the power of the biggest drug traffickers is not autonomous, but depends on their government connections; and the top trafficker in any country is usually the one with the best government connections. This means not just that the government is protecting certain drug traffickers, but also that these drug traffickers will have an interest in protecting the government.
I believe that an example of this is the collaboration we shall examine in Mexico, between the CIA and the corrupt DFS, to influence history by presenting false stories about Oswald. But it would be very wrong to think of the CIA-DFS collaboration as a simple alliance.
One of the most crime-ridden CIA assets we know of is the Mexican DFS, which the US helped to create. From its foundation in the 1940s, the DFS, like other intelligence agencies in Latin America, was deeply involved with international drug-traffickers. By the 1980s, possession of a DFS card was recognized by DEA agents as a “license to traffic;” DFS agents rode security for drug truck convoys, and used their police radios to check of signs of American police surveillance.
Eventually the DFS became so identified with the criminal drug-trafficking organizations it managed and protected, that in the 1980s the DFS was (at least officially) closed down. Thus the CIA-DFS alliance was at best an uneasy one, with conflicting goals. The CIA’s concern was to manage and limit the drug traffic, while the DFS sought to manage and expand it.
Management of the drug traffic takes a variety of forms: from denial of this important power source to competing powers (the first and most vital priority), to exploitation of it to strengthen the existing state. There now exists abundant documentation that, at least since World War II, the US government has exploited the drug traffic to finance and staff covert operations abroad. Perhaps the most conspicuous example is the massive paramilitary army organized and equipped by the CIA in Laos in the 1960s, for which drugs were the chief source of support. This alliance between the CIA and drug-financed forces has since been repeated in Afghanistan (1979), Central America (1982-87), and most recently Kosovo (1998).
It is now fairly common, even in mainstream books, . For example Elaine Shannon, in a book written with DEA assistance, speaks as follows of the CIA-DFS alliance:
DFS officials worked closely with the Mexico City station of the US Central Intelligence Agency and the attaché of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The DFS passed along photographs and wiretapped conversations of suspected intelligence officers and provocateurs stationed in the large Soviet and Cuban missions in Mexico City…. The DFS also helped the CIA track Central American leftists who passed through the Mexican capital.
But it is important to remember that such alliances were often first formed in order to deny drug assets to the enemy. In Mexico as in Asia, just as in the US “Operation Underworld” on the docks of New York City, the US government first began its drug collaborations out of fear that drug networks, if not given USG protection, would fall under that of some other foreign power.
“Operation Underworld,” like its Mexican equivalent, began after signs that the Sicilian Mafia in New York, like the drug networks Latin drug networks of Central and South America, were being exploited by Axis intelligence services. The crash program of assistance to Kuomintang (KMT) drug networks in post-war Southeast Asia was motivated in part by a similar fear, that these networks would come under the sphere of mainland Chinese influence.
Thus it would be wrong to portray the CIA-drug alliance, particularly in Mexico, as one between like-minded allies. The cooperation was grounded in an original, deeper suspicion; and, especially because dealing with criminals, the fear of betrayal was never absent. This was particularly true of the DFS when guided by Luis Echeverría, a nationalist who in the late 1960s (despite being a CIA asset, with the cryptonym LITEMPO-8) developed stronger relations between Mexico and Cuba. Some have questioned whether the increased Cuban-Mexican relations under his presidency (1970-76) were grounded partly in the drug traffic, overseen by his brother-in-law.
Even in 1963 the fear of offending Mexico’s (and Echeverría’s) sensibilities led the CIA to cancel physical surveillance of a Soviet suspect (Valeriy Kostikov); the CIA feared detection by the DFS, who also had Kostikov under surveillance. By the 1970s there were allegations that the CIA and/or FBI were using the drug traffic to introduce guns into Mexico, in order to destabilize the left-leaning Echeverría government.
This is perhaps the moment to point out another special feature of the US-DFS relationship in Mexico. Both the CIA and FBI (as Shannon noted, and as we shall see) had their separate connections to the DFS and its intercept program. The US effort to wrest the drug traffic from the Nazi competition dated back to World War II, when the FBI still had responsibility for foreign intelligence operations in Latin America.
