Category Archives: Military

Saudi Arabia Is ‘Playing’ Donald Trump With Potentially Disastrous Consequences

  President Trump and first lady Melania Trump are welcomed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

At this point, it’s no great surprise when Donald Trump walks away from past statements in service to some impulse of the moment. Nowhere, however, has such a shift been more extreme or its potential consequences more dangerous than in his sudden love affair with the Saudi royal family. It could in the end destabilize the Middle East in ways not seen in our lifetimes (which, given the growing chaos in the region, is no small thing to say).

Trump’s newfound ardor for the Saudi regime is a far cry from his past positions, including his campaign season assertion that the Saudis were behind the 9/11 attacks and complaints, as recently as this April, that the United States was losing a “tremendous amount of money” defending the kingdom.  That was yet another example of the sort of bad deal that President Trump was going to set right as part of his “America First” foreign policy.

Given this background, it came as a surprise to pundits, politicians, and foreign policy experts alike when the president chose Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, as the very first stop on his very first overseas trip. This was clearly meant to underscore the importance his administration was suddenly placing on the need to bolster the long-standing U.S.-Saudi alliance.

Mindful of Trump’s vanity, the Saudi government rolled out the red carpet for our narcissist-in-chief, lining the streets for miles with alternating U.S. and Saudi flags, huge images of which were projected onto the Ritz Carlton hotel where Trump was staying. (Before his arrival, in a sign of the psychological astuteness of his Saudi hosts, the hotel projected a five-story-high image of Trump himself onto its façade, pairing it with a similarly huge and flattering photo of the country’s ruler, King Salman.)  His hosts also put up billboards with pictures of Trump and Salman over the slogan “together we prevail.”  What exactly the two countries were to prevail against was left open to interpretation.  It is, however, unlikely that the Saudis were thinking about Trump’s much-denounced enemy, ISIS—given that Saudi planes, deep into a war in neighboring Yemen, have rarely joined Washington’s air war against that outfit.  More likely, what they had in mind was their country’s bitter regional rival Iran.

The agenda planned for Trump’s stay included an anti-terrorism summit attended by 50 leaders from Arab and Muslim nations, a concert by country singer Toby Keith, and an exhibition game by the Harlem Globetrotters. Then there were the strange touches like President Trump, King Salman, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi laying hands on a futuristically glowing orb—images of which then circled the planet—in a ceremony inaugurating a new Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology, and Trump’s awkward participation in an all-male sword dance.

Unsurprisingly enough, the president was pleased with the spectacle staged in his honor, saying of the anti-terrorism summit in one of his many signature flights of hyperbole, “There has never been anything like it before, and perhaps there never will be again.”

Here, however, is a statement that shouldn’t qualify as hyperbole: never have such preparations for a presidential visit paid such quick dividends.  On arriving home, Trump jumped at the chance to embrace a fierce Saudi attempt to blockade and isolate its tiny neighbor Qatar, the policies of whose emir have long irritated them.  The Saudis claimed to be focused on that country’s alleged role in financing terrorist groups in the region (a category they themselves fit into remarkably well).  More likely, however, the royal family wanted to bring Qatar to heel after it failed to jump enthusiastically onto the Saudi-led anti-Iranian bandwagon.

Trump, who clearly knew nothing about the subject, accepted the Saudi move with alacrity and at face value. In his normal fashion, he even tried to take credit for it, tweeting, “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology.  Leaders pointed to Qatar—look!”  And according to Trump, the historic impact of his travels hardly stopped there.  As he also tweeted: “So good to see Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries paying off… Perhaps it will be the beginning of the end of the horror of terrorism.”

Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution hit the nail on the head when he commented that “the Saudis played Donald Trump like a fiddle.  He unwittingly encouraged their worst instincts toward their neighbors.” The New York Times captured one likely impact of the Saudi move against Qatar when it reported, “Analysts said Mr. Trump’s public support for Saudi Arabia… sent a chill through other Gulf States, including Oman and Kuwait, for fear that any country that defies the Saudis or the United Arab Emirates could face ostracism as Qatar has.”

