Posts filed under ‘Washington’
Before heading home from the U.S.-Africa Business Forum that ended Wednesday (August 6), President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
Keita told an overflow crowd at CSIS Thursday (August 7) that international intervention – 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 said, according to simultaneous translation of his remarks given in French.
Compounding the problem in the north — an area bigger than Texas — 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.
For more on Keita’s talk at CSIS, see an UPDATE to yesterday’s AROUND AFRICA blog posting.
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
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.
Secretary of State John Kerry announced Papp’s appointment Wednesday (July 16). Admiral Papp retired as commandant in May after 39 years in the Coast Guard. Among his accomplishments was restoring the heavy ice breaker Polar Star to service. “I could not be happier that he agreed to postpone his well-deserved retirement and join our effort in a cause about which he is both passionate and wise,” Kerry said in a statement.
The United States is one of eight nations with territory in the Arctic that make up the Arctic Council, which deals with issues such as climate change, the environment, shipping, oil and gas and indigenous peoples. The Arctic is growing hotter faster than any part of the globe. Global warming has melted sea ice to levels that have given rise to what experts describe as a kind of gold rush scramble to the Arctic, according to the Associated Press.
Next year the U.S. will take over the revolving chairmanship of the council. “The United States is an Arctic nation and Arctic policy has never been more important,” Kerry said. U.S. officials estimate the Arctic holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits.
Former Alaskan Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer was also named special adviser of Arctic Science and Policy. She is currently chair of the President’s U.S. Arctic Research Commission.
Bad News from Europe
Despite naval victories on Lake Erie and in head-to-head battles at sea, the war is not going well for the United States. Numerous attempts to invade Canada across the Niagara and St. Lawrence frontiers in New York and Vermont have failed – usually because of poor communication and inept leadership.
The frigate USS Essex has been taken by the British off the coast of South America. Another, the USS United States, is bottled up by the British Navy in Connecticut’s Thames River along with two other vessels – the Macedonian and the Hornet. Yet another frigate, the USS Constellation, is trapped at Norfolk, Virginia by the widening British naval blockade of U.S. ports.
Though disappointed by the setbacks, President James Madison is still hopeful the British will come to the negotiating table to rid themselves of a military distraction while still battling Napoleon Bonaparte in Europe.
But the emperor’s ambitions have met with defeat and setbacks following his ruinous invasion of Russia in 1812-1813. A coalition of Austria, Britain, Prussia, Russia, Sweden and several smaller German states has pushed Napoleon’s armies out of Germany and Spain. On March 31, Paris falls to the allies. French lawmakers and a growing number of generals refuse withdraw their support for Napoleon and within days the emperor is forced to abdicate. On April 11, 1814 the Treaty of Fontainebleau is signed by representatives of France, Austria, Russia and Prussia – ending Bonaparte’s reign as Emperor of the French.
On the same day in London, The Times notes that reinforcements for British troops in North America “all sailed last week,” according to George C. Daughan, in his history “1812 The Navy’s War.” The troops, many of them veterans of Wellington’s campaign against the French in Spain, are headed to Bermuda and then to Quebec. Plans are being drawn up to attack the U.S. capital, Washington, and New Orleans. The number of British regulars opposing the Americans will swell to about 35,000 troops by the end of 1814.
By the Numbers UPDATE
UPDATES with new spending numbers and McRaven testimony
The Defense Department budget request for fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015) seeks $7.7 billion for U.S. Special Operations Command, including $1.52 billion for procuring weapons, equipment and supplies.
That procurement figure includes $112.2 million for rotary wing upgrades and sustainment, $25.6 million for modifications to CV-22 tiltrotor aircraft, $25.5 million for underwater systems, $144.3 million for ordnance, $81 million for communications equipment and electronics, $63 million for tactical ground vehicles and $38 million for “global video surveillance activities.”
The total defense budget request – capped at $496 billion by a congressional budget deal in December – is actually $495.6 billion. But the Pentagon has yet to specify what it will seek for what is known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO, for short) to pay for the war in Afghanistan and unforseen costs like disaster relief missions after earthquakes and typhoons.
But the Obama administration is seeking an additional $26.4 billion in defense funding from Congress through what it terms the Opportunity, Growth and Security initiative (OGS). The White House claims there will be mandatory spending cuts and tax loophole closings to offset the additional spending. The administration’s budget documents maintain OGS will be “fully paid-for,” but many critics are skeptical.
With that extra money, the Pentagon has laid out what it would be used for, including: $300 million for an increase at SOCOM in training, readiness and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); $100 million for SOCOM recapitalizing command, control, communications, computers and intelligence activities.
Pentagon officials have said repeatedly that they were willing to cut other parts of the military – including weapons programs and the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps – to protect “key capability areas” like special operations and counter terrorism from the budget ax.
Unlike the rest of the military, Special Operations Command won’t be seeing a reduction in its current force of approximately 66,000 in fiscal 2015. In fact, the Pentagon is seeking to add 3,700 personnel. That’s still below the 72,000 end strength planned just a few years ago, but Admiral William McRaven, the SOCOM commander, told the emerging threats panel of the Senate Armed Services Committee this week (March 11) the lower number will mean “we’ll have to prioritize our efforts globally.”
Noting that SOCOM has about 7,000 people deployed in 84 countries now, McRaven said the challenge would be “making sure we can continue to meet priority demands globally,” which he said he could do with 69,700 instead of 72,000.
2015 Defense Budget
President Obama’s budget request for the 2015 Fiscal Year starting in October came out Tuesday (March 4) and your 4GWAR editor was very busy at the Pentagon yesterday picking up information and writing — for other people.
To see what we wrote about for the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (the droids, drones and ‘bots people) click here:
Here at 4GWAR, we’ll be addressing the budget and what it means for counter terrorism efforts at the Defense Department and other U.S. agencies (including the Department of Homeland Security) on Monday.