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BACKGROUND: Instability in the Maghreb: 2 Articles from Pambazuka News

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  • Romi Elnagar
    Algerian ‘state terrorism’ and atrocities in northern Mali Jeremy H. Keenan 2012-10-03, Issue 600 http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/84503 The
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 18, 2013
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      Algerian ‘state terrorism’ and atrocities in northern Mali
      Jeremy H. Keenan
      2012-10-03, Issue 600
      http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/84503

      The Islamist ‘terrorist’ groups that have taken over control of northern
      Mali are not only the creations of Algeria’s secret police, the
      Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS), but they are being supplied, supported and orchestrated by the DRS.
      What began ostensibly in January 2012 as just another rebellion by
      the Sahara desert’s Tuareg tribesmen had evolved within 3-4 months into
      what media commentators were calling “Africa’s Afghanistan”.

      The Tuareg are Berbers, not Arabs, and are the indigenous population of
      much of the Central Sahara and Sahel. Their population is estimated at
      2-3 millions. Their largest numbers, some 800,000, live in Mali,
      followed by Niger, with smaller concentrations in Algeria, Burkina Faso
      and Libya. In addition, a diaspora extends to Europe, North America,
      other parts of North and West Africa, the Sahel and beyond.

      Since Independence in 1960, the Tuareg of Mali and Niger have rebelled
      against their central governments on several occasions. In 1962-4, a
      rebellion by Mali’s Tuareg was crushed ruthlessly. Major rebellions in
      both countries in the 1990s were forcibly repressed, with government
      forces specifically targeting civilians. Since then, Niger experienced a
      small rebellion in 2004 and a much greater one from 2007 to 2009. In
      Mali, a brief rebellion in May 2006 was followed by a two-year uprising
      from 2007 until 2009 when it dissipated into an inconclusive and
      transient peace. While the Niger and Mali governments have both been
      guilty of provoking Tuareg into taking up arms, all Tuareg rebellions
      have been driven by a sense of political marginalisation.

      However, the rebellion that began in Mali in January 2012 was different.
      The Tuareg had more and better equipped fighters than in previous
      rebellions. This was because many had returned from Libya after
      Gaddafi’s overthrow, bringing with them extensive supplies of modern and
      even heavy armaments. For the first time in the long history of Tuareg
      rebellions, there was a real likelihood that the Tuareg might drive
      Malian government forces out of northern Mali, or Azawad, as it is known
      to Tuareg.

      In October 2011, the Malian Tuareg who had returned from Libya joined up
      with fighters belonging to Ibrahim ag Bahanga’s rebel Mouvement Touareg
      du Nord Mali (MTNM) to form the Mouvement National de Libération de
      l'Azawad (MNLA). Even though Bahanga had died under mysterious
      circumstances in August, his men were still intent on continuing their
      fight against the central government. They were also joined by several
      hundred Tuareg who had deserted from the Malian army.

      The first shots in the new rebellion were fired on January 17 when the
      MNLA attacked the town of Ménaka. The following week, the MNLA attacked
      both Tessalit and Aguelhok. Tessalit was besieged for several weeks
      before falling to the MNLA in March. At Aguelhok, some 82 Malian troops,
      who had run out of ammunition, were massacred in cold blood on January
      24. This ‘war crime’ has been referred to the International Criminal
      Court (ICC).

      Such a humiliating demise of Mali’s poorly equipped forces led to an
      army mutiny on March 22 and a junta of low-ranking officers taking power
      in Bamako. Within a week, the three provincial capitals of Azawad -
      Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu - all fell to the rebels without resistance,
      leaving the whole of Azawad in rebel hands. On April 5 the MNLA declared
      Azawad an independent state.

      The declaration of Azawad’s independence received no international
      support, nor was it ever likely to do so. One reason for this was
      because of the alliance between the MNLA and the Islamist group called
      Ansar al-Din, a jihadist movement led by a local Tuareg notable, Iyad ag
      Ghaly. Ansar al-Din was in alliance with another jihadist group, Jamat
      Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Garbi Afriqqiya (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in
      West Africa - MUJAO), with both being supported by Al Qaeda in the
      Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

      At the start of the rebellion in January, the MNLA claimed to number
      several thousand, while Ansar al-Din numbered scarcely a hundred.
      However, by April, and for reasons that have remained a mystery to the
      media, it was the Islamists rather than the MNLA who were calling the
      shots in Azawad. Indeed, on June 25, fighting between the Islamists and
      MNLA led to the latter being displaced from Gao, leaving Kidal, Gao and
      Timbuktu being ruled respectively by Ansar al-Din, MUJAO and AQIM.

