Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’
UPDATES with Mali president’s discussion of security issues in the Sahel at Washington think tank appearance.
Africa on the Potomac.
Leaders from nearly 50 African nations are heading home after a three-day business forum with U.S. corporate executives in Washington organized by President Barack Obama.
Obama did not meet privately with any of the African leaders but addressed the U.S.-Africa Business Forum and hosted a dinner for the African dignitaries on the South Lawn of the White House, the New York Times reported.
Obama also announced $12 billion in new funding for his administration’s Power Africa initiative, which aims to provide electricity to households across sub Saharan Africa. He also promoted $14 billion in new investments by American companies in Africa, including $5 billion from Coca-Cola, according to the Times.
The White House said those and other new commitments “amount to more than $33 billion, supporting economic growth across Africa and tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.”
The gathering was overshadowed in part by the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa and ongoing violence in a number of countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic. Some African leaders bristled at press questions about the Ebola epidemic, which has claimed 900 lives in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone skipped the business summit to deal with the health crisis in their countries.
One of the delegates to the business forum, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali will be speaking Thursday (August 7) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The topic is Security in the Sahel, where military coups, revolts, kidnappings of foreigners and terror attacks by Islamist militants have rocked the arid North Africa region south of the Sahara. Your 4GWAR Editor monitored his talk and the ensuing question and answer session. See next item.
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Before heading home from the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
Keita told an overflow crowd a CSIS that international assistance – especially military logistics — had helped bring his country back from the brink following a 2012 military coup and rebellion in Mali’s northern deserts by nomadic Tuaregs and radical Islamist militants. But the threat to Mali, the region and the world isn’t over, Keita warned. “We’re at a strategic nexus. This is a completely lawless region,” Keita, who spoke in French and sometimes English, said through an interpreter.
For decades, the Tuaregs have rebelled against the government in Bamako, claiming their health, education and economic needs were being ignored in the southern capital. Because of the harsh physical and economic landscape of the north. “rebels are in a situation of despair” and that makes them receptive to the message of outsiders armed with cash as well as guns and preaching jihad against westerners and Bamako, he said. “New jihadists may be trained in that region” and that poses a danger for world peace, said Keita, who was elected president in July 2013. Compounding the problem, a flow of heavy weapons out of neighboring Libya and Tuareg mercenaries who know how to use them after the fall of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi in 2011
He said Bamako wants to assist the north and has pooled “millions of dollars” for that purpose, but asked how could the government develop the region or build a school amid constant fighting. “We have no other choice but to move toward peace. We need peace to rebuild Mali,” Keita said.
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Ebola Toll Rises
In Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared a state of emergency as the country grapples with the deadly Ebola virus.
Speaking on national television she said some civil liberties might have to be suspended, the BBC reported. The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 930 people in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria — where a second death has been reported, according to the Voice of America.
World Health Organization (WHO) experts are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss a response to the outbreak. The two-day meeting will decide whether to declare a global health emergency, according to the BBC.
Meanwhile, President Obama said it is “premature” to send an experimental medicine for the treatment of Ebola. Obama said Wednesday (August 6) that he lacked enough information to green-light a promising medicine called ZMapp that was already used on two American aid workers who saw their conditions improve by varying degrees, Al Jazeera America reported. There is no known cure for the virus which has a fatality ate between 60 and 90 percent.
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Attack in Cameroon
Ten people were killed and a child was kidnapped in an attack by suspected Boko Haram militants on a remote part of northern Cameroon.
Police said the militants gunned down nine civilians and a soldier in the town of Zigague. State-run radio reported the kidnapped child is he daughter of a local chief, the Voice of America website reported.
Boko Haram extremists have killed thousands of people in its five-year campaign to turn northern Nigeria into a strict Islamic state. Their violence often spills over into neighboring countries like Cameroon. The latest attack follows the deployment of more than 1,000 soldiers along Cameroon’s long and porous border with Nigeria last month.
Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya last week dismissed two senior army officers leading the battle against Islamist militants just two days after militants abducted the deputy prime minister’s wife and her maid from the northern town of Kologata, according to the BBC. The raiders also kidnapped a local religious leader who is also the town’s mayor
UPDATES with additional Kirby comment about shooter from press conference transcript and background on Greene from Reuters report
A man wearing an Afghan Army uniform opened up with a machine gun during a visit by coalition military brass Tuesday (August 5) in Kabul, killing a U.S. Army major general and wounding at least 14 others in the room including a German brigadier general and three Afghan officers.
