Category Archives: Mali

French army suppresses reporting of Mali war

By Ernst Wolff 
13 March 2013
The war in Mali will enter its third month this week. Some 4,000 French soldiers, and about twice as many African soldiers of an international force fighting in coordination with them, have conquered all the major cities in northern Mali. However, there are hardly any reports of the fighting, and almost no pictures.
Since the start of the war the French army, in collaboration with the Malian army, has systematically prevented reporters and journalists from any possibility of conducting objective reporting.
Initially all international reporters were banned from leaving the capital, Bamako, where they were harassed by Mali junta soldiers who confiscated their equipment.
A week after the war began, a few selected “embedded journalists” were allowed to travel to the north of Mali. Correspondents were required to stay by their assigned units, however, and participation was restricted exclusively to employees of the French national media.
On January 31, Malian intelligence officers confiscated material from two journalists working for the French news channel France24. They had filmed a demonstration by soldiers of the “Red Berets” brigade, who are seeking to re-enter the Malian army.
On February 8 several foreign journalists were detained for hours in Bamako by “Green Berets,” who carried out the Malian coup last March. Reuters photographer Benoit Tessier and two other journalists who had witnessed and photographed the incident, were beaten and led away. Their equipment and mobile phones were confiscated.
After the conquest of Gao, about fifty international reporters were allowed into the city under strict conditions, but then escorted out of the city shortly afterwards, allegedly due to a suicide attack, without having done their work. Three television crews who flew to Kidal were held at the airport by the French military until their departure.
Under the title “Atrocities in Mali,” the French television channel France 2 showed a 22-minute film on February 7, in which 45 seconds of film was shown of victims of the Malian army. France’s Central Audiovisual Council (CSA) reprimanded those responsible for the program, accusing them of “violating human dignity” by presenting images of dead bodies.
On February 28 the CSA stepped up its warnings, declaring that “repeated and excessive presentation of human body remains” is “unbearable,” especially for young audiences. Since then there have been no further critical reports of the war in Mali on French television.
Last week the chief editor of the Malian newspaper Le Républicain, Boukary Ndaou, was arrested without a warrant by the Malian state security service. A few hours earlier he had published an open letter by a soldier criticizing president Dioncounda Traoré for the payments he made to Captain Amadou Sanogo, the leader of the March 2012 coup. Ndaou’s whereabouts are unknown, and no charges have so far been brought against him.
The blocking of coverage of the war in Mali is based on an explicit command from the French army leadership: from day one, journalists were kept at least one hundred miles from the front lines and all theaters of war. They were only allowed to move in convoys and could not take photos. They were only able to enter conquered cities after all hostilities had ended and all victims had been removed.
Leading figures in the official media have come forward to defend such censorship.
Antoine Guélaud, editor-in-chief of TV station TF1, publicly justified the army’s policy, pointing to the difficulty of finding “the right balance between information requirements and the safety of journalists.” The war in Mali, he continued, was not a “normal war between two countries,” but was directed against terrorists.
His colleague Phil Chetwynd, managing editor of Agence France Presse, also referred apologetically to a “complex and dangerous conflict.” Another journalist declared it was “still better to report as an ‘embedded journalist’ than not at all.”
The subordination of the French media to army discipline has definite precedents, notably the censorship of the 1954-1962 Algerian War, which was often described as a “war without images,” as the media censored the widespread atrocities, massacres, and use of torture by French forces.
Like General Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s, the greatest fear of the current French government headed by the Socialist Francois Hollande is that such anti-war sentiment will fuse with growing anger against the anti-worker policies of the state and fuel social uprisings. For this reason the French army is determined to stick with its policy of a “war without images.”

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Mali: Here We Go Again

Obama’s inauguration speech drops hints at further overseas involvement.
By Sheldon Richman
January 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – In testimony before Senate and House committees, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enthusiastically endorsed increased U.S. intervention in Africa. When government officials seem incapable of learning obvious lessons from the recent past, maybe their incentive is not to learn but to keep doing the same destructive things.
President Obama’s inaugural speech contained this line, which has gone quite overlooked: “America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad.”
That’s a recipe for perpetual war and perpetual fiscal crisis.
The latest locale for American intervention is the west African country of Mali. Aside from whatever covert activity the U.S. government may be conducting there, the American role is said to consist of logistical support for France, Mali’s former colonial overlord, which has intervened militarily to defend a central corrupt government. (The deadly hostage-takings in Algeria may have been retaliation for France’s action.) As The New York Times reports, “The Pentagon is airlifting a French battalion to join the fight in Mali against Islamist militants, Pentagon and administration officials said.” Ominously, the Times adds, “The airlift expands the involvement of the United States in support of a NATO ally, but officials stressed that the American military footprint on the ground in Mali would remain small.” That is, there’s already an American footprint on the ground.
Such is how quagmires begin.
What’s going on in Mali that requires U.S. meddling? It’s a complicated and murky story that goes back to the repression of the separatist ethnic group, the Tuaregs, in northern Mali and, writes Jeremy Keenan, the Algerian government’s effort after Sept. 11, 2001, to concoct a “terrorist threat” to motivate the U.S. government to pay for modernization of its army. Seeing Africa as a rich source of oil, gas, and other resources, the Bush administration was happy to get involved in the region. (Got to keep the Chinese away.)
While the Obama administration sounds alarms about al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), reporter Patrick Cockburn notes that
Tuareg nationalist insurgency, not radical Islam, is at the heart of the crisis in Mali. What, for instance, are AQIM doing in northern Mali, which has never in the past been a bastion for fundamentalists? AQIM is in origin an Algerian movement that emerged from the civil war of the 1990s. Formed in 1998, its members moved to northern Mali in 2003, where the government saw it as a counterbalance to Tuareg separatists.…
The strange truth is that it was the Malian government which, over the last 10 years, tolerated AQIM in northern Mali and allowed it to operate, taking a share in the profits of its kidnapping and drug-running operations. International military aid for use against al-Qa’ida was diverted for use against the Tuareg.
A key precursor to the latest episode was the 2011 U.S. and NATO intervention in Libya, which overthrew the government of Muammar Qaddafi and provided a cornucopia of weapons. When the regime-change operation ended, well-armed Tuaregs, who had fought for Qaddafi, returned to northern Mali to pursue their separatist aims. After expelling the central government’s army, they declared independence last April, after a coup overthrew the government in Bamako. Tuaregs also live in neighboring Algeria, Niger, Libya, and Burkina Faso, and a successful separatist movement in Mali could spread throughout the region, which those countries would abhor.
The Tuareg movement, Keenan writes, was co-opted by jihadists linked to the Algerian intelligence service, and these jihadists have imposed sharia law and have committed horrendous violence. Thus, he wrote, “Washington’s Global War on Terror has come home to roost for the peoples of the Sahara.”
These events now provide the excuse for the latest Western intervention. When will it end?
The lesson is clear: Internationalizing local, often ethnic, conflicts has consequences that furnish the pretext for further intervention. Inevitably, innocents are killed, while the American power elite pursues its geopolitical aims and the military-industrial complex prospers.
Moreover, intervention—once again on behalf of a corrupt and brutal government—makes enemies of those who would otherwise present no threat to the American people. Nothing helps jihadi recruitment like Western occupation.
As a cover for imperialism, the war on terror has worn thin.
This article originally appeared at The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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How Washington Helped Foster the Islamist Uprising in Mali

