In his latest article for The Intercept a US award-winning journalist, Nick Turse, turned a spotlight on a paradoxical situation: although the US government has poured hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the Pan Sahel African countries since 2002, the region has become less secure.
"The region, relatively free of transnational terror threats in 2001, is now beset by regular attacks from Boko Haram, a once-tiny, nonviolent, Islamist sect from Nigeria that has since pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and threatens the stability of not only its homeland but also Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. And Boko Haram is just one of 17 militant groups now menacing the region," Turse points out.
Unsecure Continent: True Aims of US Military in Africa Remain Murky
US special operations forces provide regular training to Niger's army. Washington has spent millions of dollars on planes, trucks and "other gear" to the African nation, Turse points out, adding that this is just the tip of iceberg given the Pentagon's significant military presence on the continent.
In his 2015 article for TomDispatch.com, Turse disclosed that there are dozens of US military installations in Africa, besides Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.
These numerous cooperative security locations (CSLs), forward operating locations (FOLs) and other outposts have been built by the US in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda.
According to the American journalist, US military also have access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Zambia and other countries.
Citing Richard Reeve, the director of the Sustainable Security Programme at the Oxford Research Group, a London-based think tank, Turse noted that the Pentagon has maintained covert control over "about every country" in West and Central Africa.
Still the exact number of US military installations on the continent is shrouded in secrecy. Likewise the Pentagon's tasks and objectives in Africa remain murky.
However, there is a strange correlation between the growing number of US military installations in the region, the increased activity of regional Islamist groups and Africa's oil production sites.
Africa's Crude Has Strategic Importance for US
The German academic listed the continent's top oil producers in order of decreasing output: Nigeria, Algeria, Libya, Angola and Egypt. Other oil-producing countries mentioned by the author were Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, Congo-Kinshasa and Cote d'Ivoire.
Neumann also highlighted the importance of the Gulf of Guinea, emphasizing that "the hydrocarbon-rich Gulf of Guinea is the main location of oil reserves in SSA, thus bearing the greatest prospects."
"Considering bilateral oil-trade relations, one should particularly emphasize the fact that the US receives 16% of its total oil imports from Africa, with the share of West African oil equaling the share of Saudi Arabia… The National Intelligence Council (USA) predicts that 'West Africa will play an increasing role in global energy markets, providing 25% of North American oil imports in 2015.' This reveals the strategic importance of the SSA [Sub-Saharan Africa] oil sector for the USA," Neumann emphasized.
It is hardly a coincidence, according to Chris Mansur of Geopolitical Monitor.
"West African oil remains strategically important for US policy makers, especially since it provides an alternative to Persian Gulf oil," Mansur wrote in his 2012 article.
"In 2007, the US African Command (AFRICOM) was established… Many critics of AFRICOM, including energy security expert Michael T. Klare, believe there is a direct relationship between the existence of AFRICOM and America's interest in African oil."
The journalist explained that there is a parallel between the US' increased military presence in Africa and its military expansion into the Persian Gulf since the establishment of the Carter Doctrine. In accordance with the doctrine, Washington had to ensure security of oil supplies to the US.
There is also the Wolfowitz doctrine that stipulates that Washington should control resource-rich regions to prevent the emergence of a "geopolitical rival."
Likewise, Washington has been pouring American taxpayers' money into its military infrastructure in Africa since 2002.
US Military Presence in Africa Can't Curtail Emergence of Terror Groups
On the other hand, experts call attention to increased activity of Islamist terrorist groups across Africa. Curiously enough, the groups' terror attacks have targeted oil-rich regions of the north, west and central parts of the continent.
However, the US military presence has not led to diminishing the Islamist threat. Quite the contrary, Islamic extremist groups have recently intensified their activities on the continent.
Dan Glazebrook, a freelance political writer emphasized in his 2015 op-ed for RT that Boko Haram had got a second wind after NATO's invasion of Libya, through obtaining large quantities of weapons and ammunition from Libyan stockpiles. He underscored that the Western invasion directly resulted in the upsurge of terrorist activity in the Sahel region and beyond.
The question than arises whether the terrorist threat serves as a justification for America's further military expansion in the region.