U.S. military ramps up counterterrorism operations in Africa amid pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended U.S. military operations around the world, stalled some training at home and troop movements abroad, and halted a host of exercises with key allies from Asia to Europe. But one major American military operation has forged ahead with seemingly little impact from COVID-19: counterterrorism operations in Somalia, which have hit record levels over the past two months. Pentagon officials are racing to keep pressure on the al-Shabab terrorist network and are not allowing a global outbreak to offer even a small reprieve for U.S. enemies. So far this year, American forces have conducted at least 39 airstrikes against terrorist targets in Somalia. That figure has the U.S. on pace to set a record again this year in its war against terrorists in Africa. Last year, the U.S. carried out 63 strikes against al-Shabab and Islamic State targets in Somalia, according to numbers provided by U.S. Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent. The pace of America’s air assault in Somalia is rising for a number of reasons, analysts say. Broadly speaking, the U.S. in recent months has slowly and gradually reduced its direct military engagements in other corners of the continent, including in the Sahel region where French forces are now taking the leading role in counterterrorism operations. The shift in the U.S. Africa strategy has left Somalia as the focal point and the most appealing theater to target extremists. Many of the recent airstrikes have targeted al-Shabab leadership, underscoring the Trump administration’s effort to weaken the group by taking out its most senior members. But the COVID-19 pandemic also is likely playing a role. Regional analysts say the outbreak has greatly restricted major ground combat operations against al-Shabab strongholds, leaving Somali government forces and African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops unable to mount their own offensives. “There’s just not a lot of political will to conduct sustained ground operations, especially now,” said Seth Jones, director of the Transnational Threat Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “With COVID-19 and with concerns among AMISOM countries, you don’t even have the ground option as a short-term option. They’re just not going to deploy right now. The strikes — that’s really all you’ve got right now.” Indeed, coronavirus concerns have temporarily restricted U.S. ground efforts on the continent as well. Over the past two months, AFRICOM has canceled or postponed several major military exercises, underscoring Pentagon leaders’ efforts to enforce social distancing and keep large gatherings of troops to a minimum whenever possible.

And that’s what’s driving such decisions.  They can do these air strikes all day long..  For more on this story, click on the text above.

Radical Islam in Mali and Greater Africa: The Threats Facing the West Today

The terrorist attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali (a former French colony) offers another grim reminder to those in the West of the wide and lethal reach of practitioners of radical Islamic extremism, notwithstanding recent claims to the contrary of U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. It occurred a week after deadly Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris, France, which took the lives of at least 129 innocents and injured 352 others. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks. The Malian local Islamic terrorist group Al Mourabitoun (The Sentinels in Arabic, with ties to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, composed mostly of Tuaregs and Arabs from the northern Mali regions, including Algerians, Tunisians, and other nationalities) reportedly claimed responsibility for the hotel attack in Bamako. The hotel is a favorite lodging place of Westerners in a city of 2 million people. The attackers reportedly took over 170 hostages, killing about two dozen innocents, before local Malian forces, with varying degrees of United States and French support, subdued them. The penultimate issue facing Western governments like the United States, and those like Great Britain and France who once had African colonies, is how deeply they can afford to get involved in African affairs and in chasing terrorists like the group responsible for the attack in Mali. Here are some basic facts and problems for them to consider: First, they need to fully grasp the growing influence of Islam, which produces ISIS and al Qaeda movement operatives and sympathizers among its extreme practitioners. Muslims comprise about 42 percent of the population of Africa (464 million of 1.1 billion people). They represent a heavy presence in 38 of 54 countries (10 percent or more of the population). Moreover, 27 African nations, including Mali, are Organization of Islamic Cooperation members — a group promoting Islam, Islamic interests, and Shariah law. Mali’s 15.5 million people are 90 percent Muslim. Second, the allies must be able to distinguish Islamists and jihadists from the overall Muslim population. An Islamist is any Muslim who wants to impose and enforce Shariah — whether by violent or nonviolent means. A jihadist is an Islamist terrorist. The Muslim Brotherhood, which gestates Islamists, uses mostly nonviolent means to create Shariah-compliant constitutions. Islamist terrorists — like al Mourabitoun and al Qaeda affiliates Ansar al Shariah (Partisans of Islamic Law), Katibat Moulathamine (The Masked Brigade) and Ansar Dine (Helpers of the Islamic Religion), which attacked the American mission in Benghazi, assaulted the Algerian gas plant and helped take over northern Mali respectively, and ISIS affiliate Boko Haram (Western education is a sin) in Nigeria which drew international outrage for kidnapping schoolgirls and is considered by the Institute for Economics and Peace (Global Terrorism Index) as the globe’s most deadly terror group, respectively — use violent means to install and enforce Shariah. Third, the allies need to understand Shariah law. Shariah totally subordinates women and mandates many other human rights violations, such as relegating non-Muslim minorities to a much lower legal status than Muslims and dispensing cruel and unusual punishment. It also rejects freedom of speech and conscience and mandates aggressive jihad until the world is brought under Islamic hegemony. Fourth, the allies must learn as much as possible about Mali and its civil war. The war mostly pits northern Muslim Tuareg desert nomads and stateless Ansar Dine jihadists who served as Moammar Gadhafi mercenaries in Libya against southern, poorly equipped and trained Muslim military troops from the savannah. French troops and warplanes entered the war on the side of Malian troops, who had several months earlier overthrown Mali’s duly elected government, once considered a model African democracy. Although the French and Malian troops gained the upper hand, the Bamako terrorist attack illustrates how tenuous the situation remains. The fifth thing for the allies to be aware of is the nation-building trap. The United Nations and other organizations will expect the allies to rebuild Mali’s political, economic, educational, and social institutions once their military mission is complete. This will be an enormous undertaking. The Malian life span averages 53 years, 69 percent of the population can’t read and write, the average annual income is $1,100, and the civil war has already displaced more than a quarter-million residents and worsened a drought-driven food shortage expected to impact 13 million people. Sixth, the allies need to understand that many African countries are prone to civil wars, genocide, anarchy, and political upheavals. Former colonial powers entering Africa for military purposes could trigger more continental violence. Angola, Burundi, Congo, Liberia, Libya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, and Sudan exemplify the madness that has killed and displaced tens of millions in recent decades, fueled as much by racial, ethnic, or religious animosities as by ideological fervor and hatred of former colonial masters. Seventh, since the 1950s, developed countries have poured more than $1 trillion of aid into African humanitarian projects with little success. The average African life span is 54 years, the average annual income is $2,900, and the literacy rate is 58 percent — compared with the rest of the world’s 71-year average life span, $13,763 per capita gross domestic product, and 89 percent reading and writing proficiency. Additionally, Freedom House’s 2015 annual report reveals that only 124 million of Africa’s 1.1 billion residents enjoy full freedom. Finally, hostile African leaders, like Zimbabwe’s dictator-for-life Robert Mugabe, harbor deep resentment toward the United States and former colonial rulers. They can easily whip up African opposition against Western military interventions and antiterrorism policies. Any Western-led military foray into Africa is fraught with danger and should be limited to humanitarian missions. The allies’ Libyan military misadventure set off a deadly chain of events, causing calamities in Libya as well as Mali and Algeria. Prime responsibility for Mali and Greater Africa peacemaking, peacekeeping, and nation-building should primarily rest with the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and the United Nations — not France, Great Britain, or the United States.

