Monday, August 29, 2005

Arc of Hope

Fire of Liberty

While the MSM and the blogosphere has placed a considerable amount of time in covering Iraq and Afghanistan as the chief battlefronts in the Global War on Terrorism they tend to put our various anti-terror operations in East Africa especially within the Horn of Africa on the back burner. Though the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan are examples of what happens when you put off confronting evil dictatorships who seem to be more comfortable with dealing with terrorists. Had we taken on these nation states before they reached their zenith, we could have eliminated September 11th (with the case of Afghanistan and al Qaeda) or prevented the messy but necessary nation-building in Iraq. So in a effort to ensure these states don't go in the direction of the before mentioned states or a slide into chaos like Somalia or Sudan the US has seen it to be in their best interests to do some preventive maintenance in the region. In the case of the Horn of Africa and East Africa in general, the United States has been since September 11, 2001 helping the various villages of these nations drill wells for potable water, establish health clinics that provide doctors and the much needed medicine to fight diseases like AIDS and malaria or to provide pre-natal care, provide the much needed development aid to help these nations improve their infrastructure or provide seed money for various entrepreneurs who want to create businesses to provide jobs to their fellow citizens, not to mention the military training of friendly forces in the region and naval operations in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean to stop the pirates and terrorists that traverse these waters daily. Above all else, such actions on the behalf of the United States builds a bond of trust between the people of these nations and the American forces stationed in the area. By building this relationship the US forces will garner a bevy of help in tracking down the terrorists who infiltrate their borders and offer only death and despair. I'd have to say that columnist Austin Bay, who has been on a tour of the region and our base in Djibouti, sums up the success of such a policy in his most recent piece over at Tech Central Station when he noted:
Huddleston replied with a quick nod. "But the best intelligence is local people, local police. People who know their own area and are able to act for themselves, and take the extremists off the streets."

Guamian National Guard 1st Lt. Joe Cruz had just returned from two weeks in Ethiopia. His unit -- 2nd Platoon, A Company, 1-294th Infantry, Guam National Guard -- had been conducting border security training with Ethiopian forces. "We worked on basic infantry skills," Cruz said, "but also military police tasks. Traffic control. Operating roadblocks."

The task force had just completed a medical and veterinary aid mission in Yemen. Digging wells and helping locals provide clean water are key programs.

"One measure of our effectiveness, Huddleston said, is the people don't believe the (Al-Qaida) propaganda that we're there to poison their animals."

Is this nation-building? Of course it is. Though "nation-strengthening" may be more apt a term.

U.S. and coalition operations in the Horn of Africa are an example of the counter-terror operations the United States will be conducting for the next four decades -- political and economic development programs intertwined with security assistance, security training and intelligence sharing.
Luckily, we have commanders who realize that if we are going to succeed in our mission of preventing the terrorists from creating dens of death within the region then we have to apply all of the tools in our toolboxes to the situation. If they can forego the massive military actions like Iraq and Afghanistan, these various commanders are more apt to spend money doing peace corps actions than firing bullets. (Sometimes though, a show of firepower is necessary in the fight agains radical Islam). No matter how we look at it, the US has found a way to deeply entrench itself in the region to show the people in the nations that there is a far better avenue to follow than the path being presented by al Qaeda and its fellow Wahabbi/Salafist supporters. Though the US faces a challenge in battling al Qaeda they face an even larger battle of influence within the region with the wealthy oil sheikhs of Saudi Arabia. According to Ralph Peters - columnist, retired Lt. Col. in US Army, professor - the folks in Saudi Arabia have been doling out cash hand over fists into building enormous mosques and madrassas within these nations to get a toe-hold back into the nation's that were once gems within the crown of Islam. Just look at what Peters had to say in an Op/Ed in USA Today about the Saudi's grand scheme in East Africa:
In East Africa, this takes the form of pressuring the young to devote themselves to studying the Quran. This prevents Muslims from getting a practical education. As a result, they remain unqualified for the best jobs, which are taken by Christians with university degrees, further exacerbating antagonism.

The Saudis and their accomplices know exactly what they're doing. They don't want a "separate but equal" system. Separate and unequal does the trick, creating a sense of deprivation, of being cheated, among Muslims and driving a wedge down the middle of fragile societies. The last thing the bigots of the Arabian Peninsula want to see would be prosperous, patriotic, well-integrated Muslim communities in Africa.

Nor is this slow-motion jihad confined to the coast. It takes still uglier forms in the interior. Saudi money and arms smuggled from Yemen keep tribal strife alive in northern Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and, of course, Somalia.

During my stay in Kenya, nearly a hundred tribal people were massacred near the Ethiopian border. The religious undertone of the slaughter — which included the executions of schoolchildren — — was played down. The Kenyan government fears a wider conflagration and quietly accepts its inability to control its northern borders. But extremist sentiment is growing, while Kenya's policy of benign neglect collapses.
All I can say is that the US should continue such good work and hopefully all of their efforts won't go unnoticed amongst the people in the region. If we stop the terrorists in their tracks early on, we'll eliminate the chances of having to fight wars like Iraq and Afghanistan in the future. Let's pray for their success.

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