UPDATE: At the end.
Back in the late 19th Century, when Britain was the world’s reigning imperial power, the war wizards of London waged a long strategic struggle with Russia for the control of Central Asia.
The British called it the Great Game [a name popularized by Rudyard Kipling, that eloquent chronicler of imperialism] and the Russians dubbed it the Tournament of Shadows.
Fast forward to the 1908′s, when the Reagan administration 1aunched its own version of the conflict by its covert backing of a war of terror waged against the Soviet-backed Afghan government, then jump again to 2002, when the Bush administration launched its own war in Afghanistan, this time as part of a “war on terror” that continues today.
Which brings us to Charles F. Wald, the now-retired Air Force general who waged the air war against the Taliban government and today draws in a nice fat salary as the very embodiment of what Dwight David Eisenhower memorably named “the military industrial complex.”
Our attention was first drawn to Wald when we attended the International Low Carbon Symposium at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory [LBNL] on 18 May 2007 [which is where we took our picture of Wald].
Sitting at the head table were three men. We immediately recognized two of the trio, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, LBNL Director and Nobel Laureate Steve Chu [now Secretary of Energy]. But we’d never encountered the third, whose simple physical presence struck us as, well, riveting.
It was Wald, and looking very much in command, as should the man who had retired the previous July at four-star rank.
He had one central message to convey to the LBNL gathering, as we reported at the time for the Berkeley Daily Planet:
With “our national security dramatically influenced by the demand for oil,” Wald said, the best solution is development of alternative fuels.
And the best alternatives, he’s argued, would be plant-derived “biofuels,” or, as we prefer to call them, agrofuels, since virtually all the so-called “biomass” would be derived from vast industrial-scale corporate plantations.
And where would those agrofuel crops be grown? A hint from a Tweet dispatched on 25 May, reported by Biofuels Digest:
IAmBiotech: General Charles F. Wald (Ret.) “Where’s the best place in the world to grow #biomass for #biofuels? Equatorial Africa.”
General Wald and the genesis of AFRICOM
During his tenure as deputy commander of the U.S. European Command [EUCOM], WikiLeaks cables [to be featured in another post tomorrow] reveals that Wald’s portfolio included responsibility for military energy security.
As we noted here two years ago:
Wald was instrumental in formulating the military’s strategy for control of Eurasian oil supplies in time of war, and was deeply involved in the creation of Africom, the Pentagon’s newest command, which took shape in the year after his retirement, and is focused on securing that continent’s energy resources.
At the time Wald was assigned to EUCOM the command oversaw the American military’s operations in 91 nations, including Africa, and as part of his job, Wald toured Africa, reviewing military ties and proposing alliances.
Charles Cobb Jr. of AllAfrica.com reported on Wald’s EUCOM activites in Africa back on 8 March 2004:
General Wald, who briefed a small group of Africa-focused journalists Monday, has just returned from a seven-day, 11-nation tour of Africa that included stops in Luanda, Lagos, Pretoria, Cape Town, Accra, Tunis, Niamey and Algiers.
The small and often poorly equipped and trained armies throughout Africa need U.S. assistance, Wald said. Currently, U.S. special operations forces are training armies in Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad as part of a State Department-funded program called The Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI). According to USEUCOM, the program, which trains selected units “on mobility, communications, land navigation, and small unit tactics,” is “designed to enhance border capabilities throughout the region against arms smuggling, drug trafficking, and the movement of trans-national terrorists.” Expanding the initiative to include Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria is under consideration.
This is a first step for USEUCOM in a regional approach to combating terrorism in which African nations take the lead. “I can see the South Africans and the Angolans cooperating in the future on regional security”, said Wald. USEUCOM wants to reach agreement with governments across Africa on the use of airports for fuel stops – “Forward Operating Stations…that we can stop in, refuel in…I look at any place in Africa that has a runway or port that wants to be friends with the United States or we have a relationship with as a potential forward-operating location that we could temporarily use.”
And here’s how he explained his mission that same month to Associated Press reporter Todd Pitman in March, 2004:
Squeezed out of sanctuaries elsewhere in the world, al-Qaida may be looking to the deserts and jungles of Africa as a haven where terrorists could train recruits and plan new attacks, the deputy head of U.S. forces in Europe said Friday.
Key among U.S. military proposals to fight back is deploying American units of about 200 soldiers to train armies throughout the continent, patrol alongside them, or hunt terrorists on short notice if necessary.
“Some people compare it to draining a swamp,” Air Force Gen. Charles Wald told The Associated Press, eyeing a map of Africa in his office in Stuttgart. “We need to drain the swamp.”
One result of Wald’s groundwork was the separation of Africa from the EUCOM umbrella through the creation a new Pentagon command focusing solely on Africa, AFRICOM. — which was formally inaugurated by President George W. Bush on 6 February 2007.
In addition to so-called “Forward Operating Stations” staffed by U.S. troops in Djibouti and on Ascension Island, AFRICOM has the use of so-called “lily pads” or “cooperative Security Locations” described in a 43-page report by Congressional Research African Affairs analyst Lauren earlier this year as “‘bare-bones’ facilities maintained by local troops in Algeria, Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia. The full report is located here [PDF].
In that context, his Tweet assumes a more troubling nuance.
A retied general who laid the groundwork for American military hegemony Continue reading