Following a decision last week by the United Nations Security Council to send thousands of soldiers into Mali to combat “Islamist” and “Qaeda” extremists, the Pentagon has announced it will dispatch “small teams” to more than 35 African nations next year.
“The teams will be limited to training and equipping efforts, and will not be permitted to conduct military operations without specific, additional approvals from the secretary of defense,” reports the Associated Press.
The U.S. military presence in Vietnam began when the United States Military Assistance Advisory Group established a presence in Saigon to assist French legionnaires battling Viet Minh forces. Over the next decade, the Pentagon turned this modest advisory role into a full-blown war that claimed the lives of nearly 60,000 Americans and more than 3 million Southeast Asians.
According to the political establishment in Washington and its military counterpart at the Pentagon, North Africa is threatened by al-Qaeda affiliated groups, particularly with the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria. The West African nation is vitally important due to its vast oil reserves.
The Pentagon insists the Salafist group Boko Haram is associated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Boko Haram is widely condemned by numerous Muslim groups that say its campaign of terror and murder of Christians is contrary to the teaching of Islam.
In addition to countries such as Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger where the U.S. says there is an al-Qaeda presence, the brigade assignment will assist Kenya and Uganda in fighting against al-Shabab militants. The group was formed in war-torn Somalia by Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, described as an ex-U.S. soldier who fought in Bosnia in the early 1990s. The CIA’s role in perpetuating war in the Balkans and funding the Bosnian Muslim mujahideen is well documented.
Gen. David Rodriguez, the head of U.S. Army Forces Command, told the Associated Press that if the African nations involved in the operation want the Pentagon to participate in military operations against al-Qaeda, they will have to petition Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. “If they want them for (military) operations, the brigade is our first sourcing solution because they’re prepared,” Rodriguez said.
The Pentagon currently has plans for over 100 military and training exercises across Africa as part of its touted Africom effort.
The “carefully calibrated” plan to move into Africa was announced in 2007 despite “misgivings across the continent that it could spawn American bases or create the perception of an undue U.S. military influence there,” according to the AP.
“AFRICOM’s goal is to eliminate China and other countries influence in the region,” writes Timothy Alexander Guzman. “Africa’s natural resources is another important element to consider because it includes oil, diamonds, copper, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, bauxite, silver, petroleum, certain woods and tropical fruits.”
The Tuareg Rebellion in Mali and the participation of Ansar Dine have provided the latest pretext for the United States and the United Nations to intervene in Africa. The Islamists group Ansar Dine aligned with AQIM and eventually displaced the Tuareg and imposed Sharia law in the northern part of Mali.
Last week’s United Nations resolution states that “military intervention will not happen until Mali’s own dysfunctional army is adequately trained and a framework for political stability and elections is restored in the country,” according to the New York Times.
Military intervention in Mali is being pushed by France, the former colonial occupier of the country, and the United Nations resolution calls for a 3,300-soldier force to be sent next year.
For now, the United States and France will work on getting the Malian military, described as “vital to ensure Mali’s long-term security and stability,” adequately trained to fight al-Qaeda, the vexatious militant force that appears like clockwork in strategically important areas of the world prior to the involvement of the United States, its European partners, and the United Nations.