U.S. Senate Republicans continue blaming President Obama for increasing unrest and al-Qaida gains in Africa, and are calling for a much larger U.S. military footprint there.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s new top Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, this weekend joined his predecessor, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in calling for a larger American military presence in Africa.
“I don’t think we have the resources in Africa that I think we should have had,” Inhofe said on the latest edition of C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program. “And I’ve felt that way for a long time. … We need more resources.”
Last week, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told lawmakers that al-Qaida’s gains in the region, prompted by the late Osama bin Laden’s order for his operatives to disperse, means Washington can no longer be reluctant to pursue its foreign-affairs interests.
“We’re going to see more and more demands on AfriCom,” Clinton said of U.S. Africa Command. “And that is something, I think, the House and Senate will have to address.”
Clinton warned senators that new “democracies” in the region are inexperienced at running countries and providing security at American diplomatic facilities.
That command was established late last decade by the George W. Bush administration. But, due mostly to African leaders’ worries, that administration decided against erecting a headquarters facility on African soil. But as the vast continent becomes the epicenter of al-Qaida activities, some GOP lawmakers say that should change, and soon.
Speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill on Jan. 22, McCain also placed blame for ongoing unrest in Mali and a deadly hostage situation in neighboring Algeria by al-Qaida offshoot groups solely on the Obama administration.
That’s because of “a lack of engagement” by Washington the last four years in Northern Africa,” McCain said.
Asked by Defense News what the Obama administration should have done differently, McCain cited border security assistance to some African nations and other relatively modest moves that the Obama administration opted to “not provide.”
Corker told reporters the same day that the White House needed “more engagement” in North Africa during Obama’s first term.
The Pentagon announced over the weekend that AfriCom is helping French troops in Mali, providing aerial refueling and personnel air transport. Asked about the situation in Africa during a Jan. 28 press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gave no indication the administration is planning to ramp up its military presence there in the short term.