As French toops in Mali pursue Islamist rebels who seem to be heading for bastions in the remote Northern mountains, the UK prime minister David Cameron has referenced the Algerian hostage standoff to make clear that North Africa is the West’s new stage and theater for the Forever War. The bold emphasis is mine.
Mr Cameron said the attack was a “stark reminder” of the continuing terrorist threat and vowed to use Britain’s chairmanship of the G8 to ensure that it was right at the top of the international agenda.
“This is a global threat and it will require a global response. It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months,” he said.
“It requires a response that is patient and painstaking, that is tough but also intelligent, but above all has an absolutely iron resolve and that is what we will deliver over these coming years.
“What we face is an extremist, Islamist, al Qaida-linked terrorist group. Just as we had to deal with that in Pakistan and in Afghanistan so the world needs to come together to deal with this threat in north Africa.
“It is linked to al Qaida, it wants to destroy our way of life, it believes in killing as many people as it can. We need to work with others to defeat the terrorists and to close down the ungoverned spaces where they thrive with all the means that we have.”
This is completely bug-fuck insane. I don’t know how esle to put that. I hope Cameron’s just talking tough, but I sadly am sure he isn’t.
The West has had little-to-no success in “defeating” Al Qaeda’s extremist terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan, let alone Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, the Phillipines and a dozen other nations across the globe. The best that can be said is that most of these AQ franchise groups, operating under a brand name and little else, are focussed on their local feuds rather than looking to act in their far-abroad and the few that are looking to act in any meaningful way in the West have had their operations drastically curtailled. Now the new theater of operations is to be half an entire continent – Mali alone is bigger than any two European countries, bigger than Texas, and Algeria is larger still. The West couldn’t “get” the culture of Afghanistan well enough in a dozen years to accomplish its goals, now it expects to launch campaigns across dozens of nations and succeed. Sheer hubris.
The plan is that the West should be picking fights against these locally-focussed groups where there is no clear and present need to. By broadening the Great War on Terror to fighting these groups just in case they one day turn their gazes to the West, we’ll pretty much guarantee that they’ll do exactly that, while reinforcing the “Crusade against Muslims” narrative and the dead Bin Laden’s own strategy as stated clearly in 2004.
“We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah,” bin Laden said in the transcript.
He said the mujahedeen fighters did the same thing to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, “using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers.”
“We, alongside the mujahedeen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat,” bin Laden said.
He also said al Qaeda has found it “easy for us to provoke and bait this administration.”
“All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations,” bin Laden said.
The “Libya Model” the French are now trying to implement with some minor changes in Mali – get the locals to do the bulk of the heavy lifting while the US and the West offer tech support from the fringes – is only a way to reduce what has been a haemorraging of cash on this grand, decades-long, misadventure. So too are Obama’s drone wars. But the West’s coffers are already depleted and no-one can afford more decades of even this reduced expenditure to go chasing ghosts in Africa.
There’s a better way: if we leave these locally-focussed groups alone they tend to self-destruct by dint of their own predations on their host populations. We’ve seen this in Sunni Iraq and in parts of Pakistan and Yemen. Then scarce resources could be focussed on measures at home to prevent any attacks should one of these groups lift its eyes to its far-abroad anyway, as well as towards nation-building efforts that weren’t done at gunpoint, and the West could focus its force on any such group quickly with less resistance from local national governments and the world.
Update: Clinton echoes Cameron:
“It is absolutely essential that we broaden and deepen our counterterror cooperation going forward with Algeria and all counterterror efforts in the region,” Clinton said. Citing her conversations with Algerian officials in recent days, she said, “I made clear that we stand ready to further enhance counterterror support that we have already supplied.”
War without end, forever, Amen.