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Jan. 27 (GIN) - U.S. Army Special Forces, America’s highly-trained operatives in unconventional warfare, direct action, reconnaissance and counter-terrorism, are preparing for one of their biggest exercises of the year in Africa.

Under the name “Flintlock 2015”, the exercise is a multinational training of troops in several West African countries including Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Tunisia.  It kicks off Feb. 26 in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad.

Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad are all frontline states battling Boko Haram, the insurgent group that kidnapped hundreds of girl children in Nigeria and which has extended its field of operations outward to the neighboring states.

According to the online Defense News, the exercise will bring together approximately 1,300 troops from African and NATO countries, including 673 African forces, 365 NATO forces and 255 US personnel who will take part in a variety of tactical engagements to improve interoperability, communication and humanitarian response capabilities.

Special Forces, also known as “Green Berets,” date back to 1952, when they began to build their reputation in counter-insurgency actions in Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, and in Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa.

Last March, the Los Angeles Times reported on dozens of U.S. military deployments in Africa, often to tiny and temporary outposts. Small-scale operations by the Pentagon's Africa Command (AFRICOM), the paper wrote, reflect an effort to avoid “blowback” or deadly actions against the U.S. sparked by the activities of U.S. troops abroad.

U.S. operations in Africa initially met strong opposition from some leaders and the African public.

"We've got a big image problem down there," a state department official told The Guardian newspaper in 2007. "Public opinion is really against getting into bed with the US. They just don't trust the US."

US economic incentives, including the prospect of hundreds of local jobs, failed to persuade leaders in Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Djibouti, among others.

But with the advances of Islamist groups, national leaders may have quietly welcomed U.S. military units, abandoning hope for African solutions such as the African Union serving as the continent’s common security structure.

In an interview with the NY Times, Brig. Gen. James B. Linder said: “My job is to look at Africa and see where the threat to the United States is… I see Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Libyan problem set, Al Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, Benghazi and Darna.”

“We have a real global threat,” Linder said. “The problems in Africa are going to land on our doorstep if we’re not careful.”

Despite what AFRICOM officials say, wrote Nick Turse in Mother Jones magazine, a careful reading of internal briefings, contracts, and other official documents, as well as open source information, including the command's own press releases and news items, reveals that military operations in Africa are already vast and will be expanding for the foreseeable future. w/pix of troop training

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