US Military Programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2005-2007

September 14th, 2008 - by admin

Daniel Volman / African Security Research Project – 2008-09-14 19:56:51


WASHINGTON, DC — Most African countries fall within the area of responsibility of the US European Command (which also covers Europe and the former republics of the Soviet Union). However, a number of countries in northeast Africa (Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan, and Kenya) and the Seychelles are within the area of responsibility of the US Central Command; the US Pacific Command covers the Comoros, Madagascar, and the Indian Ocean, including the island of Diego Garcia.

These commands (along with the US Special Operations Command and the various branches of the armed forces, i.e. the US Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines) are responsible for conducting active military operations in Africa, including training exercises, humanitarian relief, peacekeeping, evacuating civilians from unstable countries, and other operations.

Most arms sales are conducted through the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which falls under the authority of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. Certain military hardware (including handguns, rifles, shotguns, electronics, police equipment and crowd control chemicals, and explosives) is sold under a licensing program administered by the Office of Defense Trade Controls under the authority of the US State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs


The Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program is the process used by the US government to sell weapons and other military equipment to foreign governments through the through the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). FMS sales to African states (including North Africa) rose from $39.2 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 to $59.8 million in FY 2006 and are then expected to fall to $27.9 million in FY 2007.

The Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program is used by the DSCA to provide low-interest loans to foreign governments to finance arms purchases from the US government or from private US companies. In the case of all sub-Saharan recipients, the US government waives the repayment of these loans.

Beginning in FY 2003, the US government has allocated funds for a new African Coastal and Border Security Program (ACBSP). ACBSP provides specialized equipment, training, and intelligence data to selected African countries for efforts aimed at combating smuggling, piracy, and other cross-boundary threats to internal and regional security.

In FY 2006, $4.0 million was appropriated for this purpose and another $4.0 million was requested for FY 2007. In 2003, the United States also commenced the delivery of seven surplus US Coast Guard cutters to Nigeria, significantly enhancing the Nigerian Navy’s ability to protect offshore oil installations and oil tankers. The Commercial Sales (CS) program is the process by which certain types of military and police equipment are sold to foreign governments under licenses issued by the Office of Trade Controls.

Figures show the value of sales that have been licensed or approved by the State Department Office of Defense Trade Control in the given year. Even though these sales have been licensed or approved, they are not always completed. One noteworthy recipient is Algeria, which has been permitted to buy very large quantities of sophisticated counter-insurgency hardware—including night-vision equipment—to outfit the army and other internal security forces for operations against armed Salafist groups


Countries where the US has conducted joint military training exercises in recent years: Benin, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda.

Beginning in Fiscal 2006, American funds for peacekeeping training in Africa are now being channeled primarily through the new Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), incorporating the African Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA) program and other US aid channels. African states will receive much of the $80 million allocated for GPOI in FY 2005, and of the $100.4 million requested for FY 2006 and the $102.6 million requested for FY 2007.

In FY 2007, ACOTA will train and equip new battalions and specialty units in partner countries such as Senegal, Ghana, Benin, Mali, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Gabon, and Nigeria; the ACOTA program may expand to new partner countries, such as, but not limited to, Angola and Namibia.

In FY 2002-03, the United States allocated approximately $16 million in Africa peacekeeping money to establish the Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI). The PSI funding was used to deploy teams of US Special Operations Forces (SOF) to provide counter-terrorism training and equipment to Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. This effort entailed the provision of training and equipment to six light infantry companies in the four countries.

As a result of strenuous lobbying by US military officials, PSI was transformed into new Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative (TSCTI) in March 2004 and expanded to include the important energy-producing countries of Algeria and Nigeria, as well as Senegal and Tunisia, along with the original PSI participants.

The TSCTI program obtained initial funding of $3 million in FY 2005 and, according to initial reports, was to receive $100 million annually from FY 2007 to FY 2011, for a total of $500 million; the Bush Administration, however, has only requested $16.8 million in GPOI funds for the program in its FY 2007 budget, along with an additional $7.2 million in Non-proliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs funding for anti-terrorism training and $6 million in Economic Support Funds.


