Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Lure of Oil and the Drug War: Why Washington Has Joined the Battle For West Africa

From:  AlterNet

The U.S. is turning its sights to West Africa, where the Obama administration is building up a vast array of military resources.
A map of West Africa.
Photo Credit: Mondo Magic/Wikimedia Commons


Just why has the Obama administration invested so much time and effort in this corner of the globe?  To be sure, controlling remote “lily pads” may come in handy in the battle against Islamist militants operating farther inland in such countries as Mali and Niger.  Washington also wants to counteract drug smuggling emanating from West Africa, a volatile and politically unstable region.  Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, has in recent years turned into a cocaine hub, and the United Nations has called the country a “narco-state.”  Guinea-Bissau is geographically situated at Africa’s most westerly point, and South American smugglers are thought to transport drug shipments from here on to Cape Verde and then to Europe. With the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington is turning its sights elsewhere.  Quietly, the Obama administration is building up a vast array of military resources in West Africa, and specifically in Portuguese-speaking Lusophone countries.  Reportedly, the Pentagon wants to establish a monitoring station in the Cape Verde islands, while further south in the Gulf of Guinea U.S. ships and personnel are patrolling local waters.  Concerned lest it draw too much attention to itself, the Pentagon has avoided constructing large military installations and focused instead on a so-called “lily pad” strategy of smaller bases.  In São Tomé and Príncipe, an island chain in the Gulf of Guinea and former Portuguese colony, the Pentagon may install one such “under the radar” base, and U.S. Navy Seabees are already engaged in construction work at the local airport. MORE

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