      With the MNLA marginalized, the Islamists quickly began imposing shari’a
      law in Azawad. In Gao, a young man died after having his hand amputated
      for alleged theft; in Aguelhok, a couple were stoned to death for
      alleged adultery; in Timbuktu, ancient Sufi tombs, UNESCO world heritage
      sites, were destroyed. Throughout the region, music, smoking, alcohol,
      TV, football, traditional forms of dress and lifestyle were all banned
      as Islamists dished out beatings, amputations and executions with a
      vengeance. By August, nearly half a million people had fled or been
      displaced.

      In spite of concern being expressed at the apparent emergence of
      ‘Africa’s Afghanistan’ in the heart of the Sahara, no one has been
      prepared to address the key issue behind what is really going on in
      northern Mali. This is that the Islamist ‘terrorist’ groups that have
      taken over control of the region are not only the creations of Algeria’s
      secret police, the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité
      (DRS), but they are being supplied, supported and orchestrated by the
      DRS.

      In my two volumes on terrorism and the global war on terror (GWOT) in
      the Sahara-Sahel, The Dark Sahara (Pluto, 2009) and The Dying Sahara
      (Pluto 2012, in press), I describe and give detailed evidence of how
      Algeria’s DRS has colluded with western military intelligence in
      fabricating ‘false-flag’ terrorism to justify the West’s GWOT in Africa.
      The two volumes detail how AQIM was created by the DRS; how the DRS has
      been behind almost all of the more than 60 kidnaps of western hostages
      in the region since 2003 and how it has worked with the US, UK and
      French intelligence services in promoting the GWOT, state terrorism and
      co-called counter-terrorism policies.

      What we have seen unfold in Mali during 2012 is merely the latest
      manifestation of the way in which the DRS has used the ‘terrorists’ that
      it has created to further the interests of Algeria’s ‘mafiosi’ state.

      Corroboration of my long-standing analysis of the Algerian regime’s use
      of terrorism (‘state terrorism’) in helping to further and justify the
      west’s GWOT in North Africa and beyond was provided by John Schindler on
      July 10 (2012). In an article in The National Interest entitled ‘The
      Ugly truth about Algeria’, Schindler, a former high-ranking US
      intelligence officer and long-standing member of the US National
      Security Council (NSC) and currently Professor of National Security
      Affairs at the US Naval War College, ‘blew the whistle’ on Algeria when
      he described how:

      “the GIA (Armed Islamic Group) [of the 1990s] was the creation of the
      DRS; using proven Soviet methods of penetration and provocation, the
      agency assembled it to discredit the extremists. Much of GIA’s
      leadership consisted of DRS agents, who drove the group into the dead
      end of mass murder, a ruthless tactic that thoroughly discredited GIA
      Islamists among nearly all Algerians. Most of its major operations were
      the handiwork of the DRS, including the 1995 wave of bombings in France.
      Some of the most notorious massacres of civilians were perpetrated by
      military special units masquerading as mujahidin, or by GIA squads under
      DRS control.”

      The DRS’s ‘state terrorism’ of the 1990s has changed little during this
      millennium. In the same way as Schindler describes how the DRS assembled
      the GIA in the 1990s, so, in this century, the DRS, in collusion with
      US, British, French and other NATO intelligence agencies, as well as the
      EU Commission (as documented in my two volumes: The Dark Sahara and The
      Dying Sahara), has created AQIM, or what I have referred to as ‘Al
      Qaeda in the West for the West’.

      This diabolical strategy, straight from the tradecraft manual of the KGB
      (who, incidentally trained Mohamed Mediène, the current DRS boss, and
      other top DRS Generals), was reactivated in 2003, when a DRS agent,
      Saifi Lamari (known as El Para), supported by DRS agent Abdelhamid Abou
      Zaïd, at the head of some 60 genuine members of the Groupe Salafiste
      pour le Predication et le Combat (GSPC), the successor to the GIA, in
      collusion with U.S. military intelligence, took 32 European tourists
      hostage in the Algerian Sahara. This operation, which received world
      headlines and was the subject of my book The Dark Sahara, was used by
      the US and other western countries to justify the launch of a new or
      ‘second front’ in the GWOT into the Sahara and Africa.

