The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Drones, Africa and the Decline of American Power | Norman Pollack

[…] The strain … is showing. The blanket use of assassination, coming directly from the personal authorization, down to specific targets, of His Majesty POTUS (and the Svengali-like Brennan always at his ear on the Terror Tuesday swing-dings off the Situation Room), is itself admission enough to the world that America, like Rome before it, is beginning its decline, placing it—except for its huge nuclear arsenal, which partly accounts for the deference still shown the US by the world community—as one among the many others in the family of nations, a position ordinarily satisfying to a country, but not to one which is accustomed to having its own way and, in addition, depends on the huge defense-cum-military budget to ward off economic stagnation and unemployment (even here, not succeeding all that well). This airstrip in Niger is more than the opening of a new front against terrorists. It is a straw in the wind, embodying the doctrine of permanent war, the necessity for creating an active regional presence throughout the globe, a forward line of bases to ensure the stabilization of areas intended for political-commercial penetration—and, if possible, gain the jump on China.

[…] Why assume the new base in Niger is directed against Al Qaeda, when in fact the drone presence, necessitating airstrips, provides the basis for establishing a US regional penetration that is part of exerting greater political and economic influence in Africa–head-to-head in competition with China, which has already gained access to raw materials and investment channels.

Counter-terrorism is a ploy, a phony diversion, for achieving the classic objectives of imperialism. The status-of-forces agreement with poor Niger indicates, not respect for another country, but the forcible wresting of concessions from them. Moreover, do you really believe the unarmed drones–if such be the case–will remain unarmed for long? The name of the game is to get inside, then proceed the way the US planned all the time. Assassination leaves a stain on US foreign policy which surely will come back to haunt America. [++]

Push to Expand U.S. 'Kill List' | WSJ.com

Senior U.S. officials are pressing to mark for the killing or capture of the self-proclaimed mastermind of last month’s attack on an Algerian natural-gas facility that claimed the lives of 37 foreign hostages, including three Americans.

Adding the Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar to a U.S. targeted-killing list would represent a significant U.S. expansion into northwestern Africa, extending the reach of the U.S. program of drone strikes and other lethal counterterrorism operations, which have concentrated on Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. [more]

Opportunities and War in Mali | Ramzy Baroud

[…] The lucrative business of destroying, rebuilding and securing has been witnessed in other wars and conflicts spurred on by western interventions. Private security firms are the middlemen that keep local irritants from getting in the way of post-war ‘diplomacy’ and the work business giants.

When a country eventually collapses under the pressure of bunker busters and other advanced weapons, security firms move in to secure the realm as western diplomats start their bargaining with the emerging local elites over the future of the country’s wealth. In Libya, those who contributed the biggest guns were the ones that received the largest contracts. Of course, while the destroyed country is being robbed blind, it is the local population that suffers the consequences of having brute foreigners with guns watching their neighborhoods in the name of security.

It must be said that the new Libyan government has specifically rejected Blackwater-style armed contractors – as in having boots on the ground – fearing provocations similar to those that occurred in Baghdad’s Nisour Square and similar killing throughout Afghanistan. The aim in Libya is to allow smooth business transactions without occasional protests provoked by trigger-happy foreigners. But considering the deteriorating security in Libya which has been created by the systematic destruction of the central government and its entire military apparatus, a solution to the security vacuum remains a major topic of discussion.

Private security firms are essentially mercenaries who offer services to spare western governments the political cost of incurring too many casualties. While they are often based in western cities, many of their employees come from so-called Third World countries. For all involved, it’s much safer this way, for when Asian, African or Arab security personnel are wounded or killed on duty, the matter tends to register, if ever, as a mere news item, with little political consequence, Senate hearings or government enquiries.

Mali, a west African country that is suffering multiple crises – military coups, civil war, famine and finally an all-out French-led war – is the likely next victim or opportunity for the deadly trio: western governments, large corporations and of course, private security firms. [++]

U.S. Plans Base for "Surveillance" Drones in Northwest Africa | New York Times

Moar bases, moar dronz:

The United States military command in Africa is preparing plans to establish a drone base in northwest Africa. […]

For now, officials say they envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens.

