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Obama vs. the Brass: Benghazi Cover-up, Agenda to Gut Military?

Written by  William F. Jasper

An awful lot of America’s top military brass have been taking hits lately. Is it just a coincidence that several four-star generals and a two-star admiral get the axe or resign in disgrace within the space of less than a month? Do any of these have anything to do with the administration’s Benghazigate scandal? Or are they, as some military observers suspect, only the first installment of the Obama agenda to decimate the military services?

General David Petraeus, of course, has been at the center of a media storm since his resignation as CIA director on November 9, amid revelations of an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer.

Here is a timeline of recent casualties in the highest echelons of the U.S. military services:

  1. • General Carter Ham — On October 18, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that Gen. Ham was being replaced as the commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Panetta gave no explanation for Gen. Ham’s removal.
  2. • Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette — On October 28, the commander of the John C. Stennis carrier strike group in the Middle East, was abruptly removed from command and returned to the U.S.
  3. • General David Petraeus — On November 9, General Petraeus, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, resigned as head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
  4. • General John Allen — On November 13, news stories reported that Gen. Allen, who was Gen. Petraeus’s successor in Afghanistan and a top nominee for NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, was embroiled in a potential scandal involving emails with Jill Kelley, a socialite at McDill Air Force base. Allen has insisted that there was no improper relationship between himself and Mrs. Kelley, but his career path to the top NATO post has been scotched, and the ongoing investigation could potentially lead to his resignation.
  5. • General William “Kip” Ward — On November 13, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demoted Gen. Ward, the former head of U.S. AFRICOM, stripping him of his fourth star, following a lengthy DOD Inspector General probe that found Ward guilty of lavish spending and extravagant travel.

The removal of General Ham and the resignation of General Petraeus have particularly stirred widespread concern that both cases may be driven by White House efforts to smother exposure of the administration’s handling of the deadly September 11, 2012 “consulate” debacle in Benghazi, Libya, in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed (see here and here).

The timing of the resignations, removals, revelations and demotions were bound to spark suspicions of a Benghazi connection, particularly in the case of Gen. Petraeus, who was scheduled to testify this week in congressional inquiries into the deadly Libyan attacks. His resignation put his appearance before the committees in doubt. However, members of Congress have let it be known they expect him to testify.

In a November 12 interview with NBC News, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the Obama administration is behaving in an “unacceptable” manner and she is ready to subpoena information it is denying her committee.

“I believe that Director Petraeus made a trip to [Libya] shortly before this became public,” Feinstein said. “I believe that there is a trip report. We have asked to see the trip report. One person tells me has read it. And then we try to get it, and they tell me it hasn’t been done. That’s unacceptable. We are entitled to this trip report, and if we have to go to the floor of the Senate on a subpoena, we will do just that.”

Director Petraeus went to Capitol Hill on September 14 for a closed-door, classified briefing of legislators. During that briefing, it has been reported, he upheld the now-debunked false story that the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi had resulted in response to popular outrage over an anti-muslim Internet video.

However, it has also been reported that Petraeus privately stated to one member of Congress, “Do you want the official line or do you want the real truth?”

Today Senator Feinstein announced that Petraeus will be “talking to the committee,” but was unclear as to whether that meant he would be testifying publicly and under oath or just briefing committee members in closed session. “He is very willing and interested in talking to the committee,” Feinstein told reporters today. “It’s just on Benghazi. Our hearings are on Benghazi and the intelligence that preceded Benghazi and the intelligence that determined the security.”

Another big question that has not yet been answered is whether Gen. Carter Ham will be testifying. In defending the administration’s decision not to send aid to the besieged “consulate,” Secretary Panetta claimed that Ham had “very strongly” backed Panetta’s assessment that since the situation on the ground in Benghazi was so uncertain, no attempt should be made to send military assistance to the American personnel who were under attack. However, according to unconfirmed reports, Ham, instead of backing the Obama/Panetta order to “stand down” and let Americans die, had decided to go ahead and launch a rescue effort. Reportedly, he was immediately arrested by his second in command and prevented from initiating the rescue.

If this account is true, then obviously that would be a huge story, with enormous ramifications. Gen. Ham should definitely be called to testify publicly and placed under oath to determine precisely what did transpire the night of September 11-12.