      In September 2006, the nondescript GSPC, with the help of the DRS and US
      intelligence agencies, internationalised itself by adopting the Al
      Qaeda brand and renaming itself as AQIM. AQIM’s three emirs (leaders) in
      the Sahara, Abdelhamid Abou Zaïd, Yahia Djouadi and Mokhtar ben Mokhtar
      (they have many aliases), were and still are DRS agents. They have now
      been responsible for the kidnapping of over 60 western hostages (two
      have been killed and two have died) and most of the other acts of
      terrorism perpetrated in the Sahara-Sahel region over the last few
      years. This is known to most western intelligence agencies.

      The creation of the MNLA in October 2011 was not only a potentially
      serious threat to Algeria, but one which appears to have taken the
      Algerian regime by surprise. Algeria has always been a little fearful of
      the Tuareg, both in Algeria and in the neighbouring Sahel States. The
      distinct possibility of a militarily successful Tuareg nationalist
      movement in northern Mali, which Algeria has always regarded as its own
      backyard (the Kidal region is sometimes referred to as Algeria’s 49th
      wilaya), could not be countenanced.

      The DRS’s strategy to remove this threat was to use its control of AQIM
      to weaken and then destroy the credibility and political effectiveness
      of the MNLA. Although denied by the Algerian government, it sent some
      200 Special Forces into Azawad on December 20, stationing them at
      Tessalit, Aguelhok and Kidal (and possibly elsewhere). Their purpose
      appears to have been to:

      (1) protect AQIM which had moved from its training base(s) in southern
      Algeria into the Tigharghar mountains of northern Mali around 2008. Most
      of AQIM’s subsequent terrorism, especially hostage-taking, had been
      conducted from bases in northern Mali. The MNLA, however, was
      threatening to attack AQIM and drive its estimated 300 members out of
      the country;

      (2) assess the strengths and intentions of the MNLA;

      (3) help establish two ‘new’ salafist-jihadist terrorist groups Ansar
      al-Din and MUJAO, alleged ‘offshoots’ of AQIM, in the region.

      Ansar al-Din and MUJAO, which had not been heard of before, first
      appeared on local websites on December 10 and 15 respectively. The
      leaders of both groups were closely associated with the DRS. Iyad ag
      Ghaly first became acquainted with the DRS when he worked for an
      Algerian enterprise in Tamanrasset (Algeria) in the 1980s. He had
      subsequently been used and paid by the DRS to help manage their
      resolution of EL Para’s 2003 hostage-taking. He had been used again by
      the Algerians and the US in 2006 to engineer the short-lived May 23
      Kidal rebellion and to then undertake two fabricated terrorist actions
      in northern Mali in September and October 2006. These were used to draw
      attention to seemingly renewed ‘terrorism’ in the Sahara and to
      advertise the name change of the GSPC to AQIM. After 2008, he became
      heavily involved, with his cousin Hamada ag Hama (alias Taleb
      Abdoulkrim), in AQIM’s hostage-taking operations.

      MUJAO’s leadership is less clear. Its initial leaders are believed to
      have included both Mohamed Ould Lamine Ould Kheirou, a Mauritanian, and
      Sultan Ould Badi (alias Abu Ali). Ould Badi is a Malian, said to be half
      Tuareg and half Arab, from north of Gao with good connections with the
      Polisario movement of the Western Sahara. It seems to have been through
      this later connection that he established himself as a major drugs
      (cocaine) trafficker in the region, working under the direct protection
      of General Rachid Laalali, head of the DRS’s external security branch.
      One reason for the DRS’s interest in northern Mali is that the region is
      the focal point on the cocaine trafficking route from South America to
      Europe. The UN estimates that some 60% of Europe’s cocaine, with a
      street value of some $11 billion, crosses through this region. It is a
      trade which, until the MNLA threatened to take over the region, has been
      controlled in large part by elements within Algeria’s DRS.

      These two Islamist groups, Ansar al-Din and MUJAO, although starting out
      as few in number, were immediately supported with manpower from AQIM in
      the form of seasoned, well-trained killers, and by the DRS with fuel,
      cash and other logistical necessities. This explains why the Islamists
      were able to expand so quickly and dominate the MNLA both politically
      and militarily.

      The DRS’s strategy has been brilliantly effective, at least so far, in
      achieving its object of completely discrediting the MNLA (and Tuareg
      nationalism) and minimising its threat as both a political and military
      force.