If the base is approved, the most likely location for it would be in Niger, a largely desert nation on the eastern border of Mali, where French and Malian troops are now battling “Qaeda-backed fighters” who control the northern part of that country. The American military’s Africa Command is also discussing options for the base with other countries in the region, including Burkina Faso, officials said.

The immediate impetus for a drone base in the region is to provide surveillance assistance to the French-led operation in Mali. “This is directly related to the Mali mission, but it could also give Africom a more enduring presence for ISR,” one American military official said on Sunday, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

And Gen. Carter F. Ham, the head of the Africa Command (AFRICOM), with the obligatory fear-induction line (as required for the manufacturing of consent):

Without operating locations on the continent, ISR capabilities would be curtailed, potentially endangering U.S. security …

Read more

Habits of French Colonialism | Vijay Prashad

… It is the case that the Malian “government” did request assistance. But bear in mind that this “government” came to power as a result of a coup led by the military, whose coup leadership (especially Captain Amadou Sanogo) was trained by the US; and that the actual Malian democracy of the 1990s was consistently undermined by the West and the IMF, who inserted their own man to the prime minister’s office in the early 2000s. Mali did not call for the intervention; the undemocratic, and Western backed, coup regime’s antecedents did. The current President, Dioncounda Traoré is only the Acting President, whose installation to his current office in April 2012 was sealed with a promise to fight a “total and relentless war” on the Tuareg, giving in, therefore, to the Malian military’s main grouse that led to the March 2012 coup in the first place. Traoré’s first Acting Prime Minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra was removed by the coup leaders in mid-December 2012 and replaced by Django Sissoko, who presided over a regime dominated by the coup leaders. This is the government that invited the French into Mali. Sanogo’s own political leanings can be gauged by the fact that he opposed the entry of an UN-authorized African force (staffed by ECOWAS) but he welcomed the French bombardment.

The African Union’s head, Yayi Boni, but not the African Union itself, hastily blessed the French intervention. Benin’s President Boni, a former banker who has become paranoid about his own safety, said he was aux anges or thrilled with the French intervention. Niger’s Mahamadou Issoufou backed the intervention and a military solution, but more it seems out of nervousness about Niger’s precarious position. When Issoufou came to power in 2011, he appointed a Tuareg social democrat, Brigi Rafini to be his Prime Minister, seeking to unite all of Niger, including the restive Tuareg. Pressure on the Francophone African heads has been immense – but even here there are signs of stress, as it is disagreement amongst them that has prevented a clear line from the African Union in Addis Ababa.

The UN support for the intervention is, despite Deputy Asensi’s claims, also shaky. UN Security Council resolution 2085, negotiated in December, was to provide safeguards against an extension of any intervention. It is not clear that the French provided any safeguards to the UN before its 11 January bombardment of Konna. Paragraph eleven of the UN Resolution is fairly clear,

Emphasizes that the military planning will need to be further refined before the commencement of the offensive operation and requests that the Secretary-General, in close coordination with Mali, ECOWAS, the African Union, the neighbouring countries of Mali, other countries in the region and all other interested bilateral partners and international organizations, continue to support the planning and the preparations for the deployment of AFISMA [African Led Support Mission to Mali], regularly inform the Council of the progress of the process, and requests that the Secretary-General also confirm in advance the Council’s satisfaction with the planned military offensive operation.

The UN has been caught a bit wrong-footed, once more opening the door to an intervention with safeguards in place, but then watching one of its permanent members disregard the caution and its provisions as it bombs and kills civilians in the name of the UN. For the French Left to hide behind the UN, when it is exactly what the French military assault is doing, is to ridicule both the UN Charter and the entire tradition of anti-colonialism and human rights. France’s UN Ambassador Gerard Araud will brief the UN Security Council on Tuesday, 22 January. It is expected that he will reinforce the tired narrative: jihadis have to be stopped, France is only assisting the Malian government, and so on.