And Then Came Trump…

And what precisely are the Saudis’ instincts toward their neighbors?  The leaders in Riyadh, led by King Salman’s 31-year-old son, Saudi Defense Minister and deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, are taking the gloves off in an increasingly aggressive bid for regional dominance aimed at isolating Iran.  The defense minister and potential future leader of the kingdom, whose policies have been described as reckless and impulsive, underscored the new, harsher line on Iran in an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV in which he said, “We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia, but we will work so the battle is there in Iran.”

The opening salvo in Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iran campaign came in March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition, including smaller Gulf petro-states (Qatar among them) and Egypt, intervened militarily in a chaotic situation in Yemen in an effort to reinstall Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi as the president of that country.  They clearly expected a quick victory over their ill-armed enemies and yet, more than two years later, in a war that has grown ever harsher, they have in fact achieved little.  Hadi, a pro-Saudi leader, had served as that country’s interim president under an agreement that, in the wake of the Arab Spring in 2012, ousted longstanding Yemeni autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh.  In January 2015, Hadi himself was deposed by an alliance of Houthi rebels and remnants of forces loyal to former president Saleh.

The Saudis—now joined by Trump and his foreign policy team—have characterized the conflict as a war to blunt Iranian influence and the Houthi rebels have been cast as the vassals of Tehran.  In reality, they have longstanding political and economic grievances that predate the current conflict and they would undoubtedly be fighting at this moment with or without support from Iran.  As Middle Eastern expert Thomas Juneau recently noted in the Washington Post, “Tehran’s support for the Houthis is limited, and its influence in Yemen is marginal. It is simply inaccurate to claim that the Houthis are Iranian proxies.”

The Saudi-Emirati intervention in Yemen has had disastrous results.  Thousands of civilians have been killed in an indiscriminate bombing campaign that has targeted hospitals, marketplaces, civilian neighborhoods, and even a funeral, in actions that Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) has said “look like war crimes.”  The Saudi bombing campaign has, in addition, been enabled by Washington, which has supplied the kingdom with bombs, including cluster munitions, and aircraft, while providing aerial refueling services to Saudi planes to ensure longer missions and the ability to hit more targets.  It has also shared intelligence on targeting in Yemen.

The destruction of that country’s port facilities and the imposition of a naval blockade have had an even more devastating effect, radically reducing the ability of aid groups to get food, medicine, and other essential supplies into a country now suffering from a major outbreak of cholera and on the brink of a massive famine. This situation will only be made worse if the coalition tries to retake the port of Hodeidah, the entry point for most of the humanitarian aid still getting into Yemen. Not only has the U.S.-backed Saudi war sparked a humanitarian crisis, but it has inadvertently strengthened al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has increased its influence in Yemen while the Saudi- and Houthi-led coalitions are busy fighting each other.

Trump’s all-in support for the Saudis in its war doesn’t, in fact, come out of the blue. Despite some internal divisions over the wisdom of doing so, the Obama administration also supported the Saudi war effort in a major way. This was part of an attempt to reassure the royals that the United States was still on their side and would not tilt towards Iran in the wake of an agreement to cap and reverse that country’s nuclear program.

It was only after concerted pressure from Congress and a coalition of peace, human rights, and humanitarian aid groups that the Obama administration finally took a concrete, if limited, step to express opposition to the Saudi targeting of civilians in Yemen.  In a December 2016 decision, it suspended a sale of laser-guided bombs and other precision-guided munitions to their military.  The move outraged the Saudis, but proved at best a halfway measure as the refueling of Saudi aircraft continued, and none of rest of the record $115 billion in U.S. weaponry offered to that country during the Obama years was affected.

And then came Trump.  His administration has doubled down on the Saudi war in Yemen by lifting the suspension of the bomb deal, despite the objections of a Senate coalition led by Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Al Franken (D-MN) that recently mustered an unprecedented 47 votes against Trump’s offer of precision-guided bombs to Riyadh.  Defense Secretary James Mattis has advocated yet more vigorous support for the Saudi-led intervention, including additional planning assistance and yet more intelligence sharing—but not, for the moment, the introduction of U.S. troops.  Although the Trump foreign policy team has refused to endorse a proposal by the United Arab Emirates, one of the Saudi coalition members, to attack the port at Hodeidah, it’s not clear if that will hold.

