US commandos operate in 22 African nations, making the continent its second-largest military footprint after the Middle East, a news report reveals. Locals and the US public are largely unaware of the extent of US presence there.
When four US military service members were killed in an ambush in Niger in 2017, it came as a surprise to many, including even sitting members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who were not aware that US troops were in the African country in the first place.
The under-the-radar deployments of US soldiers to Africa are as prominent as ever, according to South Africa’s Mail & Guardian. Elite special operations forces were present in 22 African nations last year, including in de facto combat missions, the newspaper said.
Last year, some of the deadliest Pentagon combat troops were present in Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Côte D’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Tanzania and Tunisia.
With boots on the ground in almost half of Africa’s 54 nation states, the continent accounts for over 14 percent of US commandos deployed overseas. This is the largest concentration of US troops in the world, with the exception of the greater Middle East, the report said.
Some of the US missions in Africa are aimed at training local forces while others involve direct combat. Characterized as “AAA” or “advise, assist and accompany” by US AFRICOM (United States Africa Command), these deployments can be quite risky for American soldiers. In 2017, a US Navy Seal was killed in Somalia while assisting local forces in a raid on a militant camp. The command acknowledged carrying out 70 such missions in East Africa in 2018, 46 in 2019 and seven in 2020 as of early June.