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The US is turning oil-rich Nigeria into a proxy for its Africa wars

Under the cover of counterterrorism, AFRICOM is beefing up Nigeria’s military to ensure the free flow of oil to the West, and using the country as a proxy against China’s influence on the continent.
 
by TJ Coles 

Part 9 - “Gray zone” warfare against China
 
Having left operations to Special Forces, AFRICOM is now tasked with overseeing an expanding footprint in Nigeria. But in addition to preventing oil supply disruptions, the US seeks to counter Russian but particularly Chinese involvement. According to the US state-run outlet, Voice of America (VOA), the China National Offshore Oil Corporation began investing in Nigeria’s state oil sector in 2005.

A 2007 US Army War College thesis expressed concern that, following “donations” of Chinese military equipment to Nigeria, China had helped the government to drill hundreds of boreholes in a goodwill gesture to provide clean drinking water. The US acted to tarnish China’s image. As part of what is now called the “whole of government” approach, the US 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, networked with Nigerian civilians, private industry, and aid agencies. The US Army War College implies that this was to psychologically counter China’s influence.

Nigeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China in 2018 to integrate into China’s global infrastructure and investment project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). More recently, the VOA has said that China took advantage of Nigeria’s crime- and terror-related oil instability, investing billions of dollars in oil to stabilize supply lines.

From the US military perspective, this so-called “political warfare” creates what they famously call a “gray zone” of conflict in which areas traditionally thought of as economic and civilian are weaponized. Analyst Kaley Scholl of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisitions writes that in one war game, the 91st Civil Affairs Battalion coordinated with the 3rd Special Forces Group to uncover “a Chinese conglomerate active in Nigeria who announced a deep-water port being constructed in one month as part of China’s BRI.” In the war game, US PSYOPs beat back the Chinese.

Scholl claims that “Chinese gray zone operations are eroding the US’s legitimacy and challenging the liberal rules-based world order.” In reality, US imperial aggression and wars by proxy erode whatever legitimacy Pentagon planners think they have.

But such analysts seem to forget that both the US and China are armed with nuclear weapons and possess the intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering them. The Pentagon might consider Nigeria to be just another pawn in the new cold war chess game. However, any escalation of tensions in flashpoints, like Taiwan, could unintentionally trigger nuclear catastrophe. This appears to be a risk the Pentagon is willing to take to enforce “full spectrum dominance.

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