(The Pentagon will establish a new Africa command within two months, http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N13160665.htm target=_blank>reports Reuters.)
Posted on October 16, 2006:
Going back to the early 1990s, Africa has been a target for al Qaeda. Two letters, dated September 30, 1993 and May 24, 1994, captured during US military operations in Afghanistan related directly to al Qaeda "African Corps" operations in Somalia before and after the U.S. withdrawal in early 1994. Sudan provided a safe harbor for bin Laden before he fled to Afghanistan in 1996, and our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in 1998. Since September 11, the Algerian terrorist group GSPC has formally aligned with al Qaeda. And in Somalia, a burgeoning Taliban has emerged that has engaged in an assassination campaign against moderate Muslim scholars, introduced suicide bombing as weapon against their enemies, and closed the doors on media outlets that don't follow the fundamentalist line. At the same time, the US military has been engaged throughout the continent, so much so that some in the Pentagon believe a separate command for Africa should be created.
Reuters http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article18137 target=_blank>reports:
The U.S. military is sharpening its focus on counterterrorism in Africa, a top general says, as it faces challenges including a newly announced alliance between a regional militant group and al Qaeda.
General William 'Kip' Ward also hinted it would make sense to establish a U.S. military command on African soil, instead of running operations on the continent from hundreds or even thousands of km away, as has been the case until now.
"I think ... having the unified command located in the area in which it has responsibility is the preferable solution set," Ward, number two at the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), told Reuters.
The Pentagon said in August it was considering creating a new military command for Africa. Responsibility for the continent is currently split between three separate U.S. centres, including Stuttgart-based EUCOM.
A single command, advocates argue, would help Washington focus better on its goal of denying sanctuary to militants who might otherwise find African havens in the same way that al Qaeda cultivated bases in Sudan and Afghanistan in the 1990s.
The stakes were underlined when al Qaeda announced last month, on the 5th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, that it was forging an alliance with one of the leading Islamist movements in the region: the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, known by its French initials GSPCâ€¦.
Ward, in an interview, declined to go into detail about the mode of operation of the GSPC and other militant groups.
"It's a thinking enemy. They are constantly attempting to change their tactics," he said.
"As our (African) partners get better at intervening, interdicting, capturing, they are constantly adapting what they do as well."