The U.S. deployment of 200 Marines to a naval base in Sicily for possible operations in Libya, a short hop across the Mediterranean, underlines how the Americans have been building a network of bases in Italy as launch pads for military interventions in Africa and the Mideast. The signs are that 20 years after the American military's first, and costly,, encounter with Muslim militants in Mogadishu, Somalia, U.S. operations in Africa are growing as the Islamist threat expands. Another key factor is U.S. President Obama's switch in his counter-terror strategy from drone strikes against al-Qaida to pinpoint raids by small Special Forces teams, as seen in Somalia and Libya Oct.5. These were triggered by Islamist violence in both countries, including the Sept. 21 seizure of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, by fighters of Somalia's al-Qaida affiliate, al-Shabaab, that left at least 67 people dead. The U. S. SEAL Team 6 seaborne raid on the Somali coastal town of Barawe to capture al-Shabab mastermind Abdulkadir Mohammed Abdulkadir, a Kenyan of Somalia origin, ran into heavier than expected resistance and had to be aborted. But the U.S. Army's Delta Force had more success in its raid on Tripoli when they grabbed longtime al-Qaida fugitive Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, aka Abu Anas al Libi, indicted by a U.S. court in 2000 for the August 1988 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salam, Tanzania,that killed 224 people. These raids reflect a U.S. move away from the kind of risk-averse operations the Americans have been mounting with missile-firing drones to on-the-ground raids against high-value targets. The abhorrence of risk stemmed largely from the psychological fallout over the October 1993 operation in Mogadishu
to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid that went badly wrong and led to the downing of two helicopters and the deaths of 18 Rangers and Special Forces troopers. U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Africa in June-July was widely seen as evidence of the White House's broader foreign policy objectives which have included an expansion of U.S. military operations across Africa. Many of these involve small-scale "secret wars" against Islamists, mainly linked to al-Qaida and often carried out under the aegis of the U.S. Africa Command established in 2007. "Both the number and complexity of U.S. military operations in Africa will continue to grow in the medium term," observed Oxford Analytica. "Given the relatively high impact contribution they make to Washington's strategic goals, such military operations will also increasingly encroach on domains traditionally associated with development and diplomacy. "However, they will also increasingly commit the United States to an 'intervention-led' foreign policy in Africa."Although Africom and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command claim they've been increasingly active in building up a U.S. military presence, and especially reach across the continent. The United States has only one official base in Africa, the counter-terrorism facility at Camp Lemonnier, a former French Foreign Legion base in Djbouti, East Africa, where Special Forces, strike jets and armed unmanned areal vehicles are based.