Winston Scott, the CIA Station Chief in Mexico City, was a veteran of this wartime overseas FBI network; and he may still have had an allegiance to Hoover while nominally working for the CIA. We shall see that on a key policy matter, the proposed torture of Oswald’s contact Silvia Durán, Scott allied himself with the FBI Legal Attache and the Ambassador, against the expressed disapproval of CIA Headquarters.
What is particularly arresting about this CIA-mob nexus that produced false Oswald stories, is its suggestive overlay with those responsible for CIA-mob assassination plots. Key figures in the latter group, such as William Harvey and David Morales, did not conceal their passionate hatred for the Kennedys. It is time to focus on the CIA-mob connection in Mexico as a milieu which will help explain, not just the assassination cover-up, but the assassination itself.
The Exemption of the CIA from the Rule of Law
From other sources, we learn more about the autonomy of the CIA. It was almost by accident that the public learned of a secret agreement, in violation of a Congressional statute, whereby the CIA was exempted from reporting crimes of which it was aware to the Justice Department. This agreement was so secret that for almost two decades successive Attorneys General were unaware of it. (My understanding is that the agreement arose from a “flap” in Thailand, where a CIA/OSO officer who was about to report on the local drug traffic was murdered by another from the OPC, who was working with it.)
Although this agreement was temporarily ended under the Ford Administration, a new secret Memo of Understanding under Reagan again lifted the obligation to report the criminal acts of CIA assets who were drug-traffickers. I have argued elsewhere that these covert agreements have been significant factors in augmenting the flows of heroin and cocaine into this country.
Obviously a memo from the Reagan Administration is of little relevance to the Kennedy assassination. But it is of extreme relevance that a prior agreement was in force from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, exempting the CIA from a statutory requirement to report any criminal activity by any of its employees or assets.
This agreement, drawn up under Eisenhower and eventually rescinded under Gerald Ford, was so secret that the Attorneys General under JFK and LBJ (including Robert Kennedy) were never informed of it. We can assume however that the agreement was known to those CIA officers who suppressed an important clue that would have led to their Soviet intercept program, and thereby obstructed a proper investigation of President Kennedy’s murder.
This exemption from a statutory obligation might be considered anomalous, except that in one form or another the CIA has enjoyed such exemptions for most of its history.
 Peter Dale Scott, The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, And The Deep Politics Of War (New York: Skyhorse, 2013), 171.
 Peter Dale Scott, Oswald, Mexico, and Deep Politics (New York: Skyhorse, 2013)._ _ _ _ _ _ _
 There are previous examples where the actual events of American history are at odds with the public record. Allen Dulles represented the conventional view of John Wilkes Booth when he represented Booth to the Warren Commission as a loner, ignoring both the facts of the case and what is known now of Booth’s secret links to the Confederate Secret Service (Scott, Deep Politics, 295; cf. Tidwell, William A., with James O. Hall and David Winfred Gaddy, Come Retribution: the Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln. [Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1988]).
The following essay brings up once again that unpleasant (Iraqi) nation-building question: how in the world were these structures built and what in the world were the specs for excellence in all this Africa building?
Nov 21, 2015
In the shadows of what was once called the “dark continent,” a scramble has come and gone. If you heard nothing about it, that was by design. But look hard enough and — north to south, east to west — you’ll find the fruits of that effort: a network of bases, compounds, and other sites whose sum total exceeds the number of nations on the continent.
For a military that has stumbled from Iraq to Afghanistan and suffered setbacks from Libya to Syria, it’s a rare can-do triumph. In remote locales, behind fences and beyond the gaze of prying eyes, the U.S. military has built an extensive archipelago of African outposts, transforming the continent, experts say, into a laboratory for a new kind of war.
So how many U.S. military bases are there in Africa? It’s a simple question with a simple answer. For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) gave a stock response: one. Camp Lemonnier in the tiny, sun-bleached nation of Djibouti was America’s only acknowledged “base” on the continent. It wasn’t true, of course, because there were camps, compounds, installations, and facilities elsewhere, but the military leaned hard on semantics.
Take a look at the Pentagon’s official list of bases, however, and the number grows. The 2015 report on the Department of Defense’s global property portfolio lists Camp Lemonnier and three other deep-rooted sites on or near the continent: U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3, a medical research facility in Cairo, Egypt, that was established in 1946; Ascension Auxiliary Airfield, a spacecraft tracking station and airfield located 1,000 miles off the coast of West Africa that has been used by the U.S. since 1957; and warehouses at the airport and seaport in Mombasa, Kenya, that were built in the 1980s.