Spiking Benghazi: The Media Fix

There is little doubt that Team Obama was fully aware that the Benghazi disaster could blow up in their faces just as the neck-and-neck presidential was headed into the closing stretch. A CBS News national telephone poll of likely voters conducted October 25-28 did not portend well for Obama. Locked in a dead heat with Mitt Romney, and with the economy in shambles and sliding toward a fiscal cliff, the Obama White House could ill afford a late-inning foreign policy disaster, especially when Obama propagandists were touting foreign policy and national security as their candidate’s great strength.

According to the CBS poll, only 38 percent of voters approved of President Obama’s handling of the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Over half of all voters (51 percent) disapproved. And an even higher 57 percent of the crucial independent voters disapproved of his handling of Benghazi. And those negatives had developed with all of the major media faithfully retailing the White House talking points on Benghazi and steadfastly censoring any reports that challenged the crumbling administration narrative. Genuine journalistic digging and real news reporting would have been a game changer in the tight presidential race.

The Media Research Center (MRC) reported on November 1:

  • For the sixth night in a row, ABC World News, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News refused to give one single second of coverage to a Fox News report that the Obama Administration denied help to those attacked and killed by terrorists at the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11. According to a Media Research Center analysis, ABC, CBS, and NBC have failed to cover this devastating story — not to confirm it, not to knock it down, and never mind do their own investigation. The story broke last Friday, long before Hurricane Sandy swamped the news cycle.
  • Further, neither The Washington Post nor The New York Times has committed a single inch of their newspapers to a news story about this report.
  • According to Fox News, “sources claim officers at the nearby CIA annex in Benghazi were twice told to stand down when they requested to help those at the consulate. They later ignored those orders. Fox News was also told that a subsequent request for back-up when the annex came under attack was denied as well.”

“The liberal ‘news’ media’s refusal to cover this story exposes how corrupt they have become,” declared Media Research Center President Brent Bozell. “Four Americans died in Libya in a coordinated terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11. The Obama Administration has been caught in a maze of falsehoods. This reeks of a cover-up. This scandal could and would derail the Obama re-election efforts. ABC, CBS, NBC, The Washington Post, and the New York Times are so vested in the re-election of Barack Obama that they are deliberately spiking this huge story. It’s sickening.”

Mr. Bozell continued:

  • The Obama administration’s cover-up of their deceitful response to the Benghazi terrorist attack is without a doubt the biggest political news story of 2012. The American people have a right to know what really happened before they cast their ballots on Election Day.
  • If ABC, CBS, NBC, The Washington Post, and the New York Times refuse to ask the tough questions, then they no longer serve any purpose. And if they’re sitting on evidence to help Obama win re-election, they’re as guilty in this cover-up as is the administration.

As the Media Research Center pointed out in a previous analysis, while the major media were spiking the Benghazi story, they were lavishing friendly coverage on President Obama and swamping viewers with celebrity gossip and buzz on the latest consumer gizmos and Hollywood releases.
And, of course, one of the most blatant examples of the media covering for Obama was the spectacle put on by CNN’s Candy Crowley in the second Presidential debate, where she shamelessly dropped her supposedly neutral role as moderator to take over and respond to Mitt Romney’s challenges to Obama regarding Benghazi.

Decimating the Military: Obama’s “Night of the Long Knives”?

While the cashiering of CIA Director General Petraeus and AFRICOM commander General Ham certainly suggest a connection to the administration’s ongoing heavy-handed effort to keep the Benghazi disaster from developing into a post-election crisis for the White House, the other aforementioned military resignations and demotions may be signaling something even bigger.

A number of political and military analysts interviewed by The New American believe the Obama administration is in the process of “purging” the U.S. Armed Services, and that we will see a much larger number of line officers removed for various scandals, especially those deemed “politically incorrect,” or those who may be occupying a post that the Obama administration wants to open up for a more “progressive” candidate.

Some are predicting that the bloodletting in the ranks thus far is but the opening salvo in Obama’s “Night of the Long Knives,” a reference to Adolph Hitler’s murderous purge of Ernst Rohm and other Nazis, as well as non-Nazi political opponents whom he saw as obstacles to his consolidation of dictatorial power.

New Zealand researcher Trevor Loudon, author of Barack Obama and the Enemies Within, and editor of the highly acclaimed New Zeal blog at TrevorLoudon.com, told this writer during an interview two weeks before the election:

  • It’s very clear that President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and many of those around them absolutely “loathe the military,” as Hillary once put it. [Defense Secretary] Panetta, while he was a congressman, was very heavily involved with the Institute for Policy  Studies, a very radical Marxist think tank, which supported the Soviet objective of subverting and eviscerating the U.S. military services. Panetta, together with David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice, and others in the administration, really do see the U.S. military, as it currently is, as the enemy.

