Army teams going to Africa as terror threat grows

 

Associated Press - In this Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 photo, Gen. Carter Ham, head of the U.S. African command, attends a conference on terrorism in the Sahara in Algiers, Algeria.

Associated Press – In this Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 photo, Gen. Carter Ham, head of the U.S. African command, attends a conference on terrorism in the Sahara in Algiers, Algeria.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. Army brigade will begin sending small teams into as many as 35 African nations early next year, part of an intensifying Pentagon effort to train countries to battle extremists and give the U.S. a ready and trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises requiring the U.S. military emerge.

The teams will be limited to training and equipping efforts, and will not be permitted to conduct military operations without specific, additional approvals from the secretary of defense.

The sharper focus on Africa by the U.S. comes against a backdrop of widespread insurgent violence across North Africa, and as the African Union and other nations discuss military intervention in northern Mali.

The terror threat from al-Qaida linked groups in Africa has been growing steadily, particularly with the rise of the extremist Islamist sect Boko Haram in Nigeria. Officials also believe that the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which killed the ambassador and three other Americans, may have been carried out by those who had ties to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

This first-of-its-kind brigade assignment — involving teams from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division — will target countries such as Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger, where al-Qaida-linked groups have been active. It also will assist nations like Kenya and Uganda that have been battling al-Shabab militants on the front lines in Somalia.

Gen. Carter Ham, the top U.S. commander in Africa, noted that the brigade has a small drone capability that could be useful in Africa. But he also acknowledged that he would need special permission to tap it for that kind of mission.

“If they want them for (military) operations, the brigade is our first sourcing solution because they’re prepared,” said Gen. David Rodriguez, the head of U.S. Army Forces Command. “But that has to go back to the secretary of defense to get an execute order.”

Already the U.S. military has plans for nearly 100 different exercises, training programs and other activities across the widely diverse continent. But the new program faces significant cultural and language challenges, as well as nagging questions about how many of the lower-level enlisted members of the brigade, based in Fort Riley, Kan., will participate, since the teams would largely be made up of more senior enlisted troops and officers. A full brigade numbers about 3,500, but the teams could range from just a few people to a company of about 200. In rare cases for certain exercises, it could be a battalion, which would number about 800.

To bridge the cultural gaps with the African militaries, the Army is reaching out across the services, the embassies and a network of professional organizations to find troops and experts that are from some of the African countries. The experts can be used during training, and the troops can both advise or travel with the teams as they begin the program.

Read more at news.yahoo.com

Jihadists Occupy Mali With Impunity

0702-ansar_full_600-450x344By Joseph Klein

Foreign Islamist jihadists from Sudan, Algeria, Libya and elsewhere, who are part of a network of terrorist groups that affiliate themselves with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, are entrenching themselves in yet another African country. Al Qaeda is currently occupying an area the size of France in the northern portion of Mali. Like a virus exploiting a weak immune system, the jihadists, mostly Arabs, are exploiting a power vacuum created by internal fighting among ethnic tribes within Mali that had led to a coup and a weakened central government.

Yet, in the face of both a strategic and humanitarian crisis in northern Mali caused by Islamist jihadist invaders, the Obama administration is dithering as conditions in northern Mali worsen by the day.  So is the United Nations on which the Obama administration appears to be relying for a global consensus regarding what to do next.

Reports from the ground indicate that the jihadists have stepped up their forces in the area, turning northern Mali into another breeding ground for the spread of Islamic terrorism throughout Africa. According to the top American military commander in Africa, Gen. Carter F. Ham, the jihadists in Mali are providing arms, explosives and financing to their counterparts in northern Nigeria, where Christians are already being murdered and churches burned. Moreover, al Qaeda is using its control of northern Mali to increase recruiting across sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Europe, according to Gen. Ham.

Northern Mali is also near the tipping point of becoming the current version of the Afghanistan of the 1990′s, in terms of its use as a base for plotting, training and launching of terrorist attacks around the world. Indeed, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mali-based extremists played a role in the September 11th attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. That fact alone would merit direct American action to eliminate the al Qaeda presence in Mali. Yet there is silence from the Obama White House.

The jihadist occupiers have also committed gross human rights violations against the local Malian population. Imposing Taliban-style sharia law in place of Sufism that most Malians practice, the occupiers have destroyed the local population’s most revered religious monuments the jihadists considered idolatrous and subjected Malians to amputations, stoning, extra-judicial executions and recruitment of children as soldiers. As usual when sharia law is applied, women have been targeted for the harshest treatment. Over 412,000 people have been forced to flee the north.

Mali leaders have pleaded for help from their neighbors with whom they have had peaceful relations. The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) responded with an offer of military assistance to uproot the Islamist invaders. In accordance with the United Nations Charter, these regional groups have gone to the UN Security Council to seek authorization and support for an African-led military force to drive out the occupiers.

The Council passed a resolution in October.  It stated the Security Council’s readiness to consider requests for international military force under African auspices to intervene in Mali, but kicked the can down the road until it received a report from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the situation in Mali and further recommendations for UN action.

Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman presented the Secretary General’s report on Mali to the Security Council on December 5th, followed by statements from representatives of Mali, ECOWAS and the African Union.  The disconnect on what to do next between the UN Secretary General’s passive recommendations and the call for forceful action by the Mali, ECOWAS and African Union representatives was glaring.

Although conceding the urgency of conditions on the ground in northern Mali, the Secretary General’s report urged patience.  Give “national dialogue” more time to sort out Mali’s internal issues, prepare a “transitional roadmap” (a favorite phrase the UN bureaucracy uses when it has no concrete plan of action) and establish the conditions for a credible election, the report recommended.

“A military operation may be required as a last resort to deal with terrorist and criminal elements in northern Mali,” Under Secretary General Feltman told the Security Council in summarizing Ban Ki-moon’s report, “but the priority must be on supporting the national authorities to restore constitutional order and reach a political settlement to the ongoing crisis.”

The report expressed concern that the request to the Security Council to authorize a United Nations support package for an offensive military operation could have an “impact on the image of the United Nations,” as if its image could become any worse in dealing with the global Islamist threat. The United Nations is “not best placed to directly tackle the security threat posed by terrorists and affiliated groups,” the report conceded.

Nevertheless, while disavowing the UN’s responsibility for providing direct support or funding from the UN’s regular budget for targeted military operations required to dislodge the terrorists from northern Mali, the report recommended that the Security Council set down “benchmarks” the African-led forces and Malians must meet before they are permitted to commence military operations.  The benchmarks would include “positive developments in the political process…and the effective training of military and police personnel of both the support mission and the Malian forces in their obligations under international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.” The UN should then send in a “sufficient number” of human rights observers to monitor “strict adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law” by the Malian forces and their allies.

In other words, the United Nations’ top leader Ban Ki-moon is recommending that the Malians defending their own country with the help of their neighbors against a foreign invasion by the world’s worst  specimens of human rights abusers must first prove to the UN that they have their own house in order before they can repel the jihadist invaders. Second, the Malians and their allies must effectively pass a human rights certification course and then show that they will play by the rules flouted by the terrorists, all under the watchful eyes of UN monitors for which, by the way, funding will somehow be made available even though there are evidently no monies in the vast UN budget that can be found to support the military operation itself.

The Malian representative, not surprisingly, had a very different take. She pleaded for military assistance to rid Mali of the jihadist scourge without delay.  She mentioned several times that the terrorists occupying northern Mali are foreign. Mali is addressing its own human rights issues in dealing with ethnic minorities, she assured the Council, using what she described as “affirmative action” to integrate minorities into significant positions in government institutions. The process for holding credible elections is already underway, she added.  Responding to those concerned about human rights violations in Mali, she declared that “the best way to preserve human rights” is to quickly set up an African-led military force with international backing that would “allow the Mali government to restore territorial integrity of the entire country.”

Kaddre Ouedraogo, the president of ECOWAS and former Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, told the Security Council that “political dialogue must be combined with a military option to dismantle the terrorists.”  He called for the Security Council to pass a resolution by the end of this year under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter authorizing the use of military force against the terrorists.

The African Union representative Tete Antonio concurred, adding that past experience of the United Nations in Sudan and Somalia has shown the limitations of voluntary contributions to pay for the support of military operations.  He wants funding to come through the UN assessed budget this time  rather than have to pass the hat for voluntary contributions.

Where is the Obama administration regarding the Mali crisis? Leading from behind would be an overstatement. It is outsourcing the matter to the UN and to France.

Read more at Front Page

Foreign jihadists continue to pour into Mali

Ansar Dine fighters fly al Qaeda’s banner in Northern Mali in late April 2012. (Source: PanAfrican News Wire)

By Bill Roggio:

Both Malian security officials and Ansar Dine’s spokesman have confirmed that  foreign fighters are continuing to travel to northern Mali, where al  Qaeda-linked jihadists from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa  (MUJOA), Ansar Dine, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have been in control  since February. From Magharebia (which has done an excellent job of covering the  conflict in Mali):

Foreign fighters have begun arriving in Mali, but these are not the  long-awaited African military forces come to liberate the country from al-Qaeda  in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the MUJAO and Ansar al-Din.”Hundreds of jihadists, mostly Sudanese and Sahrawis [Africans from Western  Sahara], have arrived as reinforcements to face an offensive by Malian forces  and their allies,” AFP quoted a Malian security source as saying on Tuesday  (October 22nd).

“They are armed and explained that they had come to help their Muslim  brothers against the infidels,” a Timbuktu resident said.

Sanad Ould Bouamama, official spokesperson for Ansar al-Din, says, “The  arrival of hundreds of young mujahideen from different areas across the Islamic  world to support us in our war against the infidels and crusaders is not strange  or surprising.”

“The same thing happened in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Somalia and  Iraq,” the Ansar al-Din official tells Magharebia.

Ould Bouamama adds, “The war that the world is planning to wage against us is  a war against Islam and all that is related to Islam. Its goal is to combat  God’s Sharia, and therefore, all mujahideen have to stand by our  side.”

 

One month ago, AFP reported that foreign jihadists from West African  countries such as Togo, Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal, and the Ivory  Coast, as well as Egyptians, Algerians, and Pakistanis, have been filling out  the ranks of the three main jihadist groups in Mali. Additionally, at least two  training camps have been established in Gao, the largest city in northern Mali  [see Threat Matrix report, West  African jihadists flock to northern Mali].

Meanwhile, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, the  Economic Community of West African States, and the US are still trying to figure  out how do deal with the deteriorating security situation in northern Mali. All  indications are that no military action will occur until  sometime in 2013. And the African Union has  indicated that it “will leave the door of dialogue open to those Malian  rebel groups willing to negotiate.”

Once the international community decides to take action, the jihadists in  northern Mali don’t stand a chance in holding territory in the long run (see  Somalia and Yemen for recent examples of jihadist group’s abilities to stand up  to organized armies over time, but also note that al Qaeda in the Arabian  Peninsula and Shabaab still control territory in rural areas of Yemen and  Somalia respectively and are still able to conduct organized attacks). But a  significant threat that is being ignored is that the delay in taking actions in  northern Mail has given the jihadists an opportunity to indoctrinate, train, and  organize recruits from the West African nations, and then send them home to  establish networks there.

Read more: Long War Journal