That’s only the beginning, not the end of the matter. For years, various reporters have shed light on hush-hush outposts — most of them built, upgraded, or expanded since 9/11 — dotting the continent, including so-called cooperative security locations (CSLs). Earlier this year, AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez disclosed that there were actually 11 such sites. Again, devoted AFRICOM-watchers knew that this, too, was just the start of a larger story, but when I asked Africa Command for a list of bases, camps and other sites, as I periodically have done, I was treated like a sap.
“In all, AFRICOM has access to 11 CSLs across Africa. Of course, we have one major military facility on the continent: Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti,” Anthony Falvo, AFRICOM’s Public Affairs chief, told me. Falvo was peddling numbers that both he and I know perfectly well are, at best, misleading. “It’s one of the most troubling aspects of our military policy in Africa, and overseas generally, that the military can’t be, and seems totally resistant to being, honest and transparent about what it’s doing,” says David Vine, author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World.
Research by "TomDispatch" indicates that in recent years the U.S. military has, in fact, developed a remarkably extensive network of more than 60 outposts and access points in Africa.
Some are currently being utilized, some are held in reserve, and some may be shuttered. These bases, camps, compounds, port facilities, fuel bunkers, and other sites can be found in at least 34 countries — more than 60% of the nations on the continent — many of them corrupt, repressive states with poor human rights records. The U.S. also operates “Offices of Security Cooperation and Defense Attaché Offices in approximately 38 [African] nations,” according to Falvo, and has struck close to 30 agreements to use international airports in Africa as refueling centers.
There is no reason to believe that even this represents a complete accounting of America’s growing archipelago of African outposts. Although it’s possible that a few sites are being counted twice due to AFRICOM’s failure to provide basic information or clarification, the list TomDispatch has developed indicates that the U.S. military has created a network of bases that goes far beyond what AFRICOM has disclosed to the American public, let alone to Africans.
AFRICOM’s Base Bonanza
When AFRICOM became an independent command in 2008, Camp Lemonnier was reportedly still one of the few American outposts on the continent. In the years since, the U.S. has embarked on nothing short of a building boom — even if the command is loath to refer to it in those terms. As a result, it’s now able to carry out increasing numbers of overt and covert missions, from training exercises to drone assassinations.
“AFRICOM, as a new command, is basically a laboratory for a different kind of warfare and a different way of posturing forces,” says Richard Reeve, the director of the Sustainable Security Programme at the Oxford Research Group, a London-based think tank. “Apart from Djibouti, there’s no significant stockpiling of troops, equipment, or even aircraft. There are a myriad of ‘lily pads’ or small forward operating bases… so you can spread out even a small number of forces over a very large area and concentrate those forces quite quickly when necessary.”
Indeed, U.S. staging areas, cooperative security locations, forward operating locations (FOLs), and other outposts — many of them involved in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities and Special Operations missions — have been built (or built up) in Burkina Faso,Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon,Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda. A 2011 report by Lauren Ploch, an analyst in African affairs with the Congressional Research Service, also mentioned U.S. military access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, and Zambia. AFRICOM failed to respond to scores of requests by this reporter for further information about its outposts and related matters, but an analysis of open source information, documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and other records show a persistent, enduring, and growing U.S. presence on the continent.
“A cooperative security location is just a small location where we can come in… It would be what you would call a very austere location with a couple of warehouses that has things like: tents, water, and things like that,” explained AFRICOM’s Rodriguez. As he implies, the military doesn’t consider CSLs to be “bases,” but whatever they might be called, they are more than merely a few tents and cases of bottled water.
Designed to accommodate about 200 personnel, with runways suitable for C-130 transport aircraft, the sites are primed for conversion from temporary, bare-bones facilities into something more enduring. At least three of them in Senegal, Ghana, and Gabon are apparently designed to facilitate faster deployment for a rapid reaction unit with a mouthful of a moniker: Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa (SPMAGTF-CR-AF). Its forces are based in Morón, Spain, and Sigonella, Italy, but are focused on Africa. They rely heavily on MV-22 Ospreys, tilt-rotor aircraft that can take-off, land, and hover like helicopters, but fly with the speed and fuel efficiency of a turboprop plane.
