Posts Tagged ‘Mali’

Obama can’t declare the war on terror over, war is a two-way street

May 31, 2013

By Charles Krauthammer

“This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises . . .”

— Barack Obama, May 23

Nice thought. But much as Obama would like to close his eyes, click his heels three times and declare the war on terror over, war is a two-way street.

That’s what history advises: Two sides to fight it, two to end it. By surrender (World War II), by armistice (Korea and Vietnam) or when the enemy simply disappears from the field (the Cold War).

Obama says enough is enough. He doesn’t want us on “a perpetual wartime footing.” Well, the Cold War lasted 45 years. The war on terror, 12 so far. By Obama’s calculus, we should have declared the Cold War over in 1958 and left Western Europe, our Pacific allies, the entire free world to fend for itself — and consigned Eastern Europe to endless darkness.

John F. Kennedy summoned the nation to bear the burdens of the long twilight struggle. Obama, agonizing publicly about the awful burdens of command — his command, which he twice sought in election — wants out. For him and for us.

He doesn’t just want to revise and update the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which many conservatives have called for. He wants to repeal it.

He admits that the AUMF establishes the basis both in domestic and international law to conduct crucial defensive operations, such as drone strikes. Why, then, abolish the authority to do what we sometimes need to do?

Because that will make the war go away? Persuade our enemies to retire to their caves? Stop the spread of jihadism?

This is John Lennon, bumper-sticker foreign policy — Imagine World Peace. Obama pretends that the tide of war is receding. But it’s demonstrably not. It’s metastasizing to Mali, to the Algerian desert, to the North African states falling under the Muslim Brotherhood, to Yemen, to the savage civil war in Syria, now spilling over into Lebanon and destabilizing Jordan. Even Sinai, tranquil for 35 years, is descending into chaos.

It’s not war that’s receding. It’s America. Under Obama. And it is precisely in the power vacuum left behind that war is rising. Obama declares Assad must go. The same wish-as-policy fecklessness from our bystander president. Two years — and 70,000 dead — later, Obama keeps repeating the wish even as the tide of battle is altered by the new arbiters of Syria’s future — Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. Where does every party to the Syrian conflict go on bended knee? To Moscow, as Washington recedes into irrelevance.

But the ultimate expression of Obama’s Dorothy Doctrine is Guantanamo. It must close. Must, mind you.

President Barack Obama talks about national security, Thursday, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington. Declaring America at a "crossroads" in the fight against terrorism, the president revealed clearer guidelines for the use of deadly drone strikes, including more control by the U.S. military, while leaving key details of the controversial program secret. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama talks about national security, Thursday, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington. Declaring America at a “crossroads” in the fight against terrorism, the president revealed clearer guidelines for the use of deadly drone strikes, including more control by the U.S. military, while leaving key details of the controversial program secret. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Okay. Let’s accept the dubious proposition that the Yemeni prisoners could be sent home without coming back to fight us. And that others could be convicted in court and put in U.S. prisons.

Now the rub. Obama openly admits that “even after we take these steps, one issue will remain — just how to deal with those Gitmo detainees who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks but who cannot be prosecuted.”

Well, yes. That’s always been the problem with Gitmo. It’s not a question of geography. The issue is indefinite detention — whether at Gitmo, a Colorado supermax or St. Helena.

Can’t try ’em, can’t release ’em. Having posed the central question, what is Obama’s answer? “I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved.”

That’s it! I kid you not. He’s had four-plus years to think this one through — and he openly admits he’s got no answer.

Because there is none. Hence the need for Gitmo. Other wars end, at which point prisoners are repatriated. But in this war, the other side has no intention of surrender or armistice. They will fight until the caliphate is established or until jihadism is as utterly defeated as fascism and communism. That’s the reason — the only reason — for the detention conundrum. There is no solution to indefinite detention when the detainees are committed to indefinite war.

Obama’s fantasies are twinned. He can no more wish away the detention than he can the war.

We were defenseless on 9/11 because, despite Osama bin Laden’s open written declaration of war in 1996, we pretended for years that no war against us had even begun. Obama would return us to pre-9/11 defenselessness — casting Islamist terror as a law-enforcement issue and removing the legal basis for treating it as armed conflict — by pretending that the war is over.

It’s enough to make you weep.

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Charles Krauthammer

Al Qaeda an evolving threat despite Obama’s boast

May 30, 2013

In the months before President Obama declared al  Qaeda was “on a path to defeat,” his aides were telling Congress that the terrorist network was expanding and was capable of inflicting mass  casualties in the U.S.

While perhaps not a direct contradiction of the president’s near-claim of  victory last week, their testimony painted the picture of a robust collection of  al Qaeda franchises causing death and  destruction in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, MaliSomalia and Afghanistan.

By Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times

President Barack Obama talks about national security, Thursday, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington. Declaring America at a "crossroads" in the fight against terrorism, the president revealed clearer guidelines for the use of deadly drone strikes, including more control by the U.S. military, while leaving key details of the controversial program secret. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama talks about national security, Thursday, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington. Declaring America at a “crossroads” in the fight against terrorism, the president revealed clearer guidelines for the use of deadly drone strikes, including more control by the U.S. military, while leaving key details of the controversial program secret. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Terrorism analysts say that as the U.S. conducted a concentrated air war via  armed Predators against al Qaeda’s core  leadership in Pakistan’s tribal areas for more  than a decade, the group’s Islamic chieftains decided to diversify.

“I totally disagree with the premise that al  Qaeda is on the path to defeat,” said retired Army Gen.  Jack Keane, who has advised U.S. commanders in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “Quite the contrary, al Qaeda has  deliberately decentralized its operations, not because of the relentless attacks  we have had on its national leadership in Pakistan, but because its strategic objective is to  dominate and control Muslim countries in the region. As such, al  Qaeda must extend its geographic reach, which is not only successful but is  expanding.”

Three al Qaeda franchises are most notable:  al Qaeda in Iraq,  which has rebuilt and stepped up attacks since the last American troops left in  2011 and has moved fighters into Syria; al  Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a North Africa-based network aligned  with Ansar al Shariah, which carried out the deadly assault on the U.S.  diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya; and al  Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a Yemen-based cell that sponsored the failed 2009  airliner attack by “underwear bomber” Umar  Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Free Syrian Army fighter

Syria. Photograph: Reuters

Gen. Keane’s assertions that al  Qaeda remains powerful seems to be supported by administration witnesses  earlier this year.

“The threat from AQAP, particularly with airliners, has not dissipated over  the years,” FBI Director  Robert S. Mueller III told the Senate Select Committee on  Intelligence. “There’s still that threat out there. The individuals who were  responsible for the previous attempts are still there.”

Matthew Olsen, who heads the National  Counterterrorism Center, said al Qaeda is still  trying to recruit attackers in the United States.

“We definitely have seen, both from the al  Qaeda core in Pakistan as well as AQAP in Yemen, an effort to reach out beyond those regions  into the United States to radicalize individuals who are here, who may be  susceptible to that kind of a message,” Mr.  Olsen testified. “They may be simply wayward knuckleheads, but they may well  be inspired by that message and seek to carry out an attack.”

Retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, in  his final testimony to the House Armed Services  Committee as head of U.S. Central  Command, called al Qaeda “a real  threat.”

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, who  directs U.S. Special Operations  Command, which targets individual terrorists and cells, testified that it is  not enough to target a single al Qaeda group  because the network establishes alliances with like-minded Islamic extremists.  He explained the challenge in just one part of the world: North Africa.

“I certainly think we understand the complexity of the al  Qaeda network,” he said in Senate testimony.  “And if you look in Africa as an example, you have al Qaeda in the Islamic Lands of the Maghreb, and  we know that they are partnered or linked with Boko Haram out of Nigeria. So you certainly  cannot isolate a single organization, whether it’s al Qaeda in the Islamic Lands of the Maghreb or Boko Haram, and expect to be able to solve the  problem either locally by going after that problem in a particular country or by  individual entity. If you deal with AQIM, you probably have to deal with Boko Haram.”

Last week before an audience at the National Defense University, Mr. Obama  delivered a speech designed to claim victory, and reset the counterterrorism  battle by abandoning the globalist theme of the George W. Bush  administration.

“Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our  effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,’ but rather as a series of  persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent  extremists that threaten America,” the president said.

And he made a significant claim. “Today, the core of al  Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat,” he said. “Their remaining operatives spend more time  thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct  the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They’ve not carried out a successful attack  on our homeland since 9/11.”

According to a Heritage Foundation study, Islamists have plotted 54 times to  strike American since Sept. 11, 2001, the day al  Qaeda operatives flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.  Three other plots were carried out, the most recent the Boston Marathon  bombings.

CIA Director John O. Brennan, Mr.  Obama’s former counterterrorism adviser, seemed to paint a more dangerous  picture of al Qaeda during his Senate confirmation hearing than the president did during his recent speech.

“We remain at war with al Qaeda and its  associated forces, which despite the substantial progress we have made against  them, still seek to carry out deadly strikes against our homeland, our citizens  and against our friends and allies,” Mr.  Brennan said.

He conceded that, rather than pulling back, al  Qaeda is expanding: “I will say that if you look out over the last four  years, what happened in a number of places, such as Yemen and other areas, where there was in fact a  growth of al Qaeda, quite unfortunately.”

