Sunday, January 27, 2013

Move over Taliban bogeymen, it's the turn of the Sahel's 'Afrighanistan'

FAR FROM STATE terrorism in the South Pacific, but the Sahel, a new Global war on Terror battleground now that the "Coalition of the Willing" has virtually lost the plot in Aghanistan, deserves reflection. Pontecorvo's 1966 The Battle of Algiers remains the classic counter-terrorism documentary and provides pointers to the contemporary Western mindset, such as displayed in Zero Dark Thirty about the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Another excerpt from a "Roving Eye" column by Brazilian journalist and author Pepe Escobar in the Asian Times provides some insights. Café Pacific finds it extraordinary that Escobar's columns don't get a run anywhere in the Australian, NZ or Pacific media.

Zero Dark Mali [Excerpt]

By Pepe Escobar

Goooooooood morning, Vietnam! No, sorry, that was another quagmire.

The soundtrack then was Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Motown and Stax. Now it's Goooooooooood morning, Mali! Yet the soundtrack can't be something as transcendental as Rokia Traore's Dounia, or as delightfully psychedelic as Amadou and Mariam's Dimanche a Bamako. It's way more menacing. Something like - he's inescapable - Hendrix in Machine Gun.

Timing - as in the expansion of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) - is everything. Carefully choreographed Libyan blowback in the Sahel could not be a better replacement for NATO raising a monster white flag in Afghanistan. There's no Goooooood morning, Kabul! anymore; there's just the sorry countdown to see the last NATO helicopter leaving Bagram - Saigon 1975-style.

The Economist - the voice of the City of London - is even promoting "Afrighanistan". There are nuances, of course. NATO had its ass kicked in Afghanistan by all sorts of Pashtun factions bundled up as "Taliban". But NATO "won" in Libya.

With a certainly foreseen spin-off; the Islamist brigade which attacked the In Amenas gas field complex in the Algerian desert was using NATO-facilitated Kalashnikov AK-104s, F5 rockets, 60 mm gun-mortars and, in a nifty NATOGCC fashion touch, the "chocolate chip" camouflage Qatar handed out to the NATO rebels in Libya (yellow flak jackets with brown patches). What next, the cover of Uomo Vogue?

I'm your bogeyman, turn me on
Inevitably, that most convenient of bogeymen - al-Qaeda - is once again back in fashion, the whole nebula of Salafi-jihadi groups and sub-groups promoted by the French-Anglo-American triad as the root of all evil in Northern Africa (but not in Libya, where they were exalted as "freedom fighters").

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, one of the founding members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is for all practical purposes an easily digestible Osama bin Laden remix. Belmokhtar was a classic "Arab Afghan" - part of that multinational legion trained by the ISI/CIA axis to fight the Soviets in 1980s Afghanistan. When he was back in Algeria in 1993 he joined the local jihad, as part of the Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).

AQIM since 2007 was very close to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), whose fighters were also trained in Afghanistan by ISI/CIA. And all the time LIFG was always conveniently manipulated by the CIA and MI6 against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

After the targeted assassination of Gaddafi, AQIM was duly weaponised by LIFG, and even presented with scores of jihadis. Thus, unsurprisingly, there were plenty of LIFG fighters involved in the In Amenas raid. On top of it AQIM is also very close to the al-Nusra Front in Syria, which Washington branded as a terrorist organisation (but not the eternally bickering "coalition" which wants to topple Bashar al-Assad).

The key point is that Qatar is financing all these people - AQIM, the splinter MUJAO, Belmokhtar's brigades and the Salafist Ansar Ed-Dine, a bunch of Wahhabi takfiris who have absolutely nothing to do with tolerant Mali culture.

What does stand out is the absolutely perfect pretext for NATO to get down to the groove in Northern Africa after its humiliating Afghan defeat. But wait; AFRICOM is already there! Still, Algeria - a secular Arab republic who historically has been pro-Cuban and pro-Soviet Union - better beware, and better get its US$50 billion in reserves out of Western banks as soon as possible.

Sooner or later, the AFRICOM/NATO hydra is coming to get you.

Islamo-gangsterism, anyone?
For now we have the spectacle of Paris involved in the "cleansing" of Mali from not only weaponised Islamists - extraneous to Mali culture - but also indigenous, weaponised Tuaregs with legitimate grievances.

The master plan is to support an absolutely corrupt regime in Bamako, led by a military coup plotter, the Fort Benning-trained Captain Amadou Sanogo.

Pepe Escobar is author of Obama Does Globalistan and other books on the globalised world.
© Pepe Escobar/Asian Times 2013
Mali coup leader Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo (second from right)
with his bodyguards at the Kati military camp outside Bamako.
Photo: Lede

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