The U.S. military has quietly expanded in Africa since 2007, coordinating burgeoning relationships with friendly African militaries, establishing task forces that can respond quickly to crises, and getting involved in operations such as the hunt for warlord Joseph Kony and the search for the more than 200 girls kidnapped in Nigeria this year. While U.S. military officials deem increased involvement necessary, political scientist and Assistant Professor of Government Laura Seay says it can also inflame African citizens’ feelings toward the United States.

Says Seay, “a lot of these activities seem innocuous to [the U.S. military] and to have a small footprint but are actually seen by a lot of people there, especially African civilians, as much bigger than that and much more insidious. It’s seen as plotting neocolonial activity.”