As the French-led military operation begins, Jeremy Keenan reveals how the US and Algeria have been sponsoring terror in the Sahara.
By Jeremy Keenan
January 26, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – On 12 October 2012, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favour of a French-drafted resolution asking Mali’s government to draw up plans for a military mission to re-establish control over the northern part of Mali, an area of the Sahara bigger than France. Known as Azawad by local Tuareg people, northern Mali has been under the control of Islamist extremists following a Tuareg rebellion at the beginning of the year. For several months, the international media have been referring to northern Mali as ‘Africa’s Afghanistan’, with calls for international military intervention becoming inexorable. 
While the media have provided abundant descriptive coverage of the course of events and atrocities committed in Azawad since the outbreak in January of what was ostensibly just another Tuareg rebellion, some pretty basic questions have not been addressed. No journalist has asked, or at least answered satisfactorily, how this latest Tuareg rebellion was hijacked, almost as soon as it started, by a few hundred Islamist extremists.
In short, the world’s media have failed to explain the situation in Azawad. That is because the real story of what has been going on there borders on the incredible, taking us deep into the murky reaches of Western intelligence and its hook-up with Algeria’s secret service.
Azawad’s current nightmare is generally explained as the unintended outcome of the overthrow of Libya’s Muammar al-Qadafi. That is true in so far as his downfall precipitated the return to the Sahel (Niger and Mali) of thousands of angry, disillusioned and well-armed Tuareg fighters who had gone to seek their metaphorical fortunes by serving the Qadafi regime. But this was merely the last straw in a decade of increasing exploitation, repression and marginalization that has underpinned an ongoing cycle of Tuareg protest, unrest and rebellion. In that respect, Libya was the catalyst for the Azawad rebellion, not its underlying cause. Rather, the catastrophe now being played out in Mali is the inevitable outcome of the way in which the Global War On Terror has been inserted into the Sahara-Sahel by the US, in concert with Algerian intelligence operatives, since 2002.
Why Algeria and the US needed terrorism
When Abdelaziz Bouteflika took over as Algeria’s President in 1999, the country was faced with two major problems. One was its standing in the world. The role of the army and the DRS (the Algerian intelligence service, see box Algeria’s ‘state terrorism’) in the ‘Dirty War’ had made Algeria a pariah state. The other was that the army, the core institution of the state, was lacking modern high-tech weaponry as a result of international sanctions and arms embargoes.
The solution to both these problems lay in Washington. During the Clinton era, relations between the US and Algeria had fallen to a particularly low level. However, with a Republican victory in the November 2000 election, Algeria’s President Bouteflika, an experienced former Foreign Minister, quickly made his sentiments known to the new US administration and was invited in July 2001 to a summit meeting in Washington with President Bush. Bush listened sympathetically to Bouteflika’s account of how his country had dealt with the fight against terrorists and to his request for specific military equipment that would enable his army to maintain peace, security and stability in Algeria.
At that moment, Algeria had a greater need for US support than vice-versa. But that was soon to change. The 9/11 terrorist attacks precipitated a whole new era in US-Algerian relations. Over the next four years, Bush and Bouteflika met six more times to develop a largely covert and highly duplicitous alliance.
Algeria’s ‘state terrorism’
In January 1992, legislative elections in Algeria were on the point of being won by the Front Islamique du Salut, which would have resulted in the world’s first democratically elected Islamist government. With a ‘green light’ from the US and France, Algeria’s generals annulled the elections in what was effectively a military coup d’état. It led almost immediately to a ‘civil war’ (known as the ‘Dirty War’) that continued through the 1990s, allegedly between the Islamists and the army, in which an estimated 200,000 people were killed.
By 1994, the Algerian regime’s secret intelligence service, the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS), had succeeded in infiltrating the main armed Islamist groups, the Groupes Islamiques Armées (GIA), to the extent that even the GIA leader, Djamel Zitouni, was a DRS agent. Indeed, many of the killings and civilian massacres were either undertaken by the DRS masquerading as Islamists or by GIA elements tipped off and protected by the DRS.
John Schindler, a former high-ranking US intelligence officer and member of the National Security Council and now the Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, recently ‘blew the whistle’ on Algeria’s creation of terrorists and use of ‘state terrorism’. Writing about the 1990s, he said:
‘The GIA was the creation of the DRS. Using proven Soviet methods of penetration and provocation, the agency assembled it to discredit the extremists. Much of [the] GIA’s leadership consisted of DRS agents, who drove the group into the dead end of mass murder, a ruthless tactic that thoroughly discredited GIA Islamists among nearly all Algerians. Most of its major operations were the handiwork of the DRS, including the 1995 wave of bombings in France. Some of the most notorious massacres of civilians were perpetrated by military special units masquerading as Mujahedin, or by GIA squads under DRS control.’ 1
By 1998, the killing had become so bad that many Islamists abandoned the GIA to form the Groupe Salafiste pour le Prédication et le combat (GSPC) but it soon became evident that it too had been infiltrated by the DRS.
Although the ‘Dirty War’ began winding down after 1998, it has never really ended. The GSPC, which changed its name to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2006, is still operative both in northern Algeria and the Sahara-Sahel.
In many respects, little has changed since the 1990s in that the DRS is still creating terrorists and using ‘false flag’ incidents and ‘state terrorism’ as fundamental means of control. The DRS has certainly not changed: its head, General Mohamed Mediène, who was trained by the KGB and once referred to himself as ‘The God of Algeria’,2 was appointed in 1990 and is still in post. He is regarded as the most powerful man in Algeria.
As for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, its leaders in the Sahara and Sahel regions, namely Abdelhamid Abou Zaid, Mokhtar ben Mokhtar and Yahia Djouadi (all have many aliases) are either agents of the DRS or closely connected to it.
John Schindler, ‘The ugly truth about Algeria, The National Interest, 10 Jul 2012.
Jeremy Keenan, ‘General Toufik: “God of Algeria”’, Al Jazeera, 29 Sep 2010. 
My first book on the Global War On Terror in the Sahara, The Dark Sahara (Pluto 2009), described and explained the development of this extraordinary relationship. It revealed why it was that the Bush administration and the regime in Algiers both needed a ‘little more terrorism’ in the region. The Algerians wanted more terrorism to legitimize their need for more high-tech and up-to-date weaponry. The Bush administration, meanwhile, saw the development of such terrorism as providing the justification for launching a new Saharan front in the Global War On Terror. Such a ‘second front’ would legitimize America’s increased militarization of Africa so as better to secure the continent’s natural resources, notably oil. This, in turn, was soon to lead to the creation in 2008 of a new US combat command for Africa – AFRICOM.
The first US-Algerian ‘false flag’ terrorist operation in the Sahara-Sahel was undertaken in 2003 when a group led by an ‘infiltrated’ DRS agent, Amari Saifi (aka Abderrazak Lamari and ‘El Para’), took 32 European tourists hostage in the Algerian Sahara. The Bush administration immediately branded El Para as ‘Osama bin Laden’s man in the Sahara’.
Rumsfeld’s Cuban blueprint
The US government has a long history of using false flag incidents to justify military intervention. The thinking behind the El Para operation in 2003 can actually be traced directly to a similar plan conceived by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff 40 years earlier.
In the wake of the 1961 Bay of Pigs disaster – when a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles, supported by US armed forces, attempted unsuccessfully to invade Cuba and overthrow the government of Fidel Castro – the US Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up plans, codenamed Operation Northwoods, to justify a US military invasion of Cuba. The plan was presented to President John F Kennedy’s Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, on 13 March 1962. Entitled ‘Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba (Top Secret),’1 the Northwoods Operation proposed launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war that the Joint Chiefs of Staff intended to launch against Cuba. It called on the CIA and other operatives to undertake a range of atrocities. As US investigative journalist James Bamford described it: ‘Innocent civilians were to be shot on American streets; boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba were to be sunk on the high seas; a wave of violent terrorism was to be launched in Washington DC, Miami and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer [Chair of US Joint Chiefs of Staff] and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war against Fidel Castro’s Cuba.’2
The first US-Algerian ‘false flag’ terrorist operation in the Sahara-Sahel was undertaken in 2003
The plan was ultimately rejected by President Kennedy. Operation Northwoods remained ‘classified’ and unknown to the American public until declassified by the National Security Archive and revealed by Bamford in April 2001. In 2002, a not dissimilar plan was presented to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board. Excerpts from its ‘Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism’ were revealed on 16 August 2002,3 with Pamela Hess,4 William Arkin5 and David Isenberg,6 amongst others, publishing further details and analysis of the plan. The plan recommended the creation of a ‘Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group’ (P20G as it became known), a covert organization that would carry out secret missions to ‘stimulate reactions’ among terrorist groups by provoking them into undertaking violent acts that would expose them to ‘counter-attack’ by US forces.7
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
My new book on the Global War On Terror in the Sahara (The Dying Sahara, Pluto 2013) will present strong evidence that the El Para operation was the first ‘test run’ of Rumsfeld’s decision, made in 2002, to operationalize the P20G plan. In his recent investigation of false flag operations, Nafeez Ahmed states that the US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh8 was told by a Pentagon advisor that the Algerian [El Para] operation was a pilot for the new Pentagon covert P20G programme.9 
The Sahara-Sahel front is not the only case of such fabricated incidents in the Global War On Terror. In May 2008, President George W Bush requested some $400 million in covert funding for terrorist groups across much of the Middle East-Afghanistan region in a covert offensive directed ultimately against the Iranian regime. An initial outlay of $300 million was approved by Congress.
Since the El Para operation, Algeria’s DRS, with the complicity of the US and the knowledge of other Western intelligence agencies, has used Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, through the almost complete infiltration of its leadership, to create a terrorist scenario. Much of the terrorist landscape that Algeria and its Western allies have painted in the Sahara-Sahel region is completely false.
The Dying Sahara analyzes every supposed ‘terrorism’ incident in the region over this last, terrible decade. It shows that a few are genuine, but that the vast majority were fabricated or orchestrated by the DRS. Some incidents, such as the widely reported Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attack on Algeria’s Djanet airport in 2007, simply didn’t happen. What actually transpired was that a demonstration against the Algerian administration over unemployment by local Tuareg youths ended with the youths firing shots at the airport. It was nothing to do with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
In order to justify or increase what I have called their ‘terrorism rents’ from Washington, the governments of Mali, Niger and Algeria have been responsible on at least five occasions since 2004 for provoking Tuareg into taking up arms, as in 2004 (Niger), 2005 (Tamanrasset, Algeria), 2006 (Mali), 2007-09 (Niger and Mali). In July 2005, for example, Tuareg youths rioted in the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset, setting ablaze some 40 government and commercial buildings. It was finally proven in court that the riots and arson attacks had been led by Algeria’s police as agents provocateurs. The matter was hushed up and some 80 youths freed and compensated. But the object of the exercise had been achieved: the DRS’s allies in Washington were able to talk of ‘putative terrorism’ among the Tuareg of Tamanrasset, thus lending more justification to George Bush’s Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative and the Pentagon’s almost concurrent ‘Operation Flintlock’ military exercise across the Sahara.
Around the time of the El Para operation, the Pentagon produced a series of maps of Africa, depicting most of the Sahara-Sahel region as a ‘Terror Zone’ or ‘Terror Corridor’. That has now become a self-fulfilled prophecy. In addition, the region has also become one of the world’s main drug conduits. In the last few years, cocaine trafficking from South America through Azawad to Europe, under the protection of the region’s political and military élites, notably Mali’s former president and security forces and Algeria’s DRS, has burgeoned. The UN Office of Drugs Control recently estimated that 60 per cent of Europe’s cocaine passed through the region. It put its value, at Paris street prices, at some $11 billion, with an estimated $2 billion remaining in the region.
The impact of Washington’s machinations on the peoples of the Sahara-Sahel has been devastating, not least for the regional economy. More than 60 kidnappings of Westerners have led to the collapse of the tourism industry through which Tuareg communities in Mali, Niger and Algeria previously acquired much of their cash income. For example, the killing of four French tourists in Mauritania, in addition to subsequent kidnappings, resulted in only 173 tourists visiting Mauritania in 2011, compared with 72,500 in 2007.10 The loss of tourism has deprived the region of tens of millions of dollars and forced more and more Tuareg (and others), especially young men, into the ‘criminality’ of banditry and drug trafficking.
Mali’s current mess
While it will be clear from all this that Mali’s latest Tuareg rebellion had a complex background, the rebellion that began in January 2012 was different from all previous Tuareg rebellions in that there was a very real likelihood that it would succeed, at least in taking control of the whole of northern Mali. The creation of the rebel MNLA in October 2011 (see box below) was therefore not only a potentially serious threat to Algeria, but one which appears to have taken the Algerian regime by surprise. Algeria has always been a little fearful of the Tuareg, both domestically and in the neighbouring Sahel countries. The distinct possibility of a militarily successful Tuareg nationalist movement in northern Mali, which Algeria has always regarded as its own backyard, could not be countenanced.
The impact of Washington’s machinations on the peoples of the Sahara-Sahel has been devastating
The Algerian intelligence agency’s strategy to remove this threat was to use its control of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to weaken and then destroy the credibility and political effectiveness of the MNLA. This is precisely what we have seen happening in northern Mali over the last nine months.
Although the Algerian government has denied doing so, it sent some 200 Special Forces into Azawad on 20 December 2011. Their purpose appears to have been to:
protect Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which had moved from its training base(s) in southern Algeria into northern Mali around 2008
assess the strengths and intentions of the MNLA, and
help establish two ‘new’ salafist-jihadist terrorist groups in the region – Ansar al-Din and MUJAO. 
The leaders of these new groups – Ansar al-Din’s Iyad ag Ghaly, and MUJAO’s Sultan Ould Badi – are both closely associated with the Algerian intelligence agency, the DRS. Although Ansar al-Din and MUJAO both started out as few in number, they were immediately supported with personpower in the form of seasoned, well-trained killers from the DRS’s Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb brigades. This explains why the Islamists were able to expand so quickly and dominate the MNLA both politically and militarily.
Although Algeria’s strategy has been effective, at least so far, in achieving its object of weakening and discrediting the MNLA, it has already turned the region into a human catastrophe. Foreign military intervention now looks increasingly likely. That is something to which Algeria has always been strongly opposed in that it regards itself, not France, as the hegemonic power in the Sahel. The UN Security Council’s 12 October Resolution effectively gave Algeria a last window of opportunity to ‘rein in its dogs’ and engineer a peaceful political solution. But, as anger against the Islamists mounts and the desire for revenge from Mali’s civil society grows ever stronger, a peaceful solution is looking increasingly unlikely.
Mali’s Tuareg rebellions
The Tuareg people number approximately 2-3 million and are the indigenous population of much of the Central Sahara and Sahel. Their largest number, estimated at 800,000, live in Mali, followed by Niger, with smaller populations in Algeria, Burkina Faso and Libya.
There have been five Tuareg rebellions in Mali since Independence, in addition to three in Niger and sporadic unrest in Algeria. The latest Tuareg rebellion in Mali, by the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), began in January 2012. The MNLA comprised Tuareg who had returned from Libya around October 2011, rebels who had not laid down arms after the 2007-09 uprising and others who had defected from the Malian army. Their number was estimated at around 3,000. By mid-March, they had driven Mali’s ill-equipped and ill-led forces out of most of northern Mali (Azawad), meeting little resistance.
Following this humiliation of Mali’s army, soldiers in the Kati barracks near Bamako mutinied on 22 March, an incident that led to a junta of junior officers taking power in the country. Within a week, the three northern provincial capitals of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu were in rebel hands, and on 5 April the MNLA declared Azawad an independent state.
The declaration of Azawad’s independence received no international support. One reason for this was because of the alliance between the MNLA and Ansar al-Din, a newly created jihadist movement led by a Tuareg notable, Iyad ag Ghaly, and another jihadist group, Jamat Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Garbi Afriqqiya (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa – MUJAO). Both Ansar al-Din and MUJAO were connected to and supported by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). By May, it was these Islamist groups, not the MNLA, who were calling the political and military shots in Azawad.
By the end of June, tension between the MNLA and the Islamists broke into open fighting, resulting in the MNLA being driven out of Gao and becoming increasingly marginalized politically. Since then, the Islamists have imposed strict sharia law in Azawad, especially in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal. Summary executions, amputations, stonings and other such atrocities, as well as the destruction of holy shrines in Timbuktu – UNESCO world heritage sites – are currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court. By August, nearly half a million people had fled or been displaced.
I have warned on numerous occasions in the past decade that the way in which terrorism was being fabricated and orchestrated in the Sahara-Sahel by the Algerian DRS, with the knowledge of the US and other Western powers, would inevitably result in a catastrophic outcome, quite possibly in the form of region-wide conflagration. Unless something fairly miraculous can be achieved by around the turn of the year, northern Mali looks like becoming the site for the start of just such a conflagration.
Having said that, there is the prospect of one appalling scenario that is being raised by some of the local, mostly Tuareg, militia commanders. They are postulating as to whether Algeria’s DRS and its Western allies have been using the Azawad situation to encourage the concentration of ‘salafist-jihadists’ into the region – in the form of the long-talked about ‘Saharan emirate’ – before ‘eradicating’ them. In that instance, Algeria’s DRS would pluck out its ‘agents’ and leave the foot-soldiers – the Islamist fanatics – to face the bombardment.
But whatever dire scenario develops in Mali, when you hear the news stories related to it, do not by any means think: ‘oh, just another war in Africa’. Remember this murky, squalid background and how Washington’s Global War On Terror has come home to roost for the peoples of the Sahara.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff, ‘Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba (Top Secret)’, US Department of Defense, 13 Mar 1962. It was published online in a more complete form by the National Security Archive on 30 April 2001.
James Bamford, Body of Secrets, Doubleday 2001.
Defense Science Board, ‘DSB Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism’. Available atfas.org/irp/agency/dod/dsbbrief.ppt
Pamela Hess, ‘Panel wants $7bn élite counter-terror unit.’ United Press International, 26 Sep 2002.
William M Arkin, ‘The Secret War,’ Los Angeles Times, 27 Oct 2002.
David Isenberg, ‘“P2OG” allows Pentagon to fight dirty’, Asia Times Online, 5 Nov 2002.
Chris Floyd, ‘Into the Dark: The Pentagon Plan to promote terrorist attacks,’ Counterpunch, 1 Nov 2002; Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, ‘Our Terrorists’, New Internationalist, Oct 2009.
Seymour Hersh, ‘The Coming Wars: What the Pentagon can now do in Secret.’ The New Yorker, 24 Jan 2005.
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, op cit.
eTN Global Travel Industry News, 19 Nov 2008, eturbonews.com
This feature was published in the December 2012 issue of New Internationalist.

