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Sunday, October 2, 2022

America’s War on Terror is moving to Africa

Looking somewhat messy and sometimes confused, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (or just Islamic State) (ISIL) group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, issued his first video message in five years on April 29th this year. His tone was mostly gloomy. His followers have largely been vanquished in battle and his “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria lost its last bit of territory in March this year.

The fanatic whose “armies of God” popularized the beheading videos also offered those same followers some hope by welcoming the recent pledges of allegiance to the ISIL organization from jihadist groups in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Al-Baghdadi singled out for praise Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara – that vast expanse of territory that includes Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania and the contested lands of the Western Sahara. Clearly, the front lines of the jihadists’ war against imperial might of the USA, its most prominent surrogate Israel and everyone else who allies with those two, have been inaudibly (and almost secretly) moved to Africa.

Last year, 2018 at least 10,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in this new era of jihad inspired violence across Africa. That number is almost the same to those that were killed in Iraq and Syria in the wars and conflicts that started after President Obama’s withdraw of US troops from Iraq – the era that marked the rise of ISIL as a force to be reckoned with. In fact, 2019 has already seen the number of American and Western European (read NATO) troops battling fundamentalist Islamists in Africa surpass those fighting the fanatics elsewhere in the world.

Presently on any given day, America has about 7,000 soldiers deployed on this continent. France deployed perhaps 4,500 in the Sahel to protect French uranium and natural gas interests primarily, after those assets were directly attacked in 2014 in the aftermath of Ghadaffi’s overthrow and the eventual mayhem that ensured. Germany and Italy in total have almost 1,000. NATO allies specifically, Canada, Spain, Estonia and Denmark have also sent hundreds of military advisors and personnel to shore up the War on Terror – Africa Edition. Therefore, the total number of armed foreign Jihadist-hunters easily surpasses the 14,000 American servicemen currently in Afghanistan, which should have been the epicenter of the War on Terror.

The conflict, at least on the scale the neo-conservatives of the Bush-Cheney global empire thinking imagined, could not be executed in the oil-fields of the middle east, after all oil is the basis for the sovereignty of the US dollar and might of its military. Thus, as the global oil price kept rising, the Americans who actually conceived and started the war, moved the optics of the war – the violence and deprivation, to Africa and its vast hinterland. The war that is now being fought across a broad expanse of Africa, from Somalia in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west is really all about ensuring that America’s vast Military Industrial Complex stays relevant and profitable in the light of a collapsed Soviet Union.

America’s “War on Terror” is now concentrated in some of the poorest communities on this Earth, where it is fueled by globalization – global arms and natural resources trade, while the American politicians and their buttressing think-tanks (read economic hit men) tell audiences in America that it is bad governance that, for instance, gave the Bedouin the arms they are using to destabilize Mali, Niger, Algeria and Chad.

The media has their American and other gullible audiences believe that all the guns and ammunitions that NATO (mostly France and USA) supplied by air-drops to the anti-Ghadaffi rebels in 2013 were used by only “good Libyans yearning for democracy”. The reality on the ground is that those arms, just like in Iraq and Syria, are what Jihadists have used to recruit the local populations. Those populations like the Bedouin have long been oppressed by western-backed governments in the region and were quick to suckle on al-Baghdadi’s tit, for it provided the means by which to exert revenge on what they have always perceive as oppressive governments – arms in abundance.

America’s post-1945 economy has been based on arms production; in fact the richest and most lucrative industries in the USA are those firms that make weapons and other tools of war. In staging the “war on Terror” in Africa, the American imperialist chose well. The ground was already fertile for the latest enterprise of the imperialist exploitation, after all those that will from 2019 host the “global War on Terror” are communities whose governments barely control much of the supposed territory of their countries.

In the areas of Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria were the now infamous Boko Haram operates; most recruits into their camp come from ethnic minorities, such as the Yoruba, Hausa, Nupe, Fulani, Kanuri, and Barba, who have always seen government as an alien and predatory institution.  And that mistrust is actually shared across the divide since the government officials also see those minorities as oddities that must be compelled by force, if necessary (and it seems to always be necessary to use violent coercion) to civilize and join the modern State. These regions are akin to Pakistan’s northern region with its autonomous Tribal Regions – so the war-on-terror strategists don’t need a new model.

Meanwhile, global warming, climate change and over-population have inevitably withered the pastures, which in turn has intensified conflicts over land and water resources. Those conflicts have always been part of life in the Sahel, but with the global “War on Terror” spin, those conflicts have become more deadly because modern weaponry and the skills to use them are now much easier to obtain then the medicine for their camels or even themselves.

The Sahel is now the epicenter of America’s “War on Terror” and it is these communities that have seen the number of people killed in jihadist-related violence doubled in each of the past two years – 1,100 in 2018 and now at least 5,000 have been killed in the past five months of 2019. In the area around Lake Chad some 2 and half million people have fled from areas routinely attacked by Boko Haram – the group literally straps bombs to children and sends them to schools to blow up themselves and their fellow pupils. In fact the tilt-towards-Africa strategy being executed by America, has worked so well that now number of jihadist groups in the Sahel has grown from just one in 2012 to more than ten.

