A US Army brigade will begin sending small teams into as many as 35 African nations early next year, part of an intensifying Pentagon effort to train countries to battle extremists and give the US a ready and trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises requiring the US military emerge.
The teams will be limited to training and equipping efforts, and will not be permitted to conduct military operations without specific, additional approvals from the secretary of defence.
The sharper focus on Africa by the US comes against a backdrop of widespread insurgent violence across North Africa, and as the African Union and other nations discuss military intervention in northern Mali.
The terror threat from Al Qaeda-linked groups in Africa has been growing steadily, particularly with the rise of the extremist Islamist sect Boko Haram in Nigeria. Officials also believe that the September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, which killed the ambassador and three other Americans, may have been carried out by those who had ties to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
This first-of-its-kind brigade assignment - involving teams from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division - will target countries such as Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger, where Al Qaeda-linked groups have been active. It also will assist nations like Kenya and Uganda that have been battling Al Shabab militants on the front lines in Somalia.
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