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article imageOp-Ed: Is the U.S. Seeking Greater Military Control of Africa?

By Sadiq Green     Nov 3, 2011 in World
The Libyan revolution began as part of the Arab Spring, but NATO intervention turned it into yet another Western assault on another North African or Middle Eastern Arab country.
While NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen hailed the campaign as a success, many analysts and other countries – including Russia, China and the African Union – argued NATO misused the UN resolution to promote regime change and contend NATO’s intensive bombing campaign violated its U.N. mandate. After seven months and more than 26,500 sorties, including 9,700 strike missions flown, NATO ended its bombing campaign in Libya after the death of Moammar Gadhafi. According to NATO, its aircraft bombed 5,900 military targets inside the country in order to protect innocent civilians.
Our military assessment is very clear. A significant threat against civilian population doesn’t exist any longer. This is a reason why we can now bring Operation Unified Protector to a close. We have fulfilled the United Nations mandate. We have prevented a massacre on the Libyan people. We have saved countless lives. A great success. - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
There are indications the role that NATO played in Libya has been very problematic and may ultimately have a long-term, destructive impact on Libya’s future. The assertion that the NATO bombings were to protect civilians is being questioned. During the last several weeks of the bombing campaign, there was actually an escalation against the city of Sirte — Gadhafi’s hometown. While many in the population were supporters of Gadhafi, not all of them were by far. And yet, there were huge numbers of civilian casualties that many believed to have been caused by the NATO bombing. While nothing close to accurate numbers have been produced yet, the notion that the civilians of Sirte, were being protected is being questioned. Some contend the civilians of Sirte were targets of NATO, not being protected by them.
Urban Park in Sirte  Libya before NATO bombing.
Urban Park in Sirte, Libya before NATO bombing.
Sirte  Libya after extensive NATO bombing.
Sirte, Libya after extensive NATO bombing.
"The notion that the NATO bombings somehow was to do nothing but protect civilians is simply not the case. - Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies
There is a question of what the impact of bringing in NATO forces and transforming what had begun as part of the Arab Spring, into the overthrowing of a dictator. In the context of the Arab Spring popping up all over the region, where popular revolts by the people overturned governments in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya instead turned into a Western invasion of a North African, Middle Eastern and Arab country, leaving behind a nation dependent on military support. NATO essentially emerged as the air force of the NTC - National Transitional Council - the self-appointed leadership of the uprising.
There is now a situation now where the militias that fought against Gadhafi have made it clear they don’t believe the NTC is their legitimate leadership and don’t feel accountable to them. Statements made by the earlier NTC leadership that they would, "remember” who their friends were, and make sure that they were treated well in a post-Gadhafi Libya, were widely interpreted to mean that the countries that had provided military support to the anti-Gadhafi forces would gain a privileged position regarding Libyan oil and rebuilding contracts. Where it goes now remains unclear.
This was not a war for oil in the classic sense; where there was an actual need to overthrow a dictator in-order to claim access to Libyan oil. Libyan oil was very much in the pockets of the NATO countries and relations with Gadhafi were as friendly as could be. There are recent pictures all over the world of Gadhafi arm in arm with presidents and kings and heads of state, perhaps most memorably with Condoleezza Rice, but also with President Bush and President Obama just weeks before the NATO attacks on Libya began.
Further afield in Africa there is a situation where the rising role of NATO looks very ominous and there is now talk of other African governments asking for NATO - meaning the U.S. and Europe - to engage militarily in internal African affairs. Recently a large contingent of Kenyan troops moved into Somalia claiming to be going after the Shabab militia which has carried out terrible atrocities against Somalis. In the process, there were bombings of a refugee camp with dozens of casualties. These bombings were not targeting the militias, but the internally displaced Somalis, refugees already fleeing violence. There are now calls from both Kenya and the government in Mogadishu - that controls just part of the capital, really - asking for NATO engagement. They’re asking for a blockade of the port of Kismayo along the Somali coast, which is supposedly a stronghold of the Shabab militia. But bringing in outside military forces, more men with guns, will inevitably lead to more civilian casualties, not fewer. The prospect of escalating the conflict in Somalia further by bringing in NATO is a real possibility and potentially another example of NATO expanding its own self-defined mandate of defending its own members.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was a Cold War creature created by and during the Cold War to buffer the Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War, NATO has expanded beyond that mandate, first to take up all the military engagements in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990’s, to its involvement in Libya and perhaps elsewhere in Africa in the near future.
Paralleling the rising NATO role is that of AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Command on the continent. At the beginning of the NATO engagement, AFRICOM was in command of U.S. forces in NATO. The insistence that AFRICOM has a humanitarian mission, which is going to be carried out by the U.S. military through Africa Command, is enough to raise some eyebrows.
This could very well be a precursor to the expansion of U.S. military control of Africa. If one looks at NATO as a whole, it will recognize the powerful military forces within NATO, are the former colonial powers in Africa. This is something that the African Union is going to be very much on guard against, and people across all of Africa are going to be wary of.
The future for Libya to reclaim some level of independence may prove to be a difficult one. The new emerging leadership includes both forces close to the U.S. and the CIA, Islamist forces with a wide variety of ideologies and more secular Libyan forces that for years have wanted to challenge the political repression that characterized the Gaddafi regime. Libya may very well be vulnerable to Western and internal pressure for some time to come.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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