War on Africa?

So a couple years ago, I started a hypothetical discussion about the implications of America declaring war on Africa. To be clear, I didn’t mean the entire continent but more so a spread of countries that may or may not be in the same region. And after reading a range of articles about current US policy towards West Africa in particular, I believe my discussion now has very serious consequences.

Can you guess what might motivate the US government to focus on Africa after years of neglect and aid packages rigged with conditionals and caveats? If you guessed oil, then you have something in common with Vice President Dick Cheney. In his May 2001, Cheney claimed in his National Energy Policy Report: “West Africa is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market.” He added, “African oil tends to be of high quality and low in sulfur, making it suitable for stringent refined product requirements, and giving it a growing market share for refining centers on the East Coast of the U.S.”

Given this backdrop, let’s now examine some of the initiatives that the White House has enacted to help achieve the recommendations set out in the National Energy Policy Report. From a military standpoint, look no further than the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative [TSCTI]. According to the United States Europe Command (EUCOM), the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative

“is a US Government program designed to help develop the internal security forces necessary to control borders and combat terrorism and other illegal activity. This program builds on the successful Pan Sahel Initiative, completed in early 2004, which focused on Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. TSCTI expands to include Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Ghana, and Nigeria.

Of course there is a convenient military component of TSCTI and this is called Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara. EUCOM executes OEF-TS through a series of military-to-military engagements and exercises designed to strengthen the ability of regional governments to police the large expanses of remote terrain in the trans-Sahara.

Now let’s try to condense some of this information into meaningful tidbits. Let’s first explore the Pan Sahel Initiative, which EUCOM claims was successful. According to the Office of Counterterrorism, the Pan Sahel Initiative is “a program designed to protect borders, track movement of people, combat terrorism, and enhance regional cooperation and stability.” But the only two words that mean anything for our purposes is “combat terrorism,’ because if you look at a map of Africa, you will see that Niger and Chad are strategically set between Nigeria and Libya, the two countries that in 2005 were the 9th and 10th ranked countries in terms of oil production.

So the fact that Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara was expanded to include Nigeria should come as no surprise. And before you forget about Libya, the CRS Report for Congress states “Some oil and gas market analysts have speculated that the approval of the majority of production licenses for U.S. companies in the first EPSA-IV (Exploration and Production Sharing Agreements) round may have been intended as an economic reward to the United States for agreeing to lift its bilateral sanctions against Libya.”

Under EPSA IV, winners are determined largely based on how high a share of production a company is willing to offer NOC. (NOC is the National Oil Corporation of Libya, whereby NOC is a majority partner of the foreign oil company in return for an agreed compensation to the foreign oil company for the nationalized share) In other words, whichever companies offer NOC the greatest share of profits will most likely win under EPSA IV.

I wish I could summarize this in one short post but it would be impossible. Just know that the US doesn’t have to declare war in order to declare war. (We have declared war only eleven times) Our actions in the Sahara would have been impossible had it not been for the war on terror and our current actions involve a major posturing of American forces to triangulate major sources of oil production. And by framing our actions with the war on terror, the US can claim (on the surface) that they want to empower African troops to help wage the war on terror. Just to put the situation in numbers. The Pan Sahel Initiative was established after 9/11 and was funded at 6.25 million dollars. The Trans Saharan Counterrorism Initiative was established in June 2005 and funded at 100 million dollars. Isn’t it funny how Congress can deny Darfur $50 million dollars in aid but can find $94 million dollars to fight the war on terror.

More to come,

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.


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