Jihadists just like all populist movements, have deftly prized open pre-existing fracture lines in these African communities. The mayhem easily metastasizes into broader regional conflict between ethnic militias, farmers and herders – which means the conflicts inevitably become self-sustaining in terms of recruitment and local support.

For instance, in Sudan under Omar al Bashir, jihadists who were at first part of government through people like Hassan Abd Allah al-Turabi were encouraged to start the cycle of tit-for-tat killings by attacking villages in Darfur – a region neighboring an already troubled Chad purposely to gain richer pasture resources but then also consequently provoked reprisals by “self-defense” militias that were supported clandestinely by the Americans (especially the evangelicals) and Western Europeans. The conflict fizzled out as refugees fanned out and thus made more pasture available for those who stayed. Today, American military advisors in South Sudan have resurrected the conflict but in light of hunting jihadist militia who they say are stationed across the border in Chad and Southern Libya

Chad and Mali were prior to the 2014 policy-shift in Washington and Brussels attuned to the USA’s military manual on counter-insurgency which called for the formation and arming of local militias to fight “insurgents”. Thus it was not surprising that in March this year, a government sanctioned militia hacked, shot and burned over 170 Fulani men, women and children to death in central Mali, in apparent revenge for an attack on the army by jihadists hiding out in the Sahel. Further afield in Burkina Faso in January, 2019 another militia supported by the government killed some 210 people in and around Yirgou, a desert village.

The Americans and their allies in the NATO block deserve much of the blame for all the current bloodshed in the Sahel, having directly and indirectly supported ethnic militias and militiamen posing as “democracy-yearning anti-establishment political movements” that draw mostly on tribal and clan linkages to fill their ranks. War-on-Terror proponents in Washington see these militia-backed governments and organizations as a cheap, arm’s-length way of pushing the War-on-Terror and its attendant weapons industry to the African continent.

The grand strategy to move the war to Africa may sometimes backfire – the newly minted jihadists routinely cause political as well as socio-economic problems in Europe indirectly through for instance the refugee crisis in Italy and Spain, and directly through terror attacks in Brussels. However, those upheavals are but a small dent on the balance sheets of the military industries like BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin which believe that fighting against the rug-tag Abubakar Shekau of Boko Haram is best done with the F-22 Raptor aircraft – which is why the oil-rich Nigerian military is being pushed to buy. Though common sense tells one that Mr. Shekau won’t be defeated from the air, Nigeria has already paid the imperial powers billions for a weapons platform that won’t help solve the problems Boko Haram have occasioned on Nigeria and continue to cause in the region.

Militias created by western arms industry and dealers are usually so brutal and ill-disciplined that they almost certainly increase support for the more traditional jihadists in those countries with large age-old Muslim communities. The conflicts that were inspired by President Bush’s call for a “War on Terror” have already helped break apart fragile colonial-era states like Sudan.

Looking at the newly formed South Sudan, formed through the machinations of tribal militias that were largely supported by the right-wing Christian fundamentalists in America – many of whom are beneficiaries of the weapons industry – has had the effect of fermenting a conflict that has thus far displaced millions of people. So all South Sudanese oil is going into buying bits of steel used to beat down and kill other South Sudanese – YES the exploitative and unfair exchange of mirrors for slaves that our fore-fathers engaged in with the Europeans in 1700’s and 1800’s is rife again, only that now the slave is oil and the mirrors is the guns.

Jihadists have too many deep-seated causes they are seemingly for and so cannot be put down easily or fast. That is why it is critical that governments start disarming the militias America created when it and its NATO allies literally threw (read air-dropped) tons of military hardware at the Arab Spring anti-government activists-turned jihadists. Most weapons and munitions destabilizing the Sahel today were air-dropped in Libya to help depose Muammar Ghadaffi. So it’s no wonder that Abu Walid al-Sahrawi of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara group boasts more modern weaponry than the Malian and Chadian armies. Nigeria’s military has had to upgrade so fast that its debt portfolio is again at pre- Olusegun Obasanjo levels.

America, under Donald Trump, revealed plans in 2018 to reduce its forces in Africa by 10%. That may sound premature given what happened to Iraq after the US military drawdown, but that is actually the strategic plan – the forces will be replaced by private contractors otherwise known as mercenaries like Black Water and Triple Canopy. It is true that given the scale of the problem, American and NATO troops will be needed in the Sahel for years to solve a crisis that their politics created – training and supporting local forces with the end goal being the eradication of a cancer they have brought to African nations. Black Water messed Iraq and so it is difficult to see how they will do any differently here.

Any military support to African communities should go hand in hand with true global economic system reform, which means NATO and America must stop propping up their own failing, exploitative global economic model and the regimes in the region that make the exploitation possible and whose political corruption has sparked off unrest in the first place. Given the potential for African jihadism to spread attacks and fear abroad, the American and their European partners (in crime) have huge interests in keeping it going and thus obtain a more gullible population fit for purpose – the purpose being the Military Industrial Complex making more profits.

Like the cold war before it, the war against those who take up arms in pursuit of an imaginary Islamist Utopia will last for decades because America’s Military Industrial Complex needs it to justify the continuing military spend of the American taxpayer. And here they have an advantage because just like the struggle against Russian communism was about “winning hearts and minds”, this too is but that means it’s almost impossible to know when the victory is. So America’s Military Industrial Complex can now perpetuate a war forever – and thus earn profits forever.

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