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France sends troops to secure Niger uranium mines

By Bill Van Auken 
25 January 2013
Barely two weeks after invading Mali with over 2,000 troops of the Foreign Legion, France has dispatched special forces troops to neighboring Niger to secure uranium mines run by the French state-owned nuclear power company Areva.
The new French military intervention in northwest Africa was first reported by the weekly magazine Le Point and confirmed by military sources contacted by other sections of the French media. Le Point reported that French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had quickly agreed earlier this week to a “major innovation” in ordering the Special Forces Command to send troops to protect the Areva uranium production sites in Imouraren, and 80 kilometers away in Arlit. The magazine noted that this is the first ever use of the French commandos to directly defend the assets of a corporation.
The magazine reported that French government officials had taken the decision following the botched attempt to rescue the French hostage, Denis Allex, in Somalia and the recent bloody hostage-taking incident and siege at the Armenas gas facility in Algeria, where over 80 people were killed.
Those two events “in addition to launching the ‘Serval’ operation in Mali have significantly increased risk factors for French installations, including industry and mining in the region,” Le Point reported.
In reality, the dispatch of French commandos to the uranium mines in Niger only underscores the overriding economic and geo-strategic motives behind the French military intervention in Mali. Under the cover of a supposed war against Islamist “terrorists” and a defense of the central government in Mali, French imperialism is using its military might to tighten its grip on its resource-rich former African colonies.
Official spokesmen at both Areva and the French Defense Ministry refused to discuss the new military deployment, citing security concerns.
In Niger itself, officials denied any knowledge of the dispatch of the special forces commandos. “It’s true that the terrorist threat has increased today, but as far as I know there is no such agreement in place at the moment,” one official told Reuters.
A Niger army officer told the news agency that there were already security arrangements in place that had been agreed to with France and imposed after the September 2010 kidnapping of seven employees of Areva and one of its contractors in the northern Nigerien town of Arlit.
“We also have counter-terrorism units in the Agadez region,” said the officer. “For now, I don’t know of a decision by the Nigerien government to allow French special forces to base themselves in the north.”
Failure to inform the Nigerien government of its plans would not be out of the question. Ever since its independence in 1960, France, which had ruled the country as a colony for 60 years, has treated Niger as a semi-colony.
The uranium extracted from the mines in Niger have been considered of strategic importance by successive French governments. The yellowcake produced from Niger’s uranium ore has been used to make France’s nuclear bombs as well as to fuel its nuclear reactors, which account for over 75 percent of the country’s electricity.
While vast profits have been reaped from Niger’s uranium, the mining operation has benefited only a thin layer of the country’s subservient bourgeoisie. According to the United Nations human development index, Niger is the third poorest country on the planet, with 70 percent of the population continuing to live on less than $1 a day and life expectancy reaching only 45.
Moreover, the mining has exacerbated ethnic and regional tensions within Niger. Uranium production is concentrated in the northern homeland of the nomadic Tuareg minority, which repeatedly has risen in revolt, charging that whatever resources do accrue from the mining operations go to the southern capital of Niamey. One of the main demands of the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), a largely Tuareg armed militia that has battled the Nigerien army, has been the more equitable distribution of uranium revenues.
Moreover, the exploitation of uranium by Areva has created an environmental and health disaster in the mining areas. The environmental group Greenpeace found in a 2010 report that water wells in the region were contaminated with radiation levels up to 500 times higher than normal. In Arlit, site of one of the major Areva mines, deaths from respiratory diseases occur at twice the national average.
France has every reason to fear that its intervention in Mali, which has already seen the bombing of civilian populations and the torture and execution of civilians by the French-backed Malian army in predominantly Tuareg areas, could cause armed conflict to spill over the border into Niger.
However, in addition to securing its profitable facilities from “terrorism” or popular revolt, France has other reasons to flex its military muscle in Niger. In an attempt to increase its share of the uranium profits, the Nigerien government has recently issued exploration permits to Chinese and Indian firms. By dispatching armed commandos, Paris is asserting its domination of the former colony as part of its African sphere of influence.
As France stepped up its African intervention, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used testimony before a Senate committee Wednesday to affirm Washington’s determination to escalate its own intervention in the region.
“We are in a struggle, but it is a necessary struggle,” said Clinton. “We cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe haven.”
Clinton acknowledged that the rebellion in Mali as well as the hostage siege at the gas plant in Algeria had been fueled in large measure by the US-NATO toppling of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, where Washington and its allies armed and supported Islamist militias as a proxy ground force in the war for regime change.
“There is no doubt that the Algerian terrorists had weapons from Libya,” she said. “There is no doubt that the Malian remnants of AQIM [Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb] have weapons from Libya.”
She argued that, while there was no evidence that any of these forces in North Africa posed a direct threat to the US, Washington should launch a preemptive campaign against them anyway. “You can’t say because they haven’t done something they’re not going to do it,” she said.

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Reports of atrocities emerge as France escalates Mali war

By Ernst Wolff 
24 January 2013
Only thirteen days after starting a war in Mali, France is massively escalating its troop presence there, even as reports emerge of escalating ethnic killings by French-backed Malian troops.
On Tuesday the Malian regime extended the state of emergency declared on January 11 for three months. At the same time, French and Malian troops set up positions in central Mali around the strategic airfield at Sévaré.
The airfield was reportedly the main initial target of the French intervention. Paris wanted to keep it from falling into the hands of the northern-based Malian opposition, so France could use the airfield to fly troops and equipment into the region.
French forces are also blocking journalists from reporting from the war zone, to slow the stream of reports of killings of and atrocities against civilians by French and French-backed Malian forces. In Sévaré, at least 11 people were killed at a military camp, near its bus station and its hospital. “Credible information” pointed to about 20 other executions, with the bodies “buried hastily, notably in wells,” the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) reported.
A witness said the Malian army “gathered all the people who didn’t have national identity cards and the people they suspected of being close to the Islamists to execute them, and put them in two different wells near a bus station.” The soldiers allegedly poured gasoline into the wells and set them ablaze to hide the evidence.
Residents of Mopti in central Mali said that the Malian army had arrested, interrogated, and tortured innocent civilians, because the army thought that they were involved in the rebellion. Many Tuareg, who originally controlled the north, fled south when the Islamists took over and are being singled out for reprisals. Amnesty International claims to have evidence of extrajudicial killings of Tuareg civilians, the indiscriminate shelling of a Tuareg camp, and the killing of livestock.
A woman of the Fulani ethnic group described her situation: “The army suspects us—if we look like Fulani and don’t have an identity card, they kill us. But many people are born in small villages and it’s very difficult to have identification. We are all afraid. There are some households where Fulanis or others who are fair-skinned don’t go out any more. We have stopped wearing our traditional clothes—we are being forced to abandon our culture, and to stay indoors.”
The Malian army has a record of ethnic killings. Last September a truck with eighteen preachers from Mauritania crossed the border at Diabaly on their way to Bamako for a conference. Though none were armed and they had papers indicating their mission, all were massacred by the troops manning the border checkpoint.
Asked about abuses committed by Malian forces in an interview Wednesday on France 24 television, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian cynically commented, “There’s a risk.”
Amateur cell phone videos on the internet show huge blasts and fireballs in living areas, and bloggers from Mali are reporting numerous casualties. The United Nations has reported that thousands of people have been forced from their homes over the past ten days. An estimated 230,000 people are now displaced across the country. According to Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the United Nations’ refugee agency, the violence could soon displace up to 700,000 in Mali and around the region.
The Norwegian Internal Displacement Monitoring Center reported that people in the north were increasingly heading into the desert, as Algeria had closed its borders. Many are fleeing on foot because they cannot afford boats or buses.
Sory Diakite, the mayor of Konna, who fled to Bamako with his family after a French raid, described the bombing of his town. He said that during the assault in the first days of the war, people “were killed inside their courtyards, or outside their homes. People were trying to flee to find refuge. Some drowned in the river. At least three children threw themselves in the river in order to avoid the bombs. They were trying to swim to the other side.”
The constant increase in the number of soldiers, the massive build-up of ever-deadlier weapons and the increasing willingness of its allies to step up their support signify that such violence will only continue to escalate.
France is deploying more soldiers and more high-tech weaponry. Some 2,150 French soldiers are in Mali, and their number will rise to 5,000 by the end of the month.
The African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) will comprise almost 6,000 soldiers, instead of the initially planned 3,300 soldiers, costing around $500 million.
The Gazelle helicopters that participated in the first wave of French air attacks are being replaced by Tiger helicopter gunships, which have a longer range and greater firepower. “Cheetah” units based in France have been placed on alert, including a number of Leclerc heavy tanks and units armed with truck-mounted 155-millimeter artillery pieces.
So far nearly 1,000 African troops from Benin, Nigeria, Togo and Burkina Faso have arrived in Mali. Senegalese troops and up to 2,000 soldiers from Chad are on the way. Their transport is being provided by France’s allies: Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Emirates, and Canada. Italy approved sending 15 to 24 military instructors to work alongside the European Union (EU) in training Malian forces and also agreed to provide logistical support with at least two cargo planes.
US forces began their mission in support of the Mali war on Monday. Five four-engine C-17 planes took off from the Istres-LeTubé airbase in southern France, loaded with French cargo which they dropped off in the Malian capital, Bamako.
According to German news magazine Der Spiegel, British forces were on “high alert” for possible deployment in Mali, in case France asks for help. The British foreign ministry denied the report, however.
Yesterday French Rafale and Mirage jets bombed targets near Gao, Timbuktu and Ansongo, a town near the border with Niger. Col. Oumar Kande, ECOWAS military and security adviser in Mali, said, “It is possible we will win back Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal in a month, but it is impossible to say how long the overall war will last.”
Kande’s words are in line with remarks by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that the Mali war might last years or decades.

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Imperialist powers escalate war in Mali

By Ernst Wolff 
January 22, 2013 “WSWS” — Amid continuing offensives by French troops in Mali, the imperialist powers are making clear that the assault on Mali is part of a lasting, neo-colonial escalation of military intervention throughout Western Africa and beyond.
“This is a global threat and it will require a global response… that is about years, even decades, rather than months,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said over the weekend.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian defined his aim in Mali as “the total re-conquest of the country,” using troops provided by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). France, which is currently spearheading the war in Mali, plans to expel Tuareg and Islamist fighters from Mali to pursue its agenda. Its goal is to stabilize the corrupt regime in Bamako, currently led by the military junta of Captain Amadou Sanogo, as its stooge regime in Mali, where France has significant corporate interests.
Similarly, British Foreign Secretary William Hague held up the current war in Somalia as an example for Mali on how to create space for a “legitimate government” to function. He said, “This has led to a lot of progress in Somalia. What we don’t want in countries like Mali is the twenty years of being a failed state that preceded all of that in Somalia.”
Such a comment could not be more chilling. In fact, Somalia continues to be a deeply impoverished country, torn by civil war, and which Washington regularly targets with drone strikes. Hague’s comment signifies that the NATO powers view such an outcome as perfectly acceptable, even desirable, for Mali.
The broader implications of the escalating war in Mali were laid out in an article yesterday in the New York Times. The Times quotes Rudolph Attala, a former Pentagon counterterrorism official: “To dismantle their [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s] network, the United States and its allies will need a well-thought-out regional strategy.”
The point being made is clear: the war in Mali is not only about Mali, but involves intensive diplomacy and military operations by the imperialists to shape all of Western Africa—including Algeria, Nigeria, and the Libyan regime installed by the 2011 NATO war. The Timesnotes that Washington and Paris have been “courting Algeria for months,” to get Algiers’ help in Mali.
The Times added: “Forging that strategy will be far from easy, given those involved. The Algerians have an able, if heavy-handed military, but have not been eager to co-operate extensively with their neighbours. Libya’s new government appears willing to cooperate but has little ability. Mali has little military ability, and any enduring solution needs to be crafted with an eye to internal politics.”
Bruce Hoffman, an expert on terrorism at Georgetown University, told the Times that the US should escalate military assistance and drone warfare to help France: “The United States should consider stepping up its support for the French intervention, by providing additional logistical support and perhaps making use of drones, so that the French military can better carry out its operations and hand over the mission as soon as possible to African troops.”
The press is stepping up its criticisms of an alleged “lack of support” for French imperialism’s war in Mali, demanding that their governments rush to help. The former US ambassador to Mali, Vicki Huddleston, criticized the Obama administration for its “inaction” in a recent radio interview.
While US think tanks and intelligence forces are busy deliberating methods of escalating the war, the fighting in Mali has intensified. Over the weekend French Rafale fighter planes and Gazelle helicopter gun ships carried out a dozen operations.
On Monday about 200 French soldiers from the 21st Marine Infantry Regiment, supported by six combat helicopters and reconnaissance planes, seized the towns of Diabaly and Douentza. The infantrymen had set out at dawn from the nearby government-controlled town of Niono, thirty miles south of Diabaly.
Few details about the fighting are known, as reporters have been banned from the combat zone. However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that they had received reports of serious abuses, including ethnic killings, committed by French-backed Malian security forces against civilians in Niono.
According to HRW, Tuaregs and Arabs, the ethnic groups most associated with the rebels in northern Mali, are especially targeted. This recalls similar communal attacks by NATO-backed forces on immigrant workers from ethnic groups considered supportive of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, during the NATO war on Libya.
On Saturday French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, attending an ECOWAS emergency summit in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan, told African leaders that it was time for their nations to take over military operations in Mali “as soon as possible”.
The member states pledged to send 5,800 troops into Mali. They endorsed Major General Shehu Usman Abdulkadir of Nigeria and Brigadier General Yaye Garba of Niger as Force Commander and Deputy Force Commander of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).
AFISMA is expected to cost the impoverished former French and British colonies in West Africa over $500 million. International donors will meet January 29 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to discuss funding.
Some 150 troops from Nigeria, Togo, Benin and Chad arrived in Bamako on Sunday.
Nigerian troops were attacked on their way by gunmen in Kogi State, central Nigeria, leaving two officers dead and eight soldiers wounded. An online newspaper said the attack was part of a mission to stop Nigerian troops joining Western powers in their “aim to demolish the Islamic empire of Mali.” A group named Ansaru close to the Islamists of Boko Haram was reportedly behind the attack.
France can firmly count on the support of European imperialism. The European Union (EU) appointed French Brigadier General Francois Lecointre as commander of a mission to send 250 military trainers to Mali in February. It will not only give 50 million euros ($66 million) of funding to Ecowas forces, but has announced it will unblock € 250 million in aid for Mali that was frozen after the military coup in March 2012.
It also offered to host a ministerial meeting of the international support and follow-up group on the situation in Mali on February 5. Following Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium and Denmark, Italy has now also offered logistical support.
According to US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, about 100 American trainers have deployed to Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Senegal and Ghana to help prepare troops in these countries for combat in Mali.
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The US Was Operating In Mali Months Prior To French Incursion: Meet The "Intelligence and Security Command"

