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US General Says Negotiating with Terrorists is Best Policy

6 Dec

David O. Kuranga, Ph.D.

The author is the Managing Director and Principal of Kuranga and Associates, a full-service investment, political and economic risk consultancy, and asset management firm that specializes in Africa. He is also the author of The Power of Interdependence with Palgrave Macmillan Press.

Directly a result of the improper-planned mission in Libya, half of Mali is under control of Libyan armed extremists and the many foreign fighters that took part in the former Libyan regime. Only part of the NATO alliance that took action in bombing Libya is ready to support action in Mali. Namely, the French Government now led by President Hollande, is taking a very active stance in Mali similar to President Sarkozy in Libya. The key absent parties are the United States and the United Kingdom. The question is, why? Why would the United States, who recently experienced the impact of the North African terror network in Benghazi, be so slow and obstructionist to an intervention in Mali? Especially given that their own troops would not be called to participate. If the US had doubts about the capacity of African troops, then the supportive stance would be to help enhance them with material and financial contributions. Delaying a response only allows for the adversary, the same one responsible for the killings of Americans in Benghazi, to grow stronger, train more cells, generate more revenue from criminal activity, and begin to project throughout the region and the world. United States General Carter Ham noted that the groups occupying Northern Mali, especially AQIM and their affiliates, was growing stronger by the day. Thus he and his colleagues know that delaying makes the task more difficult. He also said that “negotiation is the best way”. In the same speech he noted that AQIM was supplying bombs to Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria as well as financial support and training. Both groups have been officially labeled by the United States government as terrorist organizations. Yet, one of the top Generals said that negotiations with AQIM in Mali was the best way to end the conflict there. Thus he endorsed a policy of negotiating with terrorists.

The hypocrisy of the United States with respect to its response to the crisis in Mali is glaring. Given that it was the US led bombing campaign in Libya that led to fighters based there fleeing into northern Mali with weapons taken out of Libya to do battle in Mali that caused the entire situation in the first place. It is in part the US and its failure in Libya that is responsible for Mali yet they have been delaying, allowing a group that is linked to the killing of officials at their consulate to grow stronger. This is making the work of the African-led efforts resolve it more complex and difficult. It is not clear how far the US has gone to delay intervention. The UN Special Envoy Prodi had talks with key US figures before he was appointed by the UN Secretary General. It is unlikely that they would have approved his nomination had he not supported their now clear agenda to delay intervention and block it by claims of improper planning. The mission in Mali is far better planned, conceived, and organized than the US-led NATO bombing campaign in Libya. Hence why that mission failed to contain the hostile groups or the large supply of weapons that eventually poured into Mali. Given that the US has willing countries to shoulder providing ground support in the form of trained troops that answer to recognized and respected governments, something that was not at all the case in Libya, it is not clear why the US would not also jump on with France and join in to support the effort to clean up their mess. On top of this, a top United States General, Carter Ham, is breaking ranks with decades of US policy and advocating that the best policy is to negotiate with terrorists!

There are a host of questions with respect to the response of the United States in Mali. I for one do not believe that Army General Carter Ham really thinks that the best policy is to negotiate with terrorists. He, like myself is fully aware that even rebels do not negotiate unless there is a credible threat of force. There is clear evidence as that now that the threat of an imminent African-led intervention grows that rebels in Mali are now beginning to concede ground in talks. Even Ansar Dine, an ally of AQIM, recently agreed in principle to respect religious freedom. Ham also knows that negotiating with terrorists serves to encourage them, something that the US has sought to avoid. So why the blatant hypocrisy? What is the US trying to achieve by all this? They too have felt the effect of AQIM leveling attacks on their own officials in the region. Just like France, the US also has every reason to want the threat now posed in northern Mali eliminated. What could the US possibly gain in Africa that would be worth allowing the threat in Mali to grow and strengthen for another year as they have suggested? How could West African instability serve US interests?

There are a few possible answers to this question. One possible outcome of a delay to act decisively in Mali is that regional forces may not be able to fully retake northern Mali with their current resources even with support from France, if they give AQIM a year to build-up as the US, and the UN is now suggesting. Thus they may require substantial resources from the world’s pre-eminent military power. The US has for long been trying to get African countries to agree to host AFRICOM, the US military central command post for Africa which is actually led by General Carter Ham, which today is based in Germany. The fear of sovereignty and a neo-colonial force has led to African leaders resisting US requests to host a large central base. However, since the fiasco in Mali the US has secured the temporary use of bases in Burkina Faso and perhaps other countries in the region. Greater instability in West Africa could go a long way to helping the US military secure its permanent base it has long been seeking. Thus while it is not in the short-term interest of the US to allow AQIM to grow in West Africa, it may indeed support their long-term goal of securing a permanent base for AFRICOM. This would explain the hypocritical stance by US General Ham, in asserting that negotiating with terrorists was the best policy. While he knows that it would not yield any resolution to the crisis, which is why his own government has never engaged in or supported such a strategy, it may indeed serve to enhance the foothold of the US in the region.

Kuranga and Associates Global Consultancy is a political and economic risk management firm with a principle practice area of Africa. To learn more about Kuranga and Associates go to www.kaglobal.net. © Copyright 2012 David Kuranga. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

David O. Kuranga; Ph.D.
Managing Director
Kuranga & Associates Global Consultancy
Phone: 212.363.0936
david.kuranga@kaglobal.net
https://kurangaandassociates.wordpress.com http://us.macmillan.com/thepowerofinterdependence/DavidOladipupoKuranga

Political Risk in Mali and West and North Africa: Update…

4 Dec

David O. Kuranga, Ph.D.

The author is the Managing Director and Principal of Kuranga and Associates, a full-service investment, political and economic risk consultancy, and asset management firm that specializes in Africa. He is also the author of The Power of Interdependence with Palgrave Macmillan Press.

There is great concern over the security situation in Mali. At present both ECOWAS and the AU have agreed to send up to 5000 troops from African countries to help regain Mali’s territory. The plan enjoys wide support throughout Africa and as it appears even among some parties in Europe who are not keen on seeing an extremist haven involved in criminal activity develop and train equip and spread through North Africa. According to decision-makers that I have spoken to, a lot of the responsibility for what is happening in Mali falls squarely on NATO due to its hastily planned intervention in Libya which was not supported by the AU at the time. Shortly after the NATO led bombing campaign in Libya fighters and weapons caches traveled to Mali to establish a foothold in the North of the country. Had it not been for the failure of the NATO led campaign in Libya to contain post regime fighters from leaving the country with large supplies of weapons the situation in Mali would not be.

Now regional decision-makers are poised to begin to clean-up that mess starting in Mali. They have pledged material resources as well as armed troops to commence the task. It was the view of some African decision-makers that financial support from Western allies responsible for the Libya fiasco, would be forthcoming. Primarily for this reason, they forwarded plans to the UN Security Council to get an international resolution endorsing the steps they had taken and opening up the mission for international support. However, based on the statements made by UN Special Envoy Prodi, and the UN Secretary General himself, ECOWAS and AU decision-makers are now realizing that same UN Security Council that endorsed the intervention in Libya which directly lead to the problem in Mali is not willing to support their efforts to clean things up. The UN Secretary General noted that the UN did not have the resources to support an African-led mission and it was not clear how they intended to finance the operation. The Secretary General and his Envoy have called for more negotiations, even though one of the largest groups occupying northern Mali has never participated in any negotiations and has no intention of doing so. Further its membership appears to be almost entirely foreign, with more and more recruits coming in from territories as far as Pakistan.

African decision-makers in ECOWAS and the AU are sending representatives to the UN to convey the need to act urgently. It was the UN Security Council that requested they provide a clear plan for retaking the territory during the UN General Assembly, something that was never done for Libya. Even after presenting this plan, the prevailing disposition is to wait and allow the groups that refuse to negotiate more time to recruit train and equip fighters making dislodging them that more difficult. However, it is not likely that ECOWAS and AU will entertain more stalling from the international “partners”. Intervention in Mali by a regional force will occur in a matter of weeks. The measure has already been authorized by ECOWAS and the AU. It does not require any UN Security Council approval or authorization and it is fully within the UN Charter for states within the region to act. Indeed, a United States General, said in a statement that groups in Mali were funding and supporting Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, giving that country the full right of self-defense to remove them. In addition the regional arrangements for both ECOWAS and the AU allow for intervention in member states for reasons such as this. Indeed ECOWAS has already intervened in Guinea-Bissau with troops to stabilize that country. The only reason why there has been a delay in Mali was the expectation that countries outside the Africa region would support and take part once the UN Security Council endorsed the ECOWAS and AU authorized mission. The right of regional organizations to intervene in member-states is also part of the UN Charter in Chapter 8 (Article 52) on regional arrangements, thus it is fully within the authority of ECOWAS and the AU to intervene in Mali without any UN Security Council action.

The signaling by the international community that it will not act on Mali will not be accepted by African decision-makers. Regardless of what happens in New York, African troops will be in Mali in a matter of weeks. ECOWAS has already planned on holding a donors conference to raise resources needed to support an intervention, originally it had been planned to hold it after the UN Security Council resolution, but it could be held before even if the UN choses to do nothing. It is not possible to negotiate with parties that do not wish to negotiate. Further armed rebellions are not ended by negotiation unless there is a credible threat of force that would compel a fruitful negotiation, something that has not occurred thus far.

There will be an armed operation in Mali, both the regional countries and Mali itself will be shouldered with the cost of executing it if international partners do not provide support and if they are not effective in raising revenue through their planned donors conference. As this happens, investors in the region should understand that the government in Mali will need resources, thus increase in taxes and fees as happened recently with the Mali gold tax is entirely possible. Further, neighboring countries, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Algeria, Burkina Faso, and Libya could see instability spill over into their territory. Likely many of the fighters will flee north to Mauritania, Algeria, and Libya, as they will blend in better with those populations than they would if they chose to venture south. While regional forces will work to contain and neutralize them, they are fully aware that many of them will flee the fighting as they are dislodged.

As this happens one country to be very watchful of is Mauritania. The president of that country is still suffering from a gunshot wound he sustained from one of his officers in October. As he spends most of his time in France receiving treatment, it is not clear he will be able to hold on to power. He has refused to support any armed role in the conflict in Mali, however should armed fighters enter into his countries territory his army will undoubtedly be drawn in. Should this happen, his government will have to divert more resources to securing their border with Mali and the tenure of his presidency could be cut short. Investors should be mindful that there are substantial political risks in Mauritania moving forward, just as much as Mali if not more. It is entirely possible that there will be a regime change there and the transitional government may tap mining and energy investors there for more revenue as aid flow may be cut in response to a military take-over.

The best case scenario would be for the NATO alliance; that bares full responsibility of the residual effect of their handy work in Libya, to support the African-led mission in Mali. If this happens it will shorten the length of conflict, and potentially enhance the ability of regional countries to round-up weapons caches and the surge of foreign fighters that moved into Mali. Despite this, the regional body is ready to act and will within weeks. This will eventually lead to stability in Mali, perhaps within a year. There may however be some spill-over into neighboring countries. For the time being, Mauritania appears to be at the most risk, followed by Algeria which may see another authoritarian leader in North Africa fall if instability reignites social unrest there. The other reason why Mauritania is at greater risk than Niger and Burkina Faso is because Mauritania is no longer a member of ECOWAS. Had it been, ECOWAS leaders would have sent envoys there to mediate with the military, opposition, and political stakeholders as soon as the president was shot in October, limiting the possibility that he would be overthrown. The details of the process behind regional diplomacy in Africa is detailed in my book, The Power of Interdependence with Palgrave Macmillan Press.

***For the full report contact me by email.***

Kuranga and Associates Global Consultancy is a political and economic risk management firm with a principle practice area of Africa. To learn more about Kuranga and Associates go to www.kaglobal.net. © Copyright 2012 David Kuranga. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

David O. Kuranga; Ph.D.
Managing Director
Kuranga & Associates Global Consultancy
Phone: 212.363.0936
david.kuranga@kaglobal.net
https://kurangaandassociates.wordpress.com/

http://us.macmillan.com/thepowerofinterdependence/DavidOladipupoKuranga