Agreed!!  Our experience in Somalia taught us the importance of really considering ALL possible outcomes of getting involved in ANY military involvement in ANY African nation.  We simply cannot afford to get involved in these African nations unless there is a VERY clear reason that is in OUR national security interest, AND there is a VERY clear exit strategy.  Getting involved just because we “feel bad” is not sufficient reason to.  For those too young to remember what happened in Somalia, go see “Blackhawk Down.”  But, read what lead up to that..  Bottom line, it was a disaster.  We sent money, “humanitarian aid,” and then later it became a military operation to go after a local war lord in the country’s capital.  It was a waste of BILLIONS of tax-payer money, aid, and many American soldiers’ lives…and for what?  Nothing.  Somalia is still a complete disaster.  We got nothing out of it, and we never were going to.  Most African nations are third-world, are overwhelmingly Muslim, and they HATE America.  So, why on earth would we be so dumb as to get involved?  Because we “feel bad.”  Sorry.  Not good enough.

Millions misspent on AIDS relief in Africa, audit finds

Recent audits showing that at least $2.6 million in federal AIDS relief funding to Africa was misspent raises concerns about how effectively nearly $1 billion in taxpayer funds intended to combat Ebola in the region will be used.

What?  Corruption and waste of American dollars by the federal government?  Nahh…  Not possible!  lol  It seems like each time we send foreign aid to some country (a concept I’m, in general, very much opposed to), it seems to disappear and never is used for the purposes its intended for.  Thats because government is inherently corrupt and inefficient.  IF we’re gonna be throwing millions, if not BILLIONS, of hard-earned American tax dollars at another country’s problem (in this case, Ebola), then it had better be used wisely, and every dollar accounted for.  The American people deserve nothing less.

US ship captain recounts 18-day ordeal as hostage of crack-smoking Nigerian pirates

US ship captain recounts 18-day ordeal as hostage of crack-smoking Nigerian pirates

Glad that Capt Thomas survived this ordeal.  His Marine training helped him get through it.  Nigerian and Somali pirates are a BIG problem in the waters near Africa….so much so, that AFRICOM has a mission that deals with it.  But, it is under-resourced and we need to do more to address it, because it affects our commerce.  These illiterate, drug-using pirates need to be dealt with violently, and then the word needs to get out that its NOT worth it to try and take Americans and American ships hostage.  Right now, its still open season on Americans and American ships/businesses.