The White House is considering a plan proposed by the Pentagon to build up a string of military bases in Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Middle East, according to the New York Times.
As ISIS expands and becomes more labyrinthine and franchise-like in its structure, new approaches are required to deal with the self-declared Islamic State, who now draw in new recruits from various regions through a dizzying array of techniques — some recruits respond to ISIS calls for fighters, others slowly become subsumed into the organization after starting their life as loose affiliates (it is reportedly popular to “fly the Islamic State flag” because it is well known and promises to offer legitimacy to lesser-known terrorist splinters). Others remain loose affiliates with only some loyalty to the ethos of Islamic State, raising the question of whether there are schisms and disagreements within the massive organization that U.S. intelligence could take advantage of throughout its campaign to weaken the Islamic State.
The proposed bases would be established throughout the Middle East and parts of Southwest Asia and north Africa that fringe the Middle East. Existing bases such as the one in the African nation of Djibouti, where the U.S. already has a presence, could be expanded. The U.S.’s intelligence-gathering capacity would thus become as vast and multi-pronged as the ISIS recruiting capacity has become in recent years.
The bases will be used for carrying out strikes against and gathering intelligence about the Islamic State’s far-flung affiliates, as reported by the Boston Globe. Supporters of the Pentagon plan argue that the White House must match ISIS, with its spreading presence and influence, move for move. The impressive region-spanning reach of ISIS and its propaganda campaign means that threats against America will continue to arise unexpectedly even after the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria falls and the Syrian war appears to have ended or dwindled.
“Regional American commanders, diplomats and spies will have to work closely together and with Washington — something that does not always happen now — to combat threats that honor no borders”
At least eight militant groups have pledged loyalty to ISIS’s leaders since its inception. The Obama administration must find a way to identify the affiliates that pose the most immediate threat to the West and prioritize them over others that are more regionally focused, while remembering that terror organizations are ever-evolving beasts and any splinter group could set its sights on a U.S. target at any moment, especially if passions are inflamed by a propaganda outpouring following a significant ISIS loss.
The proposal is still in its early stages. Some officials reportedly advocate for a larger string of new bases in West Africa, while others are discouraged by the criticism they anticipate if they try to leave “a large American military footprint” on the African continent.
Some have already characterized the plan as a new “colonisation of the African continent” by an ambitious Western “empire”.
So how about that US empire and recolonization of the African continent, eh? https://t.co/MC9e4Jjqyu— thank u 2015 (@onekade) December 10, 2015
White House watchers also hit out saying that the Obama administration is using ISIS as “an excuse” to expand its military empire.
US using ISIS as excuse to escalate worldwide military basing strategy encompassing Africa, Southwest Asia & MENA https://t.co/D7iQKtRkib— Club des Cordeliers (@cordeliers) December 11, 2015
US making military empire even bigger. https://t.co/xd9bjFfqqb— John Horgan (@Horganism) December 10, 2015
Another creative commentator compared the proposed military presence to an amusement park, calling the bases a “U.S. Military Fantasyland.”
US military fantasyland. More bases. Frightening. NYTimes: Pentagon Seeks String of Overseas Bases to Contain ISIS https://t.co/NgrGqMJ2zF— Jeffrey D. Sachs (@JeffDSachs) December 10, 2015
The U.S. military bases would vary in size, with the smallest containing about 500 U.S. troops and the largest around 5,000 personnel. One estimate says they would cost “several million dollars” a year, and that most of that money would go to personnel expenses.
Perhaps mindful of criticism about “recolonization of Africa,” Pentagon officials pointed out that the U.S. would get the approval of the host nation before establishing any bases.
“[The bases] will enable unilateral crisis response, counterterror operations, or strikes on high-value targets.”
[Image by Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla]