Spain a new link in AFRICOM

The US’ decision to beef up its military presence in southern Spain indicates that a new strategy towards Africa is well underway says Andrew Korybko.

Washington just clinched a deal with Madrid that will see it boosting its military footprint in the south of the country. According to the agreement, up to 2,200 Marines and possibly 40 military aircraft will be deployed within striking distance of all of West Africa, and this massive amount of firepower proves that the US is preparing its forces for engagement all across the continent in the years to come.

Its deployment along the African periphery in Spain complements the existing presence it has in Italy and Djibouti, to say nothing of its mobile naval capabilities, and this arrangement may actually be the most ‘efficient’ of AFRICOM’s speculated formations.

In the short term, it’s predicted that the US’ latest moves are in anticipation of an inevitable leadership transition that may soon take place in Algeria, while the constant, long-term interest is in controlling the transit of significant non-Russian gas supplies to the EU.

Spain’s leaders want US support against the Catalonian independence movement too. They fear that the independence of Catalonia could lead to a chain reaction of similar movements in Spain’s other regions.

AFRICOM is technically only a command and control center for US military operations in Africa, and due to advances in communication and transport technology, it doesn’t even have to be based in the continent itself. It’s currently headquartered in Germany.

US forces are predicted to operate as the storm troopers of unipolarity in Africa, but for prolonged occupation, the French are expected to shoulder the burden, which they’re already doing via their ground deployments in 10 African countries already (nearly a fifth of the continent’s total).

The US’ latest moves in Spain are likely aimed at ‘managing’ a forthcoming leadership transition in Algeria.

Aging President Abdelaziz Bouteflika suffered a stroke two years ago, and it’s not known who will succeed him if he dies in office. Bouteflika’s 15-year-long presidency has been a stabilizing factor in rebuilding Algeria since the decade-long Islamist-inspired civil war ended in 2002, and his death might make the country vulnerable to a Color Revolution, a jihadist uprising, and/or a destabilizing struggle between state security forces.

The chaos in Libya showed signs of seeping through to Algeria in January 2013 during the In Amenas hostage crisis. Terrorists took over a gas processing facility and killed 39 foreign hostages before being defeated by decisive government action.

Most important for the US is Algeria’s contribution to the EU’s gas supply, being the third-largest supplier to the bloc after Russia and Norway.

There’s also discussion of creating a Trans-Saharan Pipeline from gas-rich and under-processed Nigeria through Niger and Algeria to Europe, which would make the North African state the geo-energy ‘Ukraine’ of the Western EU. Because of this, the US must make sure that Algeria stays under Western influence and the pipeline routes are secured, hence the upcoming deployment of 2,200 Marines and 40 military aircraft within striking distance to ensure this.