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AFRICOM, Sharepoints, and the Horrible PowerPoint Forest

This is not a rule without exception, but the world of military PowerPoint briefings is ugly and filled with un-ironic, inadvertent self-debasement. That's not what this post is about, but it's true.

Actually many of the briefings I've browsed for this post about AFRICOM (or about looking for it), the US African Command, are quite dull, they may even make some people depressed.

I'm not going to attempt to explain or report on AFRICOM, I'm just going to show you how to learn about it using some Googling techniques I've crafted over time. Google's advanced operators require strict adherence, but my approach is not totally prescriptive, to find what *you* want, you'll have to somewhat wing it.

The choice of AFRICOM is speculatively topical: PEOTUS Donald Trump has signaled an aggressive stance toward China, frequently remarking on its growing economic sway. China has invested heavily in African infrastructure, largely for the purpose of gaining access to the continent's natural resources, especially fossil fuels (without the sensible prologue of an invasion and occupation).

Trump's pick to head the State Department, Rex Tillerson, is the longtime CEO of Exxon Mobile, which has extensive interests in Africa.

Trump will soon take the reins of a much larger and entrenched military presence in Africa than most Americans are aware exists.  In addition to the clandestine operations based in the Horn of Africa reported in the last few years, the DoD operates in dozens of other nations from the Mediterranean to Cape Town openly, if not always conspicuously.

I said in my first post that an effective approach to custom querying Google for research isn't about "Google hacking" or searching for sensitive document markings, necessarily. I mentioned breadcrumbs.

I decided a few days ago, based on the above vague speculation, to gather as much as I could on current AFRICOM deployment and operations. In addition to searching for key terms in the whole Google index, I restricted my search to several sites, one in particular, I was pretty sure would be great sources of information.

Dozens, maybe hundreds, of civilian and military task forces, working groups, and other kinds of organizations host Sharepoint sites on the "All Partners Network," APAN([dot]org); it's not for classified information sharing, and although lots of "FOUO" and other "sensitive but classified" documents are uploaded, what's so fruitful about searching APAN is that it contains entire narratives, and often hosts descriptive documentation alongside raw operational files and data.

Search Google for "AFRICOM" and you'll be given a mix of Sharepoint landing pages, PDF, and office document formats.
Search tip: Breadcrumbs -- I try to narrow my search at every opportunity by finding websites, and then sub-directories of those sites, dense with relevant information. I've found a great way to do this is a few searches restricted to PowerPoint presentation-type documents, four  .pp* extensions, pps, ppsx, ppt, pptx (a fourth, pptm, can be added as well, but I don't find it as helpful).
The reasoning here is pretty simple: many sources will have created PDFs containing your key terms, PowerPoints indicate a greater level of investment. Often you'll end up with lots of dud 'educational' results, but you can clear the clutter by adding -inurl:k12 to the search -- but keep the site:edu's! Plenty of sensitive work is done at universities, and there's a good chance they're less careful when uploading documents.
First, click on the links for landing pages, and browse the Sharepoint sites for files. Click on interesting documents -- some will download automatically. Sometimes you'll click on office files that will download, but be sent to a login page when you attempt to navigate to the Sharepoint to see what else is there. As a workaround, add the numbered sub-directory from which you downloaded the file to your Google search, like

I uploaded a document to get you started. Good health and good reading, friends.