The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

France to Buy U.S. Drones for Mali Operation

fuckyeahmarxismleninism:

Two of America’s medium-altitude Reaper drones will be sold to France as backup for the country’s operations against Islamist rebels in Mali.

The news comes from the ‘Air et Cosmos’ specialist magazine, which reported online that a deal had been reached between France and the United States for the sale of two non-armed MQ-9 units.

The French air force had already deployed a European-made Harfang drone to Mali, with the country now wishing to acquire more modern models quickly, although any purchase of the US Reapers directly from the manufacturer (as was done with Harfang) is expected to delay delivery by seven months.

Related: Europe presses US on drones – not to cease, but to share

(via robotmonastery-deactivated)

Pentagon deploys small number of troops to war-torn Mali | The Washington Post

The Pentagon has deployed a small number of troops to Mali to support allied forces fighting there, despite repeated pledges by the Obama administration not to put “boots on the ground” in the war-torn African country.

About 10 U.S. military personnel are in Mali to provide “liaison support” to French and African troops but are not engaged in combat operations, said Lt. Col. Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman. Twelve others are assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, the capital, he added.

The Pentagon had previously said that it had no intention of sending troops to Mali and that it would involve itself in the conflict only at arm’s length. …

… The Obama administration has been prohibited by U.S. law from giving military aid to Mali since March 2012, when its democratically elected president was ousted in a coup. U.S. officials said they are legally [magically] permitted, however, to help French troops and forces from other African countries fighting in Mali.

Since the coup, there have been signs that some U.S. Special Operations forces have been deployed to Mali on undeclared missions. In April 2012, three U.S. soldiers were killed in a mysterious car crash in Bamako.

Last month, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) suggested that U.S. commandos were “taking action” in Mali. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Kline asked Adm. William H. McRaven, the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, whether his troops were coordinating their efforts with the French military.

“It seems to me that it might be a little awkward when you have French special operating forces taking action and presumably some of your forces taking action,” Kline said. “Otherwise, you’re going to be shooting each other.”

McRaven replied that U.S. troops were working closely with the French in Mali but did not elaborate on their mission.

… “There is very close coordination on the ground,” he said. “Tactically, of course, the U.S. forces and the French forces and the African forces that are there in Mali on the ground, there are tactical communications going on day in and day out so that we de-conflict any movement.”

France has about 4,000 troops in Mali. It is hoping to withdraw most of its soldiers by the end of the year and hand over responsibility for securing the country to a U.N. peacekeeping force. Six French soldiers have been killed in Mali since January.

The U.N. operation, which would eventually involve more than 12,000 peacekeepers, is set to begin July 1. Under a resolution approved last week by the U.N. Security Council, the mission is contingent on a further assessment of the threat posed to the peacekeepers by armed militants.

Libya faces growing Islamist threat | The Guardian

Western intervention in Libya leads to blowback in Mali, leads to intervention in Mali, leads to blowback in Libya, leads to …

Diplomats are warning of growing Islamist violence against western targets in Libya as blowback from the war in Mali, following last week’s attack on the French embassy in Tripoli.

The bomb blast that wrecked much of the embassy is seen as a reprisal by Libyan militants for the decision by Paris the day before to extend its military mission against fellow jihadists in Mali.

The Guardian has learned that jihadist groups ejected from their Timbuktu stronghold have moved north, crossing the Sahara through Algeria and Niger to Libya, fuelling a growing Islamist insurgency.

“There are established links between groups in both Mali and Libya – we know there are established routes,” said a western diplomat in Tripoli. “There is an anxiety among the political class here that Mali is blowing back on them.”

That anxiety escalated last week after militants detonated a car bomb outside the French embassy, wounding two French guards and a Libyan student, the first such attack on a western target in the Libyan capital since the end of the 2011 Arab spring revolution.

