US general says Pentagon worried about Iran’s growing presence in Africa
A senior US military general has warned American lawmakers in Congress that Washington has underestimated the importance of Africa and regional powers like Russia, China and Iran are rapidly increasing their presence in the continent.
General Stephen Townsend, Commander of the US military’s Africa Command (Africom), made the remarks on 20 April during a two-hour hearing before the Armed Services Committee of the US House of Representatives.
“Historically, America has not been penalized for underestimating the importance of Africa,” Townsend said during his opening remarks. “Today, we can no longer afford to underestimate the economic opportunity and strategic consequence Africa embodies, and which competitors like China and Russia recognize.”
According to the International Monetary Fund, Africa is home to 13 of the world’s 25 fastest growing economies and a rapidly expanding population. Over half of the world’s arable land is on the continent, along with much of the planet’s untapped mineral resources, including strategic minerals.
Townsend also noted how Russia, China and Iran are pursuing their interests in Africa.
“Our strategic competitors are very active in Africa. China has invested heavily in their ‘second continent’ or as some Chinese think tanks call it, ‘China’s 4th or 5th Island Chain,’” he said. “Russia seeks to exploit instability and fragility for their own gain and at US expense. Iran is also increasingly active on the continent.”
While former colonial powers have left African countries, Western neocolonialists are spreading terrorism to justify and expand their military presence in the continent, experts say.
US, Europe and ISrael have been inciting sedition and discord in the region for their own interests.
The presence of terrorist groups in Africa is an excuse for global powers to re-enter these countries. This was seen in the French military intervention in Mali and the US military campaign in Somalia.
China’s effort to expand its growing influence represents one of the largest threats to the United States, while efforts by Russia and Iran to undermine American influence and assert themselves as major powers also pose a challenge, said a U.S. intelligence report released last week.
The 2021 Annual Threat Assessment puts China’s push for “global power” first on the list of threats, followed by Russia, Iran and North Korea.
China, the document warns, is likely to continue its efforts to spread its influence and undercut US power, and is likely to press Taiwan to move toward unification with the mainland.
Russia is likely to continue developing its military and cyber capabilities while also seeking to undermine American influence, sow disagreement among Western countries and inside Western alliances.
Iran will “present a continuing threat to U.S. and allied interests” in the Middle East, working to undermine American influence, the report said.