The French operation is called Serval, the African wild cat, whose figure is the symbol of the Italian island of Lampedusa – the gateway between Europe and Africa. During the Libyan war, Lampedusa became the contentious stopping point for Africans fleeing the crisis for Italy. Now, the herald of Lampedusa, the serval, blesses the jet fighters as they go in the other direction, bombing Africa as if by habit, throwing dust in the eyes of the world’s peoples. [++]

War on terror forever | Pepe Escobar

And the winner of the Oscar for Best Sequel of 2013 goes to… The Global War on Terror (GWOT), a Pentagon production. Abandon all hope those who thought the whole thing was over with the cinematographic snuffing out of “Geronimo”, aka Osama bin Laden, further reduced to a fleeting cameo in the torture-enabling flick Zero Dark Thirty.

It’s now official - coming from the mouth of the lion, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, and duly posted at the AFRICOM site, the Pentagon’s weaponized African branch. Exit “historical” al-Qaeda, holed up somewhere in the Waziristans, in the Pakistani tribal areas; enter al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In Dempsey’s words, AQIM “is a threat not only to the country of Mali, but the region, and if… left unaddressed, could in fact become a global threat.”

With Mali now elevated to the status of a “threat” to the whole world, GWOT is proven to be really open-ended. The Pentagon doesn’t do irony; when, in the early 2000s, armchair warriors coined the expression “The Long War”, they really meant it.

Even under President Obama 2.0’s “leading from behind” doctrine, the Pentagon is unmistakably gunning for war in Mali - and not only of the shadow variety. General Carter Ham, AFRICOM’s commander, already operates under the assumption Islamists in Mali will “attack American interests”.

Thus, the first 100 US military “advisers” are being sent to Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Togo and Ghana - the six member-nations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that will compose an African army tasked (by the United Nations) to reconquer (invade?) the parts of Mali under the Islamist sway of AQIM, its splinter group MUJAO and the Ansar ed-Dine militia. This African mini-army, of course, is paid for by the West.

Students of the Vietnam War will be the first to note that sending “advisers” was the first step of the subsequent quagmire. And on a definitely un-Pentagonese ironic aside, the US over these past few years did train Malian troops. A lot of them duly deserted. As for the lavishly, Fort Benning-trained Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, not only did he lead a military coup against an elected Mali government but also created the conditions for the rise of the Islamists.

Nobody, though, is paying attention. [must read]

British PM: Northern Africa War Could Last ‘Decades’

jayaprada:

Talking up further escalations of military involvement in Northern Africa in the wake of the Algeria hostage crisis, British Prime Minister David Cameron urged an “iron resolve” for a growing military engagement in the region that could last many decades.

The heads of Britain’s top spy agencies as well as the Chief of the Defence Staff are planning a Tuesday meeting to begin planning for a broad war across the entire Sahel, a region spanning Africa from east to west from Eritrea to the coast of Senegal and including several hotbed areas in the Sahara desert.

British officials say they will use their current chairmanship of the G8 to push for broad international backing for a war across the entire region, attempting to turn the hostage situation into a 9/11-style excuse for regional war.

“Just as we had to deal with that in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, so the world needs to come together to deal with this threat in north Africa.” Cameron insisted. Last weekend’s French invasion of Mali may have been the first round of this war, but it is clear from Cameron’s speech it won’t be the last.

Read more:

Report: Mali Army Torturing, Executing Civilians

Over 80 Confirmed Slain in Algeria Hostage Siege

Branding the African War: The ‘Al-Qaeda’ That Wasn’t

African Troops Flock to Mali, Light on Training and Gear

Algerian Hostage-Takers’ Arms Came From Libyan Govt.

French DM Vows ‘Total Reconquest’ of Mali

France and the U.S. Play Tag-Team in Africa | Glen Ford

[…] The war in Mali is a direct result of the Euro-American aggression against Libya. The Tuareg people live in deep poverty. Many found employment in Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, as did immigrant workers from elsewhere in Africa. Some worked with Libyan security services. When Libya’s government was brought down by the U.S. and its allies, the Tuaregs gathered up as many weapons as they could in the chaos and headed south for home.

Many other Tuaregs never left, and were employed by the Malian Army and its sugar daddy, the United States. The year after 9/11, the U.S. military established its Pan Sahel Initiative, enlisting the militaries of Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania into America’s so-called War on Terror on the African front. By 2005, the U.S. had added Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria and Tunisia to what was now called the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative. This was the beginning of AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Military Command, which assumed control in 2008.

