Posted on October 19, 2018
The (Steel) Rains Down in Africa
On October 4, 2017 in a village called Tongo Tongo, located 174 kilometers North of the Nigerian capital of Niamey, the highest-casualty event in Africa for American forces since the Mogadishu incident that inspired the movie “Black Hawk Down” took place. Four American Green Berets and four Nigerian soldiers were killed in an ambush set up by the Islamic State. This event shined a light on the fact that US forces were not only on the continent of Africa, but seemed to be engaged in direct action as well. The deaths of four elite soldiers caused inquiries as to why the United States was on the continent of Africa and under what authority they were there. The Trump administration, now tasked with managing the US military presence around the world, responded by stating the US was deployed to “train, advise, and assist Nigerian partner forces.” While it is not a new or novel concept in the post-9/11 age for the citizenry of the United States to be unaware of clandestine operations around the world, it certainly is unusual for senators, such as Lindsey Graham to state, “I didn’t know there was 1,000 troops in Niger, this is an endless war without boundaries and no limitation on time and geography.”
According to the Comptroller of the Department of Defense (DOD), approximately $44,827,000, before factoring in funds allocated through 10 USCS §127e, has been preliminarily allocated to U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) for the fiscal year of 2019. The code 127e usurps the War Powers Resolution by circumventing the need for congressional approval of funds for specific operations. Very little is available to the public in terms of exactly what the funds are spent on, but according to General Raymond A. Thomas it provides “unique access and capabilities” to the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community.
The issue here is not that the government seems to be waging a clandestine war on the African continent. Considering that the continent has some of the fastest growing economies, it is in the interest of the United States to help stem the tide of terrorism and foster closer ties with the most resource and opportunity rich continent on the planet. This is especially true considering the fact that China is investing approximately $60 billion into the African continent. Russia, in the same fashion as the preceding Soviet Union, is investing heavily into Africa with money, weapons, and “advisors.”
The United States on the other hand, is lagging far behind the two rival nations in terms of investment into Africa. The Brookings Institute stated that the U.S. Commercial engagement in Africa has not only ceased to increase but has actually decreased over the last five years. Therefore, it is through necessity that the United States is providing value to African nations with the greatest and most abundant export resource at its disposal: warriors.
Again, the issue isn’t that the US is engaged in a secret war on the continent, the issue is that the new modus operandi of the government seems to lean toward acquiring a large defense budget in support of American national security; support for necessary military expenditures like investing money into the F-35 as well as the added expenses of global clandestine operations that include activities in Africa. While the language of the transparency report of March, 2018 clearly stated that the United States is in Niger to provide training and support, there are numerous reports from service members that they are engaged in active hostilities on the African Continent. If the fight for the preservation of order is as important as General Bolduc says, then it would behoove the government to go through the proper channels of the legislative branch to acquire more funding than the meager amount currently being channeled into the continent.
It is an old habit of presidents to deploy US troops without a declaration of war from Congress in direct contradiction to the Constitutional separation of powers. The justification has historically been that in actions that arguably do not warrant a declaration of war, the president need not rely on Congress to approve. Frustrated with the seeming circumvention of duly divided Constitutional powers Congress, during President Nixon’s term, passed the War Powers Resolution despite the direct veto of the president. The War Powers Resolution allowed the Commander in Chief of the military to place troops in various geographic locations, and indeed even into hostile zones so long as a few conditions were met. The Commander in Chief can utilize his Constitutionally vested authority to deploy troops so long as the authority is 1) exercised pursuant to a declaration of war, specific statutory authorization from congress, or a national emergency created by an attack on the United States, 2) report the activities to Congress, 3) withdraw all US forces within 60 days of a report, unless Congress approves continued action or is physically unable to meet. The arrangement has historically been that should Congress find the engagement distasteful, they can end the conflict after sixty days by cutting funding to an operation. The operation in Niger was a shocking revelation because it seems to have shown that even the War Powers Resolution is being side stepped, if not outright ignored by the executive branch to an extent. The executive branch seems to be sidestepping the War Powers Resolution by acquiring funds via 10 USCS §127e. 10 USCS §127e allows the Secretary of Defense to expend “up to $100,000,000 during any fiscal year to provide support to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing military operations by United States special operations forces to combat terrorism.” The language “combat terrorism” seems to be a deliberate introduction of language that would give the executive branch an unsupervised ability to allocate funds, especially since the Authorization for Use of Military Force, better known as Pub. L. 107-40 has been used to justify anti-terrorist activities since September 18, 2001.
 Volcovici, Valerie, ‘The answer we have now is not adequate’: Lawmakers are raising questions about the ambusth on US troops in Niger, Reuters.com https://www.businessinsider.com/r-us-senators-seek-answers-on-us-presence-in-niger-after-ambush-2017-10
 Fiscal Year(FY) 2019 President’s Budget, Office of the Secretary of Defense, https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2019/Security_Cooperation_Budget_Display_OUSDC.pdf
General Thomas, A. Raymond , Statement before the House Armed Services Committee; Subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities, https://www.socom.mil/Documents/Posture%20Statements/2018%20USSOCOM%20Posture%20Statement_HASC%20Final.pdf
 Ebatamehi, Sebastiane, Top 10 Fastest Growing Economies in Africa 2018 https://www.africanexponent.com/post/9157-africas-largest-economies-in-2018
 Sow, Mariama, Figures of the week: Chinese investment in Africa, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2018/09/06/figures-of-the-week-chinese-investment-in-africa/
 Bienen, Henry, Soviet Political Relation sin Africa, Internatinoal Security Vol. 6, No. 4 (spring 1982) https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2538682.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Ab4f8fd5227f7b0555720d1c18f198080
Morgan, Wesley, Behind the secret U.S. war in Africa, Politico.com, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/02/secret-war-africa-pentagon-664005
Brigadier General Bolduc, C. Donald, The Pentagon Wants To Pull Special Operations Forces Out Of Africa. That’s A Huge Mistake, taskandpurpose.com, https://taskandpurpose.com/special-operations-forces-africa-plan/