A Parade for an American President?

In addition to Trump’s kind words on Twitter, the clearest sign of his administration’s uncritical support for the Saudi regime has been the offer of an astounding $110 billion worth of arms to the kingdom, a sum almost equal to the record levels reached during all eight years of the Obama administration. (This may, of course, have been part of the point, showing that President Trump could make a bigger, better deal than that slacker Obama, while supporting what he described as “jobs, jobs, jobs” in the United States.)

Like all things Trumpian, however, that $110 billion figure proved to be an exaggeration.  Tens of billions of dollars’ worth of arms included in the package had already been promised under Obama, and tens of billions more represent promises that, experts suspect, are unlikely to be kept.  But that still leaves a huge package, one that, according to the Pentagon, will include more than 100,000 bombs of the sort that can be used in the Yemen war, should the Saudis choose to do so.  All that being said, the most important aspect of the deal may be political—Trump’s way of telling “my friend King Salman,” as he now calls him, that the United States is firmly in his camp.  And this is, in fact, the most troubling development of all.

It’s bad enough that the Obama administration allowed itself to be dragged into an ill-conceived, counterproductive, and regionally destabilizing war in Yemen. Trump’s uncritical support of Saudi foreign policy could have even more dangerous consequences. The Saudis are more intent than Trump’s own advisers (distinctly a crew of Iranophobes) on ratcheting up tensions with Iran.  It’s no small thing, for instance, that Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who has asserted that Iran is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East,” and who advocated U.S. military attacks on that country during his tenure as head of the U.S. Central Command, looks sober-minded compared to the Saudi royals.

If there is even a glimmer of hope in the situation, it might lie in the efforts of both Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to walk back the president’s full-throated support for a Saudi confrontation with Qatar. Tillerson, for instance, has attempted to pursue an effort to mediate the Saudi-Qatari dispute and has called for a “calm and thoughtful dialogue.” Similarly, on the same day as Trump tweeted in support of the Saudis, the Pentagon issued a statement praising Qatar’s “enduring commitment to regional security.”  This is hardly surprising given the roughly 10,000 troops the U.S. has at al-Udeid air base in Doha, its capital, and the key role that base plays in Washington’s war on terror in the region.  It is the largest American base in the Middle East and the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command, as well as a primary staging area for the U.S. war on ISIS. The administration’s confusion regarding how to deal with Qatar was further underscored when Mattis and Qatari Defense Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah signed a $12 billion deal for up to 36 Boeing F-15 combat aircraft, barely a week after President Trump had implied that Qatar was the world capital of terrorist financing.

In a further possible counter to Trump’s aggressive stance, Secretary of Defense Mattis has suggested that perhaps it’s time to pursue a diplomatic settlement of the war in Yemen.  In April, he told reporters that, “in regards to the Saudi and Emirati campaign in Yemen, our goal, ladies and gentleman, is for that crisis down there, that ongoing fight, [to] be put in front of a U.N.-brokered negotiating team and try to resolve this politically as soon as possible.” Mattis went on to decry the number of civilians being killed, stating that the war there “has simply got to be brought to an end.”

It remains to be seen whether Tillerson’s and Mattis’s conciliatory words are hints of a possible foot on the brake in the Trump administration when it comes to building momentum for what could, in the end, be a U.S. military strike against Iran, egged on by Donald Trump’s good friends in Saudi Arabia.  As Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group has noted, if the U.S. ends up going to war against Iran, it would “make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.”

In fact, in a period when the turmoil has only risen in much of the rest of the Greater Middle East, the Saudi Arabian peninsula remained relatively stable, at least until the Saudi-led coalition drastically escalated the civil war in Yemen.  The new, more aggressive course being pursued against the royal family in Qatar and in relation to Iran could, however, make matters much worse, and fast.  Given the situation in the region today, including the spread of terror movements and failing states, the thought that Saudi Arabia itself might be destabilized (and Iran with it) should be daunting indeed, though not perhaps for Donald Trump.

