Tag Archives: Africa

Natural Gas, Mozambique, and its Suitors

Today, the Frelimo party of Mozambique faces its first true test to hold power since 1975. Mozambique’s other major political party, Remano, has mounted a vigorous campaign to take power in the southeast African country, which has made the race too close to call. Reports out of the African country claims voting has started off peacefully, a good sign that a power transition may be peaceful, should it happen. What has garnered the attention of the African country is not the election, but what will happen to one of the world’s largest gas and coal reserves that were recently discovered in the country.

China has already taken advantage of this discovery, purchasing a 20% stake in the giant offshore natural gas field. The China National Petroleum Company paid $4.21 billion to Italian oil producer Eni SpA for this stake and also 28.6% stake of Eni East Africa. The purchase field in question, named “Area 4” is rumored to possess 75 trillion cubic feet of gas, while “Area 1” is said to hold 90 trillion cubic feet of gas. This makes it the largest deep-water gas discovery. It is no surprise that Mozambique has all of a sudden become a focus on the African continent. Russia has even sought to deepen its relationship and cooperation with Mozambique, a statement made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after meeting with his counterpart Oldemiro Baloi in April of 2014. Such a decision should be of no surprise given this discovery.

As China continues to increase its influence and presence on the African continent, once again the United States remains mute on its initiatives for greater influence and investment. On August 4, 2014, Mozambique President Armando Guebuza, speaking in Washington D.C., asked for more American businesses to invest in the country, stating there is great potential to invest. So it must be asked: What is the United States’ plan to compete for influence in Mozambique?

al Qaeda, al Shabaab, and ISIS: Recruiting and Taking Ground

The recent interplay between al Shabaab and the African Union military mission in Somalia offers new data on the role of ground troops, the holding of territory, and Islamist recruiting.   After conventional ground forces deprived the al Qaeda linked group of its last stronghold in Baraawe, al Shabaab retaliated with a failed assassination attempt on the Somali president in Baraawe.  To a more tragic effect, they succeeded in killing thirteen innocent civilians in Mogadishu with a car bomb yesterday.  The loss of Baraawe was a big loss for al Shabaab.  They once enjoyed control of two major port cities where they could earn money in exports and bring in weapons and new recruits unchecked.

It is important to keep in mind that as far back as 2007, the FBI was mobilizing to counter al Shabaab’s successful recruiting of Americans among the Somali refugee community.  In 2010, fourteen people were indicted for trying to support al Shabaab.  Individuals among them came from California, Alabama, and Minnesota.  One of the attackers at Westgate Mall in Kenya last year was believed to be from Kansas City, Missouri.

It also helps to keep in mind that al Shabaab was started by lieutenants of Osama Bin Laden.  Now, ISIS internet recruiting strategies are being compared to Al Qaeda’s as next-generation in technical innovation.   Why? The giant terrorist recruiting boon has long since begun.  That fact overshadows the differences between the groups and highlights their overarching unity of purpose.

Harken back to when the pillar of our now president’s foreign policy debate was that Gitmo caused terrorist recruiting.  If only we could close down Gitmo, we could stem terrorist recruiting world wide.  Another re-hashing of counter recruiting strategy also emerges.  Namely, did invading Iraq serve the cause of terrorist recruitment on a grand scale?  Would another boots on the ground campaign amplify recruiting once again in Syria?

Consider the basic elements at work: 1. Globalized social media with a propaganda capability 2. Freedom and ease of individual travel  3. Porous borders and poorly governed territory

Now apply those elements to each case regarding Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and al Shabaab in Somalia.  These categories clearly do not represent the complexity or all of the scenarios involved in the current threat matrix but do serve for an acceptable base line comparison.

In Afghanistan al Qaeda has good propaganda instincts but it is first generation stuff and there is physical distance between terrorist strongholds and a communications infrastructure.  Freedom and ease of individual travel is made difficult by remoteness and lack of transportation infrastructure.  The low level of governance, however, falls in the plus column.

In Iraq and Syria, ISIS is not only the benefactor of al Qaeda and former al Qaeda, they have more travel infrastructure and communications infrastructure.  It is much easier for Americans and Europeans to travel in and out, gain battle experience, and receive training before they return home.  Add to their globalized propaganda capability a free microphone from HBO’s Vice.  Their ability to take territory and govern speaks for itself.  But here is the twist.  Upon return, their media capability extrapolates as it already had been doing among the Somali jihadists.

