Meeting and Greeting the Crusaders in Africa
These days the so-called scramble for Africa runs through Mali, and in two directions. As the British, the Italians, the Germans, the Spanish, the Dutch, the Belgians and the Danish follow the French into northwest Africa, the Africans rush up to meet them, as if these white people were old friends coming to visit, again. Cargo planes ferry French fighters and equipment into the Mali desert, where they search for jihadists—Muslim fighters that are politically indistinguishable from the ones the Europeans and the Americans backed in Libya, and are now arming, in Syria.
If the Mali operation takes much longer—which it certainly will—the United States will assume much of the airlift duties, since no other nation in the world has the capacity to resupply a long war on the African continent. Cracking northern Africa wide open is a job for a superpower—which is fine with the Americans. Don Yamamoto, the deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, was hanging around the African Union meeting in Ethiopia, where African officials were handing out orders and directives to other Africans, as if they were actually in charge of something. Yamamoto predicted that “it could take several years” for the Mali mission to be completed. “This is only the first phase,” he said. So, what is that mission? Will it take the combined forces of the United States, France, much of the rest of NATO, and of soldiers from all over Africa to defeat, at most, a few thousand jihadists in a treeless desert? Do the Europeans and the Americans really have to stay so long?
Oh yes, said deputy secretary Yamamoto. He claims, “A lot of the rebel groups that are now fighting in the region were under Gaddafi’s troops.” Ah, so that’s how the U.S. will tell the story.
It’s true that many Tuareg nationalists seeking independence for their homeland in northern Mali worked with Gaddafi’s security forces, and emerged from Libya heavily armed. But, no sooner had the secular Tuareg rebellion begun than it was overwhelmed by Muslim fundamentalists—jihadists who were Gaddafi’s sworn enemies. The jihadists, many of them foreigners, could be run out of the cities of Mali and militarily contained with little effort. But, the Tuaregs live there, and always have. It is, therefore, necessary for the United States to claim that the entire Tuareg people—several million of them—are infested with jihadism, and that this will require a long-term Euro-American presence in Mali and the region.
The French are leading the charge into the desert in Mali, but the U.S. has much bigger plans for Africa. Deputy secretary Yamamoto told reporters that the U.S. would like to see the Mali operation evolve into an African-led affair, like the African Union mission in Somalia. However, although 17,000 Africans do the fighting in Somalia, the operation is actually run by the U.S. military and the CIA, and paid for largely by the Americans.
AFRICOM is now assisting six of Mali’s regional neighbors—Niger, Chad, Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Togo—with their transport and equipment needs for the fighting ahead. Those countries’ militaries will always want American guns and financing—which means AFRICOM will never leave. At least, that’s the plan.
—Black Agenda Report, January 30, 2013