So far, through a combination of internal repression and generous social benefits to its citizens—a form of political bribery designed to buy loyalty—the Saudi royal family has managed to avoid the fate of other regional autocrats driven from power.  But with low oil prices and a costly war in Yemen, the regime is being forced to reduce the social spending that has helped cement its hold on power. It’s possible that further military adventures, coupled with a backlash against its repressive policies, could break what analysts Sarah Chayes and Alex de Waal have described as the current regime’s “brittle hold on power.” In other words, what a time for the Trump administration to offer its all-in support for the plans of an aggressive yet fragile regime whose reckless policies could even spark a regional war.

Maybe it’s time for opponents of a stepped-up U.S. military role in the Middle East to throw Donald Trump a big, glitzy parade aimed at boosting his ego and dampening his enthusiasm for the Saudi royal family.  It might not change his policies, but at least it would get his attention.

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

By William D. Hartung/TomDispatch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

US sells $12bn worth of fighter jets to ‘terrorist funder’ Qatar

US sells $12bn worth of fighter jets to ‘terrorist funder’ Qatar
Qatar has signed a $12-billion contract to buy F-15 fighter jets from the US, the country’s defense ministry reported. The deal was announced just days after US President Trump accused Doha of supporting terrorism.

The contract was apparently sealed after a Wednesday meeting between US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Qatari Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid al-Attiyah, Reuters reported citing a source.
According to Bloomberg News, Qatar bought 36 warplanes produced by McDonnell Douglas, a subsidiary of Boeing.

The US approved the possible sale of up to 72 F-15QA aircraft to Qatar for $21.1 billion in November.

News of the deal comes less than a week after US President Donald Trump lashed out at the Gulf kingdom, saying it has “historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.”

Trump’s criticism emerged amid a diplomatic row between Qatar and other Arab nations, which demand that Doha stopped supporting the pan-Arabic movement Muslim Brotherhood and severed ties with Iran.

Qatar is a key American ally in the Middle East and an important exporter of natural gas. It also hosts the largest US military base in the region

From Russia Today

Posted by The NON-Conformist

“Staggering” civilian deaths from U.S.-led air strikes in Raqqa – U.N.

Intensified coalition air strikes supporting an assault by U.S.-backed forces on Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa in Syria are causing a “staggering loss of civilian life”, United Nations war crimes investigators said on Wednesday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by a U.S.-led coalition, began to attack Raqqa a week ago to take it from the jihadists. The SDF, supported by heavy coalition air strikes, have taken territory to the west, east and north of the city.

“We note in particular that the intensification of air strikes, which have paved the ground for an SDF advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced,” Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry told the Human Rights Council.

Pinheiro provided no figure for civilian casualties in Raqqa, where rival forces are racing to capture ground from Islamic State. The Syrian army is also advancing on the desert area west of the city.

Separately, Human Rights Watch expressed concern in a statement about the use of incendiary white phosphorous weapons by the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, saying it endangered civilians when used in populated areas.

In its speech to the 47-member forum in Geneva, the U.S. delegation made no reference to Raqqa or the air strikes. U.S. diplomat Jason Mack called the Syrian government “the primary perpetrator” of egregious human rights violations in the country.

Pinheiro said that if the international coalition’s offensive is successful, it could liberate Raqqa’s civilian population, including Yazidi women and girls, “whom the group has kept sexually enslaved for almost three years as part of an ongoing and unaddressed genocide”.

“The imperative to fight terrorism must not, however, be undertaken at the expense of civilians who unwillingly find themselves living in areas where ISIL is present,” he added.

Pinheiro also said that 10 agreements between the Syrian government and armed groups to evacuate fighters and civilians from besieged areas, including eastern Aleppo last December, “in some cases amount to war crimes” as civilians had “no choice”.

Syria’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Hussam Edin Aaala, denounced violations “committed by the unlawful U.S.-led coalition which targets infrastructure, killing hundreds of civilians including the deaths of 30 civilians in Deir al-Zor.”

By Stephanie Nebehay/Reuters

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Black soldiers face US military justice more often than whites, study finds

Black soldiers face US military justice more often than whites, study finds
Black airmen, soldiers, sailors and marines are more likely to face courts martial or other forms of military justice than their white peers, despite equalizing factors like detailed checks of troops’ criminal records, a rights group report based on DoD data found.

The alarming finding appeared in a report by ‘Protect Our Defenders’ (POD), an advocacy group rendering support to victims of sexual assault and military justice in the armed forces.

Entitled ‘Racial Disparities in Military Justice’, the paper is based upon an analysis of Department of Defense data spanning a decade from 2005 to 2015 and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

It emphasizes that “for every year reported and across all service branches, black service members were substantially more likely than white service members to face military justice or disciplinary action.”

The disparity ratio suggests a latent bias among military justice officers as black soldiers were the most stigmatized group in the military.

“Non-black people of color” generally had higher military justice or disciplinary involvement than white service members in some service branches. Interestingly, the primary exception was Asian soldiers, who appeared to have lower military justice or disciplinary involvement than their white counterparts.

“Depending on the service and type of disciplinary or justice action, black service members were at least 1.29 times and as much as 2.61 times more likely than white service members to have an action taken against them in an average year,” the POD noted.

The controversial trend varied in different branches of the US military, with the Marine Corps topping the list. In an average year, black marines were 2.6 times more likely than whites to receive a guilty finding at a general court martial, the military judicial proceeding for more serious offenses, the study found.

The Air Force followed as “airmen of a race other than black or white, or whose race was unknown, had higher court-martial and NJP rates than white airmen,” the report stated. Black Air Force members were 1.71 times (71 percent) more likely to face court-martial or non-judicial punishment (NJP) than white airmen in an average year.

In the Army, black soldiers are 1.61 times (61 percent) more likely to face general or special court martial compared to white service members.

While racial disparities or institutional racism exists in criminal justice systems throughout the US, the report notes, it is particularly alarming in the military as the command has imposed equal standards on soldiers’ profiles.

Recruits must meet rigorous standards regarding prior criminal justice involvement, educational attainment, and illicit drug use, while actual service members are regularly screened for criminal intentions.

“Despite these equalizing factors, racial disparities are present at every level of military disciplinary and justice proceedings, particularly between black and white service members,” the researchers said.

“The persistence of racial disparities within the military may indicate the existence of racial bias or discrimination among decision-makers in the military justice system.”

The Department of Defense said the military will review the report.

“It is longstanding Department of Defense policy that service members must be afforded the opportunity to serve in an environment free from unlawful racial discrimination,” said Johnny Michael, a Pentagon spokesman, as cited by Stars and Stripes.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Leaked Documents Reveal Counterterrorism Tactics Used at Standing Rock to “Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies”

A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents provide the first detailed picture of how TigerSwan, which originated as a U.S. military and State Department contractor helping to execute the global war on terror, worked at the behest of its client Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, to respond to the indigenous-led movement that sought to stop the project.

Internal TigerSwan communications describe the movement as “an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component” and compare the anti-pipeline water protectors to jihadist fighters. One report, dated February 27, 2017, states that since the movement “generally followed the jihadist insurgency model while active, we can expect the individuals who fought for and supported it to follow a post-insurgency model after its collapse.” Drawing comparisons with post-Soviet Afghanistan, the report warns, “While we can expect to see the continued spread of the anti-DAPL diaspora … aggressive intelligence preparation of the battlefield and active coordination between intelligence and security elements are now a proven method of defeating pipeline insurgencies.”

More than 100 internal documents leaked to The Intercept by a TigerSwan contractor, as well as a set of over 1,000 documents obtained via public records requests, reveal that TigerSwan spearheaded a multifaceted private security operation characterized by sweeping and invasive surveillance of protesters.

As policing continues to be militarized and state legislatures around the country pass laws criminalizing protest, the fact that a private security firm retained by a Fortune 500 oil and gas company coordinated its efforts with local, state, and federal law enforcement to undermine the protest movement has profoundly anti-democratic implications. The leaked materials not only highlight TigerSwan’s militaristic approach to protecting its client’s interests but also the company’s profit-driven imperative to portray the nonviolent water protector movement as unpredictable and menacing enough to justify the continued need for extraordinary security measures. Energy Transfer Partners has continued to retain TigerSwan long after most of the anti-pipeline campers left North Dakota, and the most recent TigerSwan reports emphasize the threat of growing activism around other pipeline projects across the country.

More from The Intercept

Posted by Libergirl

Fight Terrorism Or Control Resources: What’s the Real Reason for U.S.’s Increased Presence In Africa?

