When Obama took office four years ago, North Africa wasn’t keeping CIA analysts up at night. There were known trouble spots in the region, but no one thought that it was likely to turn into the next Afghanistan. Then along came the Arab Spring.
Egypt, the great regional power, has since fallen into the hands of the Islamists and has become part of the pipeline for Islamist fighters moving weapons from Libya into Gaza and Syria. Islamists have won elections in Tunisia and Morocco. With the Muslim Brotherhood in ascendance in Libya, Algeria is the only large North African country to have beaten back the Islamists. Now it’s also under attack.
Islamist ambitions had led to a brutal civil war in Algeria that the country is still recovering from. With Libya and Egypt to the West and Mali to the south, it is now more vulnerable than ever. And if Algeria sinks into another civil war, then North Africa really will be reduced to the level of another Afghanistan. And that may be exactly what the Gulf oil tyrants behind the Arab Spring really want.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is already speaking of a North African conflict that could last for decades. It is a more sober assessment than the earlier claim by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that the fighting in Mali would be over in a matter of weeks.
By the time French President François Hollande got around to naming a timeline, it was the familiar one to most people from Afghanistan and Iraq. “We have one goal. To ensure that when we leave, when we end our intervention, Mali is safe, has legitimate authorities, an electoral process and there are no more terrorists threatening its territory.” It was the Afghanistan timeline all over again.
When Mitt Romney brought up Mali in the presidential debate, the reference was met with sneers from the left and bewilderment from the media. “Despite Romney Claims, Mali is No Afghanistan, Expert Says,” is how US News and World Report headlined the rebuttal. Three months later, it’s become increasingly clear that not only is Mali turning into Afghanistan, but North Africa is sliding down the same muddy slope.
It took French military intervention to keep a local Al Qaeda franchise from threatening Mali’s capital. And that was followed by a hostage crisis in Algeria. The common denominator for the violence in both Mali and Algeria is Libya.
The Algerian attackers reportedly came out of terrorist camps in Southern Libya. While the Libyan government claims that there are no terrorist camps in Southern Libya, it has almost no authority or power outside Tripoli, and it is heavily infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.
While Gaddafi could promise the United States that he would end the sponsorship of terrorists and had the authority to be held to it, the new Libyan government is a fragile arrangement of factions that can offer nothing and will offer nothing. It has already disavowed French intervention in Mali. And it is likely that elements in the Libyan government were aware of the impending attack in Algeria, just as they were reportedly aware of the attack on the Benghazi mission.
The new Libyan government is the Karzai government all over again; a collection of shifting factions that offers no support to the West, instead undermining it at every turn.
The only thing that Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy had learned from the wars fought in Afghanistan and Iraq was to avoid the public turning on them by minimizing their casualty footprint. By avoiding troops on the ground, the trio thought that they had dodged all the problems that Bush and Blair had with Iraq. It never occurred to them that the reason Bush and Blair opted for occupation and reconstruction was to try and tamp down the resulting chaos. Despite their best efforts, their own people are coming back in body bags from Libya and Mali. And the killing has only begun.
The new war in Mali began when Tuareg nationalists fighting in Libya teamed up with Islamists to refight an old civil war in Mali. The new civil war would have ended like the old one did if not for the ridiculous amount of weapons that Qatar and France had shipped to the Libyan Jihadists which made it possible for them to rampage across Mali.
The good news in Mali is that the Jihadists are not particularly popular with the native population. But then neither were the Taliban. The Judo trick of occupation is that once there are enough foreign troops within reach; the Jihadists can make way for local fighters looking to make some money or expand their influence with a few attacks here and there. And this isn’t a non-profit enterprise.
Building Islamist Emirates in North Africa is about more than just being able to chop off the hands of thieves or flog women for not wearing the Burqa. It’s about the flow of money and drugs from the east to the west and all parts in between. Before Al Qaeda put in its bid for Mali, the country’s lawless reaches had already become a mecca for Latin American drug cartels moving their product to Europe.
The intersection between drugs and Jihad in Afghanistan and Mali are no coincidence. There are two substances that fund Islamic terrorism: oil and drugs. The alliance between Islam and the Left is built on the interlinked drug networks of Marxist regimes and guerrilla groups in Latin America and their Islamist counterparts in Asia and the Middle East.
Bosnia gave the Islamists access to the lucrative European markets for human trafficking and Afghanistan cut the Islamist groups in on a piece of the Golden Triangle. North Africa gives them something even better, the interface between Europe and Africa with a Latin American connection. Fracking may be on the verge of turning the oil market upside down, but drugs aren’t going anywhere and the Islamists are betting on drugs to keep them going when the oil money trickles away.
North Africa’s close connections to Europe make it the ideal stepping stone for the conquest of Europe that the Islamists look forward to. With the carnage growing in North Africa, it remains to be seen whether Obama, Cameron and Hollande will be able to succeed in North Africa where they failed in Afghanistan.
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