The slain two-star general, the highest ranking Western military officer killed in Afghanistan, was identified as Major General Harold Greene, the coalition mission’s deputy commander for training Afghan troops. As with many of these so called green-on-blue attacks it is not immediately clear whether the attacker was an actual member of the Afghan National Army or an infiltrator from the Taliban or al Qaeda who acquired an Afghan uniform.
It was the 55-year-old Greene’s first combat deployment to Afghanistan after a lengthy Army career as an engineer and logistics expert, according to the Los Angeles Times, Greene, assigned to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the coalition military command in Afghanistan, is believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer killed overseas since the Vietnam War, according to Reuters.
At a news briefing, Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the coalition troops were on a routine site visit to the Marshal Fahim National Defense University, the academy for Afghan commissioned and non-commissioned officers. Kirby said there were a number of casualties “perhaps up to 15″ including some Americans. Many were seriously wounded. “The assailant was killed,” he said.
Kirby stressed that an investigation was just getting underway and not all the facts are in yet. “We believe this individual was a member of the Afghan national security forces,” the admiral said, adding: “We need to let the investigation proceed to figure out exactly who this was before we can leap to any conclusions about the vetting process.”
According to The Long War Journal, Tuesday’s attack is the third reported green-on-blue attack in Afghanistan this year — and the sixth to have taken place in the Afghan capital since January 2007. The website has kept extensive and updated statistics and analysis of insider attacks since a 2012 Special Report.
A soldier from El Salvador tries to get out of the spider web obstacle during the Fuerzas Comando obstacle course July 29 at Fort Tolemaida, Colombia. The course was the final event of the competition. Fuerzas Comando 2014, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special operations skills competition and fellowship program for militaries in the Western Hemisphere.
To se more photos from this commando competition, click here.
To read an article about it in Spanish (En Espanol) click here:
National Guard, Immigration Bill.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has ordered up to 1,000 National Guardsmen to the border with Mexico to help deal with the crisis of thousands of children crossing over from Mexico.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have crossed illegally since October, reports USA Today, noting the influx of children has overwhelmed federal detention centers and Border Patrol offices.
The state acion is estimated to cost Texas taxpayers $12 million a month once it gets underway. No starting date has been set yet. Most of the children are reportedly fleeing drug trafficking and gang violence in their home countries.
Meanwhile, at immigration bill meant to deal with the illegal child immigrant issue is on life suport on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner called off a vote on a border assistance bill until Friday (August 1). The day Congress was supposed to take off for a month-long recess, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. And a vote on the Senate version of the bill was blocked until after August.
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Gaza Fallout in Latin America
The fighting in Gaza beween the Israel Defense Force and Hamas may be a world away, but it is starting to have diplomatic repercussions in Latin America.
This week El Salvador became the fifth Latin American country to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv and not because of safety and security fears. San Salvador recaled its envoy to protest the IDF’s continued operations in Gaza and the disastrous effect it is having on civilians.
Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru have previously called their ambassadors, according to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. Israel’s Foreign Ministry expressed deep disappointment with what it called with their “hasty decision” to call diplomats hom for consultation. Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the ministry, told Haaretz that such actions “constitutes encouragement for Hamas, a group recognized as a terrorist organization by many countries around the world.”
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Argentina’s rocky economy may be in for another shock as the country is on the verge of defaulting on billions of dollars of government bonds. If Buenos Aires doesn’t pay up, it will be country’s second default in 13 years.
Argentina has been battling a group of hedge funds since it defaulted on its bond obligations in 2001. Argentina offered new bonds worth much less than the orginal ones but has been its obligations on them. A small group of bondholders want to be paid in full and the Argentine government has resisted. But a judge in New York has ruled that banks using Argentina’s money to pay the holders of the lesser bonds would be in violation of a previous court order.
The dispute, which weighs heavilly on the Argentine economy, has most likely “pushed up borrowing costs for Argentine companies and depleted economic confidence in a country that is already facing high inflation and sagging growth,” the New York Times explains.
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Venezuelan Official Faces Drug Charges
The former head of Venezuela’s military intelligence is accused of corruption and drug dealing by the United States. Hugo Carvajal was arrested on request
of the U.S. State Department when he got off a plane in Aruba last week.
But officials in the Caribbean Island nation had to let him go — because he had diplomatic immunity — and sent him back to Venezuela even though the U.S. wanted to extradite him. Indictments unsealed after his arrest accused him of being on the payroll of drug traffickers and coordinating massive cocaine shipments, the New York Times reported.