Gen. Keane said that while al  Qaeda’s core has been badly damaged by the loss of senior leaders, including  Osama bin Laden, it has established itself in other countries where it did not  exist on Sept. 11, 2001. He listed the countries — Libya, Syria, IraqSomalia, Mali, Yemen — where al Qaeda spinoffs are growing.

Al Qaeda has returned to Iraq after it was defeated in 2009, is the fastest growing rebel group in Syria,  has established a bona fide sanctuary in [the West African nation of] Mali and attempted to seize the capital, and established a clear sanctuary in eastern  Libya where no actions have been taken against the  al Qaeda affiliated group, Ansar al-Shariah,”  the retired general said. “In Somalia, we have  enjoyed some success, and in Yemen it’s at best a  draw.”

Al Qaeda’s No. 1 objective to be able to  control and dominate the region is to drive the U.S. out of the region. The  harsh reality is the president of the United States is voluntarily doing just  that,” Gen. Keane said.

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Somebody Needs To Remind President Obama He Cannot Just Declare The War on Terror Is Over

May 28, 2013

By P. J. O’Rourke
The Weekly Standard

President Barack Obama talks about national security, Thursday, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington. Declaring America at a "crossroads" in the fight against terrorism, the president revealed clearer guidelines for the use of deadly drone strikes, including more control by the U.S. military, while leaving key details of the controversial program secret. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama talks about national security, Thursday, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington. Declaring America at a “crossroads” in the fight against terrorism, the president revealed clearer guidelines for the use of deadly drone strikes, including more control by the U.S. military, while leaving key details of the controversial program secret. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“You’re stupid,” is not something even his most severe critics usually say to President Barack Obama. But on Friday morning I picked up the Wall Street Journal and learned that the president had given a speech about the war on terror saying, “This war, like all wars, must end.”

That story was at the top of the front page. Immediately below was a photograph of flowers being laid at a makeshift memorial near the Woolwich Royal Arsenal where machine gunner Lee Rigby was hacked to death by terrorists.

This war, like all wars, must end when someone wins it. The president—speaking at the National Defense University, of all places—said, “the core of al Qaeda . . . is on the path to defeat.” And so it may be. But meanwhile, the core of al Qaeda, its aims and its beliefs, is also on the path to Boston and London and any number of other places.

On page 7 of Friday’s Journal was the headline, “Suicide Bombings in Niger Linked to Mali Islamist Group.” On page 9 was a report of terrorist Hezbollah militias aiding the terrorist Assad regime in attacking the rebel-held Syrian city of Qusayr where the rebels themselves are allied with yet more Islamic terrorists. And on pages 4 and 8 were more bad tidings from that perpetrator, abettor, and friend of terrorism, Iran. Iranian fundamentalists, in the chokehold they have on the country’s political system, are improving their grip. And, “according to current and former U.S. officials,” Iran has “escalated a campaign of cyberassaults against U.S. corporations. . . . The hackers were able to gain access to control-system software that could allow them to manipulate oil or gas pipelines.”

All that on a slow news day.

In 2001 Congress passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a declaration of war on terrorists and nations that harbor them. In his speech the president said, “I look forward to engaging . . . in efforts to refine and ultimately repeal the AUMF’s mandate.”

I like the president’s use of the word “efforts” here, as though he’s merely trying to be stupid. He doesn’t need to try. Earlier in the week he signed new policy guidance for drone strikes. In the future we will use lethal drones only on terrorists who are a “continuing and imminent threat to the American people” and not on terrorists who are a “significant threat to U.S. interests.” Although, assuming tremendously stupid efforts will be made to tell the two kinds of terrorists apart, maybe I’m wrong about the president not needing to try. The policy guidance also stipulates that there “must be a near certainty” that civilians won’t be killed or injured in a drone strike. Imagine how stupid a WWII Army Air Corps briefing officer would have had to be to say that to his B-17 pilots.

Maybe we pundits don’t tell President Obama, “You’re stupid,” because we are proudly showing off our sensitivity to the negative stereotypes that hurtful language engenders in a way that we didn’t feel was necessary when we were telling Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush, “You’re stupid,” even though actors, WASPs, and Texans are burdened with their fair share of negative lamebrain stereotypes.

More likely it’s because we pundits prize signs of intelligence. We take every opportunity to display our own signs, and President Obama exhibits the same wordy, wonky, academic intelligence indicators that we do, so we don’t call him stupid.

As if the two things were mutually exclusive. I know quite a few fellow members of the news analysis and commentary business, and I have it from the highest-placed sources, on the record, that each and every one of our children is a genius. And yet, if we pundits were to gather together our sons and daughters, during their teenage years, and close them for a night in a dimly lit room full of beer and drugs and comfy futons, I can assure you that evidence of stupidity would be found the next morning.

