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The Washington Post reports today that U.S. military operations in Africa are expanding into a wide-reaching network of air bases, spy planes, and Special Operations units targeting terrorist and guerrilla groups across the continent. The paper says a dozen "air bases" have been established in Central Africa since 2007, though they are typically small-operations run out of civilian airports by a few dozen soldiers. Many of them are also run by civilian contractors hired by the Pentagon.
Though the expanded operations are ostensibly about tracking and catching al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists, like al-Shabab in Somalia or the Boko Haram in Nigeria, the close involvement with other African forces makes it easy for American troops to insert themselves (intentionally or not) into other regional conflicts. For example, the report says there are around 100 Special Operations troops aiding in the hunt for Joseph Kony and our unmanned spy drones — disguised to look like harmless prop planes — monitor the continuing conflict between North and South Sudan. Even when U.S. interests are not directly affected, the ability to quietly influence events on the ground becomes remarkably easy the more our presence grows.