Mali

The American War Machine Is Already on the Death March Across the African Continent

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/11/2017 - 3:24am in

This post originally appeared at AlterNet.

On Oct. 4, US military personnel were on their way back to their forward operating base in Niger. They had been on a reconnaissance mission to the village of Tongo Tongo, near Niger’s border with Mali. US Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford says that 50 ISIS fighters ambushed them. The soldiers did not call for air support for the first hour, said Gen. Dunford, thinking perhaps that they could handle the attack. By the time the drones came along with French fighter aircraft, ISIS had disappeared.

Tongo Tongo is in the middle of a belt that is ground zero for the illicit trade that defines the Sahara. West of Tongo Tongo is Gao (Mali) and to its east is Agadez (Niger). These are the main ports for South American cocaine, flown in on various kinds of aircraft (Air Cocaine, as they are called) and then driven across the Sahara Desert in trucks to be taken by small boats across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. Evidence of the cocaine trade is everywhere — whether in Gao’s neighborhood known as Cocaine Bougou or in the nickname of one of the leading chiefs in Agadez — Cherif Ould Abidine — known as Cherif or Mr. Cocaine.

Cocaine is one dramatic commodity. There are others: refugees and guns. This belt of towns just below the Sahara played a historic role as caravanserais for the old trades in gold, salt and weaponry. The creation of nation-states closed off some of these routes. In particular, Libya — under the previous regime of Moammar Gadhafi — largely shut down the illicit commerce from Mali and Niger. NATO’s war against Libya, which created chaos in that country, opened these routes up. Fleets of white Toyota trucks arrived in the desert to carry refugees and drugs to Europe and to bring weapons into central and western Africa. The trucks run from Agadez to Sabha (Libya) before they find their way to the port cities. There are several kinds of refugees — the adventurers (les aventuriers), many single young men who are leaving behind deserts of opportunity for Europe, and war refugees. Both are desperate, fodder in the hands of the smugglers who must get them — and the drugs — across the forbidding sands.


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US Army Brigadier Gen. Donald Bolduc (left) and Senegal's Army Gen. Amadou Kane review the troops during the inauguration of a military base in Thies, 70 km from Dakar, on Feb. 8, 2016, the second day of a three-week joint military exercise between African, US and European troops, known as Flintlock. (Photo by Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images)

Mission Impossible: Keeping Track of US Special Ops in Africa

BY Nick Turse | September 7, 2016

Firmly opposed to the refugee traffic across the Mediterranean, the European Union (EU) has joined hands with governments in Niger and elsewhere to make this southern border of the Sahara their frontier. Niger passed a draconian law in 2015 against smuggling. The EU provided funds to Niger’s military and police, which have started an all-out war against the smugglers. In 2016, Niger arrested over a hundred smugglers and confiscated their vehicles. People in towns like Agadez, a World Heritage site for its beautiful red buildings, say openly that they are vulnerable to extremist groups. There are many to chose from — al-Qaida in southern Mali and southern Algeria, ISIS in southern Libya and Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and into areas near Lake Chad. No wonder that the United States calls the belt from Mali through Niger the ‘ring of insecurity.’

It is notable that the pressure on the traffickers has not decreased the terrible situation for the refugees and the ‘adventurers.’ They continue to come for reasons that have nothing to do with an open border or a closed border. But the new military presence has meant — as the International Organisation of Migration says — that the smugglers are abandoning the refugees at the first sign of trouble in the dangerous desert. The United Nations has rescued over 1,000 abandoned refugees and many hundreds are said to have died along this route. The Nigerien Red Cross says that one group of 40 refugees died in May when their truck broke down. It is legible to believe that the death count will never really be known as the European border moves south, from the northern edge of the Mediterranean to the southern edge of the Sahara.

Five hours drive north of Agadez is the town of Arlit, one of the key sources of uranium. Readers might remember that the United States had accused Saddam Hussein’s government of procuring yellowcake uranium from Niger. This turned out to be a hoax, uncovered by Ambassador Joe Wilson when he went to Niger and met its former Prime Minister Ibrahim Assane Mayaki. The accusation against Iraq was false, but the Arlit mines are real. The town is a fortress of European mining companies, from Niger’s own government company to a series of French firms, most prominently Areva. The road out of Arlit is known as Uranium Highway. It is this road that was used by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb when it came and kidnapped five French employees of an Areva mine in 2010. The Areva mines were also attacked by a car bomb in 2013. French Special Forces operate to protect these mines and the close to 2,000 Europeans who live in this uranium town. “One of every three light bulbs is lit thanks to Nigerien uranium,” noted Oxfam in 2013. It is too precious for the French to be ignored. That is why France’s Operation Barkhane runs from across the Sahel, from Mauritania at one end to Chad at the other. It has its headquarters in Chad’s capital of N’Djamena.

