ASPEN, Colo. — The U.S. is likely to weigh options ranging from military assistance to direct strikes to drive a growing al-Qaida presence out of the coup-wracked African nation of Mali, a Pentagon official said Thursday.
“We cannot allow al-Qaida to sit in an ungoverned space and have a sanctuary and impunity,” said Michael Sheehan, the Defense Department’s assistant secretary for special operations.
U.S. officials first must find ways to work with the post-coup government in Bamako to combat the militants, Sheehan said at the Aspen Security Forum.
“We have to accelerate that effort,” he said, now that al-Qaida’s African branch, known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, essentially has taken over Mali’s northern region.
Mali’s junta leaders handed power to an interim government after their revolt, but they still remain largely in control.
The coup leaders have rejected U.S. assistance so far, but on Thursday said they would welcome a West African military intervention force to help recapture the north – the first indication that the coup leaders would accept foreign troops.
The proposal for a 3,000-member military intervention force is still awaiting approval from the U.N. Security Council.
Sheehan said “all options would be considered for what is a looming threat,” including strikes on the militants.
“What we will do with Mali, I can’t speculate, but I think you can look at the whole range of things that have been successful in partnership with (other) governments, and perhaps operating in ungoverned space,” Sheehan said.
In other words, using taxpayer money to fund another undeclared and un-Constitutional war in a far away land that poses no direct threat to U.S. national security. Or more drone practice soon to be used in the U.S.?
Sheehan added that the U.S. is discussing the situation with U.S. allies France and Britain, who are equally concerned about al-Qaida’s spread.
Any next steps by the U.S. will be negotiated first by the American ambassador on the ground, added a senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of any such negotiations.
U.S. special operations forces have had an episodic training presence in Mali. Three special operations troops who were off duty were killed in a car crash, together with three local women, the day after the coup. They had been part of a small training force there at the invitation of the last government, a second U.S. military official explained. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the program publicly.
Conclusion: The U.S. is already in Mali. They are training and supplying whom?
Despite Northern Mali becoming an Islamic state ruled by sharia, this clearly is more to this situation than al Qaeda. Is Obama positioning someone or some group to rise to power in Mali? Is he distracting from treasonous domestic issues by use of his favorite boogey man al Qaeda?
Update: Three months later, October 21, others are picking up on this new, pending war (where we’ve already had U.S. troops on the ground):
WASHINGTON – The U.S. may commit military forces to Mali to deal with jihadists in the North African country under a proposed resolution France has drafted for the United Nations Security Council, according to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Analysts believe the resolution, which may pass within the next 30 days, calls for members to provide military training and equipment to halt the spread of jihadists in the western portion of the continent.
Update 2: January 11 – the war has started
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wrote on his Twitter account Friday: “On the phone with (U.S. Defense Secretary) Leon Panetta about the Malian crisis. This afternoon with my European counterparts.”
Why are the French checking with Panetta?
The U.N. Security Council has authorized the intervention but imposed certain conditions. Those include training of Mali’s military, which has been accused of serious human rights abuses since a military coup last year sent the nation into disarray.
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — France launched airstrikes Friday to help the government of Mali defeat al-Qaeda-linked militants who captured more ground this week, dramatically raising the stakes in the battle for this vast desert nation.
French President Francois Hollande said the “terrorist groups, drug traffickers and extremists” in northern Mali “show a brutality that threatens us all.”
Really? If they threaten us all, why are they permitted in Western countries like France and the U.S.? They just want sharia, right?
Sanda Abou Moahmed, a spokesman for the Ansar Dine group, condemned Mali’s president for seeking military help from its former colonizer.
“While Dioncounda Traore asked for help from France, we ask for guidance from Allah and from other Muslims in our sub-region because this war has become a war against the crusaders,” he said by telephone from Timbuktu.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” by events in Mali, and that Washington was closely consulting with Paris. She said neither France nor Mali has asked for U.S. military assistance.
Of course the only time the U.S. intervenes is when they are asked for assistance.