Posts Tagged ‘Mali’

Christopher Lee

January 20, 2013


Mali is the new Afghanistan and the US drones are coming – they say you can’t duck

21 January 2013

Following what went down in Algeria and how the Intelligence stuff says the terrorists involved were Mali based, Mali is now, almost officially in Washington, the new Afghanistan.


During the past 72 hours, US drone schedules are now including Sahara and Sub-Sahara Target Lists. The US is going after Islamists in that region and telling the Maghreb and neighborhood Islamists to just look around that part of the world.


The few remains of other al Qaeda-linked Islamists including leaders such Anwar al-Awlaki and his son, Abdulrahman in Yemen, have been smeared across the burned wrecks of too many supposedly safe houses and vehicles for them not to get the message: the US is coming after them.  Nobody the US wants today runs for long.


As the new breed of drone operators chalk on the anti-al Qaeda and Taliban briefing sheets: God May Be Great – Predators Spitting Hellfire missiles are Greater.


Equally this is not where President Obama wanted to be, especially during inaugural week. It certainly turns the iconic Don’t Ask What America CanDo For You into Just Think What America Can Do To You.  Obama’s next four years won’t all be economy fixing. But with John Brennan as his drone hitman set to head the CIA, Obma will be signing off more drone attacks than health care Bills.

Although drone technology has been around since World War II, the priority technology programmes developed especially by the US and Israel – and often in collaboration – turned what was second line weaponry into the most talked about system. The big kick in the program came in the 1990s when the Department of Defense (DoD) signed a three way contract with Israel’s Maziat and America’s AAI Corporation of Maryland to produce a new generation of unmanned airborne vehicles.

One of the systems that came out of that deal was the still-in-use AAI Pioneer. The came General Atomics MQ-1, known as Predator and living up to its name. Putting  an air-to-ground Hellfire missile aboard changed the effectiveness of this form of theatre attack warfare.

Take all this on board because America is not stopping there.  There is almost no weapon system apart from heavy cruise that cannot be carried by the latest systems and there is hardly any target that can hide once data transfer from human to satellite information is patched in.Most importantly, Obama’s people are saying here that there is no sovereignty issue that will stop them attacking a suspect target.  That’s important because until recently, say the past five to seven years, the idea of attacking a target in another country unless you were at war in that place, was very delicate diplomacy and didn’t pick up too much support even from allies.

All that’s changed in Afghanistan when Taliban targets were droned in Pakistan. A ball park one thousand people have been killed by US drones – Predator, Reaper, Global Hawk – in Pakistan during the past five or six years. A few, maybe 20 were al Qaeda/Taliban leaders. But not all the victims of the drones were on any wanted lists.  The best estimate suggests that innocent people – including children – were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So when the US says they’re going for the al Qaeda leadership it means that bystanding is unwise. And back in Main Street USA, you won’t see too many Human Rights Watch activists getting too many petitions going to stop the drone. Americans had heard of Osama Bin Laden, but that’s about it.


Names abroad mean nothing and what happens to them and those caught in the target radius is of little interest. If the President says he’s a Bad Guy, then the answer is blow the black Stetson to pieces. In a society that has more privately held weapons than voters, America won’t blink on this one especially as ground troop commitments are zero.  The bonus is the evidence of the past 72 hours that there are many Bad Guys on the run.


And the President knows that mostly, American allies have the same view. No one, not even the French, wants to sign up for the new Afghanistan.  Maybe they say, just maybe Predator will do the truly dirty work for them.


Could be they’re right, but when the place is clean it has to be assumed that they new Bad Guys will be back.  Then the reality is that boots have to be on the ground – and they won’t all be African.

Christopher Lee

January 18, 2013


Did UK Intelligence Fail To Anticipate Algeria Hit? If Not, Why Did No one Tell Hague?