By Tyler Durden
January 21, 2013 “Zero Hedge” — Last week we reported that in the aftermath of the so far disastrous French campaign to eradicate “rebels” in the north of Mali, because of their implied threat fo Europe, that “US Drones, Boots Arrive In Mali.” Turns out we were wrong, and as the case virtually always is, for some reason there was already a US presence of at least three US commandos in Mali in the summer of 2012. What they were doing there remains a mystery, as it is a mystery if the ever co-present flip flops on the ground were there inciting the perpetual scapegoat Al Qaeda to do this, or that. Or maybe it was not the CIA. Maybe it was the Army’s “little-known and secretive” branch known as the Intelligence and Security Command. Regardless, what becomes obvious is that while the US was on the ground and engaged in secret missions, it needed an alibi to avoid “destabilizing” the local situation once its presence became conventional wisdom. It got just that, thank to one Francois Hollande just over a week ago.
From the WaPo, as of July 8, 2012:
In pre-dawn darkness, a ­Toyota Land Cruiser skidded off a bridge in North Africa in the spring, plunging into the Niger River. When rescuers arrived, they found the bodies of three U.S. Army commandos — alongside three dead women.
What the men were doing in the impoverished country of Mali, and why they were still there a month after the United States suspended military relations with its government, is at the crux of a mystery that officials have not fully explained even 10 weeks later.
At the very least, the April 20 accident exposed a team of Special Operations forces that had been working for months in Mali, a Saharan country racked by civil war and a rising Islamist insurgency. More broadly, the crash has provided a rare glimpse of elite U.S. commando units in North Africa, where they have been secretly engaged in counterterrorism actions against al-Qaeda affiliates. 
The Obama administration has not publicly acknowledged the existence of the missions, although it has spoken in general about plans to rely on Special Operations forces as a cornerstone of its global counterterrorism strategy. In recent years, the Pentagon has swelled the ranks and resources of the Special Operations Command, which includes such units as the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force, even as the overall number of U.S. troops is shrinking. 
At the same time, the crash in Mali has revealed some details of the commandos’ clandestine activities that apparently had little to do with counterterrorism. The women killed in the wreck were identified as Moroccan prostitutes who had been riding with the soldiers, according to a senior Army official and a U.S. counterterrorism consultant briefed on the incident, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. 
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, which is conducting a probe of the fatal plunge off the Martyrs Bridge in Bamako, the capital of Mali, said it does not suspect foul play but has “not completely ruled it out.” Other Army officials cited poor road conditions and excessive speed as the likely cause of the 5 a.m. crash. 
U.S. officials have revealed few details about the soldiers’ mission or their backgrounds, beyond a brief news release announcing their deaths hours after the accident. 
In many countries, including most in Africa, Special Operations forces work openly to distribute humanitarian aid and train local militaries. At times, the civil-affairs assignments can provide credible cover for clandestine counterterrorism units. 
But in Mali, U.S. military personnel had ceased all training and civil-affairs work by the end of March, about a week after the country’s democratically elected president was overthrown in a military coup.
The military’s Africa Command, which oversees operations on the continent, said the three service members killed were among “a small number of personnel” who had been aiding the Malian military before the coup and had remained in the country to “provide assistance to the U.S. Embassy” and “maintain situational awareness on the unfolding events.”
Megan Larson-Kone, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Embassy in Mali, said the soldiers had stayed in Bamako because they were “winding down” civil-affairs programs in the aftermath of the coup while holding out hope “that things would turn around quickly” so they could resume their work. 
Two of the soldiers, Capt. ­Daniel H. Utley, 33, and Sgt. 1st Class Marciano E. Myrthil, 39, were members of the 91st Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, which is based at Fort Bragg, N.C. 
For two months after the crash, the U.S. military withheld the identity of the third soldier killed. In response to inquiries from The Washington Post, the Army named him as Master Sgt. Trevor J. Bast, 39, a communications technician with the Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir.
Enter the Intelligence And Security Command
The Intelligence and Security Command is a little-known and secretive branch of the Army that specializes in communications intercepts. Its personnel often work closely with the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees missions to capture or kill terrorism suspects overseas. 
During his two decades of service, Bast revealed little about the nature of his work to his family. “He did not tell us a lot about his life, and we respected that for security purposes,” his mother, Thelma Bast of Gaylord, Mich., said in a brief interview. “We never asked questions, and that’s the honest truth.”
Why Mali?
U.S. counterterrorism officials have long worried about Mali, a weakly governed country of 14.5 million people that has served as a refuge for Islamist militants allied with al-Qaeda. 
With only 6,000 poorly equipped troops, the Malian armed forces have always struggled to maintain control of their territory, about twice the size of Texas. Repeated famines and rebellions by Tuareg nomads only exacerbated the instability. 
About six years ago, the Pentagon began bolstering its overt aid and training programs in Mali, as well as its clandestine operations. 
Under a classified program code-named Creek Sand, dozens of U.S. personnel and contractors were deployed to West Africa to conduct surveillance missions over the country with single-engine aircraft designed to look like civilian passenger planes. 
In addition, the military flew spy flights over Mali and other countries in the region with ­longer-range P-3 Orion aircraft based in the Mediterranean, according to classified U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. 
In what would have represented a significant escalation of U.S. military involvement in Mali, the Pentagon also considered a ­secret plan in 2009 to embed American commandos with ­Malian ground troops, diplomatic cables show.
Under that program, code-named Oasis Enabler, U.S. military advisers would conduct ­anti-terrorism operations alongside elite, American-trained ­Malian units. But the idea was rejected by Gillian A. Milovanovic, the ambassador to Mali at the time.
The stumbling block:
In an October 2009 meeting in Bamako with Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller, deputy chief of the Africa Command, the ambassador called the plan “extremely problematic,” adding that it could create a popular backlash and “risk infuriating” neighbors such as Algeria.
Furthermore, Milovanovic warned that the U.S. advisers “would likely serve as lightning rods, exposing themselves and the Malian contingents to specific risk,” according to a State Department cable summarizing the meeting.
Moeller replied that he “regretted” that the ambassador had not been kept better informed and said Oasis Enabler was “a work in progress.” It is unclear whether the plan was carried out.
Moeller was right, and neighbors such as Algeria eventually did promptly respond in “popular backlash” that led to the deaths of at least one US hostage.
But back to the US Commandos, and, lo and behold, prostitutes:
The soldiers died of “blunt force trauma” when the vehicle landed upside down in the shallow river, crushing the roof, the Army said.
The Special Operations Command said it could not answer questions about where the soldiers were going, nor why they were traveling with the unidentified Moroccan women, saying the matter is under investigation.
Larson-Kone, the embassy spokeswoman, said the soldiers were on “personal, not business-related travel” at the time, but she declined to provide details. Officials from the Africa Command also said that they did not know who the women were, but they added in a statement: “From what we know now, we have no reason to believe these women were engaged in acts of prostitution.”
Hookers or not, what is obvious is that the US did have a largely secretive presence in Mali, which may or may not have led to ongoing social destabilization, which ultimately provided none other than the US with the ultimate cover to engage in whatever “anti-terrorist” operations it so chose. The name of the cover?
France.

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Stay Out of Mali

By Dan Simpson
January 18, 2013 “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” — The French decision to intervene militarily in Mali, a former French colony, has important implications for Mali, France and the United States.
Mali used to be a basically benign West African state with a democratically elected government. The United States was helping to train and supply its armed forces. The country is almost entirely Muslim, largely desert, with a population of 14 million and few resources. It is landlocked, with borders on Algeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
In March of last year, the Malian military, led by Capt. Amadou Sanogo, an American-trained officer, overthrew its democratically elected government. Shortly thereafter, the northern two-thirds of the country seceded.
The rebellion in the north was first dominated by Tuaregs, who were then supplanted by an Islamist group, Ansar Dine, which France and the United States claim has ties to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Both had brought arms with them from Libya when the rebels there, supported by the West, overthrew the government of Moammar Gadhafi, whom the Malians had served as mercenaries.
This month the rebels from the north began to move south toward Bamako, the capital. Malian armed forces showed themselves unable to mount a credible defense. The French and Mali’s African neighbors, alarmed at the progress of the Tuaregs and Ansar Dine, first tried to mobilize an African force, supported by the West, to resist the rebels. They were able to get U.N. Security Council support, but the rebels weren’t waiting for France and its allies to organize resistance as they continued to move south.
To forestall the fall of the capital, on Friday the French, with British and American support, put several hundred troops into Mali and began bombing northern Malian towns held by the rebels from bases in Chad and France.
What does this mean? The answer depends on where one is standing, since it has different significance in France, in its former colonies in Africa and in the United States.
For France it is a question of demonstrating to Mali and other former French colonies that Paris still has teeth and retains the option to support or not support its African client states through military intervention. It has chosen to defend Mali. It has so far chosen not to defend the Central African Republic, where that country’s president, Francois Bozize, is also at risk of being overthrown by armed rebels — the “Seleka” alliance from the north, whose forces also are nearing their nation’s capital, Bangui.
France has serious financial problems and its relatively new president, Francois Hollande, is being criticized at home for being wobbly in the face of critical economic decisions. In financial terms it might seem like the worst of times for him to take France into an expensive war in Africa, particularly one which could go on for a long time and one which France could even lose. (The northern Malian rebels may just dodge the bombs and push on for Bamako.) On the other hand, going into Mali makes Mr. Hollande look decisive and, if it works, farsighted in terms of sheltering France’s friends in Africa. It is also something he can do without having to deal with the sometimes pesky French parliament.
For Mali and other former French colonies, it is humiliating to admit that they themselves are incapable of turning back the threat presented by the northern Malian rebels. French aircraft bombing Malian towns and French troops defending the capital of an African country carries with it the strong, pungent odor of neocolonialism, whatever “terrorist” label the French may try to put on the Malian rebels. The whole thing is made significantly worse by the fact that what is left of Mali is now led by a military junta directed by an American-trained officer.
For the United States, supporting French troops in Mali, based on the belief that the rebels may have ties to a shadowy branch of al-Qaida, the imagery is terrible. U.S. forces are helping a former colonial power intervene militarily in an African country that has been independent since 1960 in order to preserve in power an unelected military government headed by a U.S.-trained army captain. What is this about?
First of all, U.S. military leaders are looking for business. With the Iraq war over and the Afghanistan war winding down, they are looking for new conflicts to justify their requests for billions of dollars to fund their activities around the world. This need becomes particularly sharp with budget cuts looking the Department of Defense and every other department of government in the eye.
With the ends of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars Americans have a right to expect a peace dividend from the Pentagon. It should take cuts consistent with those that Americans will be asked to endure in other spending — on education, health care and infrastructure.
The military can try to avoid budget cuts by coming up with new “wars of opportunity” festooned with claims of al-Qaida and other “terrorist” involvement. These might include Yemen, Syria, Somalia and even Mali, as well as an argument that America can’t walk away from Afghanistan, even after 11 years.
There is no way to argue that anything that happens in Mali presents a threat to the United States. Satellite and drone coverage can continue to confirm this. If France and its former African colonies want to put troops in and bomb targets in Mali to protect the military government in Bamako, let them do so, but without American involvement.
The U.S. Congress already should be climbing all over the Obama administration to find out why it is involving us in this conflict, which is of no interest to America.
Dan Simpson, a former U.S. ambassador, is a columnist for the Post-Gazette

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By Design: French Mali Invasion Spills into Algeria

By Tony Cartalucci
January 17, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Exactly as predicted, the ongoing French “intervention” in the North African nation of Mali has spilled into Algeria – the next most likely objective of Western geopolitical interests in the region since the successful destabilization of Libya in 2011.
In last week’s “France Displays Unhinged Hypocrisy as Bombs Fall on Mali” report, it was stated specifically that: 
“As far back as August of 2011, Bruce Riedel out of the corporate-financier funded think-tank, the Brookings Institution, wrote “Algeria will be next to fall,” where he gleefully predicted success in Libya would embolden radical elements in Algeria, in particular AQIM. Between extremist violence and the prospect of French airstrikes, Riedel hoped to see the fall of the Algerian government. Ironically Riedel noted: 
Algeria has expressed particular concern that the unrest in Libya could lead to the development of a major safe haven and sanctuary for al-Qaeda and other extremist jihadis.
And thanks to NATO, that is exactly what Libya has become – a Western sponsored sanctuary for Al-Qaeda. AQIM’s headway in northern Mali and now French involvement will see the conflict inevitably spill over into Algeria. It should be noted that Riedel is a co-author of “Which Path to Persia?” which openly conspires to arm yet another US State Department-listed terrorist organization (list as #28), the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) to wreak havoc across Iran and help collapse the government there – illustrating a pattern of using clearly terroristic organizations, even those listed as so by the US State Department, to carry out US foreign policy.”
Now, it is reported that “Al Qaeda-linked” terrorists have seized American hostages in Algeria in what is being described by the Western press as “spill over” from France’s Mali operations.
“As Algerian army helicopters clattered overhead deep in the Sahara desert, Islamist militants hunkered down for the night in a natural gas complex they had assaulted Wednesday morning, killing two people and taking dozens of foreigners hostage in what could be the first spillover from France’s intervention in Mali.”
The Wall Street Journal, in its article, “Militants Grab U.S. Hostages in Algeria,” reports that:
“Militants with possible links to al Qaeda seized about 40 foreign hostages, including several Americans, at a natural-gas field in Algeria, posing a new level of threat to nations trying to blunt the growing influence of Islamist extremists in Africa.
As security officials in the U.S. and Europe assessed options to reach the captives from distant bases, Algerian security forces failed in an attempt late Wednesday to storm the facility.”
The WSJ also added: 
“Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. would take “necessary and proper steps” in the hostage situation, and didn’t rule out military action. He said the Algeria attack could represent a spillover from Mali.” 
And it is military action, both covert and incrementally more overt, that will see the West’s extremist proxies and the West’s faux efforts to stem them, increasingly creep over the Mali-Algerian border, as the old imperial maps of Europe are redrawn right before our eyes.

