Dems in Congress oppose Obama’s draft Military Force Authorization, may affect Africa

Written by: David Wiley

Africa Militarism Watch

Politico (2015-03-03) reports that “Key Democrats are hardening their opposition to President Barack Obama’s proposal for attacking Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, raising fresh doubts the White House can win congressional approval of the plan as concerns grow over its handling of crises around the globe.” While the draft Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) from the White House targets ISIL in “Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East” (President’s letter), it also authorizes U.S. military action against forces “associated” with the terrorist group which could be defined as including al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Islamist militias in Libya, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Algeria, Mali, and Tunisia, and other African groups if they indicate support of the ISIL/ISIS caliphate.

In interviews this week, not a single Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed support for the president’s war plan as written, “most demanding changes to limit the commander in chief’s authority and more explicitly prohibit sending troops into the conflict.”  Meanwhile, Republican “hawks” in the Senate reportedly are eager to move forward “for a more robust U.S. role against the terrorist group known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”

Both the Bush and Obama Administrations have continued to support U.S. military operations in Africa under the September 14, 2001 joint AUMF resolution of the  House and Senate, passed unanimously except for Rep. Barbara Lee, authorizing military action against those responsible for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The resolution gives the President  authority to use “…all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks…or harbored such organizations or persons…”

ISIL-linked cells reportedly are being organized by North Africans who have fought in Syria and and are now returning to their home countries,” a source said. “It’s something that is very worrisome to the regimes in the area.  In 2014, several North African states have reported the arrest of dozens of suspected ISIL recruiters. The sources said the recruiters at first focused on sending young Muslims to the ISIL wars in Iraq and Syria.”

Even without an AUMF in Africa, the White House has approved broad CIA, AFRICOM, and SpecialOps (incl. Navy Seals) operations across Africa from Somalia to Mauritania, including armed and surveillance drones and drone bases, C-130 and helicopter gunships, and CIA operations and covert air monitoring. The New York Times reports that “Some Africa specialists expressed concern that setting up a drone base in Niger or in a neighboring country, even if only to fly surveillance missions, could alienate local people who may associate the distinctive aircraft with deadly attacks in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.” (See a fuller description of U.S. operations in Africa “AFRICOM’s Gigantic “Small Footprint” and map.)

In addition, in 2010 the Congress provided explicit authorization of operations against the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in East Africa.   The authorization for the LRA action, the LRA Disarmament & Northern Uganda Recovery Act, provided only for “…political, economic, military, and intelligence support for viable multilateral efforts to protect civilians from the Lord’s Resistance Army, to apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield in the continued absence of a negotiated solution, and to disarm and demobilize the remaining Lord’s Resistance Army fighters.”  This resulted in approximately 100 U.S. military advisor “boots on the ground” in this extended and, apparently, unsuccessful operation with the Ugandan and Sudanese military.

The following two tabs change content below.
David Wiley is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and African Studies at Michigan State University (MSU). He served as director of the African Studies Centers at MSU (1978-2008) and University of Wisconsin-Madison (1972-77). He has worked in Rhodesia and, with research on urban and rural environments, in Zambia, Kenya, and South Africa and participated in the struggles for democracy and majority rule in Southern Africa. He has been President of the national African Studies Association; Vice-Chairperson of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO; and co-chair and co-founder of the Council of National Title VI Centers and the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars. He is a member of the U.S. Africa Network and has chaired international committees of the National Science Foundation, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Sociological Association. His recent research concerns environmental issues in South Africa, militarism in Africa, and international education in U.S. universities.