Al Shabaab in Somalia had success early on with recruiting and importing foreign fighters due to the absence of an opposing force on the ground and control of vital seaports.  The freedom of individual travel beget effective globalized social media even without great communications infrastructure.   The FBI remains deeply concerned about those who have joined the jihad in Somalia carrying out attacks in the U.S. after returning.

What does all of this say to the debate about putting boots on the ground?  Does military intervention not play right in to Islamist strategy?  To be fair, let us quickly paraphrase the Iraq invasion strategy.  The idea was that it is better to fight terrorists with voluntary soldiers on foreign soil than to leave them unchecked and able to mobilize over seas to then launch attacks on U.S. soil.

It may sound simplistic but the ground force operations in Iraq and Afghanistan gave us an intelligence capability and a special forces capability we would have never had otherwise.  Without it, we would have never gotten Bin Laden and a lot of other bad guys.  That capability is no where near what it was since before the Iraq withdrawal.   Further, the U.S. had the un-articulated strategic advantage of new strike capabilities in a theater where we needed more geo-strategic leverage.  That’s gone too.

For the sake of argument, however, let’s say that the Iraq invasion did bring more terrorists out of the woodwork then would have ever otherwise confronted the U.S. unprovoked.   As Sam Harris has recently highlighted, the same ideas animate the overarching actions of all three groups; al Qaeda, al Shabaab, and ISIS.  It is a strategy for global dominance.  In Somalia, early al Shabaab had an ideological enemy, the Siad Barre military regime, long before U.S. foreign policy provided the foil.   His rise had to do with the Soviets whose foreign policy also provided the foil for Bin Laden’s early propaganda successes.

It will  help Islamist propaganda generally when they can use a Western or secular foreign policy or ideology as a foil.  Letting them determine when and where to fight is to concede that jihadists will name the tune that the West will dance to.  As the list of no-good options grows, there is healthy debate and a lot of good reasons why we should not invade  Iraq for a third time.  But a recruiting coup is not one of them.  The factors listed above can account for a robust propaganda and recruiting capability for ISIS, al Shabaab, and al Qaeda.  Further, thanks to social media, the viral effect is in effect.  That ship has sailed and Western leaders are in more dissarray than ever as to what to do about it.

Baraawe reminds us that taking territory away from Islamist terrorist groups can deprive them of money, weapons, and new recruits in the short term.  Iraq teaches us that if we don’t hold the ground taken from Islamist groups, they will take it back.  Neither case addresses the blood lust or sense of righteousness for their cause in the long run.  Yet their ideas can draw fighters to their banner with or without a U.S. presence on the ground.  A counter ideology capability for the West will not likely emerge in the American political climate.

What works in Somalia is not likely to be replicated in Syria

On Sunday, African Union troops along with the Somali Army marched into the coastal town of Baraawe as a part of Operation Indian Ocean. About 135 miles Southwest of Mogadishu, Baraawe had been a useful port city for al Shabaab where foreign fighters and arms shipments entered freely while charcoal exports earned a significant income for the al Qaeda-linked group.

In 2012, The African Union saw a similar victory further west down the coast in an even more economically significant deep-water port town, Kismayo. However establishing a long-term reliable partnership between the Union and those who might govern territory retaken from al Shabaab in Kismayo remains a complex challenge.

In Kismayo it has involved questions of an old warlord system and a desire for an independent autonomous region. The difficulty of reestablishing governance in Somalia raises the question: can the gains in Kismayo and Baraawe be sustained in the long game against al Shabaab?

Such complexities and challenges account for slow pace of progress in Somalia but one simple lesson can be derived from liberation of Baraawe. A robust boots-on-the-ground operation executed with resolve can deliver clear, quantifiable, and positive results. Confronted with such an operation, with the exception of a half-hearted and unsuccessful ambush on the outskirts of the city, al Shabaab fighters fled. Their calculus, when clearly outgunned by a conventional military was not to fight.

The African Union is touting the liberation of Baraawe as a big victory. As a nerve center for Shabaab’s terrorist operations the city has not seen stable government rule in twenty-three years. One hopes this action will serve to quell al Shabaab’s capability outside of Somalia as well as a recent campaign of car bomb attacks and assassination in Mogadishu. It is a positive development but progress is not the same as long-term success.

A seeming strategic blow to al Shabaab, the “primary terrorist threat” in Africa according to the State Department, should quickly bring to mind the eye-brow raising citation of Yemen and Somalia as winning counter terrorism strategies employed by the U.S. that would be replicated when President Obama announced the air strikes in Syria.

