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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 March, 2004, 16:27 GMT
US to increase African military presence
By Martin Plaut
BBC regional analyst

Charles Wald
Gen Wald: The US is involved in the fight against Uganda's rebel LRA
The US military interest in Africa has been transformed by its determination to win what it calls the war on terrorism in the wake of 11 September.

General Charles Wald, the US general who is in charge for African operations, told the BBC that the US plans to increase the number of facilities across the continent.

He said the facilities are vital if the US is to intervene in Africa's many conflicts.

"The distances are huge, the problems are multiple, and we need multiple options to respond to those problems," he said.

He said most of the facilities will not be full scale bases, but rather airfields with guaranteed access to fuel.

Home-grown defence

He said the US is willing to back African efforts to produce pan-African defence forces.

Malian soldiers being trained by US troops

General Wald was enthusiastic about the African Union's concept of developing five regional brigades - rapid reaction forces to snuff out crises as they develop.

He said that US special operations training was already under way in Mali and Mauritania, and was planned for Chad and Niger.

General Wald also confirmed what had long been suspected - that the US is directly involved in the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda - although he would not be drawn on the form this assistance is taking.

"I have met with [Uganda's] President Museveni. I have heard personally that he is very pleased with the support we are giving him," he said.

"Its not just moral support... But many things need to be kept a bit more private."

Overall, America's benign neglect of Africa after the end of the cold war is now clearly a thing of the past.


SEE ALSO:
War on terror Africa-style
21 Feb 03  |  Africa
US vows to defeat Horn terrorism
13 Dec 02  |  Africa


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