Category Archives: World

THE SYRIAN WAR AND ITS EFFECTS IN AFRICA

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President Assad of Syria is less concerned about the state of his country socially and economically. His major concern is to hold on to power at whatever cost to his people. This has made Syria a battle ground for global opposing forces and for almost a third world war. This same war with its hydra headed dimensions has also given birth to several wars – notably the war against ISIL – including the new clearance of Africa. What in the world is this war about?

The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria fought primarily between the government of President Bashar al-Assad, along with its allies, and the various forces opposing the government. The unrest in Syria, part of a wider wave of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, grew out of discontent with the Assad government and escalated to an armed conflict after protests calling for his removal were violently suppressed. The war is being fought by several factions: the Syrian government and its allies, a loose alliance of Sunni Arab rebel groups (including the Free Syrian Army), the majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Salafi jihadist groups (including al-Nusra Front) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with a number of countries in the region and beyond being either directly involved, or rendering support to one faction or the other.

Syrian opposition groups formed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and seized control of the area surrounding Aleppo and parts of southern Syria. Over time, some factions of the Syrian opposition split from their original moderate position to pursue an Islamist vision for Syria, joining groups such as al-Nusra Front and ISIL. In 2015, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) joined forces with Arab, Assyrian, Armenian and some Turkmen groups, to form the Syrian Democratic Forces, while most Turkmen groups remained with the FSA. Iran, Russia and Hezbollah support the Syrian government militarily, while beginning in 2014, a coalition of NATO countries began launching airstrikes against ISIL. International organizations have accused the Syrian government, ISIL and rebel groups of severe human rights violations and of many massacres. The conflict has caused a major refugee crisis. Over the course of the war a number of peace initiatives have been launched, including the March 2017 Geneva peace talks on Syria led by the United Nations. However, the fighting continues.

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On the 19th of July, 2017, it was reported that the Donald Trump’s administration had decided to halt the CIA program to equip and train anti-government rebel groups, a move sought by Russia. On 5th September, 2017, the government′s Central Syria offensive culminated in the breaking of the three-year ISIL siege of Deir ez-Zor, with active participation of Russian Airforce and Navy. That was shortly after followed by the lifting of the siege of the city′s airport. On the17th of October, 2017, after over four months of fierce fighting and the U.S.-led coalition′s bombardment, the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces announced they had established full control of the city of Raqqa in northern Syria, previously the de facto capital of ISIL. At the end of October, the government of Syria said that it still considered Raqqa to be an occupied city that can ″only be considered liberated when the Syrian Arab Army enters.″

By mid-November 2017, the government forces and allied militia established full control over Deir ez-Zor and captured the town of Abu Kamal in eastern Syria, near the border with Iraq and Iraq′s town of al-Qaim, which was concurrently captured from ISIL by the Iraqi government. On 28 November, 2017, it was reported that China will deploy troops to aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. On the 6th of  December, 2017, Russian government declared “complete victory” over ISIS. The president, Vladimir Putin repeated the words of defense minister emphasizing “the total rout of the terrorists.”

During the period within which ISIL has been suffering massive defeats on all fronts, many of the ISIL fighters have fled to various parts of the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa. In recent times, Africa has experienced severe terrorist activities as reflected in the massive blast in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu on Oct. 14th and more recent terror attacks in Somalia, Niger and Egypt. These highlight Africa as a new battleground against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State as they are being driven out of the Middle East.

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The Islamic State, or ISIL, is seeking a safe harbor after major losses in Iraq and Syria. And al-Qaeda looks to secure its future by expanding operations and alliances in the sub-Saharan region. “The collapse of the Islamic State’s stronghold in Raqqa (Syria) will cause a re-coalescence of fighters on the continent, most of whom come from North African countries.” Tunisia alone sent at least 6,500 volunteers who joined al-Qaeda and ISIL in Syria and Iraq. Many are now likely to join an expanding terrorist network in West and Central Africa. The region is likely to be hit by a severe wave of returning Islamic State fighters while al-Qaeda expands into other states such as Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. Niger has become a new source for recruits, and Ansarul Islam, an al-Qaeda franchise, is now active in Burkina Faso. On Oct. 4th, militants believed to be affiliated with ISIL ambushed a team of U.S. troops in Niger, killing four soldiers and wounding two. The attack came as U.S.-supported Syrian rebels were on the verge of retaking Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital that fell on the 17th of October.

In Africa currently, as a result of the movement of ISIL fighters from Syria and the Middle East, French troops deployed in West and Central Africa are now about 4,000 with headquarters in Chad which has been battling extremists along with Cameroon and Nigeria. Germany has also sent 1,000 troops to support a U.N. counter-terrorism operation in Mali. The U.S. military has stepped up its anti-terror fight elsewhere in Africa to meet the growing threat, staging exercises and conducting training operations. American military leaders have established a drone and air base in Agadez, Niger, and deployed 800 troops in the country to operate alongside anti-terror efforts in Nigeria and Mali. The number of U.S. troops in Somalia has also quadrupled within the year to 400 personnel. The war is now in Africa where America and allies battle to clear the terrorists.

