Is U.S. Hyping The Terror Threat In Africa?

Reuters | Mark Trevelyan | November 16 2006

 

BAMAKO (Reuters) – The question made the Malian army officer laugh out loud.

After four years of counter-terrorism training from the U.S. military to tackle what Washington sees as a militant Islamist threat, did this West African nation feel part of the global war on terror?

“No, not at all,” came back the reply.

So what about the U.S. argument that al Qaeda or its offshoots could find sanctuaries in countries like Mali, just as Osama bin Laden took refuge in Sudan and Afghanistan in the 1990s?

“No, no, I don’t believe this, no.”

It was a rare departure from the official U.S. line — loyally supported by other Malian commanders in interviews this week — that Mali and its neighbors on the fringe of the Sahara desert risk becoming destabilized by militant Islamists.

A senior U.S. military official said Washington is set to channel some $600 million over the next five to seven years into the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership, a program to boost security ties with nine countries: Mali, Chad, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria and Tunisia.

“Broad expanses of marginally governed areas can become havens for terrorists and criminals and have become … attractive to terrorist groups increasingly denied sanctuaries in Afghanistan and the Middle East,” Gen. James Jones, head of United States European Command (EUCOM), said earlier this year.   Continued…

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