Although the Trump administration has not expressed much of an interest in Africa, the U.S. has an increased presence in the continent. As China has ramped up its economic presence and enlarged its footprint in Africa, the U.S. is not waging economic war but rather a shadow commando war.

Uncle Sam is building a massive presence of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command as VICE news reported, with an unprecedented growth in deployment among elite units such as the Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs. While at least 116 special operations missions took place at once around the world in 2011, today these commando units are engaged in close to 100 missions in Africa alone. More specifically, 1,700 Americans are involved in 96 missions in 20 African nations at any one time, according to a declassified October 2016 document from the Special Operations Command in Africa, or SOCAFRICA. SOCAFRICA supports the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM, which is responsible for Defense Department operations on the African continent. The U.S. military has divided the world into six geographic sectors — AFRICOM, NORTHCOM, PACOM, SOUTHCOM, EUCOM and CENTCOM. As reported by HuffPost, AFRICOM now maintains 46 U.S. military bases in 24 African countries.

The Government Accountability Office report on Special Operations Forces documented a dramatic rise of U.S. commandos in Africa, from 1 percent of all special forces abroad in 2006 to 3 percent in 2010 to over 17 percent last year. Only the Middle East has more elite U.S. forces conducting operations in its region.

Terrorism on the African continent is the reason for the deployment, according to the U.S. Special Operations Command, which lists by name the terrorist groups being fought, al-Qaida In the Lands of the Islamic Magreb, ISIS, al-Murabitun, Ansar al-Sharia, Boko Haram, the Lord’s Resistance Army and al-Shabaab. There are close to 50 terrorist organizations operating in Africa, according to The Intercept. Terror attacks in sub-Saharan Africa have increased from 100 per year in 2006 to nearly 2,000 in 2015, based on data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.

Seal of the United States Africa Command (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

“Our long-term vision is to enable and support our African partners to deter violent extremist organizations, achieve effective governance, promote future socio-economic development and protect the populace to achieve peace and prosperity in Africa,” reads the SOCAFRICA report, which declared that the U.S. is not at war with Africa, but its African partners are. SOCAFRICA says terrorist, insurgent and criminal groups are exploiting fragile environments in conflict: “Their goals are to expand illicit networks, establish safe havens, subvert legitimate authority, recruit and mobilize people and resources and to fuel crises to their advantage.”

The U.S. military claims it is countering violent extremism to allow African nations time to develop good governance and self-security. The report cites destabilizing forces that contribute to internal conflict and encourage popular uprisings and violent extremism, including corruption, poor government leadership, heavy-handed autocracies and socioeconomic inequality. External pressure from terrorists and foreign fighters, drug, weapon and human trafficking and illegal immigration pose a threat not only to African countries but to southern European countries, according to the report. These external factors also “contribute to security shortfalls, human rights violations, corruption and government mismanagement producing an environment conducive to subversion, military coups and mass atrocities.”

Terrorism on the African continent is the reason for the deployment, according to the U.S. Special Operations Command, which lists by name the terrorist groups being fought, al-Qaida In the Lands of the Islamic Magreb, ISIS, al-Murabitun, Ansar al-Sharia, Boko Haram, the Lord’s Resistance Army and al-Shabaab. There are close to 50 terrorist organizations operating in Africa, according to The Intercept. Terror attacks in sub-Saharan Africa have increased from 100 per year in 2006 to nearly 2,000 in 2015, based on data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.

“Our long-term vision is to enable and support our African partners to deter violent extremist organizations, achieve effective governance, promote future socio-economic development and protect the populace to achieve peace and prosperity in Africa,” reads the SOCAFRICA report, which declared that the U.S. is not at war with Africa, but its African partners are. SOCAFRICA says terrorist, insurgent and criminal groups are exploiting fragile environments in conflict: “Their goals are to expand illicit networks, establish safe havens, subvert legitimate authority, recruit and mobilize people and resources and to fuel crises to their advantage.”