Image: The French Empire at its height right before the World Wars. The regions that are now Libya, Algeria, Mali, and the Ivory Coast all face reconquest by the French and Anglo-Americans, with French troops literally occupying the region and playing a pivotal role in installing Western-friendly client regimes. Also notice Syria too, was a French holding – now under attack by US-British-French funded, armed, and backed terrorists – the same terrorists allegedly being fought in Mali and now Algeria.

Meanwhile, these very same terrorist forces continue to receive funding, arms, covert military support, and diplomatic recognition in Syria, by NATO, and specifically the US and France who are both claiming to fight the “Free Syrian Army’s” ideological and very literal allies in North Africa.
In reality, Al Qaeda is allowing the US and France to intervene and interfere in Algeria, after attempts in 2011 to trigger political subversion was soundly defeated by the Algerian government. Al Qaeda is essentially both a casus belli and mercenary force, deployed by the West against targeted nations. It is clear that French operations seek to trigger armed conflict in Algeria as well as a possible Western military intervention there as well, with the Mali conflict serving only as a pretense.
This article was originally posted at LandDestroyer

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France continues to bomb Mali as Islamist opposition forces advance

By Alex Lantier 
16 January 2013
French warplanes continued to bomb Mali yesterday as French ground forces entered the country to protect the military junta of Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo from Islamist-led insurgents based in northern Mali.
Map of Northwestern Africa
On Tuesday morning, French warplanes bombed Diabaly in central Mali, which the insurgents had seized on Monday. Five people were confirmed killed in the town, which the opposition still reportedly held yesterday evening. Diabaly is only 400 kilometers north of the capital, Bamako, and roughly 150 kilometers from Ségou.
The insurgents’ capture of Diabaly shocked Malian military officials. One commander in nearby Niono, who had predicted with confidence that the rebels would not seize Diabaly, told the Associated Press that he feared the Diabaly garrison had been massacred, adding: “We feel truly threatened.”
Reports suggest that the Malian army is continuing to collapse. French citizens were evacuated from Ségou, Mali’s fifth largest city with 130,000 inhabitants, amid reports that the rebels were beginning to send groups of fighters there.
At a press conference, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that while the French bombing had halted the eastern component of the rebels’ southward offensive, the western prong in Diabaly was “very present” and “threatened the south.”
He added that French-backed Malian forces had also failed to retake Konna, the town initially bombed by the French to halt a rebel offensive on the crucial Sévaré airfield. Initial reports said that 100 people were killed in the bombing, mostly civilians.
A leader of the Islamist opposition group Ansar Dine told MaliWeb that the Islamist forces were leaving towns in northern Mali, several of which French warplanes bombed over the weekend to target the insurgents. Recent reports indicated that 60 people were killed in the bombing of Gao.
France has announced it will triple its armed forces in Mali to 2,500 from the current 800 troops. These include roughly 500 infantrymen and 40 armored vehicles in Bamako, a few dozen troops guarding the Sévaré airport, and Special Forces units.
Various West African countries have promised to contribute troops to a French-backed African force in Mali. This includes promises of 500 troops each from Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Togo, 300 troops from Benin, and 600 to 900 troops from Nigeria. These forces have not yet arrived, however.
Yesterday, French President François Hollande visited a French military base in Abu Dhabi while visiting an arms fair to lobby for sales of France’s Rafale jet, which is deployed in the Mali war.
In a speech laying out France’s goals in Mali, he said: “This operation has three goals: first, halting the terrorist aggression that sought to take control of the country as far as Bamako; then protecting Bamako, where we have several thousand citizens; finally, allowing Mali to recover its territorial integrity, a mission that will be given to an African force we will support and that will soon be in the field to fulfill this mission.”
Hollande crassly alluded to the fact that a significant consideration in French policy is the use of Mali to demonstrate the destructive capabilities of France’s Rafale jets and boost their sales. After praising France’s “exceptional” deployment in Mali, he told a Rafale pilot, “Thank you for your double mission, both operational and, I was going to say, commercial!”
The war in Mali is a brutal imperialist war, fought by France in the heart of its resource-rich, former West African colonial empire. The justifications cynically advanced by France—that it is a war for “democracy,” or to restore Mali’s “territorial integrity,” or to fight “terrorism”—are shot through with contradictions to the point of incoherency.
While it claims to be fighting for “democracy,” France is invading Mali to back the Sanogo junta. The imperialist powers sharply criticized Sanogo’s seizure of power last March and briefly helped organize an economic blockade of his government by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in an attempt to force him from power.
The war is being fought in defiance of international law. UN Security Council Resolution 2085, the supposed legal basis of the war, does not authorize the war Paris is fighting. Passed under pressure from the imperialist powers, the resolution authorizes “the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali.” However, the fighting is being led not by Africans, but by the French, whose African auxiliaries have not even arrived yet.
As for Mali’s territorial integrity, the main force that has undermined that is NATO, by virtue of its bloody 2011 war in Libya against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Northern Mali, a rugged area the size of Texas and consisting largely of mountains and portions of the Sahara desert, long enjoyed considerable autonomy from the central government in Bamako. It is now the base of operations of a coalition of Tuareg soldiers who fled Libya after Gaddafi’s defeat and jihadist fighters tied to the Al Qaeda-linked elements who served as NATO’s main proxy force inside Libya.
Weapons are pouring into northern Mali, moreover, as Islamists raid the abandoned weapons caches of the Gaddafi regime. As Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki told France24, Tunisia and Algeria are functioning as a “corridor for Libyan weapons,” with Islamist groups transporting arms to northern Mali. He called the war “a hornet’s nest that can threaten the security of all the countries, including Tunisia.”
On paper, Hollande’s plan amounts to having French troops guard southern Mali while a small force of 3,000 ill-armed African soldiers patrol the vast desert wastes of northern Mali in an attempt to find and destroy the heavily-armed guerrillas and return northern Mali to Bamako’s control.
US and British officials are reportedly highly skeptical of this plan. One anonymous US military source told Reuters, “I don’t know what the French endgame for this is. What is their goal? It reminds me of our initial move into Afghanistan. Air strikes are fine. But pretty soon you run out of easy targets. Then what do you do? What do you do when they head up into the mountains?”
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tried to justify the French war by again presenting it as part of the “war on terrorism.” He said, “We’re concerned any time Al Qaeda establishes a base of operations. While they might not have any immediate plans for attacks in the United States and Europe, that ultimately that still remains their objective.”
This is a cynical lie. It is well known that the US is working closely with the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front in Syria and similar forces in Libya. In defending their collaboration in Libya with Al Qaeda-linked operatives such as Abdelhakim Belhadj and Abu Sufian bin Qumu, US officials described “local” Al Qaeda groups in terms directly contradicting Panetta.
One official told the New York Times: “We’re more worried about Al Qaeda infiltration from outside than indigenous ones. Most of them have a local agenda, so they don’t present as much of a threat to the West.”
France’s allies are assisting the war, nonetheless. The US is providing intelligence assistance, while Britain is providing transport planes for the French war effort. The German government will discuss its plans to support the war at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The German Press Agency announced that Berlin is planning to provide four Transall transport aircraft and an Airbus to fly ECOWAS troops to Mali.

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The War on Libya – Blowback in Mali

Our Government and media may often ignore the price of Western interventions, but in future conflicts and fuel for radical Islamist groups, it is still paid nonetheless.
By Owen Jones
January 15, 2013 “The Independent” — No scrutiny, no build-up, no parliamentary vote, not even a softening-up exercise. Britain is now involved in yet another military conflict in a Muslim land, or so we have been informed. British aircraft are flying to Mali while France bombs the country, arguing that Islamist militia must be driven back to save Europe from the creation of a “terrorist state”. Amnesty International and West Africa experts warned of the potential disaster of foreign military intervention; the bombs raining on the Malian towns of Konna, Léré and Douentza suggest they have been definitively ignored.
Mali’s current agony has only just emerged in our headlines, but the roots go back generations. Like the other Western colonial powers that invaded and conquered Africa from the 19th century onwards, France used tactics of divide-and-rule in Mali, leading to entrenched bitterness between the nomadic Tuareg people – the base of the current revolt – and other communities in Mali.
To some Westerners, this is a distant past to be ignored, moved on from, and certainly not used to preclude noble interventions; but the consequences are still being felt on a daily basis. Initially, the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, suggested its colonial legacy ruled out a France-led intervention; its sudden involvement is far more rapid than expected.
But this intervention is itself the consequence of another. The Libyan war is frequently touted as a success story for liberal interventionism. Yet the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship had consequences that Western intelligence services probably never even bothered to imagine. Tuaregs – who traditionally hailed from northern Mali – made up a large portion of his army. When Gaddafi was ejected from power, they returned to their homeland: sometimes forcibly so as black Africans came under attack in post-Gaddafi Libya, an uncomfortable fact largely ignored by the Western media.
Awash with weapons from Libya’s own turmoil, armed Tuaregs saw an opening for their long-standing dream for national self-determination. As the rebellion spread, the democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Touré was deposed in a military coup and – despite allowing a transitional civilian-led government to take power – the army retains its dominance.
There can certainly be no sympathy for the militia now fighting the Malian government. Originally, it was the secular nationalists of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad who led the uprising; they have now been pushed aside by Islamist jihadists with a speed that has shocked foreign analysts. Rather than achieving an independent Tuareg state, they have far more sweeping ambitions, linking up with similar groups based in northern Nigeria. Amnesty International reports horrendous atrocities: amputations, sexual violence, the use of child soldiers, and rampant extra-judicial executions.
But don’t fall for a narrative so often pushed by the Western media: a perverse oversimplification of good fighting evil, just as we have seen imposed on Syria’s brutal civil war. Amnesty reports brutality on the part of Malian government forces, too. When the conflict originally exploded, Tuaregs were arrested, tortured, bombed and killed by the security forces, “apparently only on ethnic grounds”, Amnesty says. Last July, 80 inmates arrested by the army were stripped to their underwear, jammed into a 5sqm cell; cigarettes were burnt into their bodies; and they were forced to sodomise each other. Back in September 2012, 16 Muslim preachers belonging to the Dawa group were rounded up at a checkpoint and summarily executed by the army. These are acts committed by those who are now our allies.
When the UN Security Council unanimously paved the way for military force to be used at some point last month, experts made clear warnings that must still be listened to. The International Crisis Group urged a focus on a diplomatic solution to restore stability, arguing that intervention could exacerbate a growing inter-ethnic conflict. Amnesty warned that “an international armed intervention is likely to increase the scale of human-rights violations we are already seeing in this conflict”. Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford University, has argued that past wars show that “once started, they can take alarming directions, have very destructive results, and often enhance the very movements they are designed to counter”.
It is conceivable that this intervention could – for a time – achieve its goals of pushing back the Islamist militias, and shore up Mali’s government. But the Libyan war was seen as a success, too; and here we are now engaging with its catastrophic blowback. In Afghanistan, Western forces remain engaged in a never-ending war which has already helped destabilised Pakistan, leading to drone attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians and unleashed further chaos. The price of Western interventions may often be ignored by our media, but it is still paid nonetheless.
Western intervention led by France, supported by Britain and with possible US drone attacks on the way will undoubtedly fuel the narrative of radical Islamist groups. As Professor Rogers puts it to me, it will be portrayed as “one more example of an assault on Islam”. With the speed and reach of modern forms of communication, radical groups in Western Africa and beyond will use this escalating war as evidence of another front opened against Muslims.
It is disturbing – to say the least – how Cameron has led Britain into Mali’s conflict without even a pretence at consultation. Troops will not be sent, we are told; but the term “mission creep” exists for a reason, and an escalation could surely trigger deeper British involvement. The West has a terrible record of aligning itself with the most dubious of allies: the side we have picked are far from human-rights-loving democrats.
Owen Jones is a columnist for The Independent. He was born in Sheffield and grew up in Stockport. After graduating, he worked as a trade union and parliamentary researcher. His first book, ‘Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class’, was published in June 2011. He is currently working on his second book, on the British Establishment, for Penguin.
© 2012 The Independent

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The Bombing of Mali Highlights all the Lessons of Western Intervention