The International Military Education and Training (IMET) program is used to provide professional training to African military officers from forty-four countries at US military colleges and other military facilities in the US In FY 2007, IMET expected to provide training to some 1,400 officers from Sub-Saharan and North African countries (excluding Egypt) at a cost of $15.6 million.

The United States maintains important military facilities at a base on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. Although the US government established these facilities under a treaty with Britain, which claims sovereignty over the island, the African country of Mauritius continues to assert that Diego Garcia and other islands of the Chagos archipelago are part of its territory.

The US government uses the island to base a floating stockpile of tanks, armored vehicles, ammunition, and other military hardware sufficient to equip an Army brigade of up to 3,500 troops and a division of 17,300 Marines. The US Air Force also bases B-52 and B-2 bombers at airfields on Diego Garcia. The facilities at Diego Garcia played a significant role in the Persian Gulf War of 1991, US military operations in Afghanistan, and the war with Iraq.

The United States does not possess its own bases on the African mainland, but relies on the agreement of African governments to use local bases and other military facilities in times of need. The United States has therefore gained access to basing facilities in North Africa and the Horn of Africa, primarily to support anti-terror operations in the region.

After 9/11, the United States received permission from Djibouti to use Camp Lemonier as the headquarters for the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a multinational naval force led by the United States that monitors and interdicts possible terrorist travel routes at sea and suspected terrorist activities in adjacent countries, specifically in Somalia.

Along with the headquarters element, 800 US Special Operations Forces (SOF) troops have set up base at Camp Lemonier. Likewise, under an agreement reportedly signed in July 2003 during Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s visit to Washington, the United States was granted the right to use the airfield at Tamanrasset, in southern Algeria, for the deployment of US P-3 Orion aerial surveillance aircraft. (In March 2004, P-3 “Orion” aerial surveillance aircraft based at Tamanrasset were reportedly used to gather intelligence on the activities of Algerian Salafist guerrillas operating in Chad and to forward this intelligence to Chadian forces engaged in combat against the Salafists.)

However, to ensure that the United States can deploy troops and equipment to Africa, particularly in times of emergency when even a few days might be to long to wait, the United States is now beginning to establish a basing infrastructure in Africa, again following the trajectory first seen in the Gulf and the Caspian regions.

In recognition of Africa’s colonial past and likely popular resistance to anything resembling a permanent military garrison, the United States does not seek elaborate installations but rather “bare-bones” facilities — usually an airstrip, basic communications links, and a warehouse or two — that can be tended by local troops or contract personnel most of the time, until needed by American forces for particular operations.

Although Pentagon officials tend to emphasize the threat from terrorism when discussing the need for such facilities, they have also expressed a need to protect the flow of oil. In 2003, for example, a senior Pentagon official told Greg Jaffe of the Wall Street Journal, “a key mission for US forces [in Africa] would be to ensure that Nigeria’s oil fields, which in the future could account for as much as 25 percent of all US oil imports, are secure.”

Among the countries that have reportedly been considered as a potential site for the establishment of a US military base in Africa is the island state of São Tomé e Principe. São Tomé is located in the Gulf of Guinea near the major West African oil producers, yet is conveniently distant from the ethnic and political strife that has often overtaken countries on the mainland; it is also expected to be a major oil exporter itself, in conjunction with Nigeria (with which is has established a Joint Development Zone in the Gulf of Guinea.)

Although the United States has not formally expressed an interest in acquiring a base there, the Deputy Commander of the US European Command (EURCOM), which exercises command authority over much of sub-Saharan Africa, visited the islands in July 2001 to examine possible basing locations.

The first country to conclude a formal agreement with Washington for the use of local military facilities was Kenya, which signed an agreement in February 1980. The Kenyan agreement allows US troops to use the port of Mombasa, as well as airfields at Embakasi and Nanyuki.

These facilities were used to support the American military intervention in Somalia in 1992-1994 and have been used in the past year to support forces from the United States and other coalition forces involved in counter-terrorism operations in the region.

