The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.

Russia recruits for armed force ‘Africa Corps’ to replace Wagner

Russia, in a new push to expand its influence in Africa, is recruiting for an armed force to replace the Wagner group’s mercenaries across the continent. The Africa Corps would bolster Russia’s military presence with what it says would be a network of planned Defense Ministry-controlled bases, in a bid to revive Moscow’s Cold War-era clout on the continent at a time of steeply declining Western influence. It would also allow the Kremlin to consolidate control of Wagner’s business network in Africa, including potentially lucrative mining interests, following the death last year of the group’s founder Yevgeny Prigozhin. “It’s a recognition on the part of the Kremlin that there’s an opportunity to exploit,” said J. Peter Pham, former US special envoy to the Sahel. “If it’s formalized, especially with the French withdrawal, it’s certainly going to be amuch more significant and potentially lasting shift in geopolitical and diplomatic alignments.” French troops fighting insurgents in the Sahel left both Mali and Burkina Faso after the military ousted the civilian government and moved closer to Russia. The Africa Corps, which controversially shares the name of Adolf Hitler’s expeditionary force, aims to enlist new recruits and former Wagner fighters by mid-year to deploy to at least five Russiafriendly countries — Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, the Central African Republic and Niger — according to the group. Wagner was technically disbanded following Prigozhin’s death but remains active. But it remains to be seen where it will be able to find the 20,000 soldiers that a person close to the Russian Defense Ministry said the group seeks. At its peak, Wagner’s African operations numbered at most several thousand personnel and Russia is already trying to recruit at least another 250,000 troops to fight in Ukraine this year. At the same time, transitioning to an official military role will collapse the arm’s length relationship to Wagner’s operations that gave the Kremlin plausible deniability against United Nations allegations of war crimes in Africa made against the mercenary group. “There is a downside for the Russians as well, which is that you no longer have deniability,” said Pham, the former senior US diplomat. “If you rebrand those forces as part of the army, you now own that problem.” Small start Moscow’s approach has started small. Last Wednesday, about 100 Russian troops arrived in Burkina Faso to provide security for Captain Ibrahim Traoré, the soldier who seized power in a 2022 military coup, the group said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel. Alarabiya

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.