The Enduring American Military Mission in Africa

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Media Outlet: The New Yorker

Alexis Okeowo wrote a profile for the New Yorker  on U.S. Army Brigadier General Donal Bolduc and the American military presence in Africa:

Publicly, Africa may not be on the radar of the Trump Administration, but it is a priority for the U.S. military. At the moment, seventeen hundred members of the Special Forces and other military personnel are undertaking ninety-six missions in twenty-one countries, and the details of most are unknown to Americans. In charge of those missions is U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, which coördinates responses to what its head, Brigadier General Donald C. Bolduc, calls “the threat.” 
He said that the Pentagon’s biggest fear in Africa was the spread of isis—that the group would stake a hold in a remote or weakly governed area, and use that territory as a base from which to expand. isis is in northern Somalia, he went on, and in Nigeria, where an aligned faction of Boko Haram controls territory. It also influences and provides financial backing for Al Qaeda’s operations in Mali. Apart from the threat of isis, the command is also focussing on the dangers posed by dozens of other insurgent groups.
Much of Africa is what Bolduc calls a “gray zone”: an environment that is volatile and uncertain because of problems arising from conflict, weather, and natural disasters, and endlessly complex—though “not so complex you can’t solve the problems inside it.” Several of the command’s deployments are civil-affairs teams, but the secrecy surrounding many missions has led observers to suspect that the U.S. government is more involved in nebulous warfare than it is letting on. This is particularly the case with regard to Somalia, where President Trump has allowed the United States Africa Command to conduct air strikes more quickly and frequently. “We are not at war in Africa,” Bolduc said. “But our partners are.”

Author:

Alexis Okeowo was a Class of 2016 & 2017 New America Fellow. She is the author of A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa and a staff writer for the New Yorker.