In Mali, the Americans relied heavily on Tuareg soldiers to fight their war against Islamists and independence fighterss in the northern part of the country. But when their Tuareg brothers returned from Libya, three of the four Malian military commanders in the north defected to the rebels , which then led to the virtual collapse of the Malian Army.

Now the French, as the former colonial master, have sent their warplanes to strike at the Tuareg fighters and are preparing to send in 2,500 French soldiers. A regional African force was not scheduled to come to the aid of the Malian army until September, but with the rebel advance and the French response, that timetable will be speeded up. The Americans will be arriving soon, with their massive airlift capacity. And soon the U.S. will have serious boots on the ground in Africa, when a 3,500-member combat brigade from Fort Riley, Kansas, arrives to hold exercises with military units from 35 African countries, later this year. It seems more likely that the brigade will find itself in an actual war in the Sahel.

Back in October of 2011, we wrote that NATO’s “attack on Libya threatens to set the whole northern tier of Africa ablaze,” providing “a pretext for further U.S. and French operations.” In the east, the Horn of Africa is already in flames, and central Africa has become a cemetery for millions. Now it is the Sahel’s turn to burn.

Dozens of hostages 'killed' in Algeria | Al Jazeera English

Thirty-four hostages and 15 kidnappers have been killed in southern Algeria, according to the group holding the hostages.

Thursday’s reported deaths came a day after dozens of foreigners and Algerians were taken hostage by heavily armed fighters near the In Amenas gas field.

The fighters said they seized the hostages in retaliation for Algeria letting France use its airspace to launch operations against rebels in northern Mali.

The spokesman for the Masked Brigade, which had claimed responsibility for the abductions on Wednesday, told Mauritanian ANI news agency that the deaths were a result of an Algerian government helicopter attack on a convoy transporting hostages and kidnappers.

A local source confirmed to Reuters news agency that six foreign hostages and eight fighters were killed. The source said some hostages were still being held, and 180 Algerian citizens had escaped.

The official Algerian APS news agency later said the army had freed four foreign hostages: two Britons, a Frenchman and a Kenyan. [++]

Your Son May Die in Mali: Clinton Seeks Yet Another War | Peter Van Buren

While Hurricane Sandy dominated the ever-shorter attention span of America’s media, Secretary of State Clinton slithered off to Algeria in hopes of involving the US in another war in next-door Mali.

Clinton was in Algeria seeking support for “intervention” into yet another country threatened by “al Qaeda.” She is doing this because the other interventions have worked out so well in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Never Neverland. The idea is to gather up some willing African troops as ground fodder, supported by US (and French) logistics, drones, special forces and the like, wrap it in a UN bow and start killing us some more Muslims (in Mali).

Despite the attractiveness of having foreign troops marauding around its territory (and the French have a particularly horrific history in Algeria, of course), Algeria seems cool to the idea. Among other concerns, the Algerians are worried that the troops could push extremists out of Mali and back across its own borders. Algeria has maintained a modus vivendi with the bad boys on its border and sees no reason to stir things up just because the US has found another location to export the War of Terror to.

The US of course remains blind to the continuing failure of its war orgasms, and in particular their horrendous secondary effects. In fact, the new “crisis” in Mali is sort of our fault. The fall of Qaddafi in Libya prompted ethnic Tuareg rebels from Mali, who had been fighting alongside Qaddafi’s forces, to return to northern Mali with weapons from Libyan arsenals. They joined with Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militants who had moved to the lightly policed region from Algeria, and the two groups easily drove out the weakened Malian army in late March and early April. Then the Islamists turned on the Tuaregs, chasing them off and consolidating control in the region in May and June. But hey, we got another regime change notch in our belt, so it’s cool.

Mali is a wasteland, so the war is unlikely to make things too much worse, right? About half the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.

The 100% percent-substance free official State Department read-out of the Algerian trip was contained in the longest run-on sentence in bureaucratic history:

Virtually the entire meeting portion focused on our counterterrorism cooperation and Mali, and they agreed that we need to now work together to build on our existing strong U.S.-Algerian counterterrorism cooperation to work together against the problems that are being exported from Mali and to help Bamako and ECOWAS with the AU and the UN support as well deal with the security threats inside of Mali.

