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US African Military Drills are 'Sinister', Expert Says

© AFP 2023 / ISSOUF SANOGOIvorian special forces take part in the annual US-led Flintlock military training hosted by the Internationl Counter-Terrorism Academy, in Jacqueville, on March 14, 202
Ivorian special forces take part in the annual US-led Flintlock military training hosted by the Internationl Counter-Terrorism Academy, in Jacqueville, on March 14, 202 - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.03.2023
This week, the US has conducted its annual joint military excersises with African nations. The US-led drills, which include a maritime program for the first time, come roughly a month after Russia and China held their second joint maritime drills with South Africa from 25 to 27 February.
The US-led military drills held in Ghana and Ivory Coast are not serving the interests of African people, as the drills' main purpose is to turn Africans against Russia, Kwesi Pratt Jnr, General Secretary of the Socialist Movement of Ghana, Director of Pan-African Television, Managing Editor of the Insight Newspaper, Ghana, tells Sputnik.

"I think that these military operations are sinister," says the expert. "They are not in the best interest of the African people and it falls within the framework of building an anti-Russia coalition. And I'm wondering why Africans should be interested in the building of an anti-Russia coalition".

The United States and its partners from 29 African countries are holding annual maritime drills, dubbed Flintlock, in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The exercises are focused on tactical training for special operations, said US Special Operations Command Africa's commander Rear Adm. Jamie Sands. This is the first time for the US to hold joint maritime exercises on the continent.
According to the expert, the US-led drills are an unsuccessful attempt of Washington to regain influence in the continent, as the the US ignores African countries' specific features, resorting to country-continent approach.

"The recent maneuvers are for me an attempt to return to Africa with the wrong approach [...] The same America-Africa concept is the worst way to do it because African youth are today against the country-continent relationship," the expert stresses. "It is more for country-country relations. The USA can have an African policy, an official for Africa, but the relations must be specific between countries."

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According to Boris Ghislain Kabre, Consultant-Researcher-Trainer, Sahel Specialist, Expert in Peace Operations, Community Mediation and Conflict Sensitivity, the latest US activity towards the continent results from a number of goals the country is trying to achieve, including the strive to lower Russian and Chinese presence on the continent.

"The first [goal] is to make up for its failure in the Near and Middle East and to strengthen the influence of the Western bloc in Africa in support of France", expert says. "[Another] goal is effectively to counter Russian-Chinese expansion in the Western bloc's zone of influence."

France – a key Washington's ally within the NATO alliance – has seen its military presence in West Africa deteriorating since 2022, with French troops withdrawing from Mali and Burkina Faso on demand of local military governments and against the backdrop of protesters saying that the European army was unable to counter the terrorist threat in the region. Ahead of his recent African tour, French President Emmanuel Macron announced reorganization of French military presence in Africa under a "new security partnership".
Among other reasons for the US to organize the drills, Kabre has named the need to find a new region where America can establish its powers. According to the expert, the Middle East and the Near East used to be the US zones of influence. Since the country has lost its powers there, it seeks to "deploy elsewhere", the expert says.
According to Kabre, the US has lost its earlier influence on the continent.

"The United States has lost its influence in Africa with the last three presidents and the United States-Africa Leaders Summit of 2022 and the African tours of senior American officials have been badly taken by African youth," the expert outlines.

The expert notes that young Africans today realise how strong Africa is. Moreover, they understand that relations with China and Russia are important for the continent, expert says.

"African youth have understood that Africa is a 'supercontinent', that each African country is worth the USA, surpasses France and the only possible future relations are those offered by Russia and China's country policies [and] bilateral partnerships."

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In his turn, Pratt outlines the historical preconditions of such negative attitude towards the US and the West overall among some Africans .

"I think the significance is partly in the history of the armies, of the military establishment of the US and its allies," notes the expert. "These were the armies which were used to enforce colonial and racist rule in Africa. They keenly supported the apartheid regime in South Africa, and they enforced colonialism with vigor."

In addition, Pratt recalls the history West's slave trade that also left a mark on Africans' perception of western countries policies towards the continent.

"Indeed, some of the security establishments in the West were also very deeply involved in the transatlantic slave trade," outlines Kwesi Pratt Jnr. "So this immediately raises suspicion about their motives."

According to the expert, for the US it will not be an easy task to replace China and Russia as African partners. Unlike America, Russia and China do not try to oversee or even control African nations' internal policy, their democracy issues and the relevant matters, the expert says.

"Unlike France and the US, they [Russia and China] are not interested in democracy and the internal politics of a partner country", Kabre says. "Since Africa has tasted this type of partnership, African leaders are more at ease because in a continent where some presidents have lasted more than 30 years in power, cooperation without political interference is a godsend! If the US wants to replace itself, it seems more difficult than expected."

According to Kabre, it's hardly possible to call US-Africa relations a "partnership" despite the US pledges to invest "$6.5 billion to support peace, security and governance in Africa".
"Despite this, we cannot yet speak of partnership, let alone relying on military cooperation in the context of poverty and insecurity," expert noted. "We can speak of a partnership in development because we are in the experimental phase."
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Recalling on Joe Biden's speech at the United States-Africa Leaders Summit held in December 13-15, 2022, the expert outlined that the US president's words indicated the partnership does not yet exist.

"At the United States-Africa Leaders Summit [...] President Biden said he wanted to deepen and broaden partnerships between the United States and African countries", outlined the expert, adding that "This clearly explains that the partnership is not yet concluded otherwise President Biden would speak to consolidate and not to deepen."

The three-day summit, hosting 49 African leaders in the US capital, Washington D.C., ended with Biden's speech, where he, among other issues, outlined the US strive to increase the level of its presence on the continent.
Pratt highlights the fact that "partnership" is not a correct word to call Africa-US relations, as the US foreign policy is characterized by a high number of political conditions for cooperation.

"No, it's not a partnership. It comes with conditions. It comes with conditions about how we should govern ourselves, how we should see our future, it comes with conditions about the definition of democracy, and so on," notes the expert. "Those are impositions – that cannot be a partnership. That's a lopsided friendship in which we lose everything and gain nothing."

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Assessing the overall situation with the US troops having been deployed in African countries for years, Pratt states that Africa does not need American military to stay there.
"I think that Africa, if it is not exploited, if it doesn't pursue the neo-liberal order, if it does not allow for new colonial exploitation of its resources, has the capacity to defend itself," the expert says. "We do not need Western troops on our soil."
Kabre outlines that the US has slight chances on the development of relations with African nations due to their "double standards" policy.

"The White House has always been ambiguous in its relations and collaborations with Africa", expert emphasizes. "US policy can be described as a double standard [one]. With such an attitude, there is little chance for the US to attract many partnerships".

This year's Flintlock training has come roughly a month after Russia and China had conducted their second joint maritime drills with South Africa, hosted by the Southern African country 25-27 February.
Ahead of the trilateral drills in South Africa, David Feldmann, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in the country, said that Washington was concerned about South Africa's plans to hold joint naval exercises with Russia and China.
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During his recent African tour, Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov put an emphasis on the US "double standards" policy, saying that "US colleagues believe that only they can conduct exercises around the world."
In May 2022, the United States adopted a bill to counter "malign activities" of Russia in Africa hindering the achievement of the United States' goals and interests. In accordance with the bill, the America may penalize African nations for interaction with Russia in various areas.
At a meeting with the US president Joe Biden in September 2022, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa criticized the bill, calling it a "misplaced type of legislation."

"We should not be told by anyone who we associate with, and we should never be put in positions where we have to choose who our friends are," said Ramaphosa after his meeting with Biden.

African countries' distrust of US respect for sovereignty was also highlighted by Jacob Mudenda, speaker of the National Assembly of Zimbabwe. He said that African countries reacted with disgust to the May 2022 bill, as it violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries willing to cooperate with Russia.
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