The indictments “open a window onto accusations of ties between Venezuelan military and law enforcement officers and Colombian drug traffickers, a connection that officials in Washington have long warned about and that has been roundly dismissed by authorities” in Venezuela, according to the Times.
Carvajal was traveling on a diplomatic passport as Venezuela’s new consul in Aruba. He was a long-time confidant of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.
Libya appears to be sliding into anarchy as a raging fire, touched off by a missile strike, has closed the main airport and 61 people have been reported killed in just the last 24 hours, according to the Voice of America. VoA noted the death toll stands at 150 in two weeks of clashes across the North African country.
Two rival brigades of former rebels fighting for control of Tripoli International Airport have been pounding each other’s positions with rockets, artillery fire and cannons for two week — turning the south side of Libya’s capital into a battlefield, Reuters reported. On Sunday (July 27) a rocket struck and ignited a huge jet fuel storage tank — forcing closure of the airport as several foreign embassies have been evacuating their diplomatic personnel and hundreds of foreign nationals are trying to flee the country on Africa’s Mediterranean coast. The airport fire raged out of control Monday (July 28) and Libya’s interim government sought international assistance.
The violence, which has been escalating and spreading since Libyan strongman Muammar Qadaffi was deposed and killed three years ago, has prompted the U.S. Embassy to move the diplomatic staff out of Tripoli to Tunisia. The United Nations and Turkey have moved their diplomats out as well. According to the Pentagon, all embassy personnel were relocated, including the Marine security guards, by ground vehicle on Saturday (July 26) without incident. During the exodus F-16 fighter jets and MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft (carrying an Airborne Response Force) and unspecified intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets provided security.
Nearly 100 people have been killed by ongoing clashes at the airport since early July and scores more have been killed recently in Benghazi — where government forces clashed with Islamic militants — and in Tripoli, where rival militias are fighting.
At least eight foreign governments (Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey and the United States) are urging their citizens to leave Libya immediately. Libya’s neighbors and Western security analysts worry that the chaos will spread beyond Libya’s borders — and create a a safe haven for terrorists close to Europe. Already, many of the heavy weapons — like man-portable rocket launchers and truck mounted machine guns — have disappeared from Qadaffi’s armories and spread across North Africa.
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The wife of Deputy Prime Minister Amadou Ali was abducted in the northern Cameroonian town of Kolofata. A local religious leader, who was the town’s mayor, was also abducted in a separate attack. At least three people were killed in the raids.
Boko Haram has been increasing cross-border incursions into Cameroon in recent weeks and the West African country has deployed troops to the region bordering Nigeria. Officials said the attack on the vice prime minister’s house was the third in Cameroon since Friday (July 25). At least four soldiers were killed in previous attacks. About 22 suspected Boko Haram militants, in custody since March, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10-to-20 years in Maroua, Cameroon on Friday (July 25). It’s not known if the attacks are related to that. Militants have kidnapped foreign nationals in northern Cameroon before, including a French family and Chinese workers.
Meanwhile, at least five people were killed by a bomb in northern Nigeria and locals suspect Boko Haram is responsible. Nigerian police say the five victims were killed when a bomb was thrown at worshippers as they were leaving a church in Nigeria’s main northern city of Kano on Sunday (July 27, the BBC reported. A young female suicide bomber also wounded five police officers as she rushed towards them and blew herself up in a separate incident, they added
Boko Haram has been waging a five year terror war against the Nigerian government, Western influence and Christians in largely Muslim northeast Nigeria. The group’s name, in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria, has been translated to mean either “Western education is forbidden” or “Western education is false or fraudulent.” The concept stems from British attempts during the colonial era to force a unified education curriculum for Nigerian children that by-passed traditional Muslim schools in the rural north. Boko Haram wants to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria under strict sharia law.
Last week, Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger agreed to form a 2,800-strong regional force to tackle Boko Haram. Efforts to step up regional co-operation gathered momentum after Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from a boarding school in north-eastern Nigeria. The Nigeria government of President Goodluck Jonathan — who faces re-election this year — of doing too little, too late to find and rescue the girls.
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Ebola Threat Spreads
As the death toll from the Ebola epidemic continues to rise, the New York Times reports that panicked villagers in Guinea are blocking and even attacking international aid workers, fearing that it is the doctors who spread the deadly virus.
Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs. Log barriers across narrow dirt roads block medical teams from reaching villages where the virus is suspected. Sick and dead villagers, cut off from help, are infecting others, according to a piece written by the Times’ Adam Nossiter.
