Posted on February 2nd, 2024

Nick Turse Courtesy The Intercept

A formerly secret map from AFRICOM shows a network of 29 U.S. military bases that stretch from one side of Africa to another.

Nick Turse

LAST MONTH, ABOUT a dozen al-Shabab fighters infiltrated the perimeter of a military base in Manda Bay, KenyaOpens in a new tab. One of them took aim with a rocket-propelled grenade, firing at a U.S. surveillance plane and touching off an hourslong firefight. When it was all over, the two American pilots of that plane and a U.S. soldier were dead, two other U.S. military personnel were wounded, six surveillance aircraft and helicopters were destroyed, and parts of the airfield were in flames.

Where there are U.S. bases, there is the potential for such attacks, because bases are not just launching pads for offensive military operations, but targets for them too. Since 9/11, the U.S. military has built a sprawling network of outposts in more than a dozen African countries. The Intercept has obtained U.S. military documents and a set of accompanying maps that provide the locations of these African bases in 2019, including the one at Manda Bay. These formerly secret documents, created by the Pentagon’s Africa Command and obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, offer an exclusive window into the footprint of American military operations in Africa.


Maps of U.S. Enduring” and Non-Enduring” bases in Africa. The Pentagon defines enduring” bases as providing strategic access and use to support United States security interests for the foreseeable future.” Non-Enduring” outposts — also known as contingency locations” — are defined as supporting and sustaining operations during contingencies or other operations.” Contingency locations can be categorized as initial, temporary, or semipermanent. Images: U.S. Africa Command

During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month, Stephen Townsend, the commander of AFRICOM, echoed a line favored by his predecessors that AFRICOM maintains a light and relatively low-cost footprint” on the continent. This light” footprint consists of a constellation of more than two dozen outposts that stretch from one side of Africa to the other. The 2019 planning documents provide locations for 29 bases located in 15 different countries or territories, with the highest concentrations in the Sahelian states on the west side of the continent, as well as the Horn of Africa in the east. Since the plans were created, according to AFRICOM spokesperson John Manley, two bases have been shuttered, leaving the U.S. with an archipelago of 15 enduring locations” and 12 less-permanent contingency locations.” The documents note, however, that AFRICOM is actively seeking to enhance its presence and is primed for expansion in the future.

Chebelley, DjiboutiBizerte, Tunisia
Camp Lemonnier, DjiboutiArlit, Niger
Entebbe, UgandaDirkou, Niger
Mombassa, KenyaDiffa, Niger
Manda Bay, KenyaOuallam, Niger
Liberville, GabonBamako, Mali
St. Helena, Ascension IslandGaroua, Cameroon
Accra, GhanaMaroua, Cameroon
Ouagadougou, Burkina FasoMisrata, Libya
Dakar, SenegalTripoli, Libya
Agadez, NigerBaledogle, Somalia
Niamey, NigerBosasso, Somalia
N’Djamena, ChadGalcayo, Somalia
Kismayo, Somalia
Mogadishu, Somalia
Wajir, Kenya

U.S. Africa Command’s Enduring Footprint” and Non-Enduring Footprint” in 2019.

Violent extremism and insecurity on the continent has increased exponentially during the very years that the U.S. has been building up its network of bases, providing billions of dollars in security assistanceOpens in a new tab to local partners, conducting persistent counterterrorism operations that include commando raids, combat by U.S. Special Operations forces in at least 13 African countries between 2013 and 2017Opens in a new tab, and a record number of U.S. airstrikes in SomaliaOpens in a new tab (just over one attack per week in 2019). There are now roughly 25 active militant Islamist groupsOpens in a new tab operating in Africa, up from just five in 2010Opens in a new tab — a jump of 400 percent — according to the Defense Department’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Militant Islamist activity also hit record levels in 2019. There were 3,471 reported violent eventsOpens in a new tab linked to these groups last year, a 1,105 percent increase since 2009Opens in a new tab. Reported fatalities resulting from African militant Islamist group activity also increased by 7 percent over last year, to an estimated 10,460 deaths. The situation has become so grim that U.S. military aims in West Africa have recently been scaled back from a strategy of degrading the strength and reach of terror groups to nothing more than containmentOpens in a new tab.”

THE CURRENT ARCHIPELAGO of U.S. outposts in Africa represents a decrease of seven sites from the 34 bases detailed in a set of briefing documents by AFRICOM science adviser Peter Teil that were published by The Intercept in 2018. The new 2019 AFRICOM planning documents provide information on five bases slated for closure, including a longtime enduring” site in Gaborone, BotswanaOpens in a new tab, and four contingency locations, or CLs, in Faya Largeau, Chad; Lakipia, Kenya; Benina, Libya; and Gao, Mali. Shuttering the CLs, according to the documents, is part of an effort to seek efficiencies by consolidating … functions at a reduced number of posture locations,” while the removal of Gabrone was chalked up to a lack of DoD [Department of Defense] property or routine DoD presence” and the fact that Botswana does not acknowledge or desire any formal DoD access at the international airport.”

Manley refused to say which two additional bases were dropped from the 2019 list. The fluctuation in the number is not related to Misrata and Tripoli,” he told The Intercept in response to a question about whether the Libyan outposts were the others closed. But it is worth noting that since the 2019 base posture document was produced, the U.S. pulled its forces out of the North African nation. Due to increased unrest in LibyaOpens in a new tab, a contingent of U.S. forces supporting U.S. Africa Command temporarily relocated from the country in response to security conditions on the ground,” AFRICOM announced last April as the Libyan civil war flared upOpens in a new tab. Those troops have never returned, according to Manley, and a recent inspector general’s report states that they won’t be redeployed until there is a ceasefireOpens in a new tab in Libya’s civil warOpens in a new tab.

It’s also worth noting the documents state that U.S. Army Africa uses space at host nation facilities” in Theis, Senegal, and Singo, Uganda, even though the bases are not listed on AFRICOM’s maps. While these cooperative training locations” are not officially considered outposts by the command, they raise the question of whether 29 bases is actually a more accurate count. Whatever the real number of bases, the recent alteration of AFRICOM’s footprint in 2019 appears to be a strategic consolidation as the command fortifies its presence in some of the continent’s hottest hotspots. Of the 6,000 or more U.S. personnel deployed in Africa, about 1,200, according to Manley, are in West Africa, with a significant percentage in NigerOpens in a new tab, which has become the key American hub on that side of the continent. Around 500 Special Operations forcesOpens in a new tab are reportedly deployed on the other side of the continent in Somalia, the site of America’s most intense and longest-running undeclared war in Africa.

Full Report

Pentagon’s Own Map of U.S. Bases in Africa Contradicts Its Claim of “Light” Footprint

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