White House, Pentagon split on AQ in Mali?

posted at 8:01 am on January 22, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

With the terrorist networks of eastern Libya unleashed, no one questions the threat that they pose to stability in North Africa.  Both the White House and Pentagon agree that al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, the most virulent of these and a long-standing branch of Osama bin Laden’s network, could do a tremendous amount of damage.  The question for the White House, according to the Los Angeles Times, is whether they pose much of a threat outside of the region.  So far, they’re inclined to say no, and resist efforts to confront AQIM:

Some top Pentagon officials and military officers warn that without more aggressive U.S. action, Mali could become a haven for extremists, akin to Afghanistan before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Militants in Mali, “if left unaddressed, … will obtain capability to match their intent — that being to extend their reach and control and to attack American interests,” Army Gen. Carter Ham, head of the U.S. Africa Command, said in an interview.

But many of Obama’s top aides say it is unclear whether the Mali insurgents, who include members of the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, threaten the U.S.

Those aides also worry about being drawn into a messy and possibly long-running conflict against an elusive enemy in Mali, a vast landlocked country abutting the Sahara desert, just as U.S. forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan.

“No one here is questioning the threat that AQIM poses regionally,” said an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing internal deliberations. “The question we all need to ask is, what threat do they pose to the U.S. homeland? The answer so far has been none.”

So far.  The same could have been said in Afghanistan, after our intervention in that country drove the Soviet army into retreat and the Soviet Union into collapse in the late 1980s.  The US and the world benefited from the collapse of that tyranny, but less than ten years later, the failed state of Afghanistan served as a base for the AQ core that launched deadly attacks on Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, two American embassies in Africa, the USS Cole, and of course 9/11.

Maybe someone can remind us what we got out of the collapse of Libya? Nothing — no geopolitical advantage, no economic advantage, nothing except the temporary halt of Moammar Qaddafi’s offensive against Benghazi, a city where the US can no longer raise its flag in peace.  The question asked above by this administration official should have been applied to our war on Libya in 2011.  In large part, we (including NATO) unleashed AQIM and other terrorist groups to march across the Sahel by turning Libya into another failed state, even though we knew at the time that terrorist networks had been establishing themselves in the eastern part of the country.  Without a central government in Tripoli, they have assumed control and are now spreading their tentacles across northern Africa.

AQIM doesn’t pose a threat to the US homeland at the moment, and probably won’t for at least a few years.  They have already made northern Africa a danger zone for the West, though, and they’ll threaten Europe soon enough.  It’s only a matter of time before that threat migrates to the US.  Maybe the next time we face a situation like Libya, we’ll think about the long-term consequences of decapitating regimes in countries and regions where Islamist terror networks would operate with impunity when given the opportunity, and we could avoid having to decide whether we need to rush to fight AQIM on their turf or wait until they want to fight on ours.


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“Obama…Obama..we are all Osama now”

2.0

Electrongod on January 22, 2013 at 8:04 AM

AQIM doesn’t pose a threat to the US homeland at the moment, and probably won’t for at least a few years. They have already made northern Africa a danger zone for the West, though, and they’ll threaten Europe soon enough. It’s only a matter of time before that threat migrates to the US.

Whaaaaaaa????? Given the gushing press coverage yesterday, America is entering a new golden age of peace and prosperity. All we have to do is double down on everything the rat-eared wonder attempted to do to us over the last four years and throw in amnesty, sodomite marriage, and wealth distribution from the productive to the filthy parasites that gathered on the National Mall to see their cult leader get four more years to destroy this nation on their behalf. I hate them all.

Happy Nomad on January 22, 2013 at 8:05 AM

Maybe someone can remind us what we got out of the collapse of Libya? Nothing”

More spending?

More coverups?

More lies?

Hillary in the hiding?

Electrongod on January 22, 2013 at 8:06 AM

Maybe someone can remind us what we got out of the collapse of Libya? Nothing — no geopolitical advantage, no economic advantage, nothing except the temporary halt of Moammar Qaddafi’s offensive against Benghazi, a city where the US can no longer raise its flag in peace.

Maybe somebody can point out one aspect of the so-called Arab Spring that didn’t turn sour against our national interests in the region. This administration has repeatedly lied about the motives of the Muslim animals driving the political agenda in that part of the world. We lost four Americans at the American Consulate in Benghazi but let’s not forget at the same time that wasn’t the only diplomatic outpost where these animals attacked. Cairo, for example, saw the embassy attacked and a terrorist flag replacing Old Glory DESPITE this administration apologizing in advance that we recognize Freedom of Speech in this nation even if it offends a bunch of animals still living in the stone age.

Happy Nomad on January 22, 2013 at 8:12 AM

But many of Obama’s top aides say it is unclear whether the Mali insurgents, who include members of the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, threaten the U.S.

It is clear President Thumb-sucker will do nothing.

Well, not nothing really. When Al Qaeda strikes, he’ll apologize to the them, laying out why it was our fault they attacked us.

fogw on January 22, 2013 at 8:13 AM

How many convenience stores does AQIM own in this country already?

docflash on January 22, 2013 at 8:15 AM

Maybe someone can remind us what we got out of the collapse of Libya?

Ghadaffi was going trying to create a gold-backed African Union currency to sell it’s oil in instead of USD. As such, US policy, no matter the president or party in charge, was to stop him in order to keep the USD intact.

ebrawer on January 22, 2013 at 8:16 AM

If Obama hadn’t screwed the pooch in Libya, there’d be a lot less of a problem in Mali today.

Obama’s entire fostering of the “Arab Spring” has been a disaster, has led to instability in a dozen or more nations, has encouraged a lot of fanatics that the weak horse is back and they can do whatever the hell they please so long as the apostate Obama is in the White House.

Smart power isn’t.

(Referring to Samantha, as well.)

coldwarrior on January 22, 2013 at 8:21 AM

So much potential
So much loss.

Obama/Biden – 2012

Electrongod on January 22, 2013 at 8:22 AM

If Obama hadn’t screwed the pooch in Libya, there’d be a lot less of a problem in Mali today.

Obama’s entire fostering of the “Arab Spring” has been a disaster, has led to instability in a dozen or more nations, has encouraged a lot of fanatics that the weak horse is back and they can do whatever the hell they please so long as the apostate Obama is in the White House.

coldwarrior on January 22, 2013 at 8:21 AM

What makes you think that the Arab Spring is going differently than this administration wants it? Seems to me that the Muslims are pretty much taking over at the same time the administration is going out of its way to let them drive the Jews of Israel into the sea. I’m not convinced this diverges from this administration’s views of that particular part of the world. And, apparently, American Jews agree since they overwhelmingly voted for the rat-eared wonder.

Happy Nomad on January 22, 2013 at 8:28 AM

American Jews agree since they overwhelmingly voted for the rat-eared wonder.

Happy Nomad on January 22, 2013 at 8:28 AM

I have an American Jew friend that eagerly got himself satellite TV and watches Israeli TV to keep connected to his homeland..

But he loves himself some Barrack….

Electrongod on January 22, 2013 at 8:36 AM

Nigeria is one of the top 5 countries from which we import oil. Nigeria is in Africa and is already experiencing attacks by muslims who want to turn it into another hell on earth based upon sharia.

There are many other resources which the US purchases or trades for in Africa, and which are already threatened by AQIM and other muslims. If we do NOT intercede now, it will cost us far more in blood and treasure later.

TKindred on January 22, 2013 at 8:39 AM

“No one here is questioning the threat that AQIM poses regionally,” said an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing internal deliberations. “The question we all need to ask is, what threat do they pose to the U.S. homeland? The answer so far has been none.”

Shorter this Admin. – We’ll wait ’till it blows up.

But, I am sure Dante approves.

Jabberwock on January 22, 2013 at 8:52 AM

But many of Obama’s top aides say it is unclear whether the Mali insurgents, who include members of the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, threaten the U.S

…when JugEars top aides have EVERYTHING in front of them CLEARLY…they have no clarity…we should all worry!

KOOLAID2 on January 22, 2013 at 8:54 AM

War is over. Our government officially surrendered yesterday. In 4 years North Africa will be some other sucker’s problem.

myrenovations on January 22, 2013 at 9:05 AM

Death by a thousand fronts, I mean, cuts…

Logus on January 22, 2013 at 9:41 AM

“The question we all need to ask is, what threat do they pose to the U.S. homeland? The answer so far has been none.”

….neither did Libya….
……….didn’t stop Mr. Peace Prize from launching a war there without Congressional approval.

Baxter Greene on January 22, 2013 at 10:55 AM

It’s hard to tell from the post or the comments what you guys actually want the US to do here. There’s criticism of having gotten involved in Libya, criticism of Obama for fostering Arab Spring, criticism of Obama for not supporting the opposition in Iran, and then I can’t tell if there’s actual criticism of Obama for how he’s handling Mali now as opposed to just general displeasure with Obama.

I see arguments in favor of intervening (Afghanistan wasn’t a direct threat to the US for many years until it became a huge threat) and against (cost of war, destabilization, etc.). What is it that you want the US to do in the case of Mali?

tneloms on January 22, 2013 at 11:15 AM

And in 5-10 years when the next big attack happens, people will wonder how anyone could have been so short-sighted and irresponsible to let this go on.

But it’s simple, really. Politicians just want to avoid any conflict. Except, of course, with their political enemies.

There’s a reason that we insist on civilian control of the military rather than vice versa. But what you’re looking at here is the counter-argument. Civilian politicians tend to bury their heads in the sand and focus on winning their political battles rather than deal with the dangerous world outside.

There Goes The Neighborhood on January 22, 2013 at 11:38 AM

It’s hard to tell from the post or the comments what you guys actually want the US to do here. There’s criticism of having gotten involved in Libya, criticism of Obama for fostering Arab Spring, criticism of Obama for not supporting the opposition in Iran, and then I can’t tell if there’s actual criticism of Obama for how he’s handling Mali now as opposed to just general displeasure with Obama.

I see arguments in favor of intervening (Afghanistan wasn’t a direct threat to the US for many years until it became a huge threat) and against (cost of war, destabilization, etc.). What is it that you want the US to do in the case of Mali?

tneloms on January 22, 2013 at 11:15 AM

I don’t think you can reduce it to a single short statement, since we probably don’t want either to launch a war or to just throw up our hands and walk away. But we need to have an understanding that Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya are not really separate conflicts, but different heads of the same ugly little jihadi monster. That’s why it was so idiotic of Obama to boast about the wars being over. Al Quaeda has still declared war against us, and it’s foolish to pretend we can avoid being at war with them.

And Al Quaeda is only a part of the jihadibeast.

Our president is living down to the worst Neville Chamberlain politician stereotypes. They’ve focused on killing Osama, as if that would end the problem. Stomping Al Quaeda completely out would not end the problem, since there are still such organizations as Hamas and Hezbollah out there. Of course, it might make those organizations be a lot more cautious…

There Goes The Neighborhood on January 22, 2013 at 11:48 AM

There Goes The Neighborhood on January 22, 2013 at 11:48 AM

That all sounds reasonable, but can you say what you want the US to do with respect to Mali specifically? Even if you think tons of mistakes have already been made, you can still say what you think the US should do now given everything that has happened so far. If the answer is to stay out of it while keeping an eye on the situation and providing France with political support, then I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the administration on this particular issue.

tneloms on January 22, 2013 at 12:05 PM

If the answer is to stay out of it while keeping an eye on the situation and providing France with political support, then I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the administration on this particular issue.

tneloms on January 22, 2013 at 12:05 PM

If they’ve created the issue by encouraging the ascendancy of radical elements, then it’s absolutely fair to criticize them. And if they’re pretending that Al Quaeda in Mali is no threat to us, then again it’s fair to criticize them.

We just need to be clear about what, exactly, we’re criticizing.

Al Quaeda everywhere is a threat. That doesn’t necessarily imply direct warfare, but we need to at least remember that they are still enemies. Covert action is fine, though. Bush warned us when the whole “War on Terrorists” began that we wouldn’t necessarily be aware of every bit of conflict and that some of the battles would be fought covertly by necessity.

There Goes The Neighborhood on January 22, 2013 at 12:49 PM

There Goes The Neighborhood on January 22, 2013 at 12:49 PM

It sounds to me like you think we shouldn’t necessarily intervene right now via direct warfare, though we might want to use covert action, and we should acknowledge that AQ in Mali is a long-term threat even if may not be an immediate direct threat to us. If that’s not the case, please correct me.

If it is the case, I think the Obama administration has done what you think it should do with respect to Mali. We haven’t intervened yet. We don’t know what types of covert action, if any, are being pursued, but we do know that Obama has authorized similar covert action around the world in the War on Terror (e.g., in Pakistan and Iran), so I don’t see a reason to believe that they’d shy away from that in Mali. The above article has a quote from an anonymous source that acknowledges the regional danger that Al Qaeda in Mali poses and says that the threat to the US has “so far has been none,” why be no means indicates that it will not be a threat in the future.

Maybe you think that AQ in Mali has been emboldened by Obama encouraging the opposition to Mubarak and helping to topple Qaddafi when he was killing civilians, in which case the criticism is that Obama helped create the problem in Mali. But I don’t think you’re criticizing Obama for anything the US has done recently with respect to Mali.

tneloms on January 22, 2013 at 2:17 PM