America's Hidden Counterterrorism Operations in Africa

Matthew Petti

No one knows how much the U.S. military is spending on its secretive operations in Africa, a new report by the Lead Inspector General revealed.

U.S. forces have been engaged in missions to “degrade” violent extremist organizations—including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda—across East Africa and North and West Africa for years. But the public has rarely gotten a glimpse of the secretive U.S. military interventions on the continent, and the Lead Inspector General’s quarterly reports to Congress on the topic have been classified since the government watchdog began investigating these operations in 2018.

On Tuesday, the Lead Inspector General released its first-ever declassified report on U.S. counterterrorism operations in Africa. The report revealed that these operations are failing to stem the tide of terrorism—and even the government’s own investigators don’t know how much they cost.

U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) forces are involved in training missions across the continent. They also accompany the Somali National Army on counterterrorism missions, strike at Islamic State forces involved in the Libyan Civil War, and “conduct engagements, exercises, and limited operations” in the Sahel and Lake Chad.

Public scrutiny towards these missions has been growing over the past month. Three Americans were killed in an attack on a Kenyan air base on January 5, and the Senate called on AFRICOM commander Gen. Stephen J. Townsend to testify on January 20.

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