But the most likely reason that we don’t call President Obama stupid is that it’s such a cul-de-sac of a word. Stupid gives the pundit nothing to perform punditry upon. Call a man ignorant and you have license to show the world your vast fund of knowledge and wise him up. Call a man misguided and you transform your column or blog post or TV appearance into a valuable and beneficent German shepherd with a handle on its back and you lead the poor soul in his blindness. Call a man, best of all, wicked and you get to don the sacramental vestments, climb into the pulpit and thunder forth with such a sermon as to bring him weeping to the font of righteousness or cause the Lord God Almighty to strike him with a thunderbolt in his pew or something fun like that. But call a man stupid and . . . there it is.

And there it is: Dopey stimulus, obtuse bailout, noodle-headed Obamacare, half-wit Dodd-Frank, damfool IRS Tea Party crashers, AP and Fox News beset by oafish peeping Toms and the Benghazi tale told by an idiot. One could go on. Stupid is a great force in human affairs. And the great force has a commander in chief.

P.J. O’Rourke is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.


Soldier in London “hacked to death, beheaded” by Islamists. The suspect named by sources as Michael Adebolajo, left, and the second alleged killer Michael Adebowale (right).

Sweden this past week saw six nights of violence from immigrants, many from Islamic areas.

Britain Pakistan

Undated photo issued by the British Ministry of Defence of an RAF Typhoon Aircraft of the type that has escorted a passenger plane into Stansted Airport in southern England following a possible terror incident on board Friday May 24, 2013. British media reported the flight was a Pakistan International Airlines passenger plane flying to Manchester, England. (AP Photo/ MOD via PA)

(CBS News) President Barack Obama is laying the groundwork for a major shift in the fight against terror.

In his policy speech on Thursday, the president said the United States will focus more on smaller terror networks and homegrown extremists.

Should President Obama end the war on terror?

The speech acted as a kind of “realignment of forces,” pointed out Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and host of “Face the Nation.”

In his speech, the president renewed his call to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and announced new guidelines to govern the use of targeted drone strikes on foreign soil.

“It’s a redrawing of strategy on how we’re going to confront terrorism,” Schieffer said. “The president said yesterday — the quote that everybody is picking up is that, ‘This war, like all wars, must end,’ but you just cannot declare ‘this war is over.’ It takes two to tango, as it were. The war will be over when the terrorists stop attacking us.

“And I think the government’s going to have to be very careful that this is not misread by those on the other side,” Schieffer continued. “This does not mean, as I understand it, that we’re going to stop tracking down these terrorists or any of that kind of thing or confronting them when we find them. It means that, for one thing, we’re going to bring this large force of people home from Afghanistan and use those resources in a different way. But there’s going to be a lot of controversy about this. … A lot of Republicans are going to say ‘this is premature, this is not yet over,’ and that it will be misunderstood.”

But, the speech, Schieffer pointed out, was a long time in coming and now, he said, “at least, we have something of the president’s vision of where we go and how we go from here.”

For more with Bob Schieffer — including what he calls “outrageous overreach” in Washington, watch his full analysis in the video above.

Boston bombs: Obama lulled America into false confidence over terror threat; jihadist ideology survives

April 20, 2013

The war on terror cannot be fought at an arm’s length – and the attacks on  Boston have brought uncertainty back to American streets, writes Peter Foster.

By , US Editor

In his State of the Union address to the American people earlier this year, Barack Obama declared that he was “confident” of achieving “our objective of defeating the core of al-Qaeda”.

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address (February 12, 2013)

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Although he acknowledged the need to pursue the “remnants” of the terrorist group and its affiliates, the overall message was clear – al-Qaeda was badly degraded, the tides of war were receding and the US was winning this fight that was no longer even officially a war.

The Boston bombings would appear to present a fundamental challenge to that assessment and once again bring the nagging uncertainty of terrorism back on to the American main street.

It is too soon to be absolutely sure the attacks were motivated by jihadist ideology, but the Islamic videos on the website of the older of the two Tsarnaev brothers point very firmly in that direction.

They bring home the complexity of the global Islamist threat and the fact that it cannot be confined to wars in distant lands, or fought at arm’s length using drones, as the Obama administration has quietly yet insistently led America to believe.

Mr Obama and his intelligence community know the threat from al-Qaeda affiliates, but have chosen to downplay it to the US public.

Even when that fight does directly touch on American lives, as it did last September when the US ambassador to Libya was murdered in Benghazi by an al-Qaeda linked group, the administration appears at pains to deny the connection.

In the September 11, 2012 terror attack on the U.S. in Benghazi, Libya, Ambassador Chis Stevens (right, above) was killed, along with State Department staffer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

Indeed, next week, America’s transportation authority is to relax rules on carrying knives on planes for the first time since the September 11 attacks.

