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Is the U.S. About to Send Drones to Bomb North Africa?

As the Associated Press reports, Johnnie Carson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told reporters that the Islamist extremists who control northern Mali should be dislodged by military force:

They are responsible for terrorism, for kidnapping, and for robbery. This is an issue that must be dealt with through security and military means.

The actual fighting, however, would likely be done by African Union forces (as in Somalia):

For months, the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS has been calling for military intervention to help Malian forces retake the north from the Islamists.

Mali’s transitional government has accepted the presence of a regional military force…

Carson said Monday that other countries — such as Algeria, Mauritania and Chad — also need to be involved in finding a solution to the Malian crisis, along with the United States, the European Union and others.

And as the Washington Post reports:

Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, chief of U.S. Africa Command, said Friday during a visit to Morocco that there “are no plans for U.S. direct military intervention” in Mali. But he and others have made clear that the United States is prepared to support counterterrorism or peacekeeping operations by other countries.

Meanwhile the White House has been holding “secret” meetings on how to deal with al-Qaeda offshoots and similar extremist groups in North Africa. Senior officials are afraid that AQIM, long considered the most “underperforming” al-Qaeda group, might finally wake up and attempt something like the AQAP-planned bombing of a Detroit-bound plane last December. Ham says Washington now considers AQIM the “best-funded” al-Qaeda group.

Because of this fear, Ham and other U.S. officials are preparing to replicate the Somalia-Yemen counterterrorism strategy, in which the U.S. dispatches armed and surveillance drones and supports local military forces who are doing the ground work. This and other stories suggest the global war on terrorism isn’t over; it’s just evolving.

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