Tracing the U.S. Military's Presence in Africa
Geopolitics, 21(3), 686-716, 2016
48 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2016 Last revised: 7 Jan 2017
Date Written: January 8, 2016
In recent years there has been growing recognition of the militarization of U.S. foreign policy in Africa, especially following the establishment of a dedicated, regional combatant command (Africa Command, or AFRICOM) in 2007. At the same time knowledge of the extent and aims of U.S. military activities in Africa remains murky, especially when compared to other regions such as the Middle East and Europe. This article begins by conceptualizing AFRICOM as a geopolitical assemblage, an approach we believe useful for analyzing its composition and emergence. Next we discuss the challenges involved in tracing the U.S. military’s evolving presence in Africa and the methods utilized in our analysis. Following this we present three case studies: the first compares the composition and geographies of manned and unmanned aerial surveillance assemblages, the second details logistics infrastructures and the military’s use of contractors to develop logistical capabilities across the continent, the third examines growing counterterrorism entanglements in West Africa. We conclude with some observations concerning the divergence between purported aims and the focus and outcomes of the U.S. military’s presence in Africa.
Keywords: AFRICOM, geopolitics, counterterrorism, contracting, assemblages
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