3 Small Wars That Could Become the Next Vietnam
The war in Afghanistan is drawing to a close, marking the end of more than a decade of continuous fighting in big, traditional conflicts. But even as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, the United States is already committing to a series of smaller engagements in Africa that have the dangerous potential to become larger conflicts.
The U.S. military has a presence in the Central African Republic, where U.S. special operators are assisting in the hunt for Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. The Pentagon is building drone bases in Chad and Niger. In Nigeria, U.S. troops are training the local military to fight against the Muslim extremist group, Boko Haram. They’re also supporting the NATO mission in Mali and have drones flying over both Somalia and Kenya. From the Republic of Djibouti in the horn of Africa, U.S. troops coordinate missions across the continent.
Those are the missions we know about—all from unclassified documents. It’s highly likely, however, that the military is active elsewhere on the continent, but where, with how many personnel, and with what mission is still top secret.
Also hidden from the public eye is the cost of these programs. U.S. Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, had a budget of $298 million in 2012, a pittance within a defense budget of more than $800 billion. But since many of the programs that are active in Africa are clandestine, it’s impossible to know how much is actually being spent.
What’s clear, however, is that U.S. commitments in Africa are growing—and are likely to keep growing as the continent becomes a safe haven for factions of al Qaeda.