      The DRS’s strategy has, however, been extremely dangerous. Apart from
      turning the region into a human catastrophe, there has been, and still
      is, a major risk of military intervention and the possibility of a
      conflagration that could embrace much of the wider region. From the
      outset, various parties, notably the 15-member Economic Community of
      West African States (ECOWAS), backed in varying degree by the African
      Union, France and other parties, has threatened to intervene militarily.
      There are also a considerable number of internal Malian forces,
      including a range of largely ethnic-based militia, straining on the
      leash to revenge themselves against both the MNLA and more especially
      the Islamists.

      A potential bloodbath has not yet been averted. However, having said
      that, the likelihood of such military intervention is progressively
      diminishing. One reason for this is because neither the African Union
      (whose Peace and Security Commission is headed by an Algerian) or the UN
      Security Council (UNSC) have given the green light for such
      intervention. The reason for the UNSC’s position is, I believe, quite
      simply because all five of its permanent members – the US, UK, France,
      Russia and China – are aware of Algeria’s strategy and therefore do not
      see the situation as being ‘Africa’s Afghanistan’, as described in the
      media and by those self-proclaimed ‘security analysts’ who are unaware
      of the true nature of Al Qaeda in this part of the world.

      This is not to imply that Algeria will be able to call off its dogs
      easily. However, signs are that Algeria and other powers in the region
      are trying to move towards a negotiated solution. But that will not be
      easy. With so many armed militias in the wings and so much anger,
      suffering and desire for revenge in the air, the likelihood of
      individual agency coming to the fore is very high. While the DRS
      leadership of the Islamist groups is obviously managed easily, the
      question of the genuine Islamists, the footsoldiers, may not be resolved
      so easily. Already, there are signs that Algeria is pushing towards a
      solution centering around the creation of some sort of shari’a based
      political party, amongst others, in the region. Such a party is unlikely
      to be endorsed wholeheartedly by the bulk of the population, and if
      introduced coercively is more than likely to lead to further conflict.

      Whatever sort of dispensation is found for the region, it will almost
      certainly be tied to Algeria’s hegemonic designs on the region and drugs
      trafficking, both of which are recipes for future regional instability.

      Finally, there is the matter of the ICC’s investigation. If the ICC does
      progress from its current preliminary investigation to a full-blown
      investigation of war crimes and associated atrocities in the region, it
      could conceivably pave the way for justice and a more stable future.
      However, I believe that there will be huge pressure on the ICC from
      western powers not to proceed with the investigation. A full ICC
      investigation is likely to expose the involvement of US, British and
      French intelligence services in their support for the DRS and therefore,
      it could be argued, their complicity in the atrocities that have been
      committed.

      Rhetoric and reality of AFRICOM: Lessons from Mali
      Abena Ampofoa Asare
      2012-09-27, Issue 599
      http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/84373

      What is the value of America’s military and humanitarian interventions? Just look at Mali: Its shattered democracy and roving rebel groups are a
      troubling picture of an AFRICOM partner state.
      Six months after an ill-fated military coup d’état, the news from
      Mali continues to be distressing. A collection of rebel groups are
      steadily gaining ground in the Northern region while the Economic
      Community of West African States (ECOWAS) tries to drum up support to
      deploy security forces on behalf of Mali’s beleaguered government. Tens
      of thousands of displaced persons are confronting hunger and insecurity
      in refugee camps throughout the region. While the disintegration of
      Mali’s political stability is a heartbreaking twist of fate for a
      country which has long prided itself on its stable electoral democracy,
      the country's recent trajectory is an important warning for the rest of
      African continent. First, regularly-spaced presidential elections are
      not the entirety of a strong democracy. Second, African governments
      should think twice about the presence of United States Africa Command
      (AFRICOM) within their borders.

      AFRICOM bills itself as a force for democracy, humanitarianism and good
      governance in Africa by claiming that United States interests are safest
      when African governments are strong. Just last August, General Carter
      Ham (Commander-AFRICOM) described the security of partner states as one
      critical measure of AFRICOM’s mission. [1] Are governments capable of
      guarding their own national borders and contributing regionally? Do
      their militaries adhere to the rule of law and respect the people they
      serve? These indicators, he noted, are the benchmarks of AFRICOM’s
      success.

      Ironically, for over a decade, Mali has been a key AFRICOM partner. To
      the tune of millions, US forces have provided special operations, drug
      traffickig and counterterrorism training in the large West African
      nation. Today’s Mali of the shattered democracy and roving rebel groups
      is a troubling picture of an AFRICOM partner state.