But as many counter-terrorism experts have been saying – their voices often drowned out or ignored in favour of the pleasing simplicity of the Obama administration’s narrative – the threat from al-Qaeda is too amorphous and shifting to ever have been discounted.

From left: Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith died in the recent attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Libya.
From left: Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith died in the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Libya

“They’ve fallen into the same trap that the Bush administration did early on,” says Tom Jocelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank who tracks the movements of high-value al-Qaeda targets.

“They define al-Qaeda as a hierarchical terrorist organisation such that if you kill ‘x’ number of leaders then the whole thing falls apart.”

But the early information on the Tsarnaev brothers – born in Kyrgyzstan to a Chechen family, but living in the US for up to a decade – points to just how blurred, in reality, the distinctions between al-Qaeda and its affiliates can become.

“It’s a hybrid thing, that’s the problem,” says Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who has written extensively about the decentralisation of al-Qaeda. “It’s a unique threat, there’s nothing like it and that’s why people have a hard time grasping what it is.”

Looked at that way, Mr Obama’s “confidence” – and that of the American public – is likely to be badly shaken by what is emerging from Boston.

Includes Videos:


The money which once went into missile silos in Europe – or troops patrolling the Afghan border, or defending existing regimes in countries under threat from jihadi militants – will be spent on Obamacare and the entitlements programmes which are close to bankruptcy. I would not be surprised if Mr Obama makes a proud, if vague, allusion to this isolationist stance …. It is, after all, quite in keeping with the increasing parochialism of American political discourse. During the presidential election campaign, the mainstream media expressed almost no interest at all in the fact that an American ambassador had been killed at his post (for the first time since 1979) by a terrorist mob in Libya. In recent days, the Algerian hostage crisis – with all its implications for the rise of the international Islamist threat – has scarcely made a dent in the wall-to-wall coverage of the vituperative domestic debate over gun ownership.


The September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate shocked Americans and killed four Americans serving the State Department. It also sparked a political firestorm that distorted the facts of what really happened, many lawmakers have said.

“We cannot let this administration or any other administration get away with hiding from the American people and Congress, people who were there in real time to tell the story,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.

Benghazi Survivors Told to Be Quiet by Obama Administration, Claims Sen. Lindsey Graham

The Obama administration has told the injured survivors of the Benghazi terror attack “to be quiet,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) alleges in an exclusive interview with Fox News.


Republican lawmaker Frank Wolf says “It is clear there is a cover-up.”

Republican lawmaker Frank Wolf told Fox News on Tuesday morning that the only way the American public will ever learn the truth behind the Sept. 11, 2012, fatal attacks in Benghazi, Libya, is if Congress appoints a special committee to investigate.

The Washington Times

A special committee has the power to subpoena witnesses, he said.“I think there is a cover-up,” he said, on Fox News. “It is clear there is a cover-up.”

Six months have passed since the terrorist attack in Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and questions persist. In a recent letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Mr. Wolf expressed outrage: “Six months later, none of the terrorists involved in the attack are in U.S. or foreign detention. The FBI has only had access to a single suspect for a mere three hours, after waiting for months. The FBI is being denied access to another person of interest in Egypt. Six months later, none of the survivors have been identified or questioned by Congress about the attack or credited for their heroism. We don’t know their names, conditions or stories.”

And six months later, he continued, in his letter, “not a single American official has been held accountable or lost their job over the inadequate consulate security, intelligence failures or the administration’s abysmal response during the terrorist attack.”

Lawmakers haven’t had access to witnesses or suspects, either, he said, on Fox News.

If Congress doesn’t agree to appoint a special committee, it would have failed the American people, he said.

McCain calls on Obama to help Mali military

April 10, 2013

Posted By Josh Rogin
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
The Cable

The French mission to Mali is winding down but the international forces preparing to take up the slack need American military assistance the Obama administration is unwilling to provide, according to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who just returned from a trip to Africa.

McCain traveled over the congressional recess to Mali, Libya, and Tunisia, and told The Cable in an interview that a lack of U.S. attention to North Africa and the Sahel region is exacerbating the instability there and hurting those countries’ ability to fight the growing threat of extremists, including those linked to al Qaeda. McCain is calling on President Barack Obama to remove a restriction that is preventing the Department of Defense from providing direct assistance to Mali’s military.

A French soldier explains to Vietnamese (er, Malian) children why he thinks he is in their country

A French soldier talks to  Malian children

“We need to have DOD assistance as much as feasible and necessary to prevent Mali from deteriorating further into a chaotic situation,” McCain said. “A lot of these al Qaeda types melted into the population or into the mountains and the French by no means eliminated them, although they did eliminate a lot of them.”

