By Joseph Fitsanakis: Teams of United States Special Forces are carrying out “nearly 100 missions at any given time” in the continent of Africa, according to American military documents released to the media. Operating under the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), US Special Forces are trained to carry out missions using unconventional tactics.
Much of their work is classified. However, a Freedom of Information Act request by the New York-based Vice News has revealed extensive deployment of US Special Forces in Africa in recent times.
Information provided to Vice News by the USSOCOM appears to show that operations by US Special Forces in Africa have seen dramatic growth in recent years, possibly more than any other region of the globe.
According to documents, US Special Forces in Africa represented just over 1 percent of all US Special Forces personnel stationed abroad in 2006. By 2010, that number had risen to approximately 3 percent —a significant increase but still relatively low in comparison to USSOCOM deployment in other regions of the world. But by 2016, over 17 percent of US Special Forces stationed abroad were based in Africa. Information unearthed by Vice News shows that 1,700 US Special Forces troops were stationed in 20 different African countries in 2016.
This number indicates that there are now more US Special Forces troops stationed in Africa than in any other region of the world barring the Middle East.
Vice News said it obtained a report by US Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA), which states that US Special Forces were deployed in “at least 32 African nations in the 12 months of 2016”. Only the Middle East saw more deployments of US Special Forces than Africa.
The report’s author, General Donald Bolduc, the commander of SOCAFRICA, wrote that the increasing presence of US Special Forces in the continent reflects the significance of the region for the US. “Africa’s challenges could create a threat that surpasses [that faced] from conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria”, wrote General Bolduc.
The report does not specify how many missions USSOCOM carries out per year. The US Department of Defense did not respond to questions on the subject.