With the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) boasting a 25% expansion in FY 2014 to 674 operations in Africa, (2015 AFRICOM Posture Statement), Nick Turse’s new book, Tomorrow’s Battlefield: US Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa (Haymarket, 2015,) is a timely survey of the nature and rationales for this explosion of AFRICOM’s military training, equipping, and intelligence and kinetic activities both on the continent and in the U.S. and Europe. The 13 chapters appeared originally between July 2012 and November 2014 in the TomDispatch blog, a project of the Nation Institute. These have been updated, edited, and amended for this striking volume.
Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist and historian. With a Ph.D. (Columbia) in sociomedical sciences, Turse was the 2009 recipient at the National Press Club of the Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction and the 2008 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Reporting from Hunter College. He has been the author/editor of several books including The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare (Haymarket, 2012) and Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (Macmillan, paper 2013) He also is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute. He is a serious and persistent investigator seeking to expose AFRICOM’s “Gigantic ‘Small Footprint”: the Pivot to Africa in previous posts (2013) and this volume. With the same title in Chapter 3 in this volume, he writes,
From north to south, east to west, the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, the heart of the continent to the islands off its coasts, the U.S. military is at work. Base construction, security cooperation engagements, training exercises, advisory deployments, special operations missions, and a growing logistics network, all undeniable evidence of expansion — except at U.S. Africa Command. To hear AFRICOM tell it, U.S. military involvement on the continent ranges from the miniscule to the microscopic.
The command is adamant that it has only a single “military base” in all of Africa: Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. The head of the command insists that the U.S. military maintains a “small footprint” on the continent. AFRICOM’s chief spokesman has consistently minimized the scope of its operations and the number of facilities it maintains or shares with host nations, asserting that only “a small presence of personnel who conduct short-duration engagements” are operating from “several locations” on the continent at any given time…
…While Washington talks openly about rebalancing its military assets to Asia, a pivot to Africa is quietly and unmistakably underway. With the ever-present possibility of blowback from shadowy operations on the continent, the odds are that the results of that pivot will become increasingly evident, whether or not Americans recognize them as such. Behind closed doors, the military says: “Africa is the battlefield of tomorrow, today.” It remains to be seen just when they’ll say the same to the American people.
Turse’s chapters include:
1. America’s Shadow Wars in Africa: Obama’s Scramble for Africa
2, Blowback Central: The Terror Diaspora
3. AFRICOM’s Gigantic “Small Footprint”: The Pivot to Africa
4. American Proxy Wars in Africa: A New Model for Expeditionary Warfare
5. Nonstop Ops: US Military Averaging More Than a Mission a Day in Africa
6. AFRICOM Becomes a “War-Fighting Combatant Command”: Going to War on the Sly
7. The Pentagon, Libya, and Tomorrow’s Blowback Today: How Not To End Violence in a War-Torn Land
8. How “Benghazi” Birthed the New Normal in Africa: A Secret African Mission and an African Mission That’s No Secret
9. An East-West Showdown: China, America, and the New Cold War in Africa
10. Christmas in July and the Collapse of America’s Great African Experiment: As a Man-Made Famine Looms, Christmas comes early to South Sudan
11.American Monuments to Failure in Africa? How Not to Win Hearts and Minds
12. American “Success” and the Rise of West African Piracy: Pirates of the Gulf of Guinea
13. The Outpost That Doesn’t Exist in the Country You Can’t Locate: A Base Camp, an Authoritarian Regime, and the Future of US Blowback in Africa
Afterword: Finding Barack Obama in South Sudan
Appendix: US Africa Command Debates TomDispatch: An Exchange on the Nature of US Military Presence in Africa
Craig Whitlock, Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post, comments, “A dogged and intrepid journalist who won’t take ‘no comment’ for an answer, Nick Turse has done a fantastic job of exposing the U.S. military’s expansion into Africa and the proliferation of its secret missions on the continent.”
And Noam Chomsky adds, “Nick Turse’s investigative reporting has revealed a remarkable picture of evolving US military operations in Africa that have been concealed from view, but have ominous portent, as he demonstrates vividly and in depth.”
The 223 page paperback is available from the publisher, HaymarketBooks (www.haymarketbooks.org) and at various other distributors for $15.95, as a Google eBook for $9.99, and for Kindle for $10.99. Read Tom Engelhardt’s comment introducing the launching of the book on the TomDispatch blog of April 14.