The Strategic Fork in Africa

In chess, there is a move commonly referred to as a “fork,” where a one piece can capture two pieces simultaneously. Forks are really useful when someone is in check (your opponent’s king is threatened) and the queen (the most powerful piece in chess) is also under threat. The person in check has no choice but to move the king out of the way, thereby clearing the way for the other queen to be taken. This scenario is being played out in Africa right now.

Last year, I wrote a post entitled, “War on Africa” where I discussed U.S. efforts to expand counter terrorism efforts in Africa through two main initiatives, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative [TSCTI] and the Pan Sahel Initiative.

Recently the Pentagon announced plans to create “a new unified military command for its operations in Africa.” The aptly named Africom, was authorized by President Bush the same day Donald Rumsfeld left office. Africom’s operations will cover the entire continent of Africa save Egypt. There are few gestures that signify the geopolitical importance of a country/region than setting up permanent military command posts.

To be sure, “U.S. intelligence agents — and terrorism experts — have long been concerned about the increasing infiltration of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, especially in the northern trans-Saharan region.”

So going back to our strategic fork example, fighting terrorism is really the king that the U.S. is threatening to distract attention from what many argue is the more valuable piece (or queen) of the puzzle being cornered…oil.

So if we view security as the king, it is easy to see how the carrot of expanded military and intelligence training would encourage African countries and militias to become allies in the “so-called” war on terror. And no doubt, there will be people who we are training now that will be labeled as the enemy once their increased status threatens America’s interests.

But is oil really the queen? It make sense when we know that, “The continent (of Africa) will account for 20 to 25 percent of U.S. energy imports by the next decade.” And if you think America won’t find a way to fight a war (low grade wars included) to secure 25% of its energy needs, please pinch yourself because you are dreaming.

Nevertheless, we have China upping the ante by rapidly increasing trade with Africa to the point of doing anything to fill their insatiable hunger for oil and other natural resources with the U.S. sitting back and saying, “They just can’t sit back and have the continent to themselves.”

So when I say war on Africa, I actually mean war “over” Africa. In other words, as Chinese geopolitical influence grows, there will undoubtedly be conflicts between China and the U.S. Therefore, where would be a better place for the world’s two most powerful countries to fight proxy wars than the continent of Africa?

Unfortunately, I am eerily reminded of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885. For those that don’t know, the Berlin Conference essentially spelled out the rules by which imperial powers of the time could colonize Africa and exploit her resources. (See Scramble for Africa) Germany actually called for the conference. And where do you think Africom will be set up before it finds an African home? Germany.

Some things never change.


Stay up fam,

International Affairs


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