Underscoring the need for a non-military aid, a report issued recently by the International Crisis Group (ICG), found that the rise of Islamic militancy is a response to social problems. “Economic conditions, especially poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment compounded by corruption and bad governance are incentives for terrorism.” This statement is credited to Augustin Loada, Director of the Center for Democratic Governance, an independent policy research group in Ouagadougou. These factors fuel the risk of violent extremism in Africa.

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With African lives being lost, with the non African lives being lost in Africa to achieve a peaceful Africa free from activities of terrorists, with the level of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty, African governments must also immediately commence a full scale onslaught on poverty, illiteracy and unemployment alongside the conventional battle so as to succeed in this fight against terrorism on the continent and to have a prosperous Africa.

– Jereaghogho Efeturi Ukusare

Photo by AFP/ Getty Images

 

TRUMP’S BENGHAZI OR ANOTHER CLEARANCE OF AFRICA

In the wake of the attack on US soldiers operating in Africa, precisely Niger, on October 4th, 2017, President Donald Trump has come under intense criticism. First, it took the White House a long while before publicly addressing the issue. Second, when President Trump finally did, he said past Presidents have not addressed these issues like he is doing. This resulted in a back lash particularly from the American public.

What President Trump does not seem to realize is the fact that the Presidency of the USA is one of the greatest political offices in the world and that its occupant has become – perhaps with one exception, – the most powerful head of Government known to our day. His public pronouncements and actions are watched with keen interest throughout the world.

As a result, on Wednesday 25th October 2017, when President Trump said he did not “specifically” authorize the Niger mission that killed four U.S. soldiers earlier in the month when asked by reporters whether he gave the go-ahead for the operation and Trump said: “No I didn’t. Not specifically”, he portrayed himself as someone who does not take responsibility for his actions. Denial of knowledge of such operations only shows negligence and irresponsibility on the part of the President. From Presidents Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, US Presidents have shown great responsibility in the discharge of their duties.

While it’s unusual for US Presidents to distance themselves from military operations that result in loss of American life, Trump said he supports the overall mission in the West African nation as he said “I gave them authority to do what’s right so that we win. That’s the authority they have,” he said. “I want to win. And we’re going to win and we’re beating ISIS very badly. You look at what’s happening in the Middle East “. Yes, President Trump alongside the US Allies is really defeating ISIS.

However, comparatively, the US soldiers may be inexperienced but particularly very well trained. And this dates back in time to the Second World War and particularly the Clearance of Africa during that war. The US forces have always shown tact and skill when compared to other militaries operating alongside it. This is why one but wonders little when the Pentagon’s top general said that the Army Special Forces combat patrol in Niger did not anticipate resistance and called for air support one hour after being attacked by ISIS-affiliated militants who used small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.

It is however not surprising that it was French fighter jets that arrived to support the US troops, but four U.S. soldiers were already dead. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a briefing that the 12-member U.S. patrol did not anticipate being attacked and that the U.S. rules for troops in the area prohibit missions when attacks are likely. Good rules, but are rules alone sufficient when fighting an asymmetrical war and in this case, an Ideology?

As a way of finding out what really happened, Marine Gen. Dunford said the Pentagon is investigating whether the mission changed after the patrol went out and whether the troops were adequately equipped. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have also requested a briefing on the Niger attack.

Several weeks after the attack, there are still many unanswered questions regarding the purpose of the operation, the circumstances surrounding the ambush and the military response to the tragedy. The Niger attack has become more controversial as President Trump falsely claimed that previous presidents had not made condolence calls to the families of fallen troops. This is a sign of the dissatisfaction among the US public in his attempt at self praise. After that claim was debunked, and Trump walked-back some of his comments, he called the widow of Sgt. LaDavid Johnson, who was killed in the attack.

Bottom line here is that it is unexpected of the US President to deny the missions of his military outside of America. While as Africans we remain grateful to the US for its military support, we however think that such military actions should be carried out with close cooperation with the local militaries. It is difficult to be in possession of valuable intelligence without the support of the locals and especially the local militaries, something that tact and skill alone would not give.

President Trump is expected to boldly admit his errors and take corrective actions as regards the operations of US troops in Africa to forestall further deaths of US soldiers while strengthening the cooperation between American military and African militaries, enhance the security in the region through collaboration and at the same time, fight the ideological war that ISIS is waging which obviously cannot be totally won on the battle field.

President Trump is advised to put up the expected behavior of a sitting US President to make America “great again”. One wonders if America ever lost its greatness.

– Jereaghogho Efeturi – Ukusare