The U.S. military has considered air strikes against targets in a suspected terrorist safe haven in the desert wastelands of West Africa.
The border area between Algeria and Mali is remote and official comment on anti-terrorist activities there is rare.
But VOA has learned U.S. involvement in a crackdown on al-Qaida linked armed groups in the desert region has taken on new dimensions, in part out of concern terrorist leaders forced from other countries may have sought refuge there.
Defense officials say the United States has been sharing intelligence with Algeria and has deployed counter-insurgency specialists in Mali.
But note that the tone struck in the article is that the US military wouldhave done an air strike in Mali had it been possible to verify the nature of the camp.
The US military is making it clear that it wants to use US military force in Africa to stop Al Qaeda activities there.
Key among U.S. military proposals to fight back is deploying American units of about 200 soldiers to train armies throughout the continent, patrol alongside them, or hunt terrorists on short notice if necessary.
"Some people compare it to draining a swamp," Air Force Gen. Charles Wald told The Associated Press, eyeing a map of Africa in his office in Stuttgart. "We need to drain the swamp."
The US European Command is focusing southward and its top officers say they want to prevent other parts of Africa from descending into the sort of chaos that Somalia has been experiencing.
The US military is working closely with Algerian and other North African forces to help them combat the Salafist Group and other accused terrorist organizations. Military officials declined to provide details.
In addition, under a State Department-sponsored program involving training, cooperation, and equipment and called the Pan Sahel Initiative, the US military is helping the governments of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Mauritania in detecting and stopping suspected militants, terrorists, criminals, and contraband.
The military has also reached agreements to use some sites in Africa, including airports at Gao, Mali, and Entebbe, Uganda, for stopovers and refueling. The sites could later be expanded to house troops while they are training.
The US government is trying to be vague about the extent of its involvement with Algeria. The US government is officially claiming the US has no military base in Algeria.
ALGIERS, 5 March 2004 — The United States does not have any military bases in Algeria but is actively working with the north African country to fight terrorism, a statement by the US Embassy in Algiers said yesterday.
“The United States has not set up or intend to install any military bases in Algeria. Reports in the press to this end are baseless,” said the statement.
Note that this does not mean that there are no US special forces in Algeria doing training or conducting patrols.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns said the Bush administration offered what he termed defensive systems to Algeria as part of expanded military aid and cooperation. Burns did not specify the weaponry.
During a weekend visit to Algiers, Burns said the United States provided Algeria with $700,000 a year for military equipment and training of security forces. That equipment is said to include night-vision and other non-lethal equipment.
Lets be real. Night vision equipment is not lethal as rifles or mortars are. But with night vision equipment soldiers can spot enemies to be able to shoot them. Such equipment obviously makes soldiers more lethal to their enemies. That is why the United States government is providing the equipment to Algeria. Non-lethal? Diplomats can be pretty funny guys.
Algeria has been negotiating with such Western countries as Britain, France and the United States for a range of military systems. Officials said Algiers seeks to bolster night-vision and all-weather combat aircraft capability as well as radars and ground-based sensors to track Islamic insurgents in mountainous and wooded areas. Meanwhile Algeria has released the last of the Western tourists abducted by an Islamic insurgency group linked to Al Qaida.
Airplanes are not lethal either (unless an airplane happens to crash into the enemy). But the bombs and guns they carry will kill the enemy.
The US embassy in Algeria is engaging in yet more splitting of diplomatic hairs as the embassy acknowledges that the US is somehow battling terrorists in Algeria.
“The United States is battling terrorist activities in Algeria and the Sahel”, the US Embassy in Algiers said, adding, the country’s “noteworthy cooperation” with the US will be “extended to other sectors”, including training Algerian armed forces.
A coalition of African anti-terror units frustrated specific plans last month by the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (known by the acronym GSPC) to attack the U.S. Embassy in Mali's capital, Bamako, the sources said.
The same Salafist version of Islam which the Algerian rebels embrace is also spreading in France and Salafists are taking over French mosques.
French officials have noted an increase in Islamic radicals taking over Paris area mosques in the last year, with 32 mosques now under the control of extremists.
According to a study by undercover police forces, the number of radical mosques has increased by 10 in the last year. Officials say there are a total of 373 mosques or prayer groups in Paris and its suburban areas.
French scholar Olivier Roy says the Salafists are the sorts of Muslims who become terrorists.
"Not all Salafists are terrorists but all terrorists are Salafists," he added.
Some might argue that the link I'm making between the French and Algerian Salafists is a cheap smear against French Muslims. But the French government is so afraid of Salafist terrorist attacks in France that it has refused to sell Algeria the kinds of "non-lethal" weapons tha the US is now selling to Algeria.
Burns did not say what kind of weapons the United States was willing to supply, but the Algerian authorities have long complained that a shortage of attack helicopters and night-vision equipment was hampering the country's efforts to end a 10-year Islamic insurgency that is estimated to have cost more than 100,000 lives.
These are precisely the kind of weapons that France has refused to sell its former colony, said Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French center on the U.S. at the French Institute for Foreign Affairs, of IFRI. He said the fear was that putting such weapons in the hands of the Algerian security forces could incite terrorist reprisals in France.
That fear is nature's way of telling the French they should deport all their illegal aliens and stop any further immigration of Muslims into France. Wake up. Save your country.
The US effectively is now intervening in ways the French fear to do. Is the French government happy to see the US government taking the risks that will anger groups that the French are afraid to anger? Or do the French leaders resent the US for intervening in their historic area of influence? Quite possibly they are feeling both those reactions at the same time.
France is in such a difficult spot with a large and growing Muslim population as a result of decades of foolish immigration policy.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 March 09 01:48 AM Chaotic Regions|