Mapped: The U.S. military’s presence in Africa
View U.S. military presence in Africa in a larger map The United States may be deploying 10 have a handfull of troops helping the French in Mali, but that’s just a drop in the bucket of the U.S. military’s presence in Africa, which has been quietly building for the last decade. You’ve probably heard about ...
View U.S. military presence in Africa in a larger map
View U.S. military presence in Africa in a larger map
The United States may
be deploying 10 have a handfull of troops helping the French in Mali, but that’s just a drop in the bucket of the U.S. military’s presence in Africa, which has been quietly building for the last decade. You’ve probably heard about the 2,000-troop hub at Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, and the 100 special operators hunting Joseph Kony. But less is known about the handful of U.S. drone bases scattered across the continent and the dozens of exercises involving hundreds, if not thousands, of American troops (Click the placemarks on the map above for a quick description of what U.S. troops are doing in each country.)
A quick look at exercises and other activities conducted by U.S. Africa Command this spring alone reveals a U.S. military presence in more than a dozen countries — from Cape Verde in the West to the Seychelles in the East and Morocco in the North. These exercises have shared medical techniques with the Nigerian military, provided intelligence training in Congo, trained special operators in Cameroon, and even included an East African Special Operations Conference in Zanzibar.
Just look at the U.S. Army’s page on Africa to find even more examples of soldiers deploying to Africa.
In 2012, Africa Command planned 14 major exercises with African militaries, according to the command’s website. Meanwhile, the Foreign Military Financing program gave African militaries $45 million to buy American-made weapons in 2011. Tunisia received the most cash ($17 million), followed by Morocco ($9 million) and Liberia ($7 million).
Let’s take a close-up look at the eight reported U.S. drone bases scattered across equatorial Africa that are depicted on this map.
1) First up is Camp Lemmonier, which houses thousands of U.S. personnel and has — according to satellite imagery — also hosted everything from F-15E Strike Eagle bombers and C-130 cargo planes, to PC-12 special ops planes and MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper UAVS.
2) Next is the U.S. Indian Ocean drone base in the Seychelles that’s used to hunt Somali pirates and other seaborne ne’er do wells. You can clearly see a tan-colored "clamshell" tent on the northwest end of the runway — a common indicator of a U.S. military presence at an airstrip.
3) Speaking of clamshell tents, this Bing map shows several at what appears to be a fairly large and newly constructed facility near the old terminal at Entebbe Airport on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda. The old terminal at Entebbe is famous as the site of the Israeli commando raid that freed hundreds of passengers from a hijacked Air France flight in 1976.
4) Here’s the reported U.S. drone base at Arba Minch, Ethiopia, as shown in Bing Maps. The image shows construction of a new ramp and hangars that are separate from existing facilities at the remote airport.
5) Then there’s the new drone base in tucked away at a remote airstrip in Lamu on the Kenyan coast.
6) Next, we’ll go to the middle of nowhere, South Sudan, where available satellite photos simply show a dirt strip outside the village o
f Nizara, that’s reportedly a possible U.S. drone site.
7) Here’s the possible U.S. drone base at the airport at Niamey, Niger. That white plane on the airport’s rundown northwest ramp could be a PC-12 — a civilian-looking plane used by Air Force Special Operations Command (under the designation U-28) to discreetly carry special operators to civilian airfields throughout the world under a mission known as Non-Standard Aviation. It’s worth noting that the plane is parked on a ramp that’s isolated from the rest of the airport, and there are several U.S. military-style tan-colored tents in a walled-off compound to the north of the ramp.
8) Finally, we go to our favorite-named city in Africa, Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, where you can clearly see a clamshell tent and two likely French air force C-160 Transall cargo planes as well as a C-130 parked on a special ramp that’s separate from the rest of the airport. This may be the "hub" that the U.S. military has established for surveillance planes under a program that’s supposedly called "Creek Sand."
John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.
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