Spoke last Tuesday to Larry Kudlow and Michael Rubin in re the Hagel nomination. My information is that the nomination will go to a vote in the Senate and will be successful; however there are plenty of turns ahead. As of the close of the week, the White House remained concerned enough to oblige Senator Chuck Hagel to write letters to doubters such as the notably loyal and progressive Democratic Senator Boxer of California. Also, Chuck Hagel is said to be apologizing to all and at length for his past numbskull and unacceptable "Jewish lobby intimidates" remarks. What awaits him at the DoD is a severe test of cutting back war-fighting capabilities at the same time the CENTCOM and AFRICOM desks are overrun with crises and firefights.
(Photo: Malian soldiers jubilate as they return to Niono, from Diabaly, some 400 kms (300 miles) North of the capital Bamako, Saturday Jan. 19, 2013. French troops encircled a key Malian town on Friday, trying to stop radical Islamists from striking against communities closer to the capital and cutting off their supply line, a French official said. The move around Diabaly came as French and Malian authorities said that the city whose capture prompted the French military intervention in the first place was no longer in the hands of the extremists. Photo: Jerome Delay)
Of note, Larry Kudlow, Michael Rubin and I hoped to speak of the Mali crisis on Tuesday, but there wasn’t time. However the Mali crisis became the Algerian catastrophe within hours of our conversation. My information is that the Beau Geste incursion of French Foreign Legion and paras in Mali is woefully inadequate. The Paris plan is to rush in about 3,000 combat troops to the capital Bamako and then push north and east to block the advancing jihadists, sometimes called rebels. The diplomatic cover for this colonial exercise is that the interim Malian President Dinocounda Traore (who replaced the long-time and now exiled Malian Amandou Toure. Who are the rebels? Am told the rebels are jihadist fighters who are largely drawn from the mercenaries who worked for Quadhafi before they worked for the NATO forces aiming to dislodge (and decap) the Quadhafi regime. Am told that the Tuaregs are not necessarily in alliance with the Mali rebels, though they can be hired for gunplay. The rebels have heavy weapons, including MANPADs, brought in from Quadhafi’s arsenals. Am told that the Mali rebels are trained soldiers who are capable of over-running Bamako. The plan was for ECOWAS forces to deploy in the Spring, however the advance on the airfield at Diabaly last week forced the French hand. The French are most inadequate to the task; the French forces lack logistics, manpower and intelligence. This is a territory the size of France and Spain together, and there are few roads. In addition, the rebels will follow the guerilla guidebook for small wars -- use ambushes on supply lines, refuse setpiece battles, hide among the people, wait out the impatient invaders. Recall Ho Chi Minh’s lesson from Mao: The people are the ocean, and the revolutionaries are the fish.
Beau Geste Rides
The In Amenas hostage catastrophe in the Algeria desert near the Libya border, now concluding with dozens of KIA and blame-shifting by the powers, is a direct result of the hasty and under-equipped French action in Mali. The operation at the In Amenas was a murder raid, and the hostages were always meant to be killed, the facility was always meant to be destroyed. Algerian authorities now claim they are de-mining the facility. The jihadist propaganda identifies Mokhtar Bolmokhtar as the raid warlord. I am told the attacker are both Tuaregs and Berbers (Amazigh). Am told that they come from the Jihadists camps in Libya – some from the deep desert province of Fezzan, most from the jihadist camps in Cyrenaica. At core, these are the jihadists who were purchased by NATO to resist Quadhafi's mercenaries. In some instances, these are Quadhafi's mercenaries now joined with their rivals. Am told these are the same camps that are being maintained by the R2P coalition of US-Egypt-Turkey-Qatar to recruit and train fighters for the Syrian civil war. In sum, the men who attacked In Amenas are from the same pool as the men who attacked Benghazi last September and the men who are cutting throats in Syria as the "Libyan Brigade." This is all suggestive that the situation in the desert will continue to deteriorate. Algeria is not pleased with the French stirring up trouble in the Maghreb. What kind of trouble? Am told that it is best to think of a gigantic Emirate stretching from northern Mali and eastern Libya all the way to the Sinai and Gaza. This Emirate is a vision of the future of the 2020 caliphate proposed by Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri a decade ago. Look at the map of Africa. Boko Haram is rising in Nigeria. Al Shabab is rising in Somalia and East Africa. Ansar al Shariah and Al Q in the Islamic Maghreb are rising in North Africa. These three confederations of spontaneous gangs, such as the Battalion of Blood that overran In Amenas, will pool resources and recruits like three webs interlocking in northern and central and sub-Saharan and eastern Africa. This looks to be the next wave in post-colonial Africa – the erasure of colonial borders and the rise of medieval Islamic Republics under shariah. Once upon a time, the French dragged the US into the Indochina rising of Vietnam. There is strong indication that the US will repeat history and saddle up to ride to the rescue of Beau Geste again. The White House has already offered logistics and intelligence (drones), and this is the same as war-fighting. How long can the French sustain operations? Time is a weapon in the hands of the jihadists. They can draw the European military units into the desert and then vanish into the population until the next time. The French can occupy the cities temporarily but cannot hope to control the vast wilderness. Small-unit guerilla tactics worked well in Indochina sixty years ago, and they will work again in the Maghreb. In the desert, it is always the doomed fight of Beau Geste: the Tuareg and Berber columns are always coming over the horizon while the Legion bugler sounds the call to arms.