These jihadist groups are not unified; on the contrary, they compete with each other. The leader of al-Qaeda of the Maghreb, Abdul Hamid abu Zaid, prefers small-scale subversive actions, like terror attacks and abductions, more than wide-scale actions with many casualties such as that which was carried out by Belmukhtar in the gas facility in Algeria. Abu Zaid believes that large-scale actions such as 9/11 2001 could provoke the West into large-scale action against the jihadists, similar to that in Afghanistan, while small actions such as blowing up the American embassy in Nairobi the capital of Kenya, and in Dar a-Salam the capital of Tanzania (August 1998) achieve the goal without giving the West a reason to launch wide-scale, destructive military operations.
THE QUESTION FOR the governments of the United States, France and other NATO countries is what to do about these developments in Africa. Clearly, if the Islamist organizations are left alone, they will establish “Islamic Emirates” in Africa, which will export terror like Afghanistan did after Osama bin Laden took over. On the other hand, the continuing failure of the West to bring a legitimate, effective and stable regime to Afghanistan and Iraq proves that Westerners cannot cure the ills of these countries by spreading ideas of democracy.
France took initiative three weeks ago and intervened in the war being conducted in Mali using French air and ground forces. Will France succeed to free the two thirds of the territory of Mali that are today under the control of radical Islamists? Perhaps, but the achievement will be short-lived, because (a) the jihadists can easily move to other places where there is no French army, and (b) as long as people remain living in the area, the radical Islamists can hide among them, and emerge to attack the occupying forces.
In Washington there are deep differences of opinion: the Pentagon and Defense Department understand that if the United States doesn’t deal with the problem of Africa at its core, African jihad will spill over into Europe and the United States, and then the United States will be forced to get involved, as happened in Afghanistan, and therefore it is better to take care of the problem while it is still small.
The White House and State Department, on the other hand, are very much against any military involvement in Africa because the president and the diplomats think that American occupation is the main factor that agitates and radicalizes the relationships between the United States and other countries, and introducing American soldiers on African soil – which may deteriorate into severe violence, with fatalities and wounded – will only damage the American image and arouse opposition to the West and the renewed Western colonialist hegemony in Africa; American solders will be wounded and returned to the United States in coffins and the chances to sell the African peoples on American-made democracy will decrease.
The White House and U.S. State Department prefer to send weapons, equipment and money to existing heads of state to help them stand strong against the attacks of the Islamist militias, to help their armies by supplying intelligence, just as NATO helped the rebels against Qadhaffi with attacks from the air, without a single Western soldier setting foot on Libyan soil. But there is some doubt as to whether support such as weapons, ammunition, equipment and money actually reach the intended hands, because the governments in the African states are infiltrated by hostile agents, who collaborate behind the scenes with the jihadists, and the bribery and protectionism that exist within those governmental systems supported by the West, arouse the rage of the jihadists even without the involvement of Western soldiers.
The increasingly complex jihadist muddle in Africa raises concern about harm to the stability of Europe, because African and Muslim immigrants who live in Europe might damage the infrastructures of the host countries in revenge for the Western activities in Africa, and this may cause severe harm to the economy of Europe, which is in poor shape to begin with. The status of European Jews might be harmed also, because peculiarly, Africans and Muslims might direct their rage against the Jews.
Originally published at Middle East and Terrorism.
About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.
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