“The armed groups we are fighting are fleeing to Libya,” said Colonel Keba Sangare, commander of Mali’s army garrison in Timbuktu. “We have captured Libyans in this region, as well as Algerians, Nigerians, French and other European dual-nationals.”

continue

Chad’s army has no ability to face the kind of guerrilla fighting that is emerging in northern Mali. Our soldiers are going to return to Chad. They have accomplished their mission

Chadian President Idriss Deby

Chad to pull its troops from war-torn Mali

Enter the UN: UN ‘considers’ peacekeeper deployment in Mali (with a ‘parallel’ fighting force similar to Côte d’Ivoire in the early aughts - I’ll leave it to you to research how well that turned out).

With chaos enveloping Mali to the west and militant groups holding sway in Libya to the north, [President Mahamadou] Issoufou frets about a possible spillover of violence into Niger. But, in an interview, he said those preoccupations would not cause his country to backslide on human rights or good governance. He also pointed to the benefits of cooperation with the U.S. military, which he invited to base ‘surveillance’ drones here.

Niger rapidly emerging as a key U.S. partner

Niger’s President Issoufou doesn’t seem to understand what “cooperation with the U.S. military” has meant historically.

“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass … whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”

From the Washington Post, 4/14/2013, “Niger rapidly emerges as a key U.S. partner in anti-terrorism fight in Africa”:

The Pentagon is deepening its military involvement across Africa as it confronts an expanding array of “terrorist movements” and guerrilla groups. In doing so [and following a long, historical tradition], the U.S. government has become dependent on several countries with checkered democratic records. That in turn has lessened Washington’s leverage to push those countries to practice free elections and the rule of law.

In Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, President Ismail Omar Guelleh has ruled unchallenged over his tiny country since 1999 by marginalizing political opponents and confining journalists. Still, the U.S. government has embraced Guelleh as a friend because he has allowed the Pentagon to build a major counter-terrorism base on his territory.

In Uganda, where Yoweri Museveni has served as president for 27 years, U.S. officials have objected to the persecution of gay men and lesbians and other human-rights abuses. But Washington has kept up a generous flow of foreign aid. It also pays Uganda to send troops to war-torn Somalia and lead a regional hunt for Joseph Kony, the brutal leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

In Kenya, U.S. diplomats warned there would be unspecified “consequences” if the country elected a fugitive from the International Criminal Court as its new president. Kenyans did anyway, and the Obama administration has hesitated to downgrade relations because it needs help on counter-terrorism.

Human-rights groups have also accused the U.S. government of holding its tongue about political repression in Ethiopia, another key security partner in East Africa.

“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”

The official said the administration of former President George W. Bush took the same approach in Africa. Many U.S. diplomats and human-rights groups had hoped Obama would shift his emphasis in Africa from security to democracy, but that has not happened, the official added.

“There’s pretty much been no change at all,” the official said. “In the end, it was an almost seamless transition from Bush to Obama.”

"Almost seamless"

Mali: Players Increasingly Thinking Long-Term

No need to read the link above - it’s essentially a noncontextual “view from nowhere” piece by a former State department official. I’m just posting the headline to draw attention to the permanent nature of the conflict in Mali, itself a direct result of blowback from the “humanitarian” intervention in Libya.

The interventions in the Sahel aren’t really about Mali, and even less about any concern for the people living there - more about western hegemony and resource control in north and western Africa - a foot in the door if you will.

From almost a year ago, Joe Penny:

France and the US seem to be pursuing a policy that creates the very problem it is intended to thwart. Ansar Dine and MUJWA, the two dominant groups in the north who have aligned themselves with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, have shown very little interest in harming Western interests, other than kidnappings for ransom. Their goals are domestic; they call for Mali to become an Islamic state. Al-Qaeda’s operations in the region amount to little more than criminal gang activity and consider Western nations secondary targets to more immediate ones like Mauritania and Algeria. Yet they are labeled security threats to the West and thus need to be bombed.

