EYE War on
terror forever By Pepe Escobar
And the winner of the Oscar for Best
Sequel of 2013 goes to... The Global War on Terror
(GWOT), a Pentagon production. Abandon all hope
those who thought the whole thing was over with
the cinematographic snuffing out of "Geronimo",
aka Osama bin Laden, further reduced to a fleeting
cameo in the torture-enabling flick Zero Dark
It's now official - coming
from the mouth of the lion, Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, and duly
posted at the AFRICOM
site, the Pentagon's weaponized African
branch. Exit "historical" al-Qaeda, holed up
somewhere in the Waziristans, in the Pakistani
tribal areas; enter al-Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb (AQIM). In Dempsey's words, AQIM "is a
threat not only to the country of Mali, but the
region, and if... left unaddressed, could in fact
become a global threat."
With Mali now
elevated to the status of a "threat" to the whole
world, GWOT is proven to be
really open-ended. The Pentagon doesn't do irony;
when, in the early 2000s, armchair warriors coined
the expression "The Long War", they really meant
Even under President Obama 2.0's
"leading from behind" doctrine, the Pentagon is
unmistakably gunning for war in Mali - and not
only of the shadow variety.  General Carter
Ham, AFRICOM's commander, already operates under
the assumption Islamists in Mali will "attack
Thus, the first 100
US military "advisers" are being sent to Niger,
Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Togo and Ghana -
the six member-nations of the Economic Community
of West African States (ECOWAS) that will compose
an African army tasked (by the United Nations) to
reconquer (invade?) the parts of Mali under the
Islamist sway of AQIM, its splinter group MUJAO
and the Ansar ed-Dine militia. This African
mini-army, of course, is paid for by the West.
Students of the Vietnam War will be the
first to note that sending "advisers" was the
first step of the subsequent quagmire. And on a
definitely un-Pentagonese ironic aside, the US
over these past few years did train Malian troops.
A lot of them duly deserted. As for the lavishly,
Fort Benning-trained Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo,
not only did he lead a military coup against an
elected Mali government but also created the
conditions for the rise of the Islamists.
Nobody, though, is paying attention.
General Carter Ham is so excited with the prospect
of AFRICOM accumulating more gigs than Led
Zeppelin in its heyday, and himself acquiring
iconic savior status (Carter of Africa?), that
he's bungling up his data.  The general
seems to have forgotten that AFRICOM - and then
the North Atlantic treaty Organization (NATO) -
irretrievably supported (and weaponized) the NATO
rebels in Libya who were the fighting vanguard in
the war against Muammar Gaddafi. The general does
know that AQIM has "a lot of money and they have a
lot of weapons".
But he believes it was
"mercenaries paid by Gaddafi" who abandoned Libya
and brought their weapons, and "many of them came
to northern Mali". No, general, they were not
Gaddafi mercenaries; most were NATO rebels, the
same ones who attacked the US Consulate, actually
a CIA station, in Benghazi, the same ones
commuting to Syria, the same ones let loose all
across the Sahel.
So what is Algeria up
to? Right on cue, British Prime Minister
David Cameron followed His Masters Voice,
announcing the intervention in Mali will last
years "or even decades". 
the creme de la creme of Britain's intelligence
establishment is meeting to plan nothing else than
a pan-Sahara/Sahel war, for which they want yet
another Bush-style "coalition of the willing". 
For the moment, British involvement means yet more
"advisers" in the usual "military cooperation" and
"security training" categories, lots of money and,
last but not least, Special Forces in shadow war
The whole scenario comes complete
with another providential "Geronimo"; Mokhtar
Belmokhtar, aka "The Uncatchable" (at least by
French intelligence), the leader of MUJAO who
masterminded the raid on the In Amenas gas field
Haven't we seen this movie
before? Of course we did. But now - it's official
- Mali is the new Afghanistan (as Asia Times
Online had already reported - Burn,
burn Africa's Afghanistan, January 18, 2013).
Here's Cameron: "Just as we had to deal with that
in Pakistan and Afghanistan, so the world needs to
come together to deal with this threat in North
Africa." Right; Belmokhtar is already rehearsing
for his cameo appearance in a Zero Dark
So by now it's clear
where the Anglo-American Pentagon/Africom/British
intelligence "special relationship" stands - with
the French under President Francois Hollande,
reconverted as a warlord, momentarily "leading"
the way towards Operation African Quagmire.
Crucially, no one in the European Union, apart
from the Brits, is loony enough to follow in the
footsteps of warlord Hollande.
comparison, what is definitely not clear is where
the key to this equation - Algeria - stands, from
the point of view of the Western GWOT.
Number one fact is that the new
"Geronimo", Belmokhtar, and his Mulathameen
Brigade ("The Masked Ones"), of which the "Signed
in Blood Batallion" which attacked in Algeria is a
sub-group, enjoy extremely cozy links with
Algerian secret intelligence. In a way, this could
be seen as a remix of the relationship between the
Taliban - and "historic" al-Qaeda - with the
Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The Algerian military's ultra-hardcore
response to the Islamist raid was predictable
(this is how they did it during the 1990s in their
internal war against the Islamic Salvation Front).
We don't negotiate with terrorists; we kill them
(along with scores of hostages). We do it by
ourselves, without nosy foreigners, and we go for
total information blackout.
No wonder this
modus operandi raised a rosary of eyebrows across
the Anglo-American "special relationship". Thus
the Washington/London bottom line: we cannot trust
the Algerians. Our GWOT - the Sahara/Sahel chapter
- will be fought without them. Perhaps, even
A serious complicating
factor is that the 40 or so Islamists (including
Libyans, Syrians and Egyptians) crossed at least
1,600 kilometers of high desert coming from Libya,
not Mali. They had to have serious "protection" -
anything from intelligence provided by a foreign
power to qualified Algerian insiders. Hostages
told of kidnappers "with North American accents"
(including a Canadian whom Reuters has named
"Chedad") and that all of them knew exactly where
the foreigners were located inside the compound.
