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Return to Azawad or Zero Dark Mali

“Goddamn it, we told you so.” Or so, the Grey Lady had recently reported…

Jihadists’ Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring

As the uprising closed in around him, the Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi warned that if he fell, chaos and holy war would overtake North Africa. “Bin Laden’s people would come to impose ransoms by land and sea,” he told reporters. “We will go back to the time of Redbeard, of pirates, of Ottomans imposing ransoms on boats.”

In recent days, that unhinged prophecy has acquired a grim new currency. In Mali, French paratroopers arrived this month to battle an advancing force of jihadi fighters who already control an area twice the size of Germany. In Algeria, a one-eyed Islamist bandit organized the brazen takeover of an international gas facility, taking hostages that included more than 40 Americans and Europeans…

…The mayhem in this vast desert region has many roots, but it is also a sobering reminder that the euphoric toppling of dictators in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt has come at a price.

“It’s one of the darker sides of the Arab uprisings,” said Robert Malley. “Their peaceful nature may have damaged Al Qaeda and its allies ideologically, but logistically, in terms of the new porousness of borders, the expansion of ungoverned areas, the proliferation of weapons, the disorganization of police and security services in all these countries — it’s been a real boon to jihadists.”

… Yet Colonel Qaddafi’s fall was only the tipping point, some analysts say, in a region where chaos has been on the rise for years, and men who fight under the banner of jihad have built up enormous reserves of cash through smuggling and other criminal activities. If the rhetoric of the Islamic militants now fighting across North Africa is about holy war, the reality is often closer to a battle among competing gangsters in a region where government authority has long been paper-thin…

The Grey Lady goes on to name Mokhtar Belmokhtar, as the main purveyor of strife in the Sahel…!

But, Pepe Escobar, quickly shredded that nonsense…

Zero Dark Mali

…Timing – as in the expansion of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) – is everything. Carefully choreographed Libyan blowback in the Sahel could not be a better replacement for NATO raising a monster white flag in Afghanistan. There’s no Goooooood morning, Kabul! anymore; there’s just the sorry countdown to see the last NATO helicopter leaving Bagram – Saigon 1975-style…

I’m your bogeyman, turn me on

Inevitably, that most convenient of bogeymen – al-Qaeda – is once again back in fashion, the whole nebula of Salafi-jihadi groups and sub-groups promoted by the French-Anglo-American triad as the root of all evil in Northern Africa (but not in Libya, where they were exalted as “freedom fighters”).

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, one of the founding members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is for all practical purposes an easily digestible Osama bin Laden remix. Belmokhtar was a classic “Arab Afghan” – part of that multinational legion trained by the ISI/CIA axis to fight the Soviets in 1980s Afghanistan. When he was back in Algeria in 1993 he joined the local jihad, as part of the Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).

AQIM since 2007 was very close to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), whose fighters were also trained in Afghanistan by ISI/CIA. And all the time LIFG was always conveniently manipulated by the CIA and MI6 against Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

After the targeted assassination of Gaddafi, AQIM was duly weaponized by LIFG, and even presented with scores of jihadis. Thus, unsurprisingly, there were plenty of LIFG fighters involved in the In Amenas raid. On top of it AQIM is also very close to the al-Nusra Front in Syria, which Washington branded as a terrorist organization (but not the eternally bickering “coalition” which wants to topple Bashar al-Assad).

The key point is that Qatar is financing all these people – AQIM, the splinter MUJAO, Belmokhtar’s brigades and the Salafist Ansar Ed-Dine, a bunch of Wahhabi takfiris who have absolutely nothing to do with tolerant Mali culture…

To be sure… Mali, France, and chickens – As in: come home to roost…!

Let’s delve ever further…

How Washington helped foster the Islamist uprising in Mali

…While the media have provided abundant descriptive coverage of the course of events and atrocities committed in Azawad since the outbreak in January of what was ostensibly just another Tuareg rebellion, some pretty basic questions have not been addressed. No journalist has asked, or at least answered satisfactorily, how this latest Tuareg rebellion was hijacked, almost as soon as it started, by a few hundred Islamist extremists.

In short, the world’s media have failed to explain the situation in Azawad. That is because the real story of what has been going on there borders on the incredible, taking us deep into the murky reaches of Western intelligence and its hook-up with Algeria’s secret service.

Azawad’s current nightmare is generally explained as the unintended outcome of the overthrow of Libya’s Muammar al-Qadafi. That is true in so far as his downfall precipitated the return to the Sahel (Niger and Mali) of thousands of angry, disillusioned and well-armed Tuareg fighters who had gone to seek their metaphorical fortunes by serving the Qadafi regime. But this was merely the last straw in a decade of increasing exploitation, repression and marginalization that has underpinned an ongoing cycle of Tuareg protest, unrest and rebellion. In that respect, Libya was the catalyst for the Azawad rebellion, not its underlying cause. Rather, the catastrophe now being played out in Mali is the inevitable outcome of the way in which the Global War On Terror has been inserted into the Sahara-Sahel by the US, in concert with Algerian intelligence operatives, since 2002…

It’s funny how our current AFRICOM CinC, Gen. Ham, bemoans the civilian carnage, however belatedly…

Gen. Ham: US Failed to Train Mali Troops in Ethics – US Never Taught Troops Not to Execute Civilians

…Gen. Ham says that the US provided considerable training but focused “almost exclusively” on tactics and technical matters, without spending enough time teaching troops that they shouldn’t massacre civilians.

Rights groups have repeatedly reported that Malian troops have captured and summarily executed civilians in frontier cities, targeting ethnicities which are accused of being pro-rebel and capturing anyone without ID cards as “infiltrators.”

Mali’s Justice Minister had cited the US military’s own tortures and executions when presented with evidence last week, saying “no army in the world is perfect.“

The French are certainly not perfect:
Revealed: how French raid killed 12 Malian villagers…

Now, if you’re still not convinced, Andy Morgan wrote a book on the AQIM… Guns, cigarettes & Salafi dreams: the roots of AQIM…!

Folks, let’s look at some more real facts…

Africa pushed aside in Mali peace effort

…If only the French had backed an African-led resolution to the conflict, their soldiers wouldn’t be waging war on the ground today.

French jets are zipping past northern Mali, bombing the region and with it, a participatory framework that had thus far allowed African states to troubleshoot what is first and foremost a regional political crisis. France’s aerial assault and imminent deployment of ground troops is a volte face from its original plan to offer “logistical aid” to African peacekeepers in Mali. For all of French President François Hollande’s promises to treat Africa as a partner and friend, his government’s military intervention in the Sahel is proof that Françafrique is alive and well…

…The military intervention in Mali is France’s desperate attempt to rejuvenate its waning clout in the Sahel, an area that Paris considers to be within its “sphere of influence.” Mr. Hollande could have harvested the many chances that came his way to not only engage this crisis, but also promote African-led conflict resolution. France now bombs Mali knowing that its actions will be met with no resistance — and maybe even support — among other permanent members of the UN Security Council. African states, playing catch-up, need to support the intervention or struggle to stay relevant in this conflict. The collateral damage from all this remains the same: local or regional armed forces stay ill-equipped to tackle such crises without training or financial support; UN peacekeepers continue to play second fiddle as they are delegated to clean up the trail of destruction left in the wake of this assault; militarised alliances like NATO strengthen their grip as the world’s policemen. As in the past, the cure to Africa’s ungovernable malaises will come from foreign shores. Which is another way of saying that there will actually be no cure?

My, my, what a Wicked Web we’ve woven…!


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