This combination of manpower, access, and technology has come to be known in the military by the moniker “New Normal.” Birthed in the wake of the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the New Normal effectively allows the U.S. military quick access 400 miles inland from any CSL or, as Richard Reeve notes, gives it “a reach that extends to just about every country in West and Central Africa.”
The concept was field-tested as South Sudan plunged into civil war and 160 Marines and sailors from Morón were forward deployed to Djibouti in late 2013. Within hours, a contingent from that force was sent to Uganda and, in early 2014, in conjunction with another rapid reaction unit, dispatched to South Sudan to evacuate 20 people from the American embassy in Juba. Earlier this year, SPMAGTF-CR-AF ran trials at its African staging areas including the CSL in Libreville, Gabon, deploying nearly 200 Marines and sailors along with four Ospreys, two C-130s, and more than 150,000 pounds of materiel.
A similar test run was carried out at the Senegal CSL located at Dakar-Ouakam Air Base, which can also host 200 Marines and the support personnel necessary to sustain and transport them. “What the CSL offers is the ability to forward-stage our forces to respond to any type of crisis,” Lorenzo Armijo, an operations officer with SPMAGTF-CR-AF, told a military reporter. “That crisis can range in the scope of military operations from embassy reinforcement to providing humanitarian assistance.”
Another CSL, mentioned in a July 2012 briefing by U.S. Army Africa, is located in Entebbe, Uganda. From there, according to a "Washington Post" investigation, U.S. contractors have flown surveillance missions using innocuous-looking turboprop airplanes. “The AFRICOM strategy is to have a very light touch, a light footprint, but nevertheless facilitate special forces operations or ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] detachments over a very wide area,” Reeve says. “To do that they don’t need very much basing infrastructure, they need an agreement to use a location, basic facilities on the ground, a stockpile of fuel, but they also can rely on private contractors to maintain a number of facilities so there aren’t U.S. troops on the ground.”
The Outpost Archipelago
AFRICOM ignored my requests for further information on CSLs and for the designations of other outposts on the continent, but according to a 2014 article in "Army Sustainment" on “Overcoming Logistics Challenges in East Africa,” there are also “at least nine forward operating locations, or FOLs.” A 2007 Defense Department news release referred to an FOL in Charichcho, Ethiopia. The U.S. military also utilizes “Forward Operating Location Kasenyi” in Kampala, Uganda. A 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office mentioned forward operating locations in Isiolo and Manda Bay, both in Kenya.
Camp Simba in Manda Bay has, in fact, seen significant expansion in recent years. In 2013, Navy Seabees, for example, worked 24-hour shifts to extend its runway to enable larger aircraft like C-130s to land there, while other projects were initiated to accommodate greater numbers of troops in the future, including increased fuel and potable water storage, and more latrines. The base serves as a home away from home for Navy personnel and Army Green Berets among other U.S. troops and, as recently revealed at the "Intercept," plays an integral role in the secret drone assassination program aimed at militants in neighboring Somalia as well as in Yemen.
Drones have played an increasingly large role in this post-9/11 build-up in Africa. MQ-1 Predators have, for instance, been based in Chad’s capital,N’Djamena, while their newer, larger, more far-ranging cousins, MQ-9 Reapers, have been flown out of Seychelles International Airport.
As of June 2012, according to the Intercept, two contractor-operated drones, one Predator and one Reaper, were based in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, while a detachment with one Scan Eagle (a low-cost drone used by the Navy) and a remotely piloted helicopter known as an MQ-8 Fire Scout operated off the coast of East Africa. The U.S. also recently began setting up a base in Cameroon for unarmed Predators to be used in the battle against Boko Haram militants.
In February 2013, the U.S. also began flying Predator drones out of Niger’s capital, Niamey. A year later, Captain Rick Cook, then chief of U.S. Africa Command’s Engineer Division, mentioned the potential for a new “base-like facility” that would be “semi-permanent” and “capable of air operations” in that country. That September, the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlockexposed plans to base drones at a second location there, Agadez. Within days, the U.S. Embassy in Niamey announced that AFRICOM was, indeed, “assessing the possibility of establishing a temporary, expeditionary contingency support location in Agadez, Niger.”