There’s a restriction in U.S. law that prevents the State Department from assisting any government that has come to power via a military coup, as was the situation in Mali. But the Obama administration has decided on its own to extend that restriction to the Pentagon, and that decision is reversible, McCain will tell Obama in a forthcoming letter, he said.

“Unfortunately the White House has interpreted the law as not allowing DOD to provide that kind of assistance. I am strongly urging the administration to provide them with the support that could be important,” McCain said.

Without putting U.S. boots on the ground, the Pentagon could help Mali’s indigenous forces with logistics, intelligence, training, advisory services, and material assistance, he said. But the Obama administration doesn’t want to get too deeply involved, McCain explained.

“It’s the overall light-footprint policy of this administration,” he said. “There’s a lack of cohesiveness coming from the United States.”

McCain sparred with two Defense Department officials about Mali at a Tuesday Senate Armed Services Committee hearing chaired by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC). The two officials, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict Michael Sheehan and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Derek Chollet, said they didn’t think U.S. help for the Mali military was necessary at this time.

“Right now we don’t need the Malian army per se,” said Sheehan. “The French are working with the Malian army in the north, helping them to take on their security responsibilities. And it’s a very weak army, notwithstanding all the aid that we provided them over the last five years or so. It’s an organization — because of the coup and because of [coup leader] Captain Sanogo and his thugs that are still hanging around the margins of this army — it remains to be seen how it will evolve and develop into a professional force. The EU has taken on the mission of retraining and re- professionalizing them. We have policy restrictions against that.”

Sheehan noted that the after the French depart, security will be in the hands of the ECOWAS mission, which he admitted “hasn’t been really up to the task.” McCain asked Sheehan if al Qaeda will reconstitute itself in Mali after French forces leave.

“They are leaving, and we’ll see whether AQIM will be able to establish a strategic capability from there over the years ahead,” Sheehan said, using the common acronym for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the group’s North Africa affiliate.

McCain also pressed Sheehan and Chollet to say whether or not they believed “the tide of war is receding,” as President Obama often says. Both Sheehan and Chollet tried to dodge the question but McCain kept pressing them, for example when Chollet talked about the situation in Iraq.

“I think Iraq is more stable today than many thought several years ago,” Chollet said.

“Really? You really think that?” McCain said.

“I do,” Chollet responded.

Then you’re uninformed,” McCain shot back.

Mali, Ashamed, Admits Camel Given To French President Was Eaten, Vows To Provide “Nicer Looking Camel”

April 9, 2013


French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during a ceremony for outgoing Louvre Museum Director Henri Loyrette (unseen) at the Louvre museum in Paris April 9, 2013. REUTERS/Christophe Ena/Pool

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during a ceremony for outgoing Louvre Museum Director Henri Loyrette (unseen) at the Louvre museum in Paris April 9, 2013. REUTERS/Christophe  Ena/Pool  less 

BAMAKO/PARIS (Reuters) – Malian authorities will give French President Francois Hollande another camel after the one they gave him in thanks for helping repel Islamist rebels was killed and eaten by the family he left it with in Timbuktu, an official in Mali said.

A local government official in northern Mali said on Tuesday a replacement would be sent to France.

“As soon as we heard of this, we quickly replaced it with a bigger and better-looking camel,” said the official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.


“The new camel will be sent to Paris. We are ashamed of what happened to the camel. It was a present that did not deserve this fate.”

Hollande was presented with the camel when he visited Mali in February several weeks after dispatching French troops to the former colony to help combat al Qaeda-linked fighters moving south from a base in the north of the country.

The president joked at the time about using the camel to get around traffic-jammed Paris. But he chose in the end to leave it with a family in the town on the edge of the Sahara desert.

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was tasked with giving Hollande regular updates on the camel’s status and had to inform him of its death last week, French media said.


“The news came in from soldiers on the ground,” said a French government official.

French leaders have received many gifts of exotic or wild animals from Africa and further afield over the years.

Last week, a robber chainsawed a tusk off the skeleton of an elephant offered to Louis XIV by a Portuguese king in 1668. Police caught the robber as he fled, tusk under his arm.

(Reporting by Adama Diarra in Bamako and Brian Love in Paris; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Full Text of Pope Francis’ Easter Message, March 31, 2013

March 31, 2013

Below is the Full Text of Pope’s Sunday Easter Message:

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter!

What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons…

Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious!

We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.

Pope Francis leads the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican

Photo: Reuters — Pope Francis leads the Easter mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican

This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell – to the abyss of separation from God – this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus and transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.

This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and his glory is the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).

So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.

And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.

Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?

Peace for Africa, still the scene of violent conflicts. In Mali, may unity and stability be restored; in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups. Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.

Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.

Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century. Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! May the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.

Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. Let Israel say: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’”

Pope appeals for peace, end to Korea tensions, in Easter message

March 31, 2013

By Philip Pullella | Reuters 

Pope Francis (L) waves near balloons and an Argentina flag as he leaves at the end of the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 31, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Pope Francis (L) waves near balloons and an Argentina flag as he leaves at the end of the Easter mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 31, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis used his first Easter Sunday address to call for peace in the world and appealed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

In his first “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message, Francis also called for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, an end to the civil war in Syria, and political solutions to conflicts in several African countries.

The former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, who has made defense of nature an early hallmark of his pontificate, also condemned the “iniquitous exploitation of natural resources” and urged everyone to be “guardians” of creation.

Francis delivered his message from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica – the same spot from where he first appeared to the world as pope after his election on March 13 – to a crowd estimated by the Vatican at  least 250,000 people.

“Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow,” he said, speaking in Italian.

North Korea said on Saturday it was entering a “state of war” with South Korea. Tensions have been high since the North’s new young leader Kim Jong-un ordered a third nuclear weapons test in February, breaching U.N. sanctions and ignoring warnings from North Korea’s sole major ally, China, not to do so.

Francis, who has brought a more simple and personal style to the papacy, said the message of Easter is that faith can help people transform their lives by letting “those desert places in our hearts bloom”.


“How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbor, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the creator has given us and continues to give us,” he said.

Earlier, at a Mass in a square bedecked by more than 40,000 plants and flowers, the pope wore relatively simple white vestments, as opposed to his predecessor Benedict, who preferred more elaborate robes.

The huge crowd spilled out of St. Peter’s Square and into surrounding streets and included many who had come to see a pope they hope could give a new start to a Church that has been marred by scandals involving sexual abuse of children and allegations of corruption.

“It’s a new pope and new beginning,” said Tina Hughes, 67, who came to Rome with her family from Nottingham, England to see the pope. “I think he brings something special. He connects with people. I feel good about him.”

Francis, who took his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who is revered as a symbol of austerity and the importance of the natural world, said:

“Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this 21st century.

“Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! May the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.”

Easter Sunday, the day Christians believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead three days after his crucifixion, was the culmination of four hectic days of activity for the pope, during which he instituted several novelties.

On Holy Thursday, two women were included among the 12 people whose feet he washed and kissed during a traditional ceremony that had previously been open only to men.

Francis is still living in the same Vatican guesthouse where he stayed during the conclave that elected him the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, instead of moving into the regal papal apartments in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

He has also been inviting ordinary people to his morning Mass at the guesthouse, including Vatican street sweepers and gardeners.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Eiffel Tower Bomb Threat

March 30, 2013

Tonight, police were standing guard near the Eiffel Tower in Paris after an anonymous phone call announced an attack on the monument

Tonight, police were standing guard near the Eiffel  Tower in Paris after an anonymous phone call announced an attack on the  monument

  • Police  received telephoned warning from a phone booth in a Paris  suburb
  • Evacuation  carried out shortly after 7.30pm while sniffer dogs  searched

The Canadian PressBy Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

PARIS – Police say the Eiffel Tower has been evacuated after an anonymous caller phoned in a bomb threat.

A Paris police official said Saturday that nearly 1,400 people were evacuated following a request from tower operators after the warning Saturday. Police then searched the monument with sniffer dogs for possible explosives, and set up a broad security perimeter.

French authorities have stepped up counterterrorism measures in recent weeks amid heightened concern about threats to France over its military campaign against al-Qaida-linked fighters in Mali which began more than two months ago.

The tower is occasionally evacuated because of such warnings — at least once last year and twice in 2011. The 324-meter (1,063-foot) tower is one of the world’s top tourist attractions, with millions of visitors a year.


By  Peter Allen

The Eiffel Tower was evacuated tonight  following a telephoned terrorist bomb warning.

Some 1,500 people, including tourists and  staff, were escorted out of France’s most famous landmark shortly after  7.30pm.

It follows threats from Al-Qaeda pledging  ‘revenge’ for the French intervention in the African state of Mali to fight  Islamic terrorists.

Police said an anonymous call had been  received from a phone booth in a Paris suburb warning that explosives had been  place around the tower.

The bomb warning said the blast would happen  at 9.30pm, said police. But by 10pm there had been no explosion.

The tower was still shut, with trained  sniffer dog teams searching for a possible bomb.

‘It may be that the tower does not reopen  tonight,’ said a police spokesman.

‘Searches are carrying on, but no members of  the public are being allowed anywhere near. There has been a full  evacuation.’



The tower is normally open until midnight  during the Easter weekend, and nearby restaurants including Le Jules Verne are  particularly busy on a Saturday night.

A police cordon was formed around the tower  and people were moved to the banks of the nearby River Seine.

There have been numerous bomb alerts at the  Eiffel Tower in recent years, and France is currently on the highest state  vigilance alert because of threats from  Al-Qaeda in the Islamic  Maghreb.

