U.S. will not leave Africa


AFRICOM is working to accelerate the creation of military bases in Côte d’Ivoire and Benin. Ghana is in reserve for now.

In the spring of 2024, it became known that Niger was breaking off military cooperation with the US and demanding the immediate withdrawal of US troops. In his statement, the representative of the Nigerian government not only announced the denunciation of the bilateral agreement on military and civilian representatives of the Pentagon in the republic, but also accused the U.S. delegation led by Undersecretary of State for Africa Molly Phee, who visited Niger, of violating diplomatic protocol, putting pressure on Nigerian leaders and vilifying the authorities and people of the country.

The U.S. contingent in Niger for a time allegedly helped French troops fight jihadists until the country’s authorities demanded Paris withdraw its troops in 2023 after a coup d’état.

In recent months, Niger has moved closer to Russia. In December 2023, a delegation led by Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov visited Niamey. The parties then signed a memorandum of understanding and strengthening defense cooperation. In mid-January 2024, a government delegation from Niger visited Moscow. It is obvious that after the coup, politicians and military of the African state are trying to maximize the benefits of the situation. Russia’s interests in this game are pragmatic and common sense.

But the states don’t want to just pick up and leave so easily. It is therefore not surprising that General Michael Langley, head of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), continues to lobby for a stronger U.S. presence in the coastal countries of French-speaking West Africa.

Back in the winter of this year, it became known about the Pentagon’s plans, which was in active negotiations with a number of West African countries, convincing them to allow American drones to use airfields in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Benin.

According to the latest information, the Pentagon has chosen Côte d’Ivoire and Benin as locations for two military bases officially designed “to combat terrorism, maritime piracy and cross-border human trafficking”. In early May, a Langley representative traveled to Cotonou, Benin’s largest port city, to meet with President Patrice Talon and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Gen. Fructue Gbaguidi.

Why did the US choose these two countries?

The idea of establishing a base in Benin predates the break with Niger. In recent years, the United States has intensified its military cooperation with this country, increasing logistical support and financing. The formal reason for further strengthening of US-Benin defense contacts was the May 4 terrorist attack in the Pendjari National Park that killed seven Beninese servicemen. According to Beninese media, the US plans to deploy reconnaissance and surveillance drones, as well as some technical means “to prevent the terrorist threat”.

Côte d’Ivoire was chosen a little earlier. In April, the country’s president, Alassane Ouattara, welcomed a general from Langley in Abidjan and gave the go-ahead for the base. There is no solid information yet on the format of the interaction between the militaries of the two countries, but it is likely that they will work together under American command. An example of the strengthening of these ties was the military exercise held from May 13 to 24 at the International Academy for Counter Terrorism (AILCT) in Jacqueville, near Abidjan, which involved more than 1,300 military personnel from several countries on the continent. The exercise, known as “Flintlock,” has been held annually since 2005 in the Sahel region with military personnel from countries that are members of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.

The CIA has also been very active in Côte d’Ivoire, where it has cooperated with authorities, particularly in uncovering suspected Hezbollah networks within the Lebanese community.

Efforts to increase the presence of U.S. military and intelligence agencies in coastal Africa are argued by what Washington believes: that Mali and Burkina Faso are literally flooded with Islamist militants. And the Sahel is now allegedly “the world epicenter of terrorism”, Nusrat al-Islam wal-muslimin or JNIM and other organizations that belong to the terrorist group al-Qaeda (banned in the Russian Federation) operate here.

And since the military cannot cope with terrorism without the support of the local population and law enforcers, leaving Niger is almost a voluntary step.

However, let us not be in a hurry and see: what if “unfavorable” conditions for American soldiers and spies arise in some other country of the Black Continent? It is not for nothing that in the coming days they will hold a conference in Botswana with the participation of African defense leaders.