The US has roughly 6,000 military personnel scattered throughout the continent with military attachés outnumbering diplomats in many embassies across Africa.
A new report published in South African newspaper The Mail and Guardian has shed light on the opaque world of the American military presence in Africa. Last year, elite U.S. Special Operations forces were active in 22 African countries. This accounts for 14 percent of all American commandos deployed overseas, the largest number for any region besides the Middle East. American troops had also seen combat in 13 African nations.
The U.S. is not formally at war with an African nation, and the continent is barely discussed in reference to American exploits around the globe. Therefore, when U.S. operatives die in Africa, as happened in Niger, Mali, and Somalia in 2018, the response from the public, and even from the media is often “why are American soldiers there in the first place?”
The presence of the U.S. military, especially commandos, is rarely publicly acknowledged, either by Washington or by African governments. What they are doing remains even more opaque. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) generally claims that special forces go no further than so-called “AAA” (advise, assist and accompany) missions. Yet in combat, the role between observer and participant can become distinctly blurry.