Many and most international affairs observers with a pulse quickly described the glaring problems with such a comparison.  The first of such problems; Neither Somalia or Yemen come to fore as models of counter terrorism success in the long run, despite this recent and positive news from Baraawe.  The primary distinction is that the President was referring to a drone strike strategy which describes U.S. involvement.  This could easily be confused as taking credit for the tactical successes of the AU and the Somali military.

(One such article at NPR, by Krishnadev Calamur, lays out the contradictions with brevity in his piece, “Are Yemen And Somalia Good Examples Of U.S. Anti-Terror Strategy?”)

One of the distinctions Calamur makes is the difference between killing a lot of terrorists with air strikes (in keeping with the U.S. domestic political commitment to never put troops on the ground) and winning in terms of strategic progress.

That rings of the big question in debate since the proposition of arming rebels in Syria began. Who on the ground can we trust? In Somalia, there is an answer to that question- the Somali army and the African Union. They serve as proxies we can trust, and they are making strategic progress with boots on the ground. It doesn’t need restating that no one in the U.S. wants to send American troops into Syria, but if the U.S. had forces on the ground in Syria, they could be trusted to accomplish the mission, something that cannot be said for any available proxy. The lesson is that absent such a resolve to rout an international terrorist threat, like al Shabaab, with strategic measure and strategic commitments, even the short term progress seen in Somalia will not be replicated in Syria.

Niger: An Emerging Security Partnership

The Pentagon last week confirmed that the United States and Niger have agreed to open a second Unmanned Aerial Vehicle base in the African country.  After months of deliberation this second base will be located near the desert city of Agadez in the middle of Niger.

Strategically, the two bases allow the United States to monitor Islamic extremist movement in Libya, Mali, Nigeria, and Algeria, where groups like Ansar al-Shariah, AQIM, and Boko Haram, can be found.  Despite its vast size, Niger’s population is concentrated in one small corner to the southwest and the north of the country is a desert.  Islamic militants used the  large ungoverned territory in the north as safe havens and a base of operations until French soldiers and American UAVs became present in the region.
The importance of these base agreements could lead to long term economic and diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Niger under the US president’s new Security Governance Initiative which builds off the successful approach of President George W. Bush’s Millennium Challenge Corporation in a security focused framework.  There are two compelling interests for the US military presence in Niger:
  • ·       Uranium: A military presence such as a drone base constitutes a robust intelligence capability and Niger is the world’s 4th major producer of Uranium. This element can be used for both energy and military purposes, especially for building nuclear weapons. It is also used for other military purposes such as armor plating. That said; it is doubtful that we want Iran, China, or Russia obtaining the rights to extract this important element. Last year, during ex-Iran president Ahmadinejad’s visit to Niger, President Mahamadou Issoufou hinted at the possibility of allowing Iran into Niger’s Uranium market. There is also the danger the element could also be obtained by the Islamic militants. The Niger government has been open to the presence of American UAVs ever since Islamic militants attacked the Uranium facilities in Arlit.
  • ·       Terrorism: Niger’s location puts it at a high risk for terrorist presence. Given that many of Niger’s citizens are poor and uneducated, as well as 80% Muslim, the risk that some may join the likes of Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda of the Maghreb, Boko Haram or ISIS is unfortunately very high. With few other options, young men are vulnerable to recruitment by such groups, posing a long-term security risk to Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa.
In light of recent events in the region, Niger itself is taking the security threat seriously. It has — along with Nigeria, Cameroon, Libya, Chad, and the Central African Republic – agreed to create a joint-military task force to monitor the Lake Chad region for militants and arms traders. This action shows initiative by these countries to combat the threat of extremist groups in Africa. As one of the six nations chosen to build upon existing security partnerships through the new Security Governance Initiative, Niger is emerging to be a crucial ally well before the SGI’s implementation takes effect in Africa.

 

Obama Wants to ‘Power Africa’: What About Keeping the Lights On in America?

The centerpiece of President Obama’s Africa Summit appears to be a new “Power Africa” that envisions a commitment of as much as $7 billion in government spending and loan guarantees and $9 billion in private-sector investments to help bring electricity to millions of Africans.

Commendable as that initiative may be, the question occurs: At the very moment Mr. Obama is promising to turn the lights on in what used to be known as “the Dark Continent,” what is the Obama administration going to do to assure that the American people are not blacked out – possibly permanently?