The French are not alone. The Americans not only have thousands of troops across Africa, but also have many bases. The most public base is in Djibouti (Camp Lemonier), but there are also bases in Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as forward operating positions across the Sahel. The United States is also building a massive base at the cost of $100 million in Agadez. Air Base 201 will be mainly a drone base, with the MQ9 Reapers flown out of Agadez to collect intelligence in this resource-rich and poverty-stricken area. This base is being constructed in plain sight

It is, therefore, surprising to hear Sen. Lindsey Graham — who is on the Committee on Armed Services — say, ‘I didn’t know there were 1,000 troops in Niger.’ He meant US troops.

There has been no evidence presented to the public that those who killed the US forces near Tongo Tongo were from ISIS. Privately, US intelligence officials say this is a guess. They are not sure about the combatants. In fact, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) officials concur, saying it is “inappropriate” to speculate about the incident and those who attacked the US forces.

There is a particularly dangerous soup at work here. Certainly extremist groups operate in the region, such as the militants who freed over 100 prisoners from a prison in Mopti (in central Niger). The dreadful desiccation of the Sahel has produced various feuds amongst herder communities in eastern Niger, where these have morphed into ethnic conflicts (and where certain groups — such as the Mohamid and Peuls — have used the opportunity to accuse the Boudouma of being, therefore, part of Boko Haram). Such opportunism was frequently used in Afghanistan, where tribes used American airpower to settle scores with their old adversaries (to blame someone for being Taliban was sufficient to call in an air strike).

The root causes of the conflicts are the same as elsewhere: environmental destruction, joblessness, war and the commodities (such as Cocaine and Uranium) that are essential to the West. None of this will be addressed. More troops will arrive in Niger. More destruction will follow. More sorrow. More anger. More war.

There will be no interest in the newly formed North African Network for Food Sovereignty (formed in Tunis on July 5) and in its sensible charter of demands. Nor will there be any reflection on the assassination of hope for the Sahel, when Thomas Sankara — president of Burkina Faso — was killed 30 years ago on Oct. 15. “We must dare to invent the future,” said Sankara. What is before us from the American and French Special Forces and the militaries of Niger and Chad is not the future. It is wretched.

The post The American War Machine Is Already on the Death March Across the African Continent appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

John Pilger: What Did Theresa May Know About Manchester Terrorists?

Now for a very serious question, amid all the hilarity surrounding Theresa May’s craven cowardice at the Leaders’ Debate yesterday. Earlier that day, veteran human rights journalist, John Pilger, had written a piece on the Counterpunch site asking what May knew about the Manchester bomber and his fellow terrorists.

He pointed out that Salman Abedi and his family had been members of a Salafist (Muslim fundamentalist) terrorist group, the LIFG. These people were such a threat, that they had all been subject to control orders. When demonstrations broke out in the Libya against the dictator, those control orders had been lifted so that the terrorists could travel to Libya to overthrow Gaddafy, just as other Salafist groups, trained and supplied by Britain, and reinforced with the SAS, rose up against him. Britain and America also began a bombing campaign in support of the rebels.

Britain gave its military support because of a spurious claim by the Salafists that Gaddafy was about to start a massacre of his opponents on a scale comparable to the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s.

Parliament subsequently held an inquiry, which concluded that David Cameron, the Tory prime minister, had led this country into a war on ‘erroneous pretences’.

Pilger places the actions of the security and intelligence services using the Manchester terrorists and others like them to overthrow Gaddafy in the context of western imperialism. Britain and the West had allied with the Salafists and intolerant Wahhabis from Saudi Arabia as a way of combating secular Arab nationalism. Gaddafy was deemed a threat because he wanted to abandon the petrodollar, substituting instead an unified African currency based on gold. He also wanted a common African bank and work towards economic union between poor nations with valuable natural resources.

And additionally, Libya possessed valuable oil fields.

The Manchester boys were no strangers to attempting to overthrow Gaddafy. In the 1990s they had made a series of attempts to assassinate him with covert British support.

After overthrowing Gaddafy, the Salafists moved south to attack Mali. Obama, who was the principle force behind the western support for the rebels, took the opportunity to send US forces into Uganda, South Sudan, the Congo and the Central African Republic. The London Chamber of Commerce staged a massive arms fair, at which British merchants of death boasted about the market for their wares in the Middle East. And last month Theresa May was in Saudi Arabia again, trying to sell them British arms, arms that have been and are being used to kill innocents, including children, in Yemen.

He makes the point that the Manchester bombing was another case of imperial blowback, in which the terrorists the West have trained and used to overthrow secular and progressive Middle Eastern regimes then return to attack and kill America, Britain and the other western countries.

Just like Blair was warned would happen prior to the disastrous, illegal invasion of Iraq.

Pilger also makes the point that Abedi’s connection to western backed Salafist terrorism is being denied. The official line is that he was a ‘lone wolf’ and petty criminal.

And critically, the FBI warned Britain that the terror cell of which he was a part was looking for a ‘political target’ in Britain.

Pilger writes

‘The unsayable in Britain’s general election campaign is this. The causes of the Manchester atrocity, in which 22 mostly young people were murdered by a jihadist, are being suppressed to protect the secrets of British foreign policy.

Critical questions – such as why the security service MI5 maintained terrorist “assets” in Manchester and why the government did not warn the public of the threat in their midst – remain unanswered, deflected by the promise of an internal “review”.

The alleged suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was part of an extremist group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, that thrived in Manchester and was cultivated and used by MI5 for more than 20 years.

The LIFG is proscribed by Britain as a terrorist organisation which seeks a “hardline Islamic state” in Libya and “is part of the wider global Islamist extremist movement, as inspired by al-Qaida”.

The “smoking gun” is that when Theresa May was Home Secretary, LIFG jihadists were allowed to travel unhindered across Europe and encouraged to engage in “battle”: first to remove Mu’ammar Gadaffi in Libya, then to join al-Qaida affiliated groups in Syria.

Last year, the FBI reportedly placed Abedi on a “terrorist watch list” and warned MI5 that his group was looking for a “political target” in Britain. Why wasn’t he apprehended and the network around him prevented from planning and executing the atrocity on 22 May?

These questions arise because of an FBI leak that demolished the “lone wolf” spin in the wake of the 22 May attack – thus, the panicky, uncharacteristic outrage directed at Washington from London and Donald Trump’s apology.’

‘In 2011, according to Middle East Eye, the LIFG in Manchester were known as the “Manchester boys”. Implacably opposed to Mu’ammar Gadaffi, they were considered high risk and a number were under Home Office control orders – house arrest – when anti-Gadaffi demonstrations broke out in Libya, a country forged from myriad tribal enmities.

Suddenly the control orders were lifted. “I was allowed to go, no questions asked,” said one LIFG member. MI5 returned their passports and counter-terrorism police at Heathrow airport were told to let them board their flights.’

‘In London, one of the world’s biggest arms fairs was staged by the British government. The buzz in the stands was the “demonstration effect in Libya”. The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry held a preview entitled “Middle East: A vast market for UK defence and security companies”. The host was the Royal Bank of Scotland, a major investor in cluster bombs, which were used extensively against civilian targets in Libya. The blurb for the bank’s arms party lauded the “unprecedented opportunities for UK defence and security companies.”’

‘The spin is back, not surprisingly. Salman Abedi acted alone. He was a petty criminal, no more. The extensive network revealed last week by the American leak has vanished. But the questions have not.

Why was Abedi able to travel freely through Europe to Libya and back to Manchester only days before he committed his terrible crime? Was Theresa May told by MI5 that the FBI had tracked him as part of an Islamic cell planning to attack a “political target” in Britain?’

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/31/terror-in-britain-what-did-the-prime-minister-know/

Abedi’s attack in Manchester was made easier by May’s decimation of the police, armed forces, border guards and emergency services. She warned that this would harm intelligence gathering and damage national security. She airily dismissed these criticisms as ‘scaremongering’.

But if May was told by MI5 that Abedi’s terror group were looking for a target in Britain, then this makes May, in my opinion, culpably negligent for not placing him and his gang under greater scrutiny. Quite apart from using them as part of another imperialist war of aggression.