The United States has signed agreements with Ghana, Senegal, Gabon, Namibia, Uganda, and Zambia to allow American aircraft to refuel at local air bases. In its efforts to secure other basing options, the United States has negotiated agreements granting it access to airfields and other facilities in several African nations.

These facilities are often referred to as “lily pad” facilities, because American forces can hop in and out of them in times of crisis while avoiding the impression of establishing a permanent — and potentially provocative — presence. They include Entebbe Airport in Uganda, where the United States has built two “K-Span” steel buildings to house troops and equipment; an airfield near Bamako, the capital of Mali; an airfield at Dakar, Senegal; an airfield in Gabon; and airfields and port facilities in Morocco and Tunisia.


In recognition both of Africa’s growing role as a supplier of oil to the United States, the US Navy has significantly increased its presence in African waters. Much of this activity is focused in the Gulf of Guinea, the body of water closest to the major West African oil producers and itself the site of some of Africa’s most promising offshore oil reserves.

The US Navy has also conducted joint training operations with the naval forces of African states and engaged them in joint discussion of security problems in the region. A number of recent naval exercises and other events are evidence of the active interest in Africa now being taken by the US Navy.

In May 2003, NATO Supreme Commander General James Jones indicated that in the future, US naval forces under his command would spend much less time in the Mediterranean Sea. Instead, he predicted, “I’ll bet they’ll spend half the time going down the west coast of Africa.”

The most impressive demonstration of this new posture came in July 2004, when the United States carried out the “Summer Pulse 04” exercise. This exercise was explicitly designed to show that the United States could carry out naval operations simultaneously in every part of the world and, thus, that US naval forces could respond to a crisis in one part of the world even if it was already engaged elsewhere.

The African element of the exercise was conducted off the coast of Morocco, where the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise commanded a US carrier battle group that led a massive joint exercise with naval forces from nine countries, including NATO counties and Morocco itself. The exercise involved a total of 20,000 personnel (both sailors and marines) on board 30 ships.

In October 2004, the US European Command (EURCOM) hosted a three-day Gulf of Guinea Maritime Security Conference in Naples, Italy (headquarters of the US Sixth Fleet). Participants included naval leaders from Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, São Tomé, and Togo, along with personnel from the United States, France, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

The conference reportedly focused on common efforts to combat threats posed by piracy, smuggling, and drug trafficking, as well as the fight against terrorism. It ended with joint statement pledging participants to engage in ongoing dialogue, cooperation, and joint activities.

In January 25, 2005, the US Navy commenced a two-month Gulf of Guinea Deployment with participation by the USS Emory S. Land, carrying about 1,400 sailors and Marines. The deployment was the direct result of the 2004 Maritime Security Conference held in October 2004, and involved port calls at Douala, Cameroon; Port Gentil, Gabon; and Sekondi, Ghana. Instructors and sailors from Cameroon, São Tomé, Gabon, Ghana, and Benin also participated in the operation. A second Gulf of Guinea Deployment was conducted in May-July 2005, with participation by the US Coast Guard Cutter Bear.

From late-June to early-July 2005, the US Navy held ten days of exercises in the Mediterranean Sea with naval forces from Britain, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. The exercises, known as “Barbary Thunder II,” consisted of joint maritime interdiction operations by US Marines along with their counterparts from Italy, Morocco, and Algeria.

And on September 27, 2005, the US Navy commenced a five-week West African Training Cruise (WATC) exercise with the deployment of the dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall and the high-speed vessel Swift. Host nations for the WATC include Ghana, Senegal, Guinea, and Morocco. Planned activities include small boat training, live-fire exercises, and amphibious raids. At the same time, American sailors and Marines participated in Exercise Green Osprey, a British-led amphibious landing exercise on the coast of Senegal.

These operations are particularly significant because they constitute the necessary preparation for what are, in fact, the most likely scenarios for direct US intervention in Africa. While land bases would be required for large-scale ground operations—as, for example during humanitarian relief operations or to actually try to occupy and control large parts of a country like Nigeria should that ever be contemplated—they would not be needed for more focused attacks, such as air strikes or airborne assaults against insurgents who threatened to interrupt oil supplies.

