Obamas cancel safari over cost of sniper teams
US taxpayers face $76m bill for African trip
Published 15/06/2013 | 05:00
US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have scrapped a safari during their trip to Africa because of the costs of snipers needed "to neutralise cheetahs, lions and other animals if they became a threat", it has been claimed.
The couple will end a week-long tour of Africa in Tanzania, but austerity measures in the Secret Service mean they will not head into the wilderness.
US taxpayers will foot the bill of up to €76m for the trip, only Mr Obama's second to the continent of his father's birth since he became president.
But even with the overall costs involved, their afternoon visit to a Tanzanian wildlife sanctuary was judged too expensive, 'The Washington Post' reported.
It was dropped in favour of a tour of Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned – during the Obamas' visit to South Africa before they fly to Tanzania.
The safari "would have required the president's special counter-assault team to carry sniper rifles with high-calibre rounds that could neutralise cheetahs, lions or other animals if they became a threat", the paper reported, citing a leaked Secret Service document.
The logistics of any presidential trip are costly, but arranging visits to three developing countries with poor security infrastructure and limited medical resources could be the most expensive foreign excursions of Mr Obama's time in office.
Military cargo planes will airlift 56 vehicles including 14 limousines, ambulances equipped for chemical and biological attacks and radio-jamming trucks to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.
A US aircraft carrier or amphibious warship with a full medical trauma centre will be anchored just offshore in case of emergencies during the trip, between June 26 and July 3.
Steve Atkiss, the special assistant for operations to former president George W Bush, said: "Even in the most developed places of western Europe, the level of support you need for mass movements by the president is extraordinary. As you go farther afield, to less-developed places, certainly it's more of a logistical challenge."
Because the visits happen one after another, three separate security, medical and logistics teams will be dispatched, one to each country. At least 445 Secret Service and White House agents will be involved.
Mr Obama's trip comes three months after Xi Jinping, China's new premier, toured South Africa, Tanzania and the Republic of Congo.
The president is reported to be travelling with more than 500 American entrepreneurs and investors, who will discuss commercial opportunities in each of the African countries.
Mr Obama has spent less than 24 hours in sub-Saharan Africa during his time as president – a visit to Ghana in 2009. His office has stressed that his pending visit is purely business. (© Daily Telegraph, London)