Professor Jeremy Keenan of the School
of Oriental and African Studies in London frames
it in terms of an Algerian false-flag operation
gone wrong.  Algiers may have wanted to signal
to the West that French bombing in Mali would
inevitably lead to blowback; but then Belmokhtar
turned the whole thing upside down because he was
furious the French were allowed to own Algerian
airspace to bomb Mali. In a way, this could be
seen as another remix of the Taliban revolting
against the ISI.
Algerian public opinion
is immensely suspicious, to say the least, of all
the players' motives, including the Algerian
government and especially France. Here
is a fascinating sample. This perspective, by
a political science professor, is worth quoting at
length, as it neatly summarizes the French "lead"
in the new GWOT chapter.
In an interview with the
French-language daily Le Soir d'Algerie,
political science professor Ahmed Adimi
described the intervention as an attempt to
"undermine Algeria" and a "step in a plan for
the installation of foreign forces in the Sahel
region". Adimi's thesis is that France has
worked for years to destabilize the Sahel as a
means of strengthening its geopolitical stance.
Asked whether the French operation in
Mali was consistent with United Nations security
council resolution 2085, Adimi states that the
resolution "does not pose much of a problem in
itself. Western powers have used it to intervene
and adopt resolutions to justify their military
operations. This has already happened in Iraq.
In fact, the French operation may seem legal
since it comes at the request of the Acting
Present of Mali. However, it is important to
remember that the current government came to
power in a coup. Regarding the intervention, it
was certainly predictable but the French have
precipitated matters. [...] These terrorist
groups are being manipulated by foreign powers,"
continuing to argue that these groups were
"allowed" to move south to Konna as means of
justifying the French intervention.
Adimi argues that Algerians have "been
sounding the alarm about the situation in the
Sahel in general. Ahmed Barkouk and myself have
organized several seminars on this topic. We
discussed the role of France and its commitment
to the region. It was France that was behind the
creation of the movement for the Azawad, and I
speak of course of the political organization
and not of the people of Azawad, who have rights
as a community. The French knew that their
intervention in Libya would lead to a return of
the pro-Qaddafi military Tuareg to Mali. They
also planned the release of Libyan arms
stockpiles across the Sahel band. The project is
to transform the region into a new Afghanistan,
the result of long-term
Tariq Ramadan, in a
devastating piece,  also unmasks Paris, drawing
the connection between the dodgy Sarkozy
"humanitarian" intervention in Libya and the
current Hollande drive to protect a "friendly"
country - all coupled with the hypocrisy of France
for decades not giving a damn about "the people"
suffering under assorted African dictatorships.
But the Oscar for Best Hypocritical
Scenario certainly goes to the current
French-Anglo-American concern about Mali being the
new al-Qaeda playground, when the major
playgrounds are actually NATO-supported northern
Syria (as far as the Turkish border), north
Lebanon and most parts of Libya.
the gold, and follow the uranium Even
before it's possible to fully analyze the myriad
ramifications - many of them unforeseen - of the
expanded GWOT, there are two fronts to be
carefully observed in the near future. So let's
follow the gold, and let's follow the uranium.
Follow the gold. A host of nations have
gold bullion deposited at the New York Federal
Reserve. They include, crucially, Germany.
Recently, Berlin started asking to get back its
physical gold back - 374 ton from the Bank of
France and 300 tons out of 1,500 tons from the New
York Federal Reserve.
So guess what the
French and the Americans essentially said: We
ain't got no gold! Well, at least right now. It
will take five years for the German gold in France
to be returned, and no less than seven years for
the stash at the New York Federal Reserve. Bottom
line: both Paris and Washington/New York have to
come up with real physical gold any way they can.
That's where Mali fits in - beautifully.
Mali - along with Ghana - accounts for up to 8% of
global gold production. So if you're desperate for
the genuine article - physical gold - you've got
to control Mali. Imagine all that gold falling
into the hands of... China. Now follow the
uranium. As everyone who was glued to the Niger
yellowcake saga prior to the invasion of Iraq
knows, Niger is the world's fourth-largest
producer of uranium. Its biggest customer is -
surprise! - France; half of France's electricity
comes from nuclear energy. The uranium
mines in Niger happen to be concentrated in
the northwest of the country, on the western range
of the Air mountains, very close to the Mali
border and one of the regions being bombed by the
The uranium issue is intimately
connected with successive Tuareg rebellions; one
must remember that, for the Tuaregs, there are no
borders in the Sahel. All recent Tuareg rebellions
in Niger happened in uranium country - in Agadez
province, near the Mali border. So, from the point
of view of French interests, imagine the
possibility of the Tuaregs gaining control of
those uranium mines - and starting to do deals
with... China. Beijing, after all, is already
present in the region.
All this crucial
geostrategic power play - the "West" fighting
China in Africa, with AFRICOM giving a hand to
warlord Hollande while taking the Long War
perspective - actually supersedes the blowback
syndrome. It's unthinkable that British, French
and American intelligence did not foresee the
blowback ramifications from NATO's "humanitarian
war" in Libya. NATO was intimately allied with
Salafis and Salafi-jihadis - temporarily
reconverted into "freedom fighters". They knew
Mali - and the whole Sahel - would subsequently be
awash in weapons.
No, the expansion of
GWOT to the Sahara/Sahel happened by design. GWOT
is the gift that keeps on giving; what could
possibly top a new war theatre to the
Oh yes, there's that "pivoting"
to Asia as well. One is tempted to donate a finger
- extracted Islamist-style - to know how and when
will come the counterpunch from Beijing.