Former Navy SEAL Steve Elson echoes that assessment. “President Obama and the people running his administration really do hate the military,” Elson told The New American. “It’s not just that they ‘don’t understand the military culture,’ [as some critics claim]; they really just don’t like us. In fact they hate us.” Elson continued:

They’re fine with using us, sending us all over the world whenever it works to score political points for them. They don’t mind getting us killed, sending us out with treasonous ROEs [rules of engagement], as in Iraq and Afghanistan, where soldiers and marines were ordered stand guard, go into hostile zones without loaded weapons. Or, as in Benghazi, they cowardly sit in the Pentagon and the White House watching and doing nothing while brave men die.

  • Too many of the top brass are playing the political correctness game when they should be refusing to carry out these immoral and traitorous orders. In the end, it didn’t help Petraeus either. He played their games and went along with their political correctness, and look where it got him. Fine, he deserved it, as far as I’m concerned. But the guys that are out there with their lives on the line don’t [deserve it]. As you can see, I’m anything but politically correct, but I’m only saying out loud what most active duty soldiers will tell you privately. Obama and those running his administration will destroy the U.S. military, if the American people let him, if they don’t wake up to what he is doing.

Related articles:

Petraeus Resignation Suggests Possible White House Cover-Up
The Other Petraeus Scandal: Accelerated Militarization of the CIA
Benghazi Backfire: Was Obama Arming Jihadists?
Did Obama Watch in “Real Time” as Benghazi Attack Unfolded?
The Trouble With Leon Panetta
Leon Panetta and the Institute for Policy Studies

Book Review: Barack Obama and the Enemies Within

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2012 Special Report: Boko Haram – between rebellion and jihad

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By Joe Brock
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria | Tue Jan 31, 2012 9:25am EST

(Reuters) – At about 10.40 one morning last August, Mohammed Abul Barra rammed his ash-colored station wagon into a security gate outside the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, knocking it off its hinges. Barra’s 1996 Honda Accord then crashed through the main building’s glass doors and slammed against the reception desk.

On security tapes of the incident seen by Reuters, a guard peers into the car, evidently unaware that it is packed with explosives. The grainy footage shows a dozen or so people in the reception edge towards the vehicle. Over 10 seconds pass in confusion before one man seemingly realizes what is about to happen. He grabs the person next to him and darts towards the lift. But it’s too late. Barra steadies himself, leans forward and the security screens blur into white fuzz.

The suicide strike left 25 people dead and the U.N. headquarters in tatters. It also drew global attention to Boko Haram, the militant group from northern Nigeria which has claimed responsibility for the attack and a string of bombings since then that has killed hundreds.

As the bombings have grown in frequency in recent months, the Nigerian government and Western security officials have begun to grapple with the exact nature of the threat. Is Boko Haram just the latest in a long list of violent spasms in Nigeria, or is it the next battalion of global jihadists, capable of thrusting Africa’s most populous nation into civil war?

The answer to that is not simple. There is evidence – some of it detailed in this story for the first time – that elements of Boko Haram have received training from foreign militant groups, including North Africa-based al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM). The August attack was far more sophisticated than anything linked to Boko Haram before.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan calls the group a terrorist organization with global ambitions. In an interview in his presidential villa last week, Jonathan said there was “no doubt” Boko Haram has links with jihadist groups outside Nigeria. General Carter Ham, the head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, said last year Boko Haram posed a threat to U.S. and Western interests.

At the same time, Boko Haram remains firmly focused on domestic Nigerian issues. When its secretive spokesman claims responsibility for attacks, he almost always lists local grievances that have little to do with the core ideologies of al Qaeda. The group’s name means “Western education is sinful” in Hausa, the language spoken in northern Nigeria, the country’s Muslim heartland. But its anger is directed not at America or Europe but at Nigeria’s elites: at their perceived arrogance, their failure to deliver services, and the brutality of their security forces. Many Boko Haram members say their focus is on targeting officials who have locked up its members or misused state funds.

Even Nigeria’s national security adviser, General Owoye Azazi, who sees a link between Boko Haram and AQIM, urges caution in defining the group.

“We need to tackle Boko Haram from several perspectives,” Azazi said in an interview. “If you go back to history, there are religious concerns, there are concerns about governance, and of course, political implications. It’s a combination of so many things.”

FORENSIC TRAIL

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrived in Abuja within days of last August’s attack to help with forensic analysis of the bomb site. A report authored by those agents, Nigerian authorities and independent security teams, paints a portrait of a sophisticated operation.

Barra was chosen because he was “low profile (and) well trained” and his attack was “well planned,” says the confidential report, seen by Reuters. The car was packed with 125 kg (276 pounds) of manufactured explosives, including the plastic explosive pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and triacetone triperoxide (TATP) – both highly powerful and volatile, and more potent than easier-to-build fertilizer-based explosives.

The explosives were used in a “shaped charge,” which increases damage from a blast. Investigators believe the bomb probably consisted of both stolen factory-made explosives and home-made materials.

“The only form of PETN that is commonly available is the core explosive in detonating cord,” said Sidney Alford, a British explosives expert. “You can get detonating cord from the manufacturers, the army, or from blasting contractors in the demolition or quarrying industries.”

The failed ‘underpants’ bomber Faroup Abdulmutallan, a Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009 in an al Qaeda-style attack, used TATP. Another would-be plane bomber, Richard Reid, had PETN in his shoe in his unsuccessful effort to blow up a flight between France and the United States in 2001.

President Jonathan said Nigeria has evidence that Boko Haram members have held meetings in North Africa. Azazi, the national security adviser, said the advancement in Boko Haram’s weaponry and tactics points to help and training from outside groups.

“We have evidence of meetings between Boko Haram leadership and outside groups,” Azazi said, declining to give details. “We have evidence that some Boko Haram leaders are trained outside of Nigeria. Their methods, their bomb-making technologies – who taught them?”

MILITANT BEGINNINGS

Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, survived a brutal civil war in the late 1960s in which more than 1 million people died. Repeated rounds of violence since then, often between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south, have killed thousands more.

The violent spasms are often fueled by politics, and so it is with Boko Haram.

The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, meaning “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” It earned its nickname from the teachings of its founder Mohammed Yusuf in the early 2000s, in the restive northeastern city of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

Yusuf argued that Western education, or “boko,” had brought nothing but poverty and suffering to the region and was therefore forbidden, or “haram,” in Islam. He began peacefully – mostly preaching – and quickly gained a following among disaffected young men in the northeast. But his anti-establishment rhetoric and hints that Boko Haram was building an arsenal of weapons also caught the attention of the authorities.

In 2009, the police clamped down on sect members who were ignoring a law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. That sparked a furious backlash. Police stations and government offices in Borno were burned to the ground, and hundreds of criminals released in a prison break, as the violence spread across northern Nigeria.

The government and army reacted with force; Yusuf was captured and shot dead in police custody. Five days of fighting left some 800 people dead.

Boko Haram leaders still cite Yusuf’s death as one of the main factors driving the insurgency. The group remains fiercely anti-government and anti-authority, and resentful of the decades of corrupt, poor governance that have impoverished its home region.

“You would never have believed the Boko Haram phenomenon came from these beginnings,” said Shettima Dikwa, a doctor at the University of Maiduguri. Dikwa is one of a number of professionals in the city frustrated at the way Nigeria’s government and military have allowed the insurgency to escalate. Like others, he says local politicians sponsored armed thugs to help disrupt the 2007 election and then abandoned them, creating a fertile recruitment field. The governor of Borno state has denied these allegations.

Boko Haram’s attacks have intensified since President Jonathan took power last April, in the country’s cleanest election since the end of military rule in 1999. Jonathan pledged to fight graft and attract investment. But he is a Christian southerner, and in the eyes of many Muslim northerners it was a northerner’s turn to rule.

CATCH-ALL LABEL, LOCAL STRUGGLES

That backdrop doesn’t explain how the group went from drive-by shootings and crude petrol bombs to shaping explosives for suicide missions against the United Nations.

A video posted on YouTube on January 11 suggests the group’s leadership would like to be seen as part of a global jihad. Abubakar Shekau, who has run the group since Yusuf was killed, appears in the 15-minute tape wearing a camouflage bullet-proof jacket, sitting in front of two Kalashnikov rifles. His beard, headscarf and hand gestures recall the style of video pronouncements made by the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. But Shekau’s message hits local notes.

“The reason why I am giving this broadcast is the recent comments of Goodluck Jonathan about us and that of the leader of the Christians and other statements by others, describing us as a cancer to Nigeria. We are neither a cancer nor a disease. If people don’t know us, God knows us,” Shekau says. He then goes on to cite common complaints about Nigerian politics.

Most of the public evidence about what Boko Haram wants and how it operates comes from its avowed spokesman, Abu Qaqa, a mysterious figure who often pops up after an attack to claim responsibility and explain the motives.

Speaking by phone to a handful of reporters in Maiduguri in November, Abu Qaqa spoke of the links between al Qaeda and Boko Haram. “We are together with al Qaeda,” he said. “They are promoting the cause of Islam, just as we are doing. Therefore they help us in our struggle and we help them, too.”

But Qaqa offered no concrete details of those ties; the rest of the conversation focused on local issues. He said the group isn’t affiliated with Nigerian political parties and described the sect’s anger at the governor of Borno state. In claiming the recent Kano attacks, which killed at least 186 people, he cited the killing and arbitrary arrest and detention of Boko Haram members.

GLOBAL OR LOCAL?

Nigerian and Western security experts believe a small, increasingly ambitious and sophisticated group of extremists controls the very top of the group. A handful of those members have received training outside Nigeria, including from AQIM.

Nigeria-based security sources who track Boko Haram told Reuters that members of the group have been going to training camps with brigades of Algerian AQIM for the past six years. Small units of five or six members train at a time; no more than a few dozen have been trained in total, the sources said.

The foreign minister of neighboring Niger told Reuters last week that members of Boko Haram received explosives training at AQIM camps in the Sahel region, which runs along the southern edge of the Sahara desert. The U.N. Security Council said this month that it had been told that Boko Haram members had received training in AQIM camps in Mali.

Experts say the group has become a convenient cover for opportunists. Criminals, political thugs and gangs hide beneath the umbrella of Boko Haram, making it hard to judge its size and scope.

Most of its foot-soldiers are disillusioned young men who have only loose ties to religious ideology, and are easily drawn in because there are little or no opportunities elsewhere. Jonathan has begun to acknowledge this, telling Reuters last week that the government would “revitalize” northern agriculture to provide jobs for youths who might otherwise be “recruited” by Boko Haram.

Aisha Alkali, a human rights campaigner in Maiduguri, says young men in northern Nigeria feel forced to adopt violence to defend themselves. “If you push people to the wall, if you leave them with nothing and take everything, where will they go?” asks Alkali, shrouded in a traditional black abaya and burka with only her eyes and impeccably manicured hands showing. “You make people something they were not.”

GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN

Soldiers patrol the streets of Maiduguri in large numbers these days. By day, they hunch in roadside bunkers; at night, they regularly fight with Boko Haram units. Bomb blasts and gunshots punctuate the dark.

Amnesty International says the joint military task force (JTF) in the city has been behind dozens of unlawful killings there, further stirring the unrest. A report by the human rights watchdog says houses have been raided and burned by the JTF.

One of the JTF commanders in Maiduguri told Reuters there had been “excesses,” but said mostly the military were doing a good job under difficult conditions.

Yirami Bwala, a 42-year-old shop owner, lost his 18-year-old son Markus in a Boko Haram bomb attack in Maiduguri in January. “Most Boko Haram members are just a bunch of illiterates who have been misled about their religion and what tolerance is all about,” he said a day after the attack. “The military only make things worse by robbing people and attacking innocent, peaceful people.”

More than a quarter of Nigeria’s 2012 budget has been allocated to security spending. But with the number of attacks up – at least 250 people have been killed in the first three weeks of 2012 alone, according to Human Rights Watch – criticism of the way Jonathan has handled the violence is growing.

FACELESS ENEMY

President Jonathan told Reuters that Boko Haram militants have infiltrated the military, police and his own government. He sacked the chief of police and his six deputies last week, after the key suspect in the Christmas Day bombings escaped less than 24 hours after being arrested, in what Nigerian security sources said were “unusual and suspicious” circumstances.

The leader of the nation of 160 million people has also said that tackling Boko Haram could be worse than Nigeria’s civil war, if only because the enemy is faceless and unknown. Some analysts believe Boko Haram may be targeting Christians to trigger a religious conflict.

Nigeria has been here before. In 2009 it ended a militant insurgency in the southeastern Niger Delta by offering an amnesty. The government hints that a new broad political settlement may be on the cards. But dealing with a splintered and secretive group like Boko Haram will be difficult.

Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president and a southern Christian, visited the family of Boko Haram founder Yusuf last September for peace talks. Days later, gunmen killed Yusuf’s brother-in-law. Boko Haram denied involvement in the killing. But someone wanted the dialogue to end.

(Additional reporting by Tim Cocks, Ibrahim Mshelizza, Felix Onuah, Camillus Eboh and Mike Oboh in Nigeria, William Maclean in London and David Lewis in Dakar; Editing by Simon Robinson and Sara Ledwith)

Source – (Reuters)

US Africa Command looks to strengthen role in region

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By John T. Bennett
09/22/11 09:00 PM ET

The U.S. Africa Command is making changes that show it is taking on a vital role on a volatile continent, a shift etched in stone when it led the early weeks of the Libya military campaign.

Before Libya, the still-young command “never thought of itself as leading [offensive military] operations” said Army Gen. Carter Ham, its commander.

The command was established in 2008 and was long thought to be best shaped for training African nations and “building their capacity” to maintain stability.

But the command’s first leader, Army Gen. William “Kip” Wald, believed the United States would eventually need an AfriCom that could undertake more traditional military operations, and he moved his command in that direction, Ham said.

Ham has continued that shift, and has made it clear he intends to keep it going by, among other things, adding many more special-operations forces.

In Libya, AfriCom led the opening weeks of the operation, as U.S. and NATO warplanes and cruise missiles pounded Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. Ham said the operation showed that every U.S. military combatant command must be able to conduct “the full spectrum of operations,” which to the Pentagon includes diplomatic talks, humanitarian relief work, training of indigenous troops and combat operations.

The command had to quickly figure out how to do such things as assist with Tomahawk missile strikes from U.S. Navy ships. AfriCom officials had to bring in and manage a range of systems including fighter jets, intelligence and surveillance aircraft and aerial tanker planes.

Giving AfriCom the permanent ability to do “kinetic targeting” was one of the lessons learned. That kind of precise bombing was not something AfriCom previously had been required to do, Ham said. But the command picked it up “pretty quickly,” he said.

“The question for us now is, how do we sustain that so that if we would have to do this again we start at a higher plateau than we were previously?” he said.

The AfriCom chief also said he would welcome more special-operations forces to conduct a range of missions, including training African forces.

“The demand for special-operating forces of lots of different flavors is pretty significant in Africa,” Ham said.

“I’d like more special-operations forces now,” he added bluntly. While incremental increases for now are possible, he said he would not expect larger increases until decisions on troop levels in Afghanistan are finalized.

Ham was careful to note that U.S. special operators would mainly be conducting training missions — “not conducting operations — that’s for the Africans to do.”

Still, any talk about sustaining the ability to run a conflict as hot as Libya and increasing the number of American commandos in Africa is a shift from the Bush administration’s initial sales pitch.

Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon intelligence official now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, acknowledged AfriCom is changing.

“Part of the problem is it was established for political visibility — so its initial public profile was largely political,” Cordesman said.

But AfriCom’s commanders have been forced to make changes due to developments on the ground.

“The world doesn’t exist to respond to a command,” Cordesman said. “Commands exist to respond to the world.”

And since Africa Command was set up, al Qaeda and other extremist groups such as al Shabaab have stepped up their actions in the continent, Cordesman noted.

“The question that must be answered” about an AfriCom with more in-house offensive combat power and expertise is “Will it be useful?” Cordesman said.

“If you already have it in place” when situations such as Libya lead U.S. leaders to determine a military strike is necessary, Cordesman said, “then you’re lessening the burden on the taxpayer — being pennywise and pound-foolish doesn’t get the country anything.”

The stakes for the United States in Africa are high.

For one thing, the United States is more dependent on Africa for oil than the Middle East.

“America gets approximately 18 percent of all of its hydrocarbon imports and the majority of [other fuel sources] from Africa,” Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, said Monday during a conference in National Harbor, Md. “Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, supplies close to 8 percent of all the U.S. imports — a figure that’s equivalent to what we get from Saudi Arabia.”

A majority of the liquefied natural gas used on the East Coast of the United States comes from Africa, which over the next decade is expected to provide 25 percent of the oil and natural gas that the United States imports annually, Carson noted.

America’s top rival, China, has over the past decade established a presence in Africa.

In addition to the Islamic extremist groups operating out of African nations, Carson noted the naval pirates interfering with commercial ships off the continent’s shores.

“What happens in Africa affects the United States and the entire international community,” Carson said. “For all these reasons and more, President Obama has made Africa one of our top foreign-policy priorities.”

The Obama administration’s objective, Carson said, is to fashion an Africa that is “more stable” in 20 years and “more supportive” of the United States.

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