Earlier this year, Captain Rodney Worden of AFRICOM’s Logistics and Support Division mentioned “a partnering and capacity-building project… for the Niger Air Force and Armed Forces in concert with USAFRICOM and [U.S.] Air Forces Africa to construct a runway and associated work/life support area for airfield operations.” And when the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 was introduced in April, embedded in it was a $50 million request for the construction of an “airfield and base camp at Agadez, Niger… to support operations in western Africa.” When Congress recently passed the annual defense policy bill, that sum was authorized.
According to Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, there is also a team of Special Operations forces currently “living right next to” local troops in Diffa, Niger. A 2013 military briefing slide, obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act, indicates a “U.S. presence” as well in Ouallam, Niger, and at both Bamako and Kidal in neighboring Mali. Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, a country that borders both of those nations, plays host to a Special Operations Forces Liaison Element Team, a Joint Special Operations Air Detachment, and the Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing Airlift Support initiative which, according to official documents, facilitates “high-risk activities” carried out by elite forces from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara.
On the other side of the continent in Somalia, elite U.S. forces are operatingfrom small compounds in Kismayo and Baledogle, according to reporting byForeign Policy. Neighboring Ethiopia has similarly been a prime locale for American outposts, including Camp Gilbert in Dire Dawa, contingency operating locations at both Hurso and Bilate, and facilities used by a 40-man team based in Bara. So-called Combined Operations Fusion Centers were set up in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan as part of an effort to destroy Joseph Kony and his murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Washington Post investigations have revealed that U.S. forces have also been based in Djema, Sam Ouandja, and Obo, in the Central African Republic as part of that effort. There has recently been new construction by Navy Seabees at Obo to increase the camp’s capacity as well as to install the infrastructure for a satellite dish.
There are other locations that, while not necessarily outposts, nonetheless form critical nodes in the U.S. base network on the continent. These include 10 marine gas and oil bunkers located at ports in eight African nations. Additionally, AFRICOM acknowledges an agreement to use Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Senegal for refueling as well as for the “transportation of teams participating in security cooperation activities.” A similar deal is in place for the use of Kitgum Airport in Kitgum, Uganda, and Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia. All told, according to the Defense Logistics Agency, the U.S. military has struck 29 agreements to use airports as refueling centers in 27 African countries.
Not all U.S. bases in Africa have seen continuous use in these years. After the American-backed military overthrew the government of Mauritania in 2008, for example, the U.S. suspended an airborne surveillance program based in its capital, Nouakchott. Following a coup in Mali by a U.S.-trained officer, the United States suspended military relations with the government and a spartan U.S. compound near the town of Gao was apparently overrunby rebel forces.
Most of the new outposts on that continent, however, seem to be putting down roots. As "TomDispatch" regular and basing expert David Vine suggests, “The danger of the strategy in which you see U.S. bases popping up increasingly around the continent is that once bases get established they become very difficult to close. Once they generate momentum, within Congress and in terms of funding, they have a tendency to expand.”
To supply its troops in East Africa, AFRICOM has also built a sophisticated logistics system. It’s officially known as the Surface Distribution Network, but colloquially referred to as the “new spice route.” It connects Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. These hubs are, in turn, part of a transportation and logistics network that includes bases located in Rota, Spain; Aruba in the Lesser Antilles; Souda Bay, Greece; and a forward operating site on Britain’s Ascension Island in the South Atlantic.
Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, headquarters of U.S. Air Forces Europe and one of the largest American military bases outside the United States, is another key site. As the "Intercept" reported earlier this year, it serves as “the high-tech heart of America’s drone program” for the Greater Middle East and Africa. Germany is also host to AFRICOM’s headquarters, located at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart-Moehringen, itself a site reportedly integral to drone operations in Africa.
In addition to hosting a contingent of the Marines and sailors of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily, Italy, is another important logistics facility for African operations. The second-busiest military air station in Europe, Sigonella is a key hub for drones covering Africa, serving as a base for MQ-1 Predators and RQ-4B Global Hawk surveillance drones.
The Crown Jewels
Back on the continent, the undisputed crown jewel in the U.S. archipelago of bases is indeed still Camp Lemonnier. To quote Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, it is “a hub with lots of spokes out there on the continent and in the region.” Sharing a runway with Djibouti’s Ambouli International Airport, the sprawling compound is the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and is home to the East Africa Response Force, another regional quick-reaction unit. The camp, which also serves as the forward headquarters for Task Force 48-4, a hush-hush counterterrorism unit targeting militants in East Africa and Yemen, has seen personnel stationed there jump by more than 400% since 2002.
In the same period, Camp Lemonnier has expanded from 88 acres to nearly 600 acres and is in the midst of a years-long building boom for which more than $600 million has already been awarded or allocated. In late 2013, for example, B.L. Harbert International, an Alabama-based construction company, was awarded a $150 million contract by the Navy for “the P-688 Forward Operating Base at Camp Lemonnier.” According to a corporate press release, “the site is approximately 20 acres in size, and will contain 11 primary structures and ancillary facilities required to support current and emerging operational missions throughout the region.”
In 2014, the Navy completed construction of a $750,000 secure facility for Special Operations Command Forward-East Africa (SOCFWD-EA). It is one of three similar teams on the continent — the others being SOCFWD-Central Africa and SOCFWD-North and West Africa — which, according to the military, “shape and coordinate special operations forces security cooperation and engagement in support of theater special operations command, geographic combatant command, and country team goals and objectives.”
In 2012, according to secret documents recently revealed by the "Intercept," 10 Predator drones and four Reaper drones were based at Camp Lemonnier, along with six U-28As (a single-engine aircraft that conducts surveillance for special operations forces) and two P-3 Orions (a four-engine turboprop surveillance aircraft). There were also eight F-15E Strike Eagles, heavily armed, manned fighter jets. By August 2012, an average of 16 drones and four fighters were taking off or landing at the base each day.
The next year, in the wake of a number of drone crashes and turmoil involving Djiboutian air traffic controllers, drone operations were moved to a more remote site located about six miles away. Djibouti’s Chabelley Airfield, which has seen significant construction of late and has a much lower profile than Camp Lemonnier, now serves as a key base for America’s regional drone campaign. Dan Gettinger, the co-founder and co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, recently told the "Intercept" that the operations run from the site were “JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command] and CIA-led missions for the most part,” explaining that they were likely focused on counterterrorism strikes in Somalia and Yemen, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities, as well as support for the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen.
A Scarier Future
Over many months, AFRICOM repeatedly ignored even basic questions from this reporter about America’s sweeping archipelago of bases. In practical terms, that means there is no way to know with complete certainty how many of the more than 60 bases, bunkers, outposts, and areas of access are currently being used by U.S. forces or how many additional sites may exist. What does seem clear is that the number of bases and other sites, however defined, is increasing, mirroring the rise in the number of U.S. troops, special operations deployments, and missions in Africa.
“There’s going to be a network of small bases with maybe a couple of medium-altitude, long-endurance drones at each one, so that anywhere on the continent is always within range,” says the Oxford Research Group’s Richard Reeve when I ask him for a forecast of the future. In many ways, he notes, this has already begun everywhere but in southern Africa, not currently seen by the U.S. military as a high-risk area.
The Obama administration, Reeve explains, has made use of humanitarian rhetoric as a cover for expansion on the continent. He points in particular to the deployment of forces against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, the build-up of forces near Lake Chad in the effort against Boko Haram, and the post-Benghazi New Normal concept as examples. “But, in practice, what is all of this going to be used for?” he wonders. After all, the enhanced infrastructure and increased capabilities that today may be viewed by the White House as an insurance policy against another Benghazi can easily be repurposed in the future for different types of military interventions.
“Where does this go post-Obama?” Reeve asks rhetorically, noting that the rise of AFRICOM and the proliferation of small outposts have been “in line with the Obama doctrine.” He draws attention to the president’s embrace of a lighter-footprint brand of warfare, specifically a reliance on Special Operations forces and drones. This may, Reeve adds, just be a prelude to something larger and potentially more dangerous.
“Where would Hillary take this?” he asks, referencing the hawkish Democratic primary frontrunner, Hillary Clinton. “Or any of the Republican potentials?” He points to the George W. Bush administration as an example and raises the question of what it might have done back in the early 2000s if AFRICOM’s infrastructure had already been in place. Such a thought experiment, he suggests, could offer clues to what the future might hold now that the continent is dotted with American outposts, drone bases, and compounds for elite teams of Special Operations forces. “I think,” Reeve says, “that we could be looking at something a bit scarier in Africa.”