On Wednesday the 21st April 2014, the White House announced that 80 members of the United States armed forces had been deployed to Chad to aid in the search of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. These personnel, according to CNN, “…will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area”.
Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby stated in an interview on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” that the troops deployed were not combat infantry.
“These folks are there to support the reconnaissance mission,” he said.
He then went on to explain the geographical challenges the landscapes of Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon present. Boko Haram militants may be dispersed in an area the size of West Virginia between the borders of these three countries which would make a ground-based search nearly impossible. Adm. Kirby attributes friendly ties with the government of Chad as to why troops will be stationed there. An unarmed predator drone will be accompanying these personnel but the United States already has a drone base in Niger, a deal signed in January of 2013 according to The Times. The map below displays all known US military bases on the African continent as of 2013.
The fact that many people are not even aware of this vast military presence does bode well for the continent. The case studies of US military involvement actually benefiting any country are few and far between although some may argue differently.
The vastness of this presence is perhaps merely suggestive of the vastness of the United States armed forces which has the largest navy and air force in the world with almost 1.5 million active personnel. Based on statistics from 2009, if one were to add up all the militaries of Africa, a continent of 1 billion people, and compare them to that of the United States. Without factoring in equipment, training and machinery, the number of active military personnel in Africa make up almost a fifth.
When thinking about how many people the US war machine employs, it becomes clear that in actual fact the United States has to go to war and they have to do so constantly. If not hundreds of thousands of people would be without a job in a country only just recovering from a brutal economic recession. War brings money into the United States economy in many ways. US arms manufactures benefit from the constant need for weapons, unfavourable governments with unfavourable economic policies can be removed and replaced, but by also employing so many people the United States has found a way to use war as a means of uplifting their own citizens at a grassroots level.
As the world finally shifts its gaze to the plight of Africa and the calls of help no longer seem to fall on deaf ears, what will truly come from an increased United States military presence in Africa? What are your thoughts? Please share your views by clicking the speech bubble above.