The west African nation becomes the eighth country in the last four years alone where Muslims are killed by the west
By Glenn Greenwald 
January 14, 2013 “The Guardian” — As French war planes bomb Mali, there is one simple statistic that provides the key context: this west African nation of 15 million people is the eighth country in which western powers – over the last four years alone – have bombed and killed Muslims – after Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and the Phillipines (that does not count the numerous lethal tyrannies propped up by the west in that region). For obvious reasons, the rhetoric that the west is not at war with the Islamic world grows increasingly hollow with each new expansion of this militarism. But within this new massive bombing campaign, one finds most of the vital lessons about western intervention that, typically, are steadfastly ignored.
First, as the New York Times’ background account from this morning makes clear, much of the instability in Mali is the direct result of Nato’s intervention in Libya. Specifically, “heavily armed, battle-hardened Islamist fighters returned from combat in Libya” and “the big weaponry coming out of Libya and the different, more Islamic fighters who came back” played the precipitating role in the collapse of the US-supported central government. As Owen Jones wrote in an excellent column this morning in the Independent:
“This intervention is itself the consequence of another. The Libyan war is frequently touted as a success story for liberal interventionism. Yet the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship had consequences that Western intelligence services probably never even bothered to imagine. Tuaregs – who traditionally hailed from northern Mali – made up a large portion of his army. When Gaddafi was ejected from power, they returned to their homeland: sometimes forcibly so as black Africans came under attack in post-Gaddafi Libya, an uncomfortable fact largely ignored by the Western media. . . . [T]he Libyan war was seen as a success . . . and here we are now engaging with its catastrophic blowback.”
Over and over, western intervention ends up – whether by ineptitude or design – sowing the seeds of further intervention. Given the massive instability still plaguing Libya as well as enduring anger over the Benghazi attack, how long will it be before we hear that bombing and invasions in that country are – once again – necessary to combat the empowered “Islamist” forces there: forces empowered as a result of the Nato overthrow of that country’s government?
Second, the overthrow of the Malian government was enabled by US-trained-and-armed soldiers who defected. From the NYT: “commanders of this nation’s elite army units, the fruit of years of careful American training, defected when they were needed most — taking troops, guns, trucks and their newfound skills to the enemy in the heat of battle, according to senior Malian military officials.” And then: “an American-trained officer overthrew Mali’s elected government, setting the stage for more than half of the country to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists.”
In other words, the west is once again at war with the very forces that it trained, funded and armed. Nobody is better at creating its own enemies, and thus ensuring a posture of endless war, than the US and its allies. Where the US cannot find enemies to fight against it, it simply empowers them.
Third, western bombing of Muslims in yet another country will obviously provoke even more anti-western sentiment, the fuel of terrorism. Already, as the Guardian reports, French fighter jets in Mali have killed “at least 11 civilians including three children”. France’s long history of colonialization in Mali only exacerbates the inevitable anger. Back in December, after the UN Security Council authorized the intervention in Mali, Amnesty International’s researcher on West Africa, Salvatore Saguès, warned: “An international armed intervention is likely to increase the scale of human rights violations we are already seeing in this conflict.”
As always, western governments are well aware of this consequence and yet proceed anyway. The NYT notes that the French bombing campaign was launched “in the face of longstanding American warnings that a Western assault on the Islamist stronghold could rally jihadists around the world and prompt terrorist attacks as far away as Europe.” Indeed, at the same time that the French are now killing civilians in Mali, a joint French-US raid in Somalia caused the deaths of “at least eight civilians, including two women and two children”.
To believe that the US and its allies can just continue to go around the world, in country after country, and bomb and kill innocent people – Muslims – and not be targeted with “terrorist” attacks is, for obvious reasons, lunacy. As Bradford University professor Paul Rogers told Jones, the bombing of Mali “will be portrayed as ‘one more example of an assault on Islam'”. Whatever hopes that may exist for an end to the “war on terror” are systematically destroyed by ongoing aggression.
Fourth, for all the self-flattering rhetoric that western democracies love to apply to themselves, it is extraordinary how these wars are waged without any pretense of democratic process. Writing about the participation of the British government in the military assault on Mali, Jones notes that “it is disturbing – to say the least – how Cameron has led Britain into Mali’s conflict without even a pretence at consultation.” Identically, the Washington Post this morning reports that President Obama has acknowledged after the fact that US fighter jets entered Somali air space as part of the French operation there; the Post called that “a rare public acknowledgment of American combat operations in the Horn of Africa” and described the anti-democratic secrecy that typically surrounds US war actions in the region:
“The US military has based a growing number of armed Predator drones as well as F-15 fighter jets at Camp Lemonnier, which has grown into a key installation for secret counterterrorism operations in Somalia and Yemen. The defense official declined to identify the aircraft used in the rescue attempt but said they were fighter jets, not drones. . . . .
“It was unclear, however, why Obama felt compelled to reveal this particular operation when he has remained silent about other specific US combat missions in Somalia. Spokesmen from the White House and the Pentagon declined to elaborate or answer questions Sunday night.”
The Obama administration has, of course, draped its entire drone and global assassination campaign in an impenetrable cloth of secrecy, ensuring it remains beyond the scrutinizing reach of media outlets, courts, and its own citizens. The US and its western allies do not merely wage endless war aimed invariably at Muslims. They do so in virtually complete secrecy, without any transparency or accountability. Meet the western “democracies”.
Finally, the propaganda used to justify all of this is depressingly common yet wildly effective. Any western government that wants to bomb Muslims simply slaps the label of “terrorists” on them, and any real debate or critical assessment instantly ends before it can even begin. “The president is totally determined that we must eradicate these terrorists who threaten the security of Mali, our own country and Europe,” proclaimed French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
As usual, this simplistic cartoon script distorts reality more than it describes it. There is no doubt that the Malian rebels have engaged in all sorts of heinous atrocities (“amputations, flogging, and stoning to death for those who oppose their interpretation of Islam”), but so, too, have Malian government forces – including, as Amnesty chronicled, “arresting, torturing and killing Tuareg people apparently only on ethnic ground.” As Jones aptly warns: “don’t fall for a narrative so often pushed by the Western media: a perverse oversimplification of good fighting evil, just as we have seen imposed on Syria’s brutal civil war.”
The French bombing of Mali, perhaps to include some form of US participation, illustrates every lesson of western intervention. The “war on terror” is a self-perpetuating war precisely because it endlessly engenders its own enemies and provides the fuel to ensure that the fire rages without end. But the sloganeering propaganda used to justify this is so cheap and easy – we must kill the Terrorists! – that it’s hard to see what will finally cause this to end. The blinding fear – not just of violence, but of Otherness – that has been successfully implanted in the minds of many western citizens is such that this single, empty word (Terrorists), standing alone, is sufficient to generate unquestioning support for whatever their governments do in its name, no matter how secret or unaccompanied by evidence it may be.
Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. He is the author of How Would a Patriot Act? (May 2006), acritique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power; A Tragic Legacy (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy; and With Liberty and Justice For Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited

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West African states prepare intervention in Mali

By Ernst Wolff 
17 November 2012
A special summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the Nigerian capital of Abuja November 11 reiterated the readiness of the organisation to deploy 3,300 soldiers to the north of Mali before the start of the rainy season.
ECOWAS spokesman Sunny Ugoh announced that 13 countries will participate in the operation. The majority of the soldiers will come from Nigeria, Niger, Senegal and Burkina Faso.
Ugoh said the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) would discuss the plan in the next few days. A decision by the UN Security Council was expected at the end of the month. Deployment of the troops could begin as soon as the United Nations gives a green light.
The aim of the intervention is to end the occupation of northern Mali by radical Islamists. The latter have joined forces with Tuareg soldiers who returned heavily armed to Mali after the war in Libya and brought the regions of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal under their control, proclaiming the independent state of Azawad.
In June the Islamists then expelled the Tuareg from the region. Since then, the area has been dominated by three radical Islamist groups: Ansar Dine (in Arabic, Defender of the Faith), MUJAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa) and AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb).
Also in attendance at the ECOWAS meeting were representatives from other African countries such as Libya, Mauritania and Algeria, which all border Mali, plus South Africa and Morocco, currently represented on the UN Security Council. The leading role behind the scenes, however, is played by the US, France and the European Union. These Western powers have appointed African regimes to lead the intervention in order “to give the deployment an African face”, in the words of German Development Minister Dirk Niebel (FDP).
Many of the leaders attending the meeting in Abuja received the direct support of imperialist powers in the past. The ECOWAS chairman Allassane Ouattara was able to take over as president of the Ivory Coast after his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, was expelled by force from the country by France and the European Union. The former military dictator of Guinea, Moussa Dadis Camara, was educated at a school for army officers in Dresden, Germany and, according to the German media, officers in the army of Guinea are still trained in that country. Senegal, which borders on Mali, also receives military and police aid from Europe and Germany.
Within the framework of the German program “Equipment Assistance Program for foreign armed forces” (AH-P), the German army (Bundeswehr) has been supplying military equipment to Mali since 2007, along with Afghanistan, Ghana, Yemen, Namibia and Tanzania. The Bundeswehr has already established a training centre for engineers and began training army instructors in Mali in mid-November 2009.
A joint report from the German foreign office and ministry of defence shows that a budget of more than three million euros [$US 3.8 million] has been allocated for German activities in Mali since the beginning of 2009. An additional expenditure of 3.3 million euros is planned for the years 2013 to 2016.
The conflict in Mali was triggered by the imperialist intervention in Libya. The Tuareg are a nomadic tribe that inhabit Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso and Libya, in addition to Mali. After the fall of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi, the Tuareg who had fought on his side were driven out of the country and returned to northern Mali where they took control of large stretches of territory.
The Islamists, who have now won the upper hand in northern Mali, were in turn strengthened by the Libyan war. The Islamic militants had been armed by the US and other Western powers as part of their campaign to topple Gaddafi. The devastating social conditions under which much of the population suffers in the region also creates a fertile recruiting ground for the Islamist forces.
This relationship is especially evident in Nigeria. There, the government under President Goodluck Jonathan, in consultation with the International Monetary Fund, drastically reduced fuel subsidies at the start of the year in order to repay interest payments to foreign creditors. The subsequent popular protests were suppressed by force, driving many into the arms of the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram. The fact that Nigeria now wants to put up the main contingent of soldiers for deployment in Mali is due to the links between Boko Haram and Ansar Dine and AQIM, and the resulting threat to the regime in Abuja.
In order to ensure that the fate of the military operation in Mali is not left in the hands of Nigeria, which could then use the conflict to increase its influence in West Africa, the imperialist powers have sought to improve their diplomatic and military ties to Algeria. French President Francois Hollande, who plans to visit Algeria in early December, has officially admitted for the first time that French police were responsible for the massacre of Algerians in Paris in 1961. Four of his ministers, including the interior and foreign minister, are due to visit the country in a few weeks time and at the end of October US State Secretary Hillary Clinton also flew into Algeria to meet with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
In return, the government of Algeria, which has a 1,400 kilometre long border with Mali, has indicated that it will do nothing to oppose a military intervention by the great powers. It can be assumed that the United States and France have made certain commitments to the Algerian regime, but details remain unknown.
Spiegel Online, however, has publicised some of the efforts made by Germany to secure the loyalty of Algeria’s ruler: at the start of 2011, the German government agreed to supply 54 Fuchs tanks (worth 195 million euros), SUVs and trucks worth 286 million euros, plus a guarantee of 2.13 billion euros to secure the delivery of two frigates. In addition, a German company has received a contract to produce 1,200 Fuchs armoured personnel carriers in Algeria over the next ten years—all for the exclusive use of the Algerian regime.

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Beware Those Wicked Malians

By Eric Margolis
October 15, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – Welcome Mali, our newest crisis! Open your maps.
Mali is a huge, arid nation extending from the Sahara Desert and Algeria’s border in the north to the steamy south along the Niger River. Most of Mali’s 14.5 million people eke out an existence farming and fishing.
France used to rule Mali as part of its West African Empire, and still has deep financial, military, commercial and intelligence interests in the region.
Not so long ago, France installed West African leaders, financed them, and kept them in power using small garrisons of tough Foreign Legionnaires. Secret payments continue today. Spooks from France’s DGSE intelligence agency, and “special advisors” are active behind the scenes in West Africa as well as North Africa.
The US has been rapidly expanding its influence in France’s former African sphere of influence, both in a drive for resources and to block China’s growing activity on the continent.
Arid Northern Mali was a backwater in France’s colonial empire. Last March, Tuareg and militant Islamic militias seized Mali’s vast north. US-trained army officers then overthrew the elected civilian government in Bamako of Amadou Touré.
Tuareg are fierce desert nomads often called the “blue men of the Sahara” because their skins become tinted by the blue veils they always wear to cover their faces. French colonial troops and Legionnaires battled the Tuareg throughout the 19th century and half of the 20th in a romantic little struggle on which the famed Victorian novel, “Beau Geste” was based.
The Tuareg want their own state, Azawad, carved from northern Mali, and bits of southern Algeria and Mauritania. Call them the Kurds of the Sahara.
Militant Islamists, led by Ansar Din, first joined the Tuareg fighters, but then pushed them out, seizing the fabled city of Timbuktu. These angry Islamists set about destroying ancient tombs of assorted local saints, producing huge indignation from westerners who could not find Timbuktu on a map if their lives depended on it. Orthodox Muslims denounce worship of saints as blasphemy and idolatry.
Western media immediately branded Ansar Din “linked to al-Qaida” without any real proof. These days, anyone we don’t like is “linked to al-Qaida,” a tiny groups that barely exists any more. However, lurking behind the next sand dune may be Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, a small, violent anti-western movement from Algeria that has nothing to do with the original al-Qaida but expropriated its name.
A French-backed UN Security Council vote for military intervention in Mali to oust the rebels is imminent. France wants the West African economic group ECOWAS to lead the charge. But this is merely the kind of “coalition” fig-leaf favored by the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Any real fighting and transport will be done by French military units from Europe or bases in central Africa and Chad. And, of course, the Legion.
Washington has a different plan. The US wants to follow the model it is using to fight Somalia’s Shebab movement. In the last four years, the US has spent some $600 million to rent an African proxy force of 20,000 Ugandan, Ethiopian and Kenyan soldiers to invade Somalia and battle Shebab.
Washington plans a similar strategy in Mali, led by its sexy new star, Africa Command. Nigeria is expected to play a key role; Morocco and Algeria may contribute troops.
All this seems like a lot of effort to combat a bunch of Saharan tribesmen and trouble-makers in pickup trucks in a place whose main city, Timbuktu, is a synonym for remoteness and obscurity. No matter. The US and French media are dutifully raising alarms about the “Islamic threat” from deepest Sahara – in part to distract from domestic economic woes.
Is the US ready to wage yet another little conflict – on credit? Doesn’t Washington have enough conflicts? Apparently not.
Mali could get nasty: neighbors Algeria, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast are unstable. The Saharawi of Western Sahara have fought for decades against Morocco for their own state. They are backed by Algeria.
Into this potential tinder box France and the US are preparing to charge. “On to Timbuktu” goes out the battle cry of the latest obscure crusade.
Eric S. Margolis is an internationally syndicated columnist. ericmargolis.com/
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2012

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Mali Becoming the Afghanistan of Africa Why is Mali Spiraling out of Control?

By Ramzy Baroud 
August 02, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — ‘We don’t even know who to be afraid of anymore,’ said Hama Ould Mohammad Bashir, a refugee from Mali (New York Times, July 18). ‘There are a lot of armed people, coming and going all the time.’
Northern Mali promises to be the graveyard of scores of innocent people if African countries don’t collectively challenge Western influence in the region.
Mali is fast becoming the Afghanistan of Africa.
The tragic reality is that Mali—a large but sparsely populated country, with around 15.5 million inhabitants—was until a few months ago paraded as a model of stability and fledgling democracy in west Africa.
What happened to make it a hotbed for terrorism, ethnic cleansing and a civil war which could destabilize the entire region?
On March 22 US-trained army captain Amadou Sanogo led a coup against the now-exiled president Amadou Toumani Toure, accusing him of not doing enough to challenge separatist threats in the country’s north.
There was widespread condemnation of Sanogo’s coup, though the US was more forgiving than African media, most of which saw the takeover as a violent end to two decades of democratization. US-owned news outlets claimed the coup was “a surprise to Sanogo himself” and even termed it “accidental,” an inane assessment that flies in the face of the evidence.
Whatever Sanogo’s motives the coup did nothing to halt the separatists—quite the opposite. The Tuaregs’ National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) used the political vacuum to declare independence in the north just two weeks later.
The declaration followed a succession of quick military victories which included the capture of Gao and other major towns.
These developments emboldened Islamist and other militant groups to seize cities across the country. A power struggle soon erupted, in which the Islamist Ansar Dine (“protectors of the faith”) gained the upper hand, ousting the MNLA from a number of areas including the historic city of Timbuktu.
These militants alleged that the Islamic history of the city was not consistent with their interpretation of the religion and immediately set about dismantling buildings, burning Islamic manuscripts, and essentially destroying a Unesco world heritage site.
Another group soon moved in, thickening the plot. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) has been used by Washington to rationalize the establishment of the United States Africa Command (Africom), set up in 2008 with a brief covering the whole continent with the exception of Egypt. The US State Department claims that Africom “will play a supportive role as Africans build democratic institutions and establish good governance across the continent.”
It doesn’t explain how this process will be helped by Africom’s own Special Operations Command.
Media leaks and authoritative analysts have been linking Africom to the mess in Mali. The security vacuum in this strategically located country could be the exact opening the US has been seeking to establish a lasting military presence in Africa. This, of course, is part and parcel of the US’s recent reassessment of its military priorities across the world.
Not only did Africom have a notable presence in Mali—providing several training tours to Sanogo himself—its head General Carter Ham is now talking the talk we have heard so often in other conflict zones.
“We—the international community, the Malian government—missed an opportunity to deal with Aqim when it was weak. Now the situation is much more difficult and it will take greater effort by the international community and certainly by a new Malian government,” he told reporters in Senegal just last week.
The nature of this “great effort” is unknown, but both the US and France—the former colonial power which still has great influence and massive economic interests in Mali—have floated military options.
Knowing that Western interventions often achieve the opposite of their declared purpose some west African countries have been scrambling to prevent potentially grim scenarios.
On July 5 the UN Security Council endorsed the efforts of west African countries to end the unrest and—despite pressure—didn’t back military action.
The African Union, which has had little success in past conflicts, looks likely to cede leadership on the issue to the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas). But its members are heavily dependent on foreign aid, and thus very susceptible to outside pressure.
Despite hyped Western media coverage, al-Qaida is not the biggest concern in northern Mali. Even by General Ham’s estimate foreign fighters in the north number only in “the dozens and perhaps the low hundreds.”
The real crisis is humanitarian and political. According to the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs 420,000 people have been made refugees in a region that is harsh even on those who aren’t forced to flee across open deserts.
But the US has already started discussions on the use of unmanned killer drones in the area. US media is fomenting fear over the situation, perhaps in preparation for a military campaign.
“Extremist Islamists have wrested control of a region the size of France in northern Mali and proclaimed an Islamist state,” ABC news reported on July 23.
Much less has been said about the causes of all this—not least that it was Western intervention in Libya last year that has saturated a poor region with a massive amount of weapons that are now being intercepted throughout Africa.
Mali is now ripe for another violent episode, the scope and nature of which are yet to be revealed. While Western powers and their regional allies are calculating their next move, hundreds of thousands of impoverished people are roaming the Sahara, seeking water in one of the world’s most unforgiving terrains.
The most tragic part of the story is that Mali’s real hardships are only just beginning.
Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com. Read more articles by Ramzy Baroud. http://www.ramzybaroud.net

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Mali fast becoming the Afghanistan of Africa

Northern Mali promises to be the graveyard of scores of innocent people if African countries don’t collectively challenge Western influence in the region.
The Republic of Mali is fast becoming the Afghanistan of Africa. The reference is being applied with growing enthusiasm by Western media. The tragic reality is that Mali, with massive size and relatively sparse population – 1,240,000 km² and a population of nearly 15.5 million – was, until a few months ago, paraded as a model of stability and fledgling democracy in West Africa. What happened to make Mali a hotbed for terrorism, militancy, ethnic cleansing and a potentially destructive war that could destabilize the whole region?
On March 22, a US-trained Mali Army Capt. Amadou Sanogo led a coup against President Amadou Toumani Touré, accusing him of not doing enough to challenge the growing separatist and militant threats in northern Mali. Despite the widespread condemnation of Sanogo’s coup, US media seemed more forgiving than their African counterparts, which saw the military takeover as a violent end to a two-decades-long democratization process. In an Associated Press article, it was claimed that the coup was a “surprise to Sanogo himself” (Fox News, July 7). AP conveniently interpreted the takeover as “Mali’s accidental coup“, an inane conclusion that screams in the face of abundant evidence.
The barely harsh Western response to the coup had little to do with what was transpiring in southern Mali and much to do with the north.
Expectedly, the coup led to a political vacuum needed for the Tuaregs’ National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) to declare independence in the north merely two weeks later. The declaration was the culmination of quick military victories by the MNLA and its militant allies, which led to the capture of Gao and other major towns. The successive developments further emboldened Islamic and other militant groups to seize cities across the country and hold them hostage to their agendas. Within the power configuration that was quickly developing in the north, a conflict soon ensued, giving the upper hand to Ansar Dine (Protectors of the Faith), who ousted Tuaregs from various regions, including the historic city of Timbuktu. The militants, alleging that Islamic history in Timbuktu is not consistent with their extreme interpretation of religion, began dismantling buildings, burning Islamic manuscripts, and basically destroying a UNESCO-recognized world heritage site.
Another group quickly moved in, thickening the plot and raising even more questions. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group that has topped the list of US enemies in Africa, has, to an extent, rationalized the need for the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM). Headquartered in Germany, AFRICOM has been pushing for an “[alliance” in a continent that was, for decades, mostly outside the US sphere of influence. The work of the relatively new command (activated in 2008) includes all of Africa, except Egypt. The declared motives of AFRICOM are intentionally conspicuous. According to the US State Department, AFRICOM “will play a supportive role as Africans continue to build democratic institutions and establish good governance across the continent.” This surely fails to explain how helping African democracy will be enhanced by the creation US Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAFRICA).
Media leaks and authoritative analysts have been linking AFRICOM to the mess in Mali. The security vacuum in the strategically located and large country is arguably the exact opening desperately sought by the US to establish lasting military presence in Africa. This has been especially needed after the forced reassessment of US military presence in other parts of the world.
Not only did AFRICOM have a notable presence in Mali, providing several training tours to the leader of the military coup, its head, General Carter Ham, is now articulating the kind of language that has been heard all too often in other conflict zones. “We – the international community, the Malian government – missed an opportunity to deal with AQIM when they were weak. Now the situation is much more difficult and it will take greater effort by the international community and certainly by a new Malian government,” he told reporters in Senegal, as quoted in Reuters on July 26.
The nature of these “great efforts” is still unknown, but US and France – a former colonial power that still yields much influence and massive economic interests in Mali – are floating military options. Knowing that Western interventions often achieve the opposite of their declared purpose, some Western African countries are scrambling to prevent potentially grim scenarios. On July 5, the Security Council endorsed the efforts of West African countries to end the unrest, and, despite pressure, didn’t back military action. The African Union, which has had little success in past conflicts, is likely to concede leadership to The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), whose members are receptive to pressures due to their reliance on foreign aid.
Despite hyped Western media coverage, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is not the biggest concern in Northern Mali. Even by General Ham’s estimations, foreign fighters in the north are numbering “dozens and perhaps in the low hundreds,” according to Reuters. The real crisis is humanitarian as well as political. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 420,000 people have been made refugees in a region that is harsh even on those who aren’t forced to flee across open deserts.
Nonetheless, discussions have already begun regarding the use of unmanned drones. The US media is now fomenting fears among Americans, perhaps in preparation for a military campaign led by the US and its Western allies, under an African umbrella. “Extremist Islamists have wrested control of a region the size of France in northern Mali and proclaimed an Islamic state,” reported ABC News on July 23. Of course, little is being said about numerous other factors, including the fact that it was Western intervention in Libya in March 2011 that saturated a poor region with a massive amount weapons that are now being intercepted throughout Africa.
Mali is now ripe for another violent episode, the scope and nature of which are yet to be revealed. While Western powers and their regional allies are calculating their next move, hundreds of thousands of impoverished people are roaming the Sahara seeking water in one of the world’s most unforgiving terrains.
The most tragic part of the story is that Mali’s real hardships are only just beginning.

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Mali, Al Qaeda, and the US Neo-Colonial Agenda

By Eric Draitser
Global Research
Recent developments in Mali illustrate both the way in which the Unites States and its Western allies directly project military and political power, as well as the role of terrorism as a necessary pretext for imperialist, neo-colonial domination. Beginning with the establishment of AFRICOM (US Africa Command) in 2007, incorporating the war in Libya and the military coup d’etat in Mali, and up to today’s consolidation of power by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), it has become clear that the United States has managed to successfully destabilize West Africa and achieve many of its long-term strategic objectives in the region.
While the Western media portrays the situation in West Africa as an “unintended consequence” of the imperialist aggression against Libya, the incontrovertible fact that the United States has, for years, attempted to expand its control of the region, has been made all the more apparent by the current instability and the “decisive action” that it necessitates. The spread of AQIM, which has now consolidated control over a vast swath of land in the Sahel region, rather conveniently provides the US with the crucial cover it needs to expand its military presence.
Recent Developments

Since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, Mali has been embroiled in a fierce civil war that has torn the country apart. The Tuareg fighters, who had fought on the side of Gaddafi and the Green Resistance, began to return home armed, battle-hardened, and bearing a grudge. This was, understandably, a recipe for war in Mali where the central government was seen as little more than a US puppet regime,touting democracy as it bowed to US military and corporate interests. The rebels began waging war against Bamako in hopes of creating their own independent state of Azawad in Northern Mali, a goal which has been stifled since Mali gained its own independence in 1960.
As the war continued to intensify, the Malian military became increasingly frustrated with what they perceived to be a lack of support from the civilian government. This anger and resentment was then channeled by a small clique within the Malian officer corps into a coup d’etat to overthrow the government in Bamako. The coup was lead by Captain Amadou Sanogo, a US-trained mid-level officer, heading an assortment of lower-level military officers who claimed to be patriots seeking to quell the rebellion in the North. In reality, the move was a cynically designed ploy by Sanogo and his US sponsors to destabilize Mali. As anticipated, the overthrow plunged the country into political turmoil, and with no legitimate government in the capital, opened the door to a much more dangerous enemy in the North.
Enter: Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

In the midst of the fighting between the Touré government and the Tuareg forces, there emerged a new threat in the North, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). This offshoot of Al Qaeda, once seen as a marginal threat with little to no chance of establishing a significant presence in the region, began to make its presence felt through an alliance with the rebels. Really no more than a marriage of convenience, the two forces fought side by side to defeat the weak Malian military which, despite years of training and advanced equipment from the United States, was unable to inflict any significant damage on the rebels or terrorist fighters. However, once it became clear that the North was going to be “freed” from the control of the government and Malian military, the divide between rebels and AQ fighters became evident.
Eyewitness accounts from Mali describe the AQIM fighters as having arrived in Land Cruisers with advanced weapons and communications equipment, ostensibly acquired through defeating the Malian and other military forces in the region. This highly organized and well-funded contingent emerged in Mali after having been roundly defeated by the military and other government forces in Algeria, where the group originated. This fact should not be lost on keen observers who note that, due to their failure to destabilize that oil-rich country in the interests of Western imperialists, AQIM migrated to Mali where they successfully hijacked the civil war there and turned it into another staging ground for terror and destabilization, like its corollary in Libya.
AQIM, US-AFRICOM, and the Destabilization of the Sahel

As with other Al Qaeda offshoots, AQIM’s history is directly related to that of the US intelligence and military presence in the Sahel. The US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established by the Bush Administration in 2007 in order to, in their words, “defend US national security interests by strengthening the defense capabilities of African States… and defeat transnational threats.” However, within months of the establishment of AFRICOM, the Algerian group known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (SGPC) was rebranded AQIM and immediately became a much more serious threat with international capabilities, something it had never had before that point.

One can only wonder how, within the span of a few short months, as US military and intelligence presence is dramatically increased, such a group can immediately spring up. It would be logical to assume that the two events are not merely coincidence. Rather, AFRICOM, in order to legitimize its own presence in the region needed an enemy. So, it took an obscure terror organization, gave them the Al Qaeda banner, and thereby created the conditions for a military presence. AFRICOM was then able to install so-called “advisers” in the militaries of the region, ostensibly to combat the threat posed by this new organization while, in truth, creating dependence of those militaries on the United States. These developments were part of the broader mission known as the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnershipwhich enabled the United States to penetrate the militaries of the entire region and thereby make them into clients or proxies of the US military. It is precisely this dependence which was so evident in the routing of the Malian military at the hands of the rebels and AQIM.
With the defeat of the Malian forces and the de facto establishment of the state of Azawad, AQIM now controls a large portion of the Sahel/West Africa region, allowing it to menace neighboring states and continue to legitimize the AFRICOM presence. This military presence, though, is not entirely visible. In fact, it is now confirmed that US commandos and other Special Forces have been actively engaged in Mali since before the coup in late March. According to mainstream media and military spokespeople, the commandos were purely communications experts providing technical assistance to the military. While this is undoubtedly true to a certain extent, the news indicates a much broader engagement in the country, one that likely includes all manner of covert operations engaging with terrorists, rebels, and the military forces. Essentially then, the situation in Mali, and the wider region, has to be understood as being directly and cynically manipulated by the United States.
US Objectives

The US imperialist ruling class has a multitude of reasons for their desire to destabilize the Sahel and Africa more broadly. First and foremost is the desire to block the continued Chinese economic penetration of the continent. It is no secret that China has become, by far, the most significant investor in Africa. With the mutually beneficial arrangements wherein China engages in large-scale economic development while receiving, in return, access to raw materials, the Chinese have entrenched themselves in many African nations. Because of this, the United States must find ways to slow down or stop altogether these relations by any means necessary.

Secondly, the US seeks to prevent the independent economic development of Africa. Washington and Wall St. cannot bear to watch their former servants establish themselves outside of US dollar hegemony. As the US, Europe, and much of the world have slipped into a global depression, much of Africa has remained economically stable. Naturally, the 1% cannot allow this, and so, they must seek to re-impose their dominance utilizing the usual assortment of weapons: terrorism, military coups, and blackmail. In so doing, Africa is once again under the thumb of Western financiers.
Lastly, the US must do whatever it takes to continue to justify its military presence on the continent. Despite public revulsion throughout Africa to the idea of AFRICOM, Washington has managed to incorporate it into many of the militaries on the continent. In so doing, the US both legitimizes its own expenditures and is able to enforce the agenda of Wall St. and the international financier class. Moreover, this provides the muscle behind US puppet regimes such as those in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, and elsewhere – governments that act as the brutal enforcers of US policy, always bowing to the dictates of their patrons in Washington.
In many ways, Mali has become a second Libya – a fractured nation that has been reduced to chaos with much of the population living under the rule of terrorists and extremists. Like Libya, Mali is undoubtedly being transformed into a sanctuary for international terror campaigns that have, as their mission, nothing less than the total destruction of modern Africa. 
Whether conscious or unconscious, these forces, which seek to impose their will on the people of Africa, work in the service of the United States. As with Libya, Somalia, Nigeria, and countless other nations, the US imperialists, using the brutal weapon of terrorism, have reduced Mali to a failed state in order to consolidate their own domination and further their neo-colonial agenda.

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Mali: U.S. Africa Command’s New War?

by Rick Rozoff


President Obama’s statement on defense strategy announced a stronger U.S. presence in Asia-Pacific, while keeping Africa under the radar. Yet, recent developments unequivocally suggest that the Black Continent has become the new U.S. playground of imperial military conquest. Mali is the country currently caught in the eye of the storm. In this article, written in February 2012 when the latest so-called “Tuareg rebellion” erupted in northern Mali, Rick Rozoff connects the dots between these events and Mali’s central role within U.S. strategy in Africa, conjecturing that, after Libya, the stage is possibly being set for another foreign intervention.
VOLTAIRE NETWORK | CHICAGO (USA) | 9 APRIL 2012
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Touareg rebels in northern Mali declared independence on 6 April 2012, announcing their intention to form the democratic state of Azawad.
The press wires are reporting on intensified fighting in Mali between the nation’s military and ethnic Tuareg rebels of the Azawad National Liberation Movement in the north of the nation.
As the only news agencies with global sweep and the funds and infrastructure to maintain bureaus and correspondents throughout the world are those based in leading member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, BBC News and Deutsche Presse-Agentur – the coverage of ongoing developments in Mali, like those in most every other country, reflects a Western bias and a Western agenda.
Typical headlines on the topic, then, include the following:
To reach Mali from Libya is at least a 500-mile journey through Algeria and/or Niger. As the rebels of course don’t have an air force, don’t have military transport aircraft, the above headlines and the propaganda they synopsize imply that Tuareg fighters marched the entire distance from Libya to their homeland in convoys containing heavy weapons through at least one other nation without being detected or deterred by local authorities. And that, moreover, to launch an offensive three months following the murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after his convoy was struck by French bombs and a U.S. Hellfire missile last October. But the implication that Algeria and Niger, especially the first, are complicit in the transit of Tuareg fighters and arms from Libya to Mali is ominous in terms of expanding Western accusations – and actions – in the region.
Armed rebellions are handled differently in Western-dominated world news reporting depending on how the rebels and the governments they oppose are viewed by leading NATO members.
In recent years the latter have provided military and logistical support to armed rebel formations – in most instances engaged in cross-order attacks and with separatist and irredentist agendas – in Kosovo, Macedonia, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Libya and now Syria, and on the intelligence and “diplomatic” fronts in Russia, China, Pakistan, Sudan, Iran, Indonesia, Congo, Myanmar, Laos and Bolivia.
However, major NATO powers have adopted the opposite tack when it comes to Turkey, Morocco (with its 37-year occupation of the Western Sahara), Colombia, the Philippines, the Central African Republic, Chad and other nations that are their military clients or territory controlled by them, where the U.S. and its Western allies supply weapons, advisers, special forces and so-called peacekeeping forces.
The drumbeat of alarmist news concerning Mali is a signal that the West intends to open another military front on the African continent following last year’s seven-month air, naval and special operations campaign against Libya and ongoing operations in Somalia and Central Africa with the recent deployment of American special forces to Uganda, Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. In Ivory Coast, Mali’s neighbor to the south, last February the French military with compliant United Nations troops – “peacekeepers” – fired rockets into the presidential residence and forcibly abducted standing president Laurent Gbagbo.
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) first became operational as the warfighting force it was intended to be from the beginning in running the first two weeks of the war against Libya last March with Operation Odyssey Dawn before turning the campaign over to NATO for seven more months of relentless bombing and missile strikes.
Mali may be the second military operation conducted by AFRICOM.
The landlocked country is the spoke of the wheel of former French West Africa, bordered by every other member except Benin: Burkina Faso, Guinea (Conakry), Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. It also shares a border with Algeria, another former French possession, on its north.
Mali is Africa’s third largest producer of gold after South Africa and Ghana. It possesses sizeable uranium deposits run by French concessions in the north of the country, the scene of the current fighting. Tuareg demands include granting some control over the uranium mines and the revenue they generate. Major explorations for oil and natural gas, also in the north, have been conducted in recent years as well.
The nation is also a key pivot for the U.S.’s Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership established in 2005 (initially as the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative), which grew out of the Pan Sahel Initiative of 2003-2004.

Malian and Senegalese military forces rehearse infiltration and extraction maneuvers alongside special operations forces and European partner nation military forces with CV-22 Ospreys from the 8th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., Nov. 12, 2008, as part of the joint training exercise Flintlock in Mali, Africa.Photo: Sgt. Kieran Cuddihy

In May of 2005 U.S. Special Operations Command Europe inaugurated the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative by dispatching 1,000 special forces troops to Northwest Africa for Operation Flintlock to train the armed forces of Mali, Algeria, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia, the seven original African members of the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative, which in its current format also includes Burkina Faso, Morocco and Nigeria. Libya will soon be brought into that format as it will the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue military partnership.
The American special forces led the first of what have now become annual Operation Flintlock counterinsurgency exercises with the above nations of the Sahel and Magreb. The following year NATO conducted the large-scale Steadfast Jaguar war games in the West African island nation of Cape Verde to launch the NATO Response Force, after which the African Standby Force has been modeled.
Flintlock 07 and 08 were held in Mali. Flintlock 10 was held in several African nations, including Mali.
On February 7 of this year the U.S. and Mali began the Atlas Accord 12 joint air delivery exercise in the African nation, but Flintlock 12, scheduled for later in the month, was postponed because of the fighting in the north. Sixteen nations were to have participated, including several of the U.S.’s major NATO allies.
Last year’s Flintlock included military units from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal.
When AFRICOM became an independent Unified Combatant Command on October 1, 2008, the first new overseas U.S. regional military command established in the post-Cold War era, AFRICOM and Special Operations Command Africa’s Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara took control of the Flintlock exercises from U.S. European Command and U.S. Special Operations Command Europe.
In 2010 AFRICOM announced that Special Operations Command Africa “will gain control over Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara (JSOTF-TS) and Special Operations Command and Control Element–Horn of Africa (SOCCE-HOA).”
Last year the AFRICOM website wrote:
“Conducted by Special Operations Command Africa, Flintlock is a joint multinational exercise to improve information sharing at the operational and tactical levels across the Saharan region while fostering increased collaboration and coordination. It’s focused on military interoperability and capacity-building for U.S., North American and European Partner Nations, and select units in Northern and Western Africa.”
Although the stated purposed of the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership and its Flintlock multinational exercises is to train the militaries of nations in the Sahel and Magreb to combat Islamist extremist groups in the region, in fact the U.S. and its allies waged war against the government of Libya last year in support of similar elements, and the practical application of Pentagon military training and deployment in Northwest Africa has been to fight Tuareg militias rather than outfits like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb or Nigeria’s Boko Haram.
The U.S. and its NATO allies have also conducted and supported other military exercises in the area for similar purposes. In 2008 the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional economic group from which the U.S.- and NATO-backed West African Standby Force was formed, held a military exercise named Jigui 2008 in Mali, which was “supported by the host governments as well as France, Denmark, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the European Union,” as the Ghana News Agency reported at the time.
AFRICOM also runs annual Africa Endeavor multinational communications interoperability exercises primarily in West Africa. Last year’s planning conference was held in the Malian capital of Bamako and, according to U.S. Army Africa, “brought together more than 180 participants from 41 African, European and North American nations, as well as observers from Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Eastern African Standby Force and NATO to plan interoperability testing of communications and information systems of participating nations.” The main exercise was also held in Mali.
The U.S. military has been ensconced in the nation since at least 2005 and Voice of America revealed in that year that the Pentagon had “established a temporary operations center on a Malian air force base near Bamako. The facility is to provide logistical support and emergency services for U.S. troops training with local forces in five countries in the region.”
The following year U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Command Europe chief Marine General James Jones, subsequently the Obama administration’s first national security advisor, “made the disclosure [that] the Pentagon was seeking to acquire access to…bases in Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Kenya and other African countries,” according to a story published on Ghana Web.
In 2007 a soldier with the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group based in Stuttgart, Germany, where AFRICOM headquarters are based, died in Kidal, Mali, where fighting is currently occurring. His death was attributed to a “non-combat related incident.” The next year a soldier with the Canadian Forces Military Training Assistance Programme also lost his life in Mali.
Last year the Canadian Special Operations Regiment deployed troops to the northern Mali conflict zone for what was described “an ongoing mission.” Canadian Special Operations Regiment forces also participated in the Flintlock 11 exercise in Senegal.
In September of 2007 an American C-130 Hercules military transport plane was hit by rifle fire while dropping supplies to Malian troops under siege by Tuareg forces.
According to Stars and Stripes:
“The plane and its crew, which belong to the 67th Special Operations Squadron, were in Mali as part of a previously scheduled exercise called Flintlock 2007…Malian troops had become surrounded at their base in the Tin-Zaouatene region near the Algerian border by armed fighters and couldn’t get supplies…[T]he Mali government asked the U.S. forces to perform the airdrops…”
In 2009 the U.S. announced it was providing the government of Mali with over $5 million in new vehicles and other equipment.
Later in the year the website of U.S. Air Forces in Europe reported:
“The first C-130J Super Hercules mission in support of U.S. Air Forces Africa, or 17th Air Force, opened up doors to a future partnership of support between the 86th Airlift Wing and upcoming missions into Africa.
“The mission’s aircraft commander, Maj. Robert May of the 37th Airlift Squadron, and his crew were tasked to fly into Mali Dec. 19 to bring home 17 troops who were assisting with training Malian forces.”
The U.S. has been involved in the war in Mali for almost twelve years. Recent atrocity stories in the Western press will fuel demands for a “Responsibility to Protect” intervention after the fashion of those in Ivory Coast and Libya a year ago and will provide the pretext for American and NATO military involvement in the country.
AFRICOM may be planning its next war.
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