The U.S. military claims it is countering violent extremism to allow African nations time to develop good governance and self-security. The report cites destabilizing forces that contribute to internal conflict and encourage popular uprisings and violent extremism, including corruption, poor government leadership, heavy-handed autocracies and socioeconomic inequality. External pressure from terrorists and foreign fighters, drug, weapon and human trafficking and illegal immigration pose a threat not only to African countries but to southern European countries, according to the report. These external factors also “contribute to security shortfalls, human rights violations, corruption and government mismanagement producing an environment conducive to subversion, military coups and mass atrocities.”

Each region of the African continent faces its own challenges, the SOCAFRICA report notes. For example, North Africa, which is a major source of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq, suffers from political instability and threats of violent extremism. Groups such as al-Qaida, ISIS and others are thriving in Libya. As The Washington Post reported in 2016, President Barack Obama secretly expanded its worldwide network of drone bases to Tunisia to conduct spying missions on Libya. In Western Africa, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and criminal organizations are gaining influence, fueled by inequality and ineffective governance. The Lord’s Resistance Army and criminal organizations operate in Central Africa, where they contribute to instability in already volatile places. In East Africa, where conflict is expected for the foreseeable future, the al-Qaida-affiliated group al-Shabaab is active in Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Obama intensified a clandestine, shadow war in Somalia in his final year in office, as The New York Times reported, using special operations, airstrikes, African allies and private contractors to fight militants in the Horn of Africa. Al-Shabaab was responsible for a number of attacks, such as a 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed 60 and wounded more than 175. Last year, the group nearly brought down a Somali airplane with a bomb hidden in a laptop, and killed over 100 Kenyan troops before taking their vehicles and weapons.

In his “U.S. Strategy Towards Sub-Saharan Africa” in 2012, Obama said, “Africa’s economies are among the fastest growing in the world, with technological change sweeping across the continent and offering tremendous opportunities in banking, medicine, politics and business.” The threat of violence and disruption stemming from internal and external forces only serves to undermine that economic growth, giving the U.S. military an opportunity to wage a secret war on the continent, purportedly for stability and security in Africa, but most certainly for American geopolitical interests.

As Al Jazeera reported, AFRICOM is key to consolidating U.S. interests in Africa. North Africa has vast oil and natural gas reserves, the Sahara and the continent as a whole are rich in mineral resources and six of the 10 fastest-growing economies are located in sub-Saharan Africa. With oil and natural resources in Africa, the continent has major strategic significance that belies the official U.S. narrative that it is waging primarily a war on terror in Africa.

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Confromist

US Army lost track of $1 billion worth of arms & equipment in Iraq, Kuwait

A newly released declassified audit from the US Department of Defense shows that negligent accounting by the military has resulted in the Pentagon not knowing what happened to more than $1 billion in arms and equipment meant for the Iraqi Army.

The Office of Inspector General for the Pentagon’s findings from September 2016 was made public Wednesday as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from human rights group Amnesty International.

Over $1 billion worth of arms and military equipment designated under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) and meant to assist the Iraqi government in combatting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), was not accounted for, the DOD audit found.

READ MORE: US to switch from free military grants to loans for Ukraine & others

The Army’s 1st Theater Sustainment Command “did not have effective controls to maintain complete visibility and accountability of ITEF equipment in Kuwait and Iraq prior to transfer to the Government of Iraq,” the audit said.

“This audit provides a worrying insight into the US Army’s flawed – and potentially dangerous – system for controlling millions of dollars worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher, said in the announcement on the group’s website.

“It makes for especially sobering reading given the long history of leakage of US arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State.”

The ITEF began as a $1.6 billion program, but last year, Congress appropriated $715 million more to it.

The transfers included, according to Amnesty, “tens of thousands of assault rifles worth $28 million, hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of Humvee armoured vehicles” to the Iraqi Army, including the predominantly Shi’a Popular Mobilization Units and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

While the Pentagon promises to do better, that means little to Amnesty, which noted that the same sentiments were expressed to Congress in 2007 when similar concerns arose.

“After all this time and all these warnings, the same problems keep re-occurring. This should be an urgent wake-up call for the US, and all countries supplying arms to Iraq, to urgently shore up checks and controls. Sending millions of dollars’ worth of arms into a black hole and hoping for the best is not a viable counter-terrorism strategy; it is just reckless,” Amnesty’s Wilcken said.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist