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Drugs, Guns, & Terrorists: The Pentagon Beefs Up in Africa

When the Presidents and other important officials from four African countries visited Washington this week, their trip was ostensibly to celebrate democracy and “good governance.” But the real story behind the visit by these representatives of Malawi, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Cape Verde is the increased attention Washington’s defense establishment is giving to Africa.

“The leaders discussed issues of mutual concern, including extremist networks, illicit trafficking, and maritime security,” said Defense Department press secretary George Little after the delegation of African leaders met with Secretary Hagel and other Pentagon officials.

“Yeah, a lot of things have happened in the last year,” a senior Defense Department official told Kevin Baron, the author of Foreign Policy‘s E-Ring blog. “We have a border problem, so the same transit routes in the Sahel, for example, that will use drug smuggling might also use it for arms smuggling and other illicit trafficking.”

The Arab Spring is turning North Africa upside down. NATO’s intervention in Libya and France’s in northern Mali is further stirring the pot. Drugs and arms are flowing freely, and weak states, ungoverned places, and political upheavals are providing ideal conditions for Islamic terrorism and other threats to US security to fester and grow.

Africa is where is where the action is, and the Pentagon’s footprint there is getting bigger.

[Image: Gao, Mali. Courtesy Wikipedia]

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