Sniffer dog teams searched the landmark for explosives after the Eiffel Tower was evacuated shortly after 7.30pm.
Sniffer dog teams searched the landmark for explosives  after the Eiffel Tower was evacuated shortly after 7.30pm

President Francois Hollande has placed  himself at the centre of the global war against terrorism, committing troops and  airpower to the on-going war in Mali.

He has also stepped up security in mainland  France, where there is a constant fear that Islamic extremists will strike.

The 1,050ft tall iron lattice tower was built  for the 1889 World’s Fair, and soon turned into a prestige symbol of modern  France.

It is the most visited paid-for monument in  the world, with some 7million people a year going up it.

For all these reasons, French security  officials frequently highlight the tower’s vulnerability to terrorist attack.

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La Tour Eiffel reopens to public after bomb alert lifted

U.N.’s Ban recommends African troops in Mali become peacekeepers

March 27, 2013

Children wave at a soldier from Niger on patrol in Gao, February 27, 2013. Niger has sent troops to Mali as part of the MISMA West African forces. REUTERS/Joe Penney.
Children wave at a soldier from Niger on patrol in Gao, February 27, 2013. Niger has sent troops to Mali as part of the MISMA West African forces. REUTERS/Joe Penney

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – An African force currently in Mali should be converted into a U.N. peacekeeping operation and a separate combat force should be created to confront Islamist threats, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended to the Security Council on Tuesday.

The U.N.-backed African force in Mali is due to take over from France when it starts withdrawing its 4,000 troops from the country in late April.

In a report to the 15-member Security Council, Ban recommended that the African force, known as AFISMA, become a U.N. peacekeeping force of some 11,200 troops and 1,440 police – once major combat ends.

To tackle Islamist extremists directly, Ban recommended that a so-called parallel force be created, which would work in close coordination with the U.N. mission.

Diplomats have said France is likely to provide troops for the smaller parallel force, which could be based in Mali or elsewhere in the West Africa region.

“Given the anticipated level and nature of the residual threat, there would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali alongside the U.N. mission in order to conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations,” Ban wrote.

The parallel force would not have a formal U.N. mandate, though it would be operating with the informal blessing of the Security Council. The report did not specify a time limit for the mission.

The Security Council was due to be briefed on Wednesday on Ban’s recommendations and diplomats hope a vote to approve the peacekeeping force can take place by mid-April.

France began a military offensive in January to drive out Islamist fighters, who had hijacked a revolt by Mali’s Tuareg rebels and seized two-thirds of the West African country. Paris said Mali’s vast desert North was in danger of becoming a springboard for extremist attacks on the region and the West.

In a nine-week operation French, Chadian and Malian troops have driven the Islamists into desert hideaways and mountains near the Algerian border. French President Francois Hollande said recently that Mali’s sovereignty had almost been restored.


  French President Francois Hollande

However, Islamist fighters attacked northern Mali’s largest town, Gao, over the weekend. It was the third major offensive there by the rebels since the town was retaken by a French-led military operation in late January.


The African force in Mali is made up of troops mainly from West Africa, including more than 2,000 Chadians. Other than Chad’s contingent, most African elements remain in the south of Mali away from the fighting.

The United Nations would only take on security responsibilities in Mali when “the necessary security and political conditions were deemed to be in place, following an assessment by the (U.N.) Secretariat.”

Mali’s government hopes to hold elections in July, but Security Council diplomats and U.N. officials said that goal may be overly ambitious.

Ban said that once the African soldiers become a U.N. peacekeeping force, the majority of the troops and police would operate in the north of the country, while there would be a “light presence” based in the country’s capital, Bamako.

“The force would operate under robust rules of engagement, with a mandate to use all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, which would include protection of civilians,” Ban said.

“This could include the conduct of operations on its own or in cooperation with the Malian … forces,” he said.

Ban also suggested that the Security Council consider establishing an independent group of experts to investigate transnational and organized crime in Mali with the possibility of imposing punitive, targeted sanctions.

Mali was once viewed as an example of a working democracy in Africa, but its north has been a center of cross-desert trafficking of drugs, stolen goods and Western hostages. Border towns are used as transit hubs for trans-Sahara cocaine and hashish smuggling.

Ban raised serious concerns in the report about human rights violations being committed in northern Mali, including summary executions, illegal arrests and forced disappearances, use of children by armed groups, rape, forced marriages and looting.

“Hundreds of children have been recruited by all of the armed groups active in the north, including AQUIM (al Qaeda’s north African wing), Ansar Dine, MUJAO and the MNLA,” he said.

“The capture and detention of children for intelligence purposes is also an emerging trend that needs to be addressed as a matter of the utmost urgency,” Ban wrote.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Brunnstrom)


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