US military quietly builds giant security belt in middle of Africa

Role players acting as rioters attack the riot control team October 18, 2013. United States Marines with Africa Partnership Station participated in a training exercise focusing on riot control, riverine operations, ambush reaction drills and more. Each exercise, led by British Marine forces, challenged the Marines through different scenarios focusing on all aspects of military tactics. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Marco Mancha)

Last week, the U.S. government announced that it was sending 300 troops to Cameroon to help the country in its fight against Islamic Militant group Boko Haram. The Nigerian government welcomed the decision by the American government, despite having requested more help from the United States.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu called the deployment of American troops a “welcome deployment,” while the military said it demonstrated that cooperation was needed against the Islamists.

Last year, when more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted from their school in northern Nigeria, the United States provided surveillance, intelligence, and reconnaissance expertise to the Nigerian government to find the abducted girls.

The assistance the U.S. government provided to the Nigerians included drones and spy planes, as well as 80 military personnel.

The United States government’s presence in Africa is not solely focused on combating Boko Haram, and in recent years, the American government has increased its presence in Africa.

The United States Africa Command, which uses the acronym AFRICOM, has downplayed the size and scope of its missions in Africa, which is easy because there isn’t a large battalion of soldiers on the ground.

According to Mail & Guardian Africa, the United States sees Africa as the new battleground for combating extremism, and the government, through AFRICOM, has gradually rolled out a flurry of logistical infrastructure and personnel across the continent.

American troops have been involved in airstrikes that target suspected militants, raids aimed at seizing terror suspects, the airlifting of African troops onto battlefields, and evacuation operations.

Officially, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti is the only permanent U.S. base in Africa, but there are other U.S. manned infrastructure on the continent, like the drone base that was set up in Niger in 2013.

Camp Lemonnier provides a vital base for US Special Forces, fighter planes and helicopters. It also serves as a base for drone operations into Somalia and Yemen, while providing maritime surveillance in the Indian Ocean.

The exact figures on the number of troops that the U.S. has in Africa is unknown, but it is estimated that there are about 3,500 to 4,500 U.S. soldiers on the continent.

Most of the U.S. troops in Africa conduct military exercises, advisory assignments, and training missions with local African armies. The aim of the exercises is to train the local armies to do battle against militant groups like Boko Haram.

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