Unfortunately, there is real reason to believe that the United States’s electrical grid is extremely vulnerable to possibly protracted disruption. That can result from enemy action utilizing a variety of techniques or from naturally occurring events. Assorted attacks on substations, power lines and/or generating facilities in this country and elsewhere – from San Jose, California, and Nogales, Arizona, to Iraq and Yemen to Mexico – have demonstrated that al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and perhaps others understand the strategic importance of these assets and the ease with which they can be disrupted, if not destroyed.

Even in the absence of such attacks utilizing electromagnetic pulse weapons, cyberwarfare, or more traditional types of sabotage, our grid is still in imminent peril: Roughly every 150 years, the earth is hit with an intense solar storm known as a Carrington Event, which unleashes devastating levels of electromagnetic energy.

The impact of such storms on the electric infrastructure – especially nuclear power plants and the effectively irreplaceable high voltage transformers that are the backbone of the grid – would be catastrophic.  Ditto for the society that depends upon this and all the other critical infrastructures electricity enables.

The last one occurred 155 years ago. So we are due for one at any time.

In fact, as NASA reminded us recently, our planet had what is, in astrophysical terms, a close encounter with such a Carrington Event. A geomagnetic disturbance powered by a nearly simultaneous double solar flare on July 23, 2012 intersected the earth’s orbit at a point in space where the earth would be just nine days later.

Even more alarming, as the NASA press release points out, there is a 12 percent probability that the earth will be hit with such a destructive solar storm sometime in the next ten years. Those odds are slightly better than Russian Roulette. But who in their right mind would – knowing the stakes – put at risk not just their own lives, but life as we know it?

We will be doing no favor to anyone if we spend billions of dollars building a new grid in Africa that is not protected against all such hazards. Not for the Africans we are trying to help.  Not for the U.S. taxpayers, businesses, and investors whose equities are on the line. Any smart grid or other technology provided to the people of Africa by President Obama’s Power Africa project must be hardened against the various threats with which it may predictably have to contend.

A blue-ribbon congressional commission charged with assessing the EMP threat estimated that it would cost roughly $2 billion to “harden” key elements of the U.S. electric grid. If Mr. Obama can find $7 billion to introduce millions of Africans to the 21st Century, surely we can allocate a fraction of that amount to ensure that our countrymen and women remain in it.

U.S. Embassy Apparently Violated Own Regulations to Avoid Helping American Toddler in Sudan Prison

In a State Department press conference, Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki repeatedly refused to answer questions about the status of Daniel Wani, the American husband of Meriam Ibrahim, a woman facing a death sentence for alleged apostasy in Sudan, and of the status of their 20 month old child who is, by all appearances, also an American citizen.  Wani has told reporters that the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum demanded a “blood test” to determine whether the child was in fact his.

According to DOS regulations, (h/t Andrew Bostom) demanding a blood test would appear to be the hardest possible line for the State Department to assert against a man they believe to be engaged in paternity fraud.  U.S. DOS Regulation “7 FAM 1130  ACQUISITION OF U.S. CITIZENSHIP BY  BIRTH ABROAD TO U.S. CITIZEN PARENT” indicates:

Children born in wedlock are generally presumed to be the issue of that  marriage. This presumption is not determinative in citizenship cases, however, because an actual blood relationship to a U.S. citizen parent is required. If  doubt arises that the citizen “parent” is related by blood to the child, the consular officer is expected to investigate carefully. Circumstances that might give rise to such a doubt include:

(1) Conception or birth of a child when either of the alleged biological parents was married to another;
(2) Naming on the birth certificate, as father and/or mother, person(s) other than the alleged biological parents; and
(3) Evidence or indications that the child was conceived at a time when the alleged father had no physical access to the mother.

Given that Wani and Ibrahim are married (Wani  produced a marriage certificate and other documents for the embassy in Khartoum), the presumption is that the child, Martin, is an American citizen unless there is a reasonable suspicion otherwise. Furthermore, the Embassy’s insistence that Wani provide a blood test, is absolutely the last recourse of a consular officer who suspects paternity fraud. From 7 FAM 1131.5-3 Paternity Issues:

How to Resolve Doubts: To ascertain the true circumstances surrounding the  child’s conception and birth, the consular officer may wish to:
(1) Obtain available records showing periods of time when the alleged father had physical access to the mother;
(2) Interview the parents separately to determine any differences in their respective stories as to when and where the child was conceived. Often, in separate interviews, one party will admit that the American citizen is not the father;
(3) Interview neighbors and friends to determine the facts as understood within the local community; and
(4) Advise blood testing if the couple continues to pursue the claim even though the facts as developed seem to disprove it.