Clinton To Algeria: “Let’s You And Him Fight” | The Agonist

The US has decided it has to happen, European leaders have agreed to bankroll it – so it’s all hurry-up for the latest installment in the Great War On (Some) Terror.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed regional power Algeria on Monday to support an Africa-led military intervention in northern Mali, a senior U.S. official said.

Clinton’s one-day visit comes amid mounting international pressure on Algeria over the crisis in Mali, where a March military coup was followed by a revolt that has seen Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants, some linked to al Qaeda, seize control of the northern two-thirds of the country.

…Africa’s biggest country, and a top oil and gas exporter, Algeria shares a 2,000-km (1,250-mile) border with Mali and sees itself as the major regional power, wary of any outside interference.

It fears military action in Mali could push al Qaeda militants back into southern Algeria as well as triggering a refugee and political crisis, especially among displaced Malian Tuaregs heading north to join tribes in Algeria.

Algeria repeatedly has advocated a diplomatic solution to the Mali crisis, and ruled out intervention itself.

Although Algiers would not be able to veto an intervention operation by other countries, it would be diplomatically risky for African states backed by Western powers to intervene in Mali without its consent, especially as the conflict could drag on for many months.

There is no indication, anywhere, that the US and Europeans considered for even a second that Algeria might be right.

I can smell the mission creep on this one, just as it clung like stink on shit to Libya and still clings to any of the many dumb “plans” for an intervention in Syria. It’ll start with US and European advisors, end with air support and probably French troops on the ground.

Meanwhile:
Islamist rebels vow assault on Malian capital if international forces attack

US Official: Military Action Needed in Mali

jayaprada:

A top US official told the Associated Press that military action will be needed to eliminate radical Islamists from the haven they’ve developed in northern Mali.

Johnnie Carson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told reporters that the thuggery and terrorism that these extremist militants are responsible for “must be dealt with through security and military means,” which can help establish a “strong, credible government” in Mali.

Carson’s statement is notable for several reasons. First, the apparent safe haven that these militant Islamists have in northern Mali is a direct result of the US-NATO war in Libya. When mercenaries returning from Libya waged a military coup in Mali, extremists flooded to the area to take advantage of the resulting power vacuum. That their presence is now justifying further military intervention is ironic to say the least.

Furthermore, American military action that aims to eliminate extremist groups in lawless regions and set up a “strong, credible government” has a terrible track record as a policy option, as the failing quagmire in Afghanistan has demonstrated.

Finally, in every US military intervention since 9/11 extremism and militancy has been fostered instead of eliminated. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Libya, and in Somalia – problems of extremism and terrorist groups worsened following intervention. Why intervening in Mali will be any different is a mystery.

Carson did say that “any military action up there must indeed be well planned, well organized, well resourced, and well thought through,” adding that, “it must, in fact, be agreed upon by those who are going to be most affected by it.”

Here Carson is referring to the African nations surrounding Mali, the regional bloc known as ECOWAS. In keeping with the Obama administration’s supposed ‘leading from behind,’ Washington has been pressing neighboring countries to take action, and probably offering them economic and military goodies to do so.

But Obama’s penchant for low-key militarism – special operations forces, drones, and secret wars as opposed to grand military invasions – has probably already begun to crop up in Mali. Administration officials have been hinting about expanded operations in the region, all without the permission or knowledge of the American people or Congress.

See more:

White House Mulls ‘Unilateral Strikes’ in Africa via CommonDreams

(via queerencia-deactivated20130103)

The Christian Science Monitor: BREAKING NEWS: Libya

csmonitor:

1:47 PM ET — Wife and Three Children of Qaddafi Enter Algeria, Government Says

Members of Muammar Qaddafi’s family have arrived in Algeria less than a week after rebels gained control of Tripoli and the National Transitional Council moved its headquarters to the capital.

The family members include his wife Sofia, his daughter Aisha, and two sons, Hannibal and Mohammad, with their wives and children, state-run Algérie Presse Service reported today, citing a statement by the country’s foreign ministry. NTC Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon have been informed of their arrival, the statement said.

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