Upon bombing, the West becomes enemy number one and disaffected groups begin to seriously attack France and the US. Washington and Paris are then back to square one. The security threats have become real and then require a military response, completing the cycle of counter-intuitive diplomatic question-begging. How do we know they’re terrorists? They wanted to fight us after we bombed them.

and:

[P]ainfully few commentators writing about a future offensive in Mali acknowledge that the present conflict was enabled by fallout from another Western intervention; even fewer contemplate the potential regional fallout from an intervention in Mali. For many journalists and Sahel ‘experts,’ the best response to a jihadist rebellion and state failure that resulted from a NATO intervention is another NATO intervention. Those who advocate supplementing a NATO-funded ECOWAS force with airstrikes ignore more than two decades of failed interventions because they are entrenched in the War on Terror’s circular logic—a logic that can only act in brute force. By doing so, they are propagating a legacy of violent Western domination over the Third World.

John Pilger reports on the military buildup:

A full-scale invasion of Africa is under way. The United States is deploying troops in 35 African countries, beginning with Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger. Reported by Associated Press on Christmas Day, this was missing from most Anglo-American media.

The invasion has almost nothing to do with “Islamism”, and almost everything to do with the acquisition of resources, notably minerals, and an accelerating rivalry with China. Unlike China, the US and its allies are prepared to use a degree of violence demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Palestine.

As in the Cold War, a division of labour requires that Western journalism and popular culture provide the cover of a holy war against a “menacing arc” of Islamic extremism, no different from the bogus “red menace” of a worldwide communist conspiracy.

Reminiscent of the “scramble for Africa” in the late 19th century, the US African Command (Africom) has built a network of supplicants among collaborative African regimes eager for American bribes and armaments.

Last year, Africom staged Operation African Endeavor, with the armed forces of 34 African nations taking part, commanded by the US military. Africom’s “soldier to soldier” doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. Only pith helmets are missing.

And don’t forget, “With a shiny new drone base in Niger and a magical, law-erasing Terrorist designation, the Obama administration is ready to start killing people in Mali and elsewhere in West Africa,” expanding the reach of the robot death squad beyond the bases the U.S. already has in Djibouti and Ethiopia.

The (re)colonization of Africa is just getting (re)started.

With a shiny new drone base in Niger and a magical, law-erasing Terrorist designation, the Obama administration is ready to start killing people in Mali and elsewhere in West Africa

Via the Washington Post, Drone base in Niger gives U.S. a strategic foothold in West Africa, 3/21/2013:

Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has relied heavily on drones for operations, both declared and covert, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. U.S. drones also fly from allied bases in Turkey, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines.

Now, they are becoming a fixture in Africa. The U.S. military has built a major drone hub in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, and flies unarmed Reaper drones from Ethiopia. Until recently, it conducted reconnaissance flights over East Africa from the island nation of the Seychelles.

The Predator drones in Niger, a landlocked and dirt-poor country, give the Pentagon a strategic foothold in West Africa. Niger shares a long border with Mali, where an al-Qaeda affiliate and other Islamist groups have taken root. Niger also borders Libya and Nigeria, which are also struggling to contain armed extremist movements.

[…] U.S. officials have acknowledged that they could use lethal force under certain circumstances. Last month, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that the U.S. military had designated “a handful of high-value individuals” [i.e added them to the “kill list" or "disposition matrix”] in North Africa for their suspected connections [“associates of associates”] to al-Qaeda, making them potential targets for capture or killing.

The Pentagon declined to say exactly how many Predator aircraft it has sent to Niger or how long it intends to keep them there. But there are signs that the U.S. military wants to establish a long-term presence in West Africa.

And via U.S. News and World Report, Terrorist Classification Could Prompt Mali Drone War, 3/21/2013:

The United States might be [is] poised to ramp up its presence in Mali in the coming weeks following news Thursday that it has classified one of the militant groups fighting there as terrorists.

The State Department’s decision to add Ansar al Dine to its list of terrorist organizations [magically] grants the U.S. the political and legal authority to pursue directly the [associates of associates of] al-Qaida affiliate, says J. Peter Pham, a senior advisor to U.S. Africa Command.

The move is an “important housekeeping detail” for the U.S., which is prohibited by [US] law from intervening militarily in Mali after rebels successfully overthrew the democratically elected leader a year ago.

“We continue humanitarian assistance to Mali, but we certainly can’t engage in direct military assistance with the Malian military, which was behind the coup,” says Pham, an Africa expert with the Atlantic Council. “It [magically] provides the basis [that] as a designated terrorist organization, U.S. military and intelligence resources can be brought to assist those fighting Ansar al-Dine.” [i.e. flying robots can now be used to kill them].

Terrorist Classification Could Prompt Mali Drone War

The United States might be poised to ramp up its presence in Mali in the coming weeks following news Thursday that it has classified one of the militant groups fighting there as terrorists.

The State Department’s decision to add Ansar al Dine to its list of terrorist organizations [magically] grants the U.S. the political and legal authority to pursue directly the [associates of associates of] al-Qaida affiliate, says J. Peter Pham, a senior advisor to U.S. Africa Command.

The move is an “important housekeeping detail” for the U.S., which is prohibited by [US] law from intervening militarily in Mali after rebels successfully overthrew the democratically elected leader a year ago.

“We continue humanitarian assistance to Mali, but we certainly can’t engage in direct military assistance with the Malian military, which was behind the coup,” says Pham, an Africa expert with the Atlantic Council. “It [magically] provides the basis [that] as a designated terrorist organization, U.S. military and intelligence resources can be brought to assist those fighting Ansar al-Dine.” [i.e. flying robots can murder them].

President Barack Obama announced in February that U.S. forces would establish a drone base in neighboring Niger to stage flights over the arid Sahel region, the area of operations for groups such as Ansar al-Dine and al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Those drones are to be used purely for surveillance purposes, though Pham says this new classification could lay the groundwork for that to evolve to other missions.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar Killed? Chad Army Claims Algeria Hostage Planner Dead In Mali

And probably unrelated:

Mokhtar Belmokthar Could Be Added To Secret ‘Kill’ List, Move Driven By Senior Obama Officials from AP, February 9th.

and

U.S. sends troops to Niger for drone missions: President Obama says the 100-troop deployment will help France in its effort to drive militants out of northern Mali from the LA Times, February 22nd

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. [++]

U.S. sends troops to Niger for drone missions | latimes.com

The imperial expansion into Africa continues:

[…] A senior U.S. officer described the troops as a security unit that will protect crews flying and maintaining U.S. Air Force drones now operating from an airfield near the capital, Niamey. The force includes drone pilots, intelligence liaison officers and aircraft maintenance personnel, the officer said.

“We’re basing drones there to help the French, and this deployment is the security element,” the officer said.

[…] The Obama administration has not yet decided to establish a permanent drone base in Niger, the senior officer said. For the moment, the operation is considered a temporary mission to assist the French.

But some senior officers in the Pentagon’s Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent, favor a permanent base to “develop a better picture of the militant threat in West Africa,” the officer said.

[…] Among the groups the U.S. is worried about is Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group in neighboring Nigeria.

Currently, the only permanent base in Africa from which drones operate is in Djibouti, thousands of miles to the east.

In addition to the militants in Mali — some with loose ties to Al Qaeda groups — extremists have taken refuge in the largely ungoverned desert areas of southern Libya and Algeria.

If the Obama administration decides to authorize a permanent base in Niger, it would probably be in Agadez, near northern Mali, the officer said, confirming a report in the New York Times.

Some senior military commanders, in arguing for a permanent base, say the militant threat in the region is growing and could eventually threaten the U.S. and its allies unless more aggressive action is taken.