By demanding a blood test, the Consular official who spoke with Wani is asserting that the office possesses facts that suggest Wani is not the father of Martin.

We ought to demand that the State Department produce whatever facts they claim exist which led them to demand a blood test in order to prove Martin Wani’s citizenship.

Given the flippancy of Ms. Psaki’s regard for this issue, I suspect no such facts will be produced, or  even could be produced.

The same bureaucracy which dragged its feet over granting a spousal visa to Meriam Ibrahim (without which Meriam would right now be a free woman instead of facing death) is permitting an American child to languish in a third world  prison cell.

 

While the US Fights Terror, China Snaps Up Resources

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With Tom Marino, Roger Noriega, George O’Conor, Bill Gertz

Congressman TOM MARINO (PA-10) examines the Obama Administration’s decision to weaken restrictions on immigrants who have given support to terrorism as an example of executive overreach.

ROGER NORIEGA, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, weighs in on the heavy influence narco-trafficking has in Latin America, and reports that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is helping support the Maduro government in Venezuela.

GEORGE O’CONOR, founder of Chime Media, describes China’s grabbing up of water resources across the globe, and its tightening control over worldwide shipping routes.

BILL GERTZ, Senior Editor at the Washington Free Beacon, provides in-depth analysis regarding the intensified status of politically shaken Ukraine and the recent Russian military exercise near Ukraine’s eastern border.

White House’s Pro-Islamist Allies Have Dangerous Levels of Foreign Policy Influence

With Zuhdi Jasser, Carina Tertsakian, Gordon Chang, Roger Noriega

Dr. ZUHDI JASSER, of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, gages the crisis in Egypt and how the violence occurring now against members of the Muslim Brotherhood is actually fueling their cause and legitimatizing them further in the country.  Dr. Jasser also probes deeper into the dangers of the White House keeping company with radical Islamists and people who have known ties to radical apparatuses, like Huma Abedin.

CARINA TERTSAKIAN, senior researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Africa division, digs deeper into the background of the M23 Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as sheds light on the atrocities that are occurring in the DRC and what, if anything, is being done to help the region.

GORDON CHANG, of Forbes.com, gives his insight on several different important issues critical to national security, including EMPs, where the U.S. stands with North Korea and the upcoming trip of Jimmy Carter to North Korea to negotiate the release of American Kenneth Bay, and what impact this visit could have.

ROGER NORIEGA, of InterAmerican Security Watch, examines the threats from the south of border– namely, the North Korean vessel stopped in Panama containing missiles.

Genocide in Sudan: Call for Action, Cry for Change

This month marks the one-year anniversary of South Sudan’s birth as a country, yet there is little to celebrate.  The Bashir regime of the northern Republic of Sudan is perpetuating conflict over resources in the wake of South Sudan’s 2011 succession. Aggressive bombings and genocidal violence are an attempt to win this civil war by essentially wiping out inhabitants in the border regions of South Sudan. Thousands of innocent civilians in Abyei, Blue Nile, and the Nuba Mountains are targeted by the Sudan Air Force. They are left with a grim choice: either die of starvation while fleeing for their lives, or face the violent attacks of northern air force.

On June 30, 2012, South Sudanese activists around the world joined the Sudanese people and rallied in several major cities, including Washington D.C.

Despite the 100-degree heat, a group of individuals representing the many regions affected by this conflict gathered in front of the Sudanese embassy promoting a clear message: down with Al-Bashir; end the genocide immediately.  This rally focused on supporting recent student anti-government protests in the capital city of Khartoum that began in June.

The resolve of previous administrations led to the diplomatic success of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 which led to the creation of South Sudan by referendum.  Over the past few years, however, Sudanese activists have seen the current administration lend diplomatic credibility to Islamist totalitarians like Al-Bashir in Iran as well as lending military support, money, and aid to Islamists of the same ideological stripes as Al Qaeda in Libya and Egypt. These messages are confusing. 

The Bashir regime has been a long-time partner and supporter of Hezbollah and even hosted Osama bin Laden until it was pressured by the U.S. to deny him safe haven.  Despite Bashir’s unchecked aggression, President Obama telephoned the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir three times this spring asking him not to engage in defense of the Nuba people without significantly challenging the Khartoum regime to any effect.  

The Center for Security Policy captured the hopes and frustrations of those giving a voice to the victims of Khartoum, past, present, and future.

 

For more information and background on the current situation in Sudan: