American counterterrorism officials are pushing the Obama administration to allow U.S. forces to pursue terrorists in Africa, even if they aren’t affiliated with al-Qaeda. The WSJ has the story:
The move, according to administration and congressional officials, would be aimed at allowing U.S. military operations in Mali, Nigeria, Libya and possibly other countries where militants have loose or nonexistent ties to al Qaeda’s Pakistan headquarters. Depending on the request, congressional authorization could cover the use of armed drones and special operations teams across a region larger than Iraq and Afghanistan combined, the officials said. [...]
“The conditions today are vastly different than they were previously,” Gen. Carter Ham, the head of U.S. Africa command, said in an interview. “There are now non-al Qaeda-associated groups that present significant threats to the United States.” He called the debate over new authorization a “worthy discussion.” [...]
“It is clear to me they aspire to conduct events more broadly across the region, and eventually to the United States,” Gen. Ham said. “That is the ideology, that is the campaign plan, establish the caliphate and spread the ideology, attack Western interests, attack democratic forms of government, and we are certainly seeing that.”
But wait, wasn’t the war on terror supposed to be over? Think again. That war is still going on, and it is global. Terror groups linked in various vague and shadowy ways to al-Qaeda are proliferating, and the administration thinks it may need to mount sustained operations to fight back.
There is no one size fits all solution to Africa’s problems with terrorism. A giant American boot cannot squash terrorism in Mali, Nigeria and Somalia with the same forceful stamp. Each country is different, and each country has its own social and economic difficulties that make it susceptible to terrorists — and its own balance of political forces that will respond to different American policies in different ways.
But the threat is real. The head of Boko Haram announced last week that his organization was sympathetic to the global jihad movement. He urged supporters to attack the U.S., UK, and Israel in any way they can. An AQIM leader recently parted ways with his old pals in order to launch a pan-Sahara jihadist organization. Meanwhile, parts of Libya, Niger, Mali, and elsewhere in Africa are ungoverned and unpoliced—prime spots for terrorism to lay down roots.
The global war on terror…it ain’t over.