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When AFRICOM Evaluates Itself, the News Is Grim
By Nick Turse
Someday, someone will write a history of the U.S. national security state in the twenty-first century and, if the first decade and a half are any yardstick, it will be called something like State of Failure. After all, almost 15 years after the U.S. invaded the Taliban’s Afghanistan, launching the second American Afghan War of the past half-century, U.S. troops are still there, their “withdrawal” halted, their rules of engagement once again widened to allow American troops and air power to accompany allied Afghan forces into battle, and the Taliban on the rise, having taken more territory (and briefly one northern provincial capital) than at any time since that movement was crushed in the invasion of 2001.
His Own Worst Critic
That said, Waldhauser isn’t the only AFRICOM chief to point a finger at Rodriguez’s checkered record. Another American general cast an even darker shadow on the outgoing commander’s three-year run overseeing Washington’s shadow war in Africa:
“AFRICOM’s priorities on the continent for the next several years will be… in East Africa to improve stability there. Most of that is built around the threat of al-Shabaab. And then, in the North and West Africa is really built around the challenges from Libya down to northern Mali and that region and that instability there creates many challenges… And then after that is the West Africa, really about the Boko Haram and the problem in Nigeria that is, unfortunately, crossing the boundary into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. So those are the big challenges and then just the normal ones that continue to be a challenge are the Gulf of Guinea… as well as countering the Lord’s Resistance Army…”
That critic was, in fact, General David Rodriguez himself in an AFRICOM promotional video released on multiple social media platforms last month. It was posted on the very day that his command also touted its “more than 30 major exercises and more than 1,000 military to military engagements” between 2013 and 2015. It was hardly a surprise, however, that these two posts and the obvious conclusion to be drawn from them — just how little AFRICOM’S growing set of ambitious continent-wide activities mattered when it came to the spread of terror movements — went unattended and uncommented upon.