Not only would Washington prefer to avoid establishing a highly visible, and thus highly provocative, presence on the ground in Africa, it would actually be easier for the United States to conduct such operations from an off-shore naval armada which could be rushed to oil-rich regions of Africa at short notice in less than a week.


Information on the Commercial Sales program, the US government budget for foreign operations, and US policy toward Africa can be obtained through the web site of the US State Department:

Information on the Foreign Military Sales program, military loans, military education and training programs, military exercises, and other military issues can be obtained through the web site of the US Defense Department:

Additional information can be found at the web site of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars:

(Dollars in thousands)
Country 2005 Actual
2006 Estimate
2007 Request
• Angola 313 396 400
• Algeria 920 743 840
• Botswana 710 693 690
• Cameroon 396 248 295
• Chad 470 247 295
• DR Congo 196 248 220
• Djibouti 239 322 345
• Equatorial Guinea 0 49 45
• Eritrea 241 247 445
• Ethiopia 72 594 640
• Gabon 292 198 245
• Ghana 648 569 640
• Guinea 508 347 345
• Kenya 139 297 45
• Liberia 0 198 245
• Malawi 362 347 355
• Morocco 1,920 1,856 1,975
• Mozambique 220 213 215
• Nigeria 0 792 590
• Rwanda 296 223 270
• São Tome and Príncipe
194 198 200
• Senegal 1,222 1,089 1,135
• Sierre Leone 270 322 325
• South Africa 0 49 45
• Sudan 0 49 100
• Tunisia 1,860 1,856 1,975
• Uganda 293 238 295
• Zambia 181 223 245


(Dollars in thousands)
US Government US Government US Private
FMF Loans FMS Sales Sales (CS)
Country 2005
Actual 2006 Estimate
2007 Request
2005 Actual
2006 Estimate
2007 Request
2005 Actual
2006 Estimate
2007 Request
• Algeria
0 0 0 0 0 0 276,063 6,191 11,056
• Angola
0 0 0 150 200 0 6,933 2,114 10,564
• Botswana
496 0 0 1,723 500 300 7,976 3,625 5,787
• Cameroon
0 0 0 150 150 0 90 0 0
• DR Congo
0 0 0 0 2,400 0 0 0 0
• Djibouti
4,468 3,960 4,000 10,877 9,500 2,000 4,661 225 1,108
• Eritrea
0 0 0 200 240 0 0 18 91
• Ethiopia
7,050 1,980 2,000 250 8,000 5,000 68 572 2,810
• Gabon
0 0 0 8 0 0 53 8 14
• Ghana
496 495 400 1,145 1,300 500 1,722 288 883
• Guinea
0 0 0 201 0 0 160 362 1,789
• Kenya
0 495 25 304 7,080 0 3,933 407 1,225
• Liberia 2,976 1,980 1,600 0 0 2,000 225 19 97
• Malawi
0 0 0 110 0 0 2,210 750 3,092
• Mali
0 0 0 0 0 1,000 0 800 4,000
• Morocco
15,128 12,375 12,500 16,016 10,000 17,000 18,613 3,909 10,843
• Nigeria
0 990 800 2,318 1,500 0 2,209 223 1,041
• Rwanda
0 0 0 500 0 0 563 619 2,997
• Senegal
496 495 400 707 2,000 500 38 2 1
• South Africa
0 0 0 137 0 0 5,706 1,763 21,938
• Tunisia
10,407 8,415 8,500 1,137 9,930 9,930 3,290 3,330 12,476
• Uganda
1,984 0 0 2,106 300 0 5,706 1,763 1,296
• Zambia
0 0 0 600 0 0 21 1,002 5,004
• Zimbabwe
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
• African Coastal/Border Security Program 3,968 3,960 4,000 0 0 0 0 0 0

Prepared by Daniel Volman, Director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC []. Information from the US State Department, Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations, Fiscal Year 2007, and from various US Defense Department web sites and newspaper articles. Information is current as of 1 March 2006.