18th January 2013
Henry Forth writes from London: Has anyone seen William Hague? Who? Nice man. Average height.  Not much hair, in fact less hair than not much. Broad northern vowels. Okay?  You mean…Yup. William Hague described on the Cabinet List as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.  OMG!  That William Hague!

I only ask because as I sat in the House of Commons gallery today watching the Prime Minister’s first class performance on his hostage in Algeria statement I kept thinking why is the Chancellor, George Osborne sitting on his left? Deputy Prime Minister Clegg on his right.  Good.  Osborne on the other side?  Something…then I got it!  The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, should have been there. He wasn’t.  Where then?

Well the hapless but nicest man in the whole foreign policy world, Mr Hague was sort of in Australia.  But the story, this week’s crisis is Algeria and Mali.  Surely, Algeria-Mali is not very near Australia.  Contrary to images, quite a lot’s near Australia, but the Maghreb is not one of them.

This, of course, is not a fair observation by implication as the always surprisingly late Cambridge cynic Edward Sands would say (usually when wondering why more people did not think Macmillan a Great Man). Mr Hague was in Australia with the other missing minister Defence Secretary Philip Hammond for the undoubtedly important annual Australia-United Kingdom ministerial summit where a new UK-Australia defence pact was signed. Hague left early for London.  Crisis you know. Excellent stuff.

Also excellent stuff was the performance of Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt on holding the fort – the one in Whitehall here, not the one in Algeria.  The big guy on the block was, of course, Cameron himself .  Cameron showed himself in charge, cancelled “an important” speech on Europe, chaired the security crisis committee in the Cabinet Office and told MPs a lot of what he knows. Strike Success for PM – so much so the questions sounded more like birthday greetings than stuff like: why has there been an Intelligence failure? Really? Really, Yes.

With all the Elint (electronic intelligence) and oil industry Intelligence plus the SIS (MI6) men on the ground eye spotting, did nothing tell the emergency committee and certainly not the PM’s office that a hostage hit from Mukhtar Belmokhtar”s well trained and well armed Islamists was a likely runner?

If it were not an Intelligence failure, what were Hague especially and, to a lesser extent at this stage Hammond,  doing at a meeting that could easily have been postponed?

The gold pen affair on closer co-operation and, cyber security, personnel exchange and equipment could have been initialed and then signed later.  Everyone, including the sharp minded Australian defence minister Stephen Smith, would have seen the need  for Hague and his team to be back in Whitehall minding the store.

But if Cameron played a blinder, then does it matter that Hague and we suppose, Hammond, were absent from the front bench?  Too right it does.  British lives going down, other embassies and facilities now on the target list by Islamists add up to an overture for the UK to get deeply involved, whatever the Prime Minister may purr or FCO statements suggest.

At that point, when the PM gets up, his two Cabinet Ministers on this particular Crisis Block, should be side-by-side him. Look tough. Look confident.  Ease anxieties. (Another of Sands’s asides).

People on the ground in both Mali and Algeria having been saying since the French went in that Belmokhtar who broke from the mainstream Islamists in December needed a biggy to prove he was the one who did spectaculars.  

Everyone in Mali and Algiers – including Algerian PM Abdelmalek Sellal – new the chances of that spectacular were probable rather than possible, as the Intelligence jargon still has it.  It would seem that everyone had a good idea but Hague, Hammond, MI6 and therefore Number 10.

It was not on the cards, so Hapless Hague and Credible Hammond were absent with leave so to be.

That does not tell us that we should be confident about the system that looks after our security on the wider scale.  

There’s another part to this: Hague gets all the MI6 briefing.  He gets the stuff from the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (slightly beyond this brief, but with a contribution) and as the man responsible for British embassies, he has a daily security update on each one.

Hague either failed to ask the right questions of all these Intelligence pointy heads, or did not know what to ask, or they did not tell him what was possible.

Or worse still, somebody did say the gas installation thing was very likely, but Whitehall ignored the warning.  No? The why were Hague and Hammond not on parade?