      On 22 March, scarcely a month before presidential elections, Amadou
      Sanogo, a captain in the Malian army, seized control of the government
      by promising to quell the Tuareg autonomy struggle in the country’s
      northern region. Within ten days of the takeover, the army was entirely
      routed by Tuareg forces. Since April, the Tuareg in turn have been
      struggling to hold their ground against multiple rebel groups with
      varying agendas who have entered the northern region’s political vacuum.
      The most well-known of these is Ansar Eddine, responsible for the
      desecration of the world heritage site that is Timbuctou. The presence
      of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQM), an Islamist organization tenuously
      connected to the Al Qaeda franchise, is also central to global anxieties
      about terrorism in West Africa. The secessionist Tuareg state, Azawad,
      has called for international help by asserting its identity as ‘the new
      ally in the war on terror.’ [2] Meanwhile, drought conditions coupled
      with political violence have led to the displacement of an estimated
      440,000 people. The storm clouds of a massive humanitarian disaster are
      gathering.

      By its own standard, AFRICOM’s mission in Mali has failed. Captain
      Amadou Sanogo, the coup-maker who bears the greatest immediate
      responsibility for plunging Mali into political unrest, was extensively
      trained by AFRICOM, even traveling to the Georgia, Virginia and Texas
      for Department of Defense additional enrichment.

      In addition, there has been a parade of social scientists warning that
      US policies are undermining Mali’s security. In 2003, one observer
      warned that by empowering the Bamako government to crack down on
      northern Islamic groups, US government initiatives were ‘creating
      enemies where there were none before.’ [3] A 2007 article in the Journal
      of Contemporary African History claimed that US policies were actually
      making Mali more unstable. [4] Again, in 2009, historian Vijay Prashad
      reported on the risk associated with AFRICOM’s dogged empowerment of the
      Malian army. [5] Instead of encouraging former President Touré’s
      government to incorporate the disaffected northern region into the
      country by providing social and economic services to some of the world’s
      poorest communities, AFRICOM offered powerful economic incentives for
      Bamako to choose militarization as the answer to the Tuareg secessionist
      impulse.

      On the ground, AFRICOM’s arms and support have been found lacking. Where
      were the border control, communication and intelligence resources when
      Tuareg fighters, heavily armed and spoiling for a fight, crossed the
      borders from Libya, to Algeria, to Mali? When the Malian government
      struggled to hold its own against rebel fighters in the north, where was
      AFRICOM’s equipment and expertise? When the US-trained Captain Sanogo
      mutinied, the US State Department did not publicly consider its
      responsibility for a disastrous action taken by soldiers trained to be
      too big for their britches.

      For students of African history, the notion that African democracy,
      stability and good governance will result from more deadly arms and more
      powerful soldiers is the stuff of satire; and yet this is precisely the
      grounds on which AFRICOM functions. In Mali, US money, training and
      rhetoric created an unbalanced situation where increasingly powerful
      military men with outsized ambition swagger around in one of the world’s
      poorest nations. There is little to suggest that militarization will
      ease any of Africa’s political and social problems. Yet, instead of
      honestly and transparently looking at these hard lessons, AFRICOM rolls
      on with its rhetoric, ignoring the wreckage trailing behind it.

      As recently as 2010, Department of Defense analysts were singing Mali’s
      praises, claiming that its ‘balanced approach’ to counterterrorism had
      ‘proven effective in maintaining stability, while mitigating extremism.’
      [6] The scores of reports trumpeting the good news that in Mali hearts
      and minds are changed, rule of law strengthened and the army trained to
      be effective and conscientious, now seem woefully out of date and even
      perverse. Where else is rhetoric standing in for reality in terms of our
      understanding of AFRICOM?

      There are myriad reasons why the US government may have chosen to
      overlook the demise of a partner nation’s democracy. We are not so far
      away from the Cold War years of realpolitik as we might imagine. But let
      us be clear. All of these reasons have to do with US self-interest and
      not with the needs, security, or human rights of the Malian people who
      are suffering mightily through this painful transition.

      For Africa, Mali forces us to recognize that AFRICOM does not exist for
      our benefit. The money, arms, supposed war prevention and
      capacity-building initiatives — the ‘help’ that AFRICOM offers — cannot
      guarantee the stability of African states. Indeed, continually beating
      the war drum and conflating development with militarism exacerbate the
      tensions that threaten Africa’s progress.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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