US Sending Troops to Nigeria, Australia
November 16, 2011
David Axe / WIRED & Australian Broadcasting Corp
The Pentagon's shadow war in Africa could have a new front, if reports coming out of Nigeria are accurate. US troops are headed to Nigeria to help local forces do battle with Boko Haram, an Islamic terror group. The mission would be consistent with steadily increasing Pentagon involvement in Somalia, Yemen and a wide range of African conflicts. At the same time, the US has proposed basing a "permanent US military" presence in Darwin, Australia.
Reports: US Military to Help Fight Nigerian Terrorists
David Axe / DangerRoom, WIRED
(November 11, 2011) -- The Pentagon's shadow war in Africa could have a new front, if reports coming out of Nigeria are accurate. US troops are headed to Nigeria to help local forces do battle with Boko Haram, an Islamic terror group that has killed up to 400 people this year in an escalating campaign of bombings and shootings. At least that's what Nigerian military sources tell Scott Morgan, a journalist based in Washington, D.C. who writes under the pseudonym "Confused Eagle." The Guardian also has the story.
US officials have refused to confirm the deployment.
However, a new US assistance mission would be consistent with steadily increasing Pentagon involvement in a wide range of African conflicts. American forces have been active in and around Somalia for the better part of a decade, targeting pirates and the terror group al-Shabab. Last month, President Barack Obama announced he was sending 100 US advisers to help the Ugandan army track the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group in Congo. And this year the Pentagon has quietly set up a number of new bases in Ethiopia and the Seychelles to provide air support to all these operations.
Boko Haram certainly ranks alongside al-Shabab and the murderous LRA. In August, the Nigerian group attacked the U.N.'s Nigerian headquarters, killing 23. In their hometown of Maiduguri, Boko Haram gunmen riding on motorcycles waged a campaign of terror that forced the government to ban the bikes. The Nigerian military and police have cracked down on the terror group, leading to allegations of brutality and extra-judicial killings.
The reports of a new US deployment came just days after the State Department issued a warning to Americans living in Nigeria of possible Boko Haram attacks on luxury hotels in the capital of Abuja. Those attacks have not, as yet, materialized. But the terror group did send three truckloads of fighters to the town of Mainok near the border with Cameroon. They terrorized the locals and killed at least two people.
Now regional leader worry that Boko Haram could expand in to countries neighboring Nigeria. The chilling prospect of Boko Haram going international helps explain why the reports of US intervention seem credible.
US Marines To Be Based in Darwin: Reports
Australian Broadcasting Corp. News
(November 11, 2011) -- A defence analyst says a permanent US military presence in Darwin could pose a significant risk to Asia's peace and security. Reports in the Fairfax press this morning say US president Barack Obama will use next week's visit to Australia to announce that the US will start stationing Marines through an Australian base in Darwin.
President Obama will speak to troops in Darwin during his visit, but the White House has refused to confirm whether any deal has been reached.
Professor Hugh White questions whether an expanded US military presence in Australia's north is the right way to deal with China. "I think that the kind of steps that we are talking about here do take the region closer down the track of escalating strategic competition, and I think that does carry significant risks for Asia's future peace and stability," he said.
But Federal Opposition Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says he does not believe the possible expansion of the US military presence in Australia would be a provocative step against China. Mr Morrison has told Channel Nine the expansion would simply be a function of Australia's alliance with the United States, and would not be aimed at pressuring China as it flexes its muscles in the Pacific.
"Our relationship with China I think will always be strong, and one of the key reasons for that is there is much to be gained on both sides of that relationship," he said.
However, a former deputy secretary of defence has cast doubt on the reports that President Obama is set to announce US forces will be permanently based in Darwin. The Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, has previously said there would be no permanent stationing of American military in Darwin, but that the US wanted to position equipment in the city.
Hugh White is a Professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University and a former deputy secretary of defence. He says it is more likely the US will move forces through Darwin for training rather than have them permanently based in the city.
"I think what we're seeing here is not so much a repositioning of US forces from Okinawa in Japan and Guam as providing opportunities for US marines based in those two places to train and exercise in Australia because there's a lot more space here," Professor White said.
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