Jeremy Corbyn has made it very clear that imperialist aggression in the Middle East does not justify Islamist terrorism. But he has pledged to restore Britain’s police and armed forces, border guards and emergency service, so that they can give us better protection.

And he does recognise that the western invasions of the Middle East are not solving the problems of global terrorism, and that another approach is needed.

We need Corbyn’s wisdom. We won’t see any such insights from Theresa May, who will just bring more wars, and more domestic terrorism created by these wars. All so that she and her paymasters in the arms industries can sell more of that ‘wonderful kit’ Cameron lauded when he visited an armaments factory in Lancashire.

Vote Labour on June 8th, and do something to stop more deaths.

Counterpunch: Manchester Terror Attack Blowback from Western Imperialist Recruitment of Salafi Terrorists

I’ve mentioned several times over the past week or so the hypocritical smears the Tory press – the Torygraph, Scum and Heil – have published claiming that Jeremy Corbyn was a supporter of IRA terrorism, and, by implication, of the Manchester terror attack last Monday. Corbyn wasn’t. He did support attempts to find a peaceful solution to the Troubles through negotiation, something Thatcher and the Tories loudly denied they were doing, but did anyway. Both the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Times have hailed the Labour leader as a man, who strove for the best for the people of Ireland and Ulster. Ian Paisley’s wife even said that Corbyn was courteous and polite.

So, not quite the fanatical supporter of Irish nationalist terrorism these papers wanted to smear him as.

And the Tories, under Thatcher, did their own supporting of terrorist violence in Ulster. Peter Taylor’s 1999 documentary, Loyalists, featured interviews with leading Ulster Loyalist politicos and terrorists, one of whom admitted that they were getting information from British intelligence in the late 1980s allowing them to kill members of the IRA and other Republicans.

And that hasn’t been the only incident, where terrorists supported by the British state have committed atrocities. The last one was just a week ago. In Manchester.

Jim Kavanagh writing in Counterpunch has a piece pointing out that the family of the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, were members of a Libyan Islamist terrorist group, who were given sanctuary in Britain as part of NATO’s recruitment of such terrorists in their campaign to overthrow Colonel Qaddafy. He attacks the racist double standards of the western media, for giving massive attention to attacks like this in the West, while paying much less attention to the other victims of Islamist violence in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Such as Mali, where 100 people, mostly Russians, Chinese and Africans, were butchered by two Islamist terrorists at the Bamako hotel a few years ago.

He reminds his readers that, despite Qaddafy’s own political posturing, Libya was a secular state with the highest standard of living in Africa. And Qaddafy himself hated and persecuted the Islamists. The late ‘mad dog of the Middle East’ and his son, Saif, even tried to warn Blair, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that if he was killed, the terrorists would move on to attack Europe and there would be a massive influx of refugees into the continent.

Kavanagh also reproaches American liberals for believing that you can be politically liberal, and still support western imperialism. He states that Barack Obama and Killary, whose gloating over the death of the Libyan dictator was particularly repulsive, have so far presided over more carnage than Donald Trump. American liberals are deluded if they believe that they can unleash and then contain the Islamist terrorists they have recruited, armed and trained at will. He compares terrorist atrocities like that committed in Manchester to the film ‘Groundhog Day’, whose hero is doomed to go through the same day again and again. And this, he feels, will continue until something immeasurably more horrific finally wakes Americans up to the horrific reality.

He states

Last Monday, jihadi suicide bomber Salman Abedi blew himself up at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 people. Salman grew up in an anit-Qaddafi Libyan immigrant family. In 2011, his father, Ramadan Abedi, along with other British Libyans (including one who was under house arrest), “was allowed to go [to Libya], no questions asked,” to join the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an al-Qaeda-affiliate, to help overthrow Qaddafi. In Manchester, as Max Blumenthal puts it, in his excellent Alternet piece, it was all “part of the rat line operated by the MI5, which hustled anti-Qaddafi Libyan exiles to the front lines of the war.” In Manchester, Salman lived near a number of LIFG militants, including an expert bomb maker. This was a tough bunch, and everybody—including the cops and Salman’s Muslim neighbors—knew they weren’t the Jets and the Sharks. As Middle East Eye reports, he “was known to security services,” and some of his acquaintances “had reported him to the police via an anti-terrorism hotline.”

Could it be any clearer? The Abedi family was part of a protected cohort of Salafist proxy soldiers that have been used by “the West” to destroy the Libyan state. There are a number of such cohorts around the world that have been used for decades to overthrow relatively prosperous and secular, but insufficiently compliant, governments in the Arab and Muslim world—and members of those groups have perpetrated several blowback attacks in Western countries, via various winding roads. In this case, the direct line from Libya to Mali to Manchester is particularly easy to trace.‘

‘The jihadi attackers in Mali and the jihadi bomber in Manchester were direct products—not accidental by-products, but deliberately incubated protégés—of American-British-French-NATO regime change in Libya, a project that was executed by the Obama administration and spearheaded by Hillary Clinton.

Before the glorious revolution, Libya under Ghaddafi had the highest standard of living of any country in Africa, according to the UN Human Development Index. Before the jihadi onslaught backed by NATO bombing campaign, Ghaddafi’s Libya was an anchor of stability in North Africa, as even the U.S. and British governments knew and acknowledged, per a 2008 cable from American foreign service officer Christopher Stevens, published by Wikileaks:

Libya has been a strong partner in the war against terrorism and cooperation in liaison channels is excellent…Muammar al-Qadhafi’s criticism of Saudi Arabia for perceived support of Wahabi extremism, a source of continuing Libya-Saudi tension, reflects broader Libyan concern about the threat of extremism. Worried that fighters returning from Afghanistan and Iraq could destabilize the regime, the [government of Libya] has aggressive pursued operations to disrupt foreign fighter flows, including more stringent monitoring of air/land ports of entry, and blunt the ideological appeal of radical Islam.

The US-British-French-NATO humanitarian intervention put an end to that by overthrowing the Libyan government under entirely phony pretexts, in contravention of fundamental international law, and in violation of the UN resolution they claimed as a justification. The executioners and beneficiaries of that aggression where the jihadis who have been rampaging from Mali to Manchester. It’s a bright, clear line.

Ghaddafi himself warned Tony Blair that “an organization [the LIFG].has laid down sleeper cells in North Africa called the Al Qaeda organization in North Africa.” Ghaddafi’s son, Saif, warned that overthrowing Libya’s would make the country “the Somalia of North Africa, of the Mediterranean” and “You will see millions of illegal immigrants. The terror will be next door.”’

Manchester is the latest iteration of a scenario we’ve gone through so many times now, like some groundhog-day dream. At the end of my post two years ago, I was urging and hoping that Americans would wake up. But a lot of American liberals and lefties, including Berniebots, still like to imagine there’s a political space they can inhabit called Progressive Except Imperialism. There isn’t. Imperialism with Social Security and Medicare and Obamacare—even single-payer healthcare—is imperialism, and it’s reactionary and supremacist. Equal-opportunity imperialism is imperialism. African-American, women, Latinx, or LGBTQ presidents, generals, and drone operators do not make it any less criminal, or dangerous, or any less inevitably erosive of all those cherished progressive domestic programs.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/29/no-laughing-matter-the-manchester-bomber-is-the-spawn-of-hillary-and-baracks-excellent-libyan-adventure/

The recruitment of Islamist terrorists goes back further than Blair, Bush, and Obama and Killary, right back to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher gave sanctuary in this country to Islamist terrorists as part of the proxy war against the Russians in Afghanistan. She and Ronnie celebrated them, because they were anti-Communists fighting against ‘the Evil Empire’. And the Russian ambassador told the Americans that once the Salafists had finished with them, they would come for America.

And this came horribly true on 9/11. Having defeated the Soviet Union, the Saudi-backed terrorists believed they could bring down the other superpower, America.

As for Thatcher, one of the terrorists she gave asylum to in Britain was a monster, who blew up a plane-load of schoolchildren flying to Moscow in order to kill the Soviet officers also on board.

And the same Islamists she settled in Britain became part of the wider underground of radicalised Islamist discontent.

Corbyn never supported terrorism. But Thatcher, and her New Labour protégé, Tony Blair, certainly did. And the results were Loyalist terrorists acting as Thatcher’s death squads in Ulster, and Islamist terrorism in Britain.

And Theresa May made it all easier for the Manchester bomber and those like him by cutting the numbers of the police force, armed forces and border guards. And when members of Her Majesty’s finest tried to warn of her of this danger, she sneered at them.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to reverse all this. Which, despite all the Tory screaming and posturing, trying to portray them as the party of great war leaders since Churchill, Corbyn and the Labour party represent this country’s best hope of peace and security.

Vote Labour on June 8th.