Challenges persist in confronting growing threat of al Qaeda in Mali
Armed youth in AQIM video released in 2011
December 3rd, 2012
06:16 PM ET

Challenges persist in confronting growing threat of al Qaeda in Mali

By Mike Mount

Military operations to stop the growth of al Qaeda's influence in northern and western Africa will only make the violent situation there worse if done prematurely, said the top U.S. military commander overseeing operations in Africa.

The concern shows the challenge of dealing urgently with a growing threat from Northern Mali, which has become a safe haven for al Qadea-linked terrorists, who are gaining momentum across northern Africa. The al Qaeda affiliate, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has been linked to the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, according to U.S. officials.

U.S. Army Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of the U.S. Africa Command, said Monday the region needs a well-planned, well-funded operation that is African-led to have a good chance of pushing out the AQIM extremist movement growing in northern and western Africa.

"I would caution against premature military action because of the long-term consequences," Ham said.

Ham said discussions among the United Nations, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States are working out details on how to fund and supply combat forces and assistance to the region. Ham said decisions from the organizations are expected in January.

The discussions have been going on for months since plans by ECOWAS were presented to the U.N. Security Council, which is reviewing them. If the plans are endorsed, the United Nations could give a mandate for African-led combat operations in which the United States could assist with logistics and intelligence but not ground forces, according to Pentagon officials who were not authorized to speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Ham said the situation in northern Mali grew worse after the fall of Libya's former leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, when mercenaries working with him left with money and weapons.

"Northern Mali is a particular challenge; with the complete collapse of the Malian government, there is no control in the northern two thirds of the country, and I don't know how to describe it other than a safe-haven for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," Ham said.

The number of training camps has grown, as have recruiting efforts in the region, and there is now clear evidence that support is being given to an extremist organization in Nigeria, Boko Haram, according to Ham.

"Boko Haram is receiving financial support, probably training, probably some explosives from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in a relationship that goes both ways," Ham said.

In a video statement last week, Boko Haram's leader, Abu Bakr Shekau, expressed solidarity with al Qaeda affiliates in Afghanistan, Iraq, North Africa, Somalia and Yemen, according to SITE Intel Group, which monitors jihadist posts online.

Ham said that Boko Haram did not pose an imminent threat to the United States and likened it to the threat level of al Qaeda in the mid-1990s. He said its leadership aspires to execute bigger operations across the region and Europe and that anything western is "legitimate in their eyes."

"It is in our national interest to help the Nigerians address this problem internally before it gets worse and the organization has an ability to further expand their efforts," Ham said.

Ham said he would be in Nigeria next week to talk to the government to see how the U.S. can assist with Boko Haram and AQIM. He stressed that the U.S. combat troops would not be an option and that the Nigerian military should be a part of a broader solution. Pentagon officials said the broader solution would involve discussions with ECOWAS and the African Union on how to solve the Boko Haram issue.

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Graham Pickenpaugh

    Chinese dry-cured hams have been recorded in texts since before the Song dynasty and used in myriad dishes. Several types exist in Qing dynasty cuisine and are used in dishes of stewing hams.

    May 14, 2013 at 11:47 am | Reply
  2. Matt

    I was trained to fight the USSR and they are my friends now, what hope did you have little rabbit, when you blew my house down. You had no hope.

    December 12, 2012 at 3:02 am | Reply
  3. Matt

    7 years I would be an officer, I would the top US officer commanding operations against al-Qaida in North Africa, Gitmo is a hobby, a side project. God willing the final showdown in North Africa. I would have given anything to be there. I will skin ya.

    December 12, 2012 at 2:36 am | Reply
    • Matt

      The big bad wolf huff and puff blow my house down, your a rabbit, run rabbit run. James D'eath, your in an Australian Army ambush, rabbit.

      December 12, 2012 at 2:41 am | Reply
      • Matt

        We would have partied a bit in the Stan, in my spare time your Gitmo mates, but North Africa is where I crush you with my size ten GP boot. You are there and you don't even know why, that is where I want the rabbit. If W stayed it was the end of the road, if directives were followed as outlined after he left. I got better things to do.

        December 12, 2012 at 2:55 am |
  4. Skorpio

    The answer to terror & global Islamic madness and violence is a MASSIVE CONVERSION OF MUSLIMS TO CHRISTIANITY. Arab Christian churches should unite together to convert millions of brainless Muslims because the root of all evil is the Koran. As opposed to any other religion, Islamic clerics and devout Muslims are the most most perverse, intolerant, discriminatory and irrational people. Muslim clerics are the ones pulling the strings on Islamic societies. These rats incite the masses and are the main instigators of all these evil acts. Perhaps the first step is to eliminate these vermin (Islamic clerics) or take away their evil power from Muslim societies.

    December 4, 2012 at 9:15 am | Reply
    • ODIZZEUs

      You are a really ignorant reatard. Islam is a very peaceful religion and these men you speak of are just not muslim, yet people label them thus. If you feel so threatened deal with them yourself. You think you're all strong because of your words. Well guess what? Try. Just try to see if you can walk up to them using the same words and see if you don't prevail of your cause. You think Christianity is doing anyone good? No, no it isn't i have the utmost respect for the Bible, but over the centuries it has been written on over and over....altered as most would say. Why do you think muslims are very strict on conversion from Islam? It is because Islam is unalterable and it will reamain so.

      December 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  5. Ex muslim

    Use nukes against al queda and islamic extremists and kill them in mass rather than keep playing game of hide and seek with muslim terrorists, its ok if collateral damage of muslim civilians, anyways muslms lvoe death more than life.

    December 4, 2012 at 5:15 am | Reply
    • George Patton

      Gee Ex muslim, are you really that much of a mindless Tea Partier or did some right-wing jerk pay you to post the above?

      December 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  6. George Patton

    It appears that the right-wing thugs in Washington are looking for yet another excuse to drag us into another one of their useless and unnecessary wars again. The country is about to go over the fiscal cliff and these idiots want yet another war to fight!!! How ludicrous can this get???

    December 4, 2012 at 12:12 am | Reply
    • John Doe

      Wow, there some extremely ignorant people on here.

      December 4, 2012 at 2:09 am | Reply
  7. IndonesiaBoy

    Al qaeda using Islam or Islam is the motivator of Al Qaeda? It seems Al Qaeda unstopable. Just learn the truth of Islam. Learn it from quran and hadist.

    December 3, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Reply

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