A recent report suggests the United States is quietly expanding its role in Tunisia’s operations against militants near the western borders amid controversy inside the North African state over Washington’s military presence there.

The National Interest magazine earlier this month referred to a report by Task & Purpose – a news site run by military veterans – which said US Marine Corps Raiders were involved in a fierce battle in 2017 in an unnamed North African country, “where they fought beside partner forces” against what it called al-Qaeda militants.

Based on research and analysis carried out by the National Interest, the unnamed country could be Tunisia.

The Task & Purpose report cited a source with the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) as saying that two US Marines had received citations for valor for that 2017 operation, without providing details about the location due to “classification considerations, force protection, and diplomatic sensitivities.”

The National Interest said the events in the award citations match those that had taken place in Tunisia back then.

“Research and analysis strongly suggest US involvement runs much deeper” than what is conveyed to the US public, the Interest wrote.

The US has maintained a military presence in Tunisia since 2014, when several dozen Special Operations Forces troops were deployed to the North African country’s restive western borderlands.

AFRICOM’s air force, according to the National Interest, has also carried out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions across Tunisia.

This is while the Tunisian society is rife with anti-US sentiment, with many criticizing the US military presence under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

The issue of American military presence has prompted heated debates at the Tunisian parliament. Opponents say it is a matter of national sovereignty.

Military build-up in Africa

The US military has in recent years used the presence of Takfiri terrorists to build up its presence across the continent, where it has over 6,000 boots on the ground.

The report by the National Interest echoed a secret US secret mission in Niger in 2017, when four US Special Operations Forces soldiers were killed in an ambush by suspected Daesh militants.

The deaths received wide media coverage, prompting the Pentagon to launch a probe into the incident.

A Pentagon investigation of a botched US operation in Niger in 2017 finds mistakes on all military levels in the secret mission, which led to the death of four American Special Forces.

 

The partial results of the probe released in May found mistakes on all military levels in the secret mission that resulted in the deaths.

The US also carries out controversial drone attacks in several countries, including Niger and Somalia, claiming to be targeting al-Qaeda, Daesh and Boko Haram elements.

However, local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks.

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