Liberia, one of the affected countries, has closed most of its border crossings and communities hit by the epidemic face quarantine in an effort to halt the outbreak, deemed the deadliest by the United Nations. Screening centers are also being set up at the few major entry points that will remain open, such as the main airport, according to the BBC.
Meanwhile, Nigeria largest’s airline, Arik Air, has suspended all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone after a man with Ebola flew to Nigeria last week and later died.
Two US aid workers are also being treated for Ebola in Liberia, including Dr Kent Brantly, who was the medical director at one of the country’s two treatment centres run by the group, Samaritan’s Purse. The other American, Nancy Writebol, works for the Serving in Mission (SIM) as part of the same team, BBC said.
On Saturday (July 26), one of Liberia’s most prominent health officials treating Ebola patients at the country’s largest hospital, Dr. Samuel Brisbane, died after contracting the disease, according to The Independent. A Ugandan doctor working in Liberia also died earlier this month, while last week the virus infected Sheikh Umar Khan, Sierra Leone’s chief Ebola doctor
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Air Algerie Crash
French officials are citing poor weather as the most likely cause of the crash of an Air Algerie flight over Mali in northwest Africa with 118 people on board.
Investigators at the scene of the crash in northern Mali concluded the airliner broke apart when it hit the ground, officials said, suggesting it was unlikely to have been the victim of an attack. But French authorities are not ruling out other causes, including terrorism, without a full investigation, the Associated Press reported.
The MD-83 twin engine jet liner — bound for Algiers, Algeria — disappeared less than an hour after takeoff from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Following on the heels of the shootdown of a Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine and the mysterious disappearance of another Malaysian jet bound for Beijing earlier this year the Algerian plane’s disappearance sparked concerns about a hijacking or a surface-to-air missile attack. Yhe area where the plane crashed was a conflict zone a year ago when nomadic Touregs and Islamic extremists launched a rebellion against Mali’s government and seizied half the country. French, Malina and Dutch troops from the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali secured the crash site. The plane’s black boxes have been recovered and will be studied for clues to what caused the plane to crash.
Belize River Patrol
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Galla trains with the Belize Special Boat Unit during Southern Partnership Station 2014 on the Moho River, Belize, July 8, 2014.
Southern Partnership is a U.S. Navy deployment, sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, focusing on exchanging expertise with partner nation militaries and security forces.
Galla is a gunner’s mate assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron 2.
To see more photos of this riverine training exercise, click here.
Counter Terrorism Strategy.
The Pentagon’s top intelligence adviser says terrorists in Syria, Yemen and the wild region along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border still pose the greatest threat to U.S. security.
While the number of groups “aspiring to the jihadi philosophy has expanded” and the number of attacks have grown they are mostly focused on internal or neighboring enemies in the Middle East and North Africa, says Michael Vickers. But “the most dangerous threats to the American homeland emanate from Syria, from Yemen and still from the tribal areas of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region,” Vickers, said during a panel discussion on counterterrorism Thursday (July 24) at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
Vickers said the extremist movement that has swept out of war-torn Syria and seized a large slice of Iraq under the name Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is “in a competition for leadership of the global jihad with al Qaeda … and they’re a threat not to be discounted as well.”
Before he became the principal intelligence adviser to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his successor, Chuck Hagel, Vickers served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity & Interdependent Capabilities, where he oversaw strategic forces, conventional forces and special operations forces – as well as advising the secretary of defense on counter terrorism and irregular warfare.
From 1973 to 1986, Vickers served as an Army Special Forces non-commissioned officer, Green Beret officer and CIA operations officer. During the 1980s he was the principal strategist for the covert paramilitary operation that drove the Soviet army out of Afghanistan (“Charlie Wilson’s War”).
Another security concern for Vickers: the number of foreign fighters streaming in and out of Syria who have passports from Western nations. He said they number in the thousands “so it’s a serious problem.” He noted that the number of foreign fighters streaming into Syria-Iraq is much greater than the flow of foreign fighters during the height of the Iraq War.
“I think Syria is a disaster from a threat perspective” because there are thousands of foreign fighters who a very hard to track, said another panelist, Juan Zarate, a former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism during the George W. Bush administration. He said Syria was “animating the movement” and “drawing adherents” from around the world. “Any time you give terrorist groups — those with global ambitions and potential reach — the breathing space to operate, to innovate, to strategize, to make connections, that’s a prescription for disaster. And I think that’s a real problem with Syria as it festers.”
Vickers also praised the armed Predator drone as the single most important asset for wearing down al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Yemen.