America’s war on terror – is Africa the last frontier?

Pambazuka/allAfrica – by Michael Brenner

ANALYSIS

The US government’s heightened preoccupation with “terrorists” is out of proportion with the threat these groups actually pose to the United States. So what exactly is America’s military adventures in Africa about?

America’s “war on terror” now has brought us deep into tropical Africa and the Sahel. We learned last week that Washington is engaged in an expansive project to hunt down an array of local “terrorists”, could-be “terrorists” and mayhem makers in general. Nearly all of the numerous groups cited are no more than loose bands incapable of threatening the United States. Most have parochial interests whose focus and attention span fluctuates; they are driven by personal ambitions, tribal animosities, avarice and an appetite for raw power. To suppress them means establishing political order and the rule of law over vast territories, which have known little of either. Yet this is the implied burden the United States has assumed under plans drawn and executed by the three year old United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM). The Army is in charge with the CIA Operations Division as an auxiliary. The State Department is derogated to a supporting role that involves local public relations and serving up the diplomatic refreshments. A good portion of the work, and the money, is assigned to the mercenary companies of Iraq/Afghanistan fame.

The blanket justification is that al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQM) and al-Qaeda in the Horn of Africa (AQHA) are out there plotting against us. These outfits are declared an ideological and political cancer that could spread to other locations. AQM in fact is shorthanded for a ramshackle bunch of loosely connected groups in and around the Sahara who are of no danger to American interests. The latter is code for the fundamentalist al-Shabaab (Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin, to give it its full name) in Somalia, which has been fighting a civil war for a decade or more. It has sought to inflate its importance by rebranding itself as an al-Qaeda affiliate. Al-Shabaab officially signed a franchise contract with the al-Qaeda family of enterprises only in February of this year. In the local mix may be a few of the people allegedly involved in the U.S. embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania more than a decade ago. Also highlighted by Washington are the eleven American citizens who, it is claimed, have gone over to take part in the tribal wars – although it is unclear why Washington considers that a matter of great consequence.  Read more…

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