Friday, 8 June 2012

U.S. readies counter-terror offensive in east Africa


Yesterday the U.S. State Department announced rewards totaling $33 million for information about the location of seven key leaders of Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamic militant group, seeking for the first time to target the top leadership of that organization; the increasingly precise, and increasingly lethal, U.S. drone campaign against al Qaeda and al Qaeda-affiliated organizations in Pakistan, a campaign which has killed hundreds of Islamic militants and dozens of their leaders, owes its success to one thing: good intelligence; the United States is now increasing its anti-terrorist intelligence collection efforts in Africa
al-Shabab

The increasingly precise, and increasingly lethal, U.S. drone campaign against al Qaeda and al Qaeda-affiliated organizations in Pakistan has killed hundreds of Islamic militants and dozens of their leaders. Just one example: after Osama bin laden was killed by U.S. Special Forces last spring, there were five leaders in al Qaeda’s top echelons who were considered as potential replacement. Four of them have been taken out by the United States since last August.

The drone campaign against militants in Pakistan, a campaign which began under the Bush administration but the Obama administration has intensified and expanded the campaign dramatically, owes its success to one thing: good intelligence. The U.S. intelligence services, relying on both SIGINT and human intelligence, have been able to breach al Qaeda’s tight security arrangements, compromise the organization’s communications, and penetrate al Qaeda’s cells at the village level.

This achievement is all the more remarkable because at least some elements within the Pakistani intelligence services and military actively help the militants. For this reason the United States does not share most of the intelligence it gathers – and none of the pre-strikes operational details – with the Pakistanis because past experience proves that such information, when shared with the Pakistanis, reaches targeted militants within minutes, allowing them to escape and disperse.

As al Qaeda’s capabilities in Pakistan have been degraded, alternative theaters for militant operations offered themselves: Yemen, Somalia, and several countries in west Africa (Mali, Niger, Mauritania). These countries share several characteristics: large territories, small populations, and weak central governments:
  • The “government” of Somalia (the term is placed in double quotation marks because it would otherwise be misleading) controls no more than a few blocks in the center of Mogadishu, if that. The rest of Somalia is controlled by different clans and warlords.
  • In Mali, following a military coup on 22 March, Tuareg rebels took control over two-thirds of the country, gave it the name Azawad, and declared independence. The territory is the size of France but has a population of between one-and-a-half and two million – of which some 400,000 have already fled. They have fled because a fundamentalist Islamic movement, the Ansar Dine, has now wrested control of Azawad from the Tuareg rebels, imposed a strict Sharia law, and invited Jihadists from Pakistan and Afghanistan to help control the new nation.
The United States has been increasing its counter-terrorist operations in Yemen for two years now. The Obama administration is now


Source: Homeland Security News Wire

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