by Horace G. Campbell
February 22, 2013
from PhantomReport Website

Source: "Mali, France and the war on terror in Africa"




Horace G Campbell is a professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY.

He has a book coming out in March titled,

‘Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya’.



Editors Notes

The war on terror is a myth to create conformity,

manipulate public opinion and adjust the individual to government ideals.

The war on terror is not the expression of

experts, individuals or a small group of advocates.

War on terror propaganda comes from actors, journalists and commentators that are directed by capital interests.

The war on terror is a weapon of propaganda.

A totalitarian weapon directed at the public

through mass media communications

by promises of peace, freedom and justice.

With the public snared in pop culture, the state can

continue its war on terror propaganda.

Perpetual deception is necessary to control citizens.

It is a cynical formula.

In the book, France Soldiers and Africa, Anthony Clayton laid out in graphic detail the military system of France and its impact on both France and Africa.


One of the little known aspects of this militarization of Africa was how the French intellectual culture was negatively affected by the history of military engagement and interventions.


Between 1960 and 2012 France had undertaken more than one hundred military interventions in Africa. The lowest point of this engagement and its intellectual variant was when France invaded Central Africa to assist those who were carrying out genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

The embarrassment of shepherding the genocidaires to Zaire and the aftermath of war and destabilization of the entire Eastern African region had led to a temporary retreat by France with the military intellectuals propagating the view that France was reviewing its military policies towards Africa and was going to reform her security policy in Africa, claiming to mark the start of a ‘new African politics’.

Nearly fifteen years after the appearance of the book by Clayton, Christopher Griffin wrote a detailed study, French Military Interventions in Africa: French Grand Strategy and Defense Policy since Decolonization.


The importance of this study was in the full documentation of how this Grand Strategy was connected by three circles,

  1. the national independence of French foreign and defense policy

  2. European defense

  3. a global or geostrategic defense of France’s overseas territories, the DOM-TOM, and other regions and states outside of Europe where French national interests were at stake, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa

This study of Griffin was written before two major events that changed the world.


The first was the capitalist depression and the financial crisis within Europe and North America (after 2008). The second was the revolutionary upheavals within Africa that toppled the regimes of Tunisia and Egypt.

Both of these seismic changes in the international system affected the projection of force by France and this was most clearly manifest in the manipulations by France in relation to the intervention in Libya.[2]


Despite the catastrophic failure of that intervention and the instability that has ensued in Africa (with the deepening military engagements in the Sahara), the momentum for French military activities are driven not only by the grand strategy, but by the necessity to draw the United States and the United States Africa Command into a closer alliance, with the US underwriting the intervention by France.


The alliance and cooperation between the COIN strategists of the US military and the former colonial generals of France have been well documented and epitomized by the correspondence between General David Petraeus and the late Gen. Marcel Bigeard, 1916-2010.


Bigeard had been the quintessential colonial military torturer whose life and exploits followed the colonial and neo-colonial history of France in Africa and IndoChina.

The fall of Petraeus after the elections in the United States in November 2012 had provided one opportunity for the top military brass in the United States to rethink its future, especially at a moment when the crisis of capitalism demanded deep cuts in the military budget. The intervention by France was part of a larger strategy to influence the debate inside the foreign and military policy establishment about whether the war on terror is coming to an end.

Those who are promoting a continuous war on terror have been propagating the idea that West Africa has become a hot bed of terrorism and that the terrorists in the Maghreb threaten the vital interests of the United States.


Those who have followed the expenditures of the United States since 2003 in the Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) and later the US Africa Command will know that of the more than half a billion dollars that was spent, the money went to train many of the forces that are now called terrorist have been trained by the United States.


Even from within the corridors of the media in Washington DC writers such as Walter Pincus have documented the huge expenditures of the US military in Mali since 2002. In the same period when the hype of weapons of mass destruction was being propagated by the Bush administration, another fiction was being presented.


This was the idea that terrorists were spreading out from Afghanistan and spreading terror from Asia through the Horn of Africa and over to West Africa. This was presented as the banana theory of terrorism and documented in the book, The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa. [3]

Pincus wrote about the monies spent after 2002 in the counter-terror offensives in Mali and West Africa.

“With that money, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) sent U.S. Special Forces training units to work with the Mali military.”

The fear was that Islamic fighters driven from Afghanistan would settle in northern Mali.


Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeffrey B. Kohler, then head of planning at EUCOM, said,

“We’re helping to teach them [the Malian military] how to control this area themselves so they can keep it from being used by terrorists.” [4]

Figures now produced by varying agencies in the USA show that in the counter-terror offensives, Mali was the largest recipient of US funds amounting to more than half a billion dollars.


The Pentagon had started out with the Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI) but by 2005, the PSI was replaced by the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), a partnership of State, Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) meant to focus on improving individual country and regional capabilities in northwest Africa.

As one writer in the USA summed up this relationship between the USA and the corrupt military establishment in Mali,

“In the past decade, the U.S. alone has poured close to $1 billion into Mali, including development aid as well as military training to battle an al-Qaida offshoot in the north.


In doing so, the U.S. unwittingly also helped prepare the soldiers for the coup: Sanogo himself benefited from six training missions in the U.S., the State Department confirmed, starting in 1998 when he was sent to an infantry training course at Fort Benning, Ga.


He returned in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2010 to attend some of the most prestigious military institutions in America, including the Defense Language Institute at the Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.


He took a basic officer course at Quantico, Virginia, and learned to use a light-armored vehicle at Camp Pendleton, Calif.”

The aid packages to Mali represented a systematic buildup of the US military involvement in the Sahel region, with a focus on Mali because of the strong history of popular struggles for democratic change in Mali.


As far back as November 2009, in his testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Africa hearing on ‘Counter-terrorism in the Sahel’ on 17 November 2009, Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson identified Mali - along with Algeria, Mali, and Mauritania - as one of the ‘key countries’ in the region for the US counter-terrorism strategy.

“We believe that our work with Mali to support more professional units capable of improving the security environment in the country will have future benefits if they are sustained”, he stated.

The current insecurity in Mali is a direct result of the US military presence and the instability represents one more piece of evidence why Africans must be more forthright in opposing the expansion of the US Africa Command.


It was when the full extent of the US engagement with the forces in combat became known that the lame duck leader of AFRICOM, General Carter Ham, admitted,

“We made mistakes.” [5]



The US foreign policy establishment was always on the defensive in relation to the formulation of policies towards Africa, because their domestic policy towards Africans has been dominated by racism.


During the era of colonialism and apartheid the US foreign policy was informed by the support for the white racist regimes in Africa and for dictators. From the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in 1960 to the execution of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011, the US hard interests have been dominated by oil, needs of finance capital (IMF), wars, and global US diplomatic and military hegemony.


The US Africa Command is the latest iteration of the combination of these hard interests with the counter-terrorism discourse losing its luster.


During the period of the support for apartheid, when the peoples of Angola were about to defeat the South African racist army at Cuito Cuanavale, the United States mounted Operation Flintlock to give support to the white racist regime.

In the era of ‘counterterror,' Operation Flintlock was again launched to spread instability and corruption in the Sahel.


Operation Flintlock exercises were held in Mali in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, Mali got equipment worth $5 million, including 37 “new Land Cruiser pickup trucks, along with powerful communications equipment” for the desert, according to a U.S. statement.


Mali also got $1 million in U.S. mine-detector equipment.




For this author, AQIM (al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb) has the same status as the weapons of mass destruction that was supposed to be in Iraq. From the time of the launch of the Pan Sahel Initiative, the United States had partnered with repressive regimes in the region of North and West Africa.


Moammar Gaddaffi had gone out of his way to ingratiate himself with the United States associating with the war on terror, until the United States and France turned to the very same jihadists to remove Gaddafi.


The names and personalities have been changing over the past ten years but there is a certain consistency with which there has been shifting allegiances in North Africa.


One allegiance that has been constant has been the relationship between the US military and intelligence services with the Algeria Secret Police DRS (Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité) Department of Intelligence and Security (DIS).

From the period of the well documented Dirty War in Algeria that started in 1992, there has been documented evidence of the fabrication of terrorism by this DRS. Habib Souaïdia, a former military officer from Algeria has written for posterity the role of the DRS in the ‘netherworld of torture, murder and terrorism. [6]


The book by Souaidia about the world of the Generals of the DRS had been written before September 11, 2001. After the Global War on Terror was declared by George W. Bush, the neo-conservatives embraced the DRS as an ally and partner to fight terrorism.


Haliburton entered into the lucrative business of building defense institutions as well as profiting from the oil and gas business in Algeria. The collusion between the firms such as Haliburton and the DRS has been documented.


Although the complex linkages between terrorism, corruption and a section of the politico-military power concealed the exact base for support for AQIM, from inside the national Security apparatus in Washington there were writers who exposed the overlap between governments, smugglers, drug dealers and those who were dubbed as terrorists. [7]

Western news agencies such as the BBC have been running stories on “Mali’s main Islamist militants.” These stories have listed five main Islamists groups in Mali and the Sahel.


The sixth group is from time to time listed with the groups that are called Jihadists.

These are:

  1. Ansar Dine - identified as one movement with a number of Tuareg fighters who returned from Libya after fighting alongside Muammar Gaddafi’s troops.

  2. Islamic Movement for Azawad - an offshoot of Ansar Dine which says it rejects “terrorism” and wants dialogue

  3. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) - al-Qaeda’s North African wing, with roots in Algeria

  4. Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao) - an AQIM splinter group whose aim is to spread jihad to the whole of West Africa

  5. Signed-in-Blood Battalion - an AQIM offshoot committed to a global jihad and responsible for Algerian gas facility siege.

  6. The National Movement Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) is a secular Tuareg group which seeks independence for a homeland they call Azawad [8]

The shifting alliances of these so-called jihadists that were supposed to have threatened Bamako, West Africa and the world are then reproduced by other western journalists without the kind of critical examination of the roots of these organizations.


Given the history of the US counter-terror operations and the shifting alliances it would be important for the Senate Armed Services Committee to investigate the claim of Jeremy Keenan that “at the heart of AQIM is the DRS.” [9]

African progressives have to seriously investigate the relationship between the DRS and these so-called jihadists because Algeria has been one of the strongest supporters of the African Union and the African Liberation Project. Up to today the diplomats of Algeria are held in the highest regard within the corridors of the African Union and the Algerian leadership has gained praise for its unstinting support for the independence of Western Sahara.


From the period of the internal war against Islamists in 1992, there had been numerous stories about the DRS and its role in corruption and torture.


Algeria and the DRS consider the Sahel to be the backyard of Algeria and hence it has been difficult to separate drug traffickers, smugglers of cigarettes, Jihadists, and corrupt secret services in this region.

From the evidence provided by the Government Accountable Office (GAO) of the United States, the large sums of money expended by the United States in Mali since 2005 went to support some of the regional barons who were involved in underground channels that overlapped with the jihadists.


A leader of the so called jihadists called Iyad Ag Ghaly has enjoyed the support of leaders inside and outside of Mali functioning at one moment as the envoy of Mali in Saudi Arabia. [10]


An unflattering profile of Iyad Ag Ghaly, ‘Mali’s whisky-drinking rebel turned Islamist chief,’ [11] gives some indication of the interpenetration between terror, counter terror, the world of drug dealers, kidnappers and organized mafia groups.

African progressives and intellectuals will have to work hard to expose the linkages between Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States conservatives and the jihadists across West Africa.


One direct result of the Libya intervention was the reality that France, the United States and Britain financed the Islamist forces who they are now supposed to be fighting.


For the past sixty years, France intervened militarily ostensibly to protect French nationals but in the main, these interventions have been to support corrupt and unpopular leaders.

When General Gen. David M. Rodriguez, who is poised to become the next leader of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, estimated that the U.S. military needs to increase its intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa, it is important to point out that the Obama administration is empowering a general who was mentored by General David Petraeus.




There are many lessons to be learnt from the role of France, the United States and Britain in North and West Africa.


From Africa, one of the most important lessons is to draw from the discourse on imminent threat to be able to isolate those corrupt officials who participate with external forces in counter-terror activities.


And then, ten years later turn around and start to fight wars against the very same forces that they have trained and nurtured. There was no time when the forces of the jihadists numbered more than 6000. It is clear that France jumped the gun to intervene pre-empting the deployment of the forces of ECOWAS.


International pundits blamed Africans for their slowness in responding to the takeover of Northern Mali. Experience from Sierra Leone and from Liberia pointed to the capabilities of forces from ECOWAS, especially Nigeria, to eradicate forces of military destabilization.

There are divisions between progressive Africans as to the danger that was presented by AQIM.


These divisions should not divert attention from the fact that the Tuaregs have real grievances all across the region of the Sahel. The challenges of resolving the outstanding questions of self-determination and autonomy for the Tuareg in this region cannot be carried out in the context of the present borders.


The French intellectuals and military understand this and hence, France has presented itself as a supporter of the Tuareg while jumping in to fight other sections of the Tuareg.

The African people know full well that the so-called jihadists have been those who were trained and supported by the USA, the DRS with finance from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In reality, in order to root out terror in Africa, it will be necessary to excise the sources of funding that is flowing to the Wahabists.


The bulk of the weapons and finance for these jihadists come from allies of the USA where the Wahabist forces are financially and militarily well endowed.

The entire Sahara region abuts the revolutionary zone of Egypt. Every society in North Africa is threatened by revolutionary uprisings. The inequalities and exploitation of the poor all across the region have provided fertile ground for revolutionary openings.


Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the USA understand the potential for change after Tahrir Square, hence the tremendous investments to remilitarize this entire region.




Ten years after the war in Iraq and two years after the NATO intervention in Libya, the western media is again preparing citizens of the West for an escalation of military destabilization of Africa.


Since last November, there has not been a week when the western media did not carry a story about how AQIM threatens the west.


From these reports, carried especially in the Washington Post and the New York Times, one may be forgiven if one forgets that there is another dynamic at work in Africa, that of a new force of economic dynamism across the continent.

The recent report about the location of US surveillance drones in Niger was another instance of hyping the so-called terror threat from Africa. The reporting in the New York Times on ‘U.S. Weighs Base for Spy Drones in North Africa’ was part of a wider ongoing debate within the Administration about the future of the US military budget.


The New York Times is part of this debate and is on the side of those who want to see the maintenance of the high military budget. In the past 50 years there has not been a major war or deployment of US military force that the New York Times opposed.


This organization supported the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now the expansion of western military intervention in North Africa. The reporting in my opinion is part of the effort to promote the idea that Africa is a hotbed of terrorist activity and that the rag tag groups that are called jihadists are a threat to the United States.

This is patently false.

What needs to be done is for there to be a clear assessment of how much the US military supported some of these same groups that they are now fighting.


When Jeh Charles Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel, gave a speech in Oxford in November to say that the war on terror is not endless and that there will be a time when this mopping up of terrorists will be a police operation, the New York Times did not give this story the same exposure as European papers.


The item was front and center for British newspapers such as the Guardian.


In his speech Jeh Johnson held that,

‘When that point is reached, the primary responsibility for mopping up scattered remnants of the group and unaffiliated terrorists will fall to United States law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and pressing questions will arise about what to do with any military detainees who are still being held without trial as wartime prisoners.’

‘I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping point - a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of Al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that Al Qaeda as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed.’


Jeh Johnson did not survive in the pentagon much longer after this speech.


The present struggles over the next Secretary of Defense in the United States is intricately linked to the struggle of whether the CIA and the military can continue to create terrorists and then turn around and fight them.


One indication of this tension in the administration was exposed when Senator John McCain questioned Leon Panetta (Outgoing Secretary of Defences) on the US military support for those fighting the Assad regime.


In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in early February, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta acknowledged that he and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, had supported a plan last year to arm carefully vetted Syrian rebels.


But it was ultimately vetoed by the White House, Mr. Panetta said, although it was developed by David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director at the time, and backed by Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state.’ [12]

The CIA had been using Libya as a base for the recruitment of jihadists to fight in Syria.


Some of the very same groups that had been trained by the CIA are now fighting in Mali.

This kind of duplicity is not new in Africa. For the past twenty years, the Pentagon and the CIA have been fighting on both sides in Somalia. When insiders from the western establishment warn that there is a new phase of a war on terror in Africa, serious policy makers in Africa and beyond should take serious note.


It has now devolved to the integrated East African Community to bring in Somalia and carry out a process of demilitarization. Such a process of demilitarization weakens the hands of those in the USA who see Africa as a hotbed of terrorism. The present struggles in Mali require new commitment for social and economic transformation in Africa, especially incorruptible leaders who can resist drug dealers, jihadists and smugglers.


It is in Nigeria where the forces of destabilization are most active because these forces understand that a democratic and committed Nigeria will be a major force for unity and emancipation in Africa.




[2] Horace Campbell, Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya, Monthly Review Press, New York 2013

[3] Jeremy Keenan, The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa, Pluto Press London 2009

[4] Walter Pincus, “Mali insurgency followed 10 years of U.S. counterterrorism programs,” Washington Post, January 16, 2013,


[6] NICHOLAS LE QUESNE, Algeria’s Shameful war, Time Magazine, April 16, 2001,9171,105720,00.html

[7] John Schindler, “The Ugly truth about Algeria.” The National Interest 10 July 2012.

[8] BBC , Mali Crisis: Key Players,

[9] Jeremy Keenan, ‘Secret hand’ in French Sahel raid,” Al Jazeera, August 29, 2010,
See also John Schindler, “Algeria’s hidden hand.” The National Interest 22 January 2013. and Jeremy Keenan, “A New Phase in the War on Terror?: “ International State Crime Initiative, February 14, 2013,

[10] Peter Beumont, “The man who could determine whether the west is drawn into Mali’s war,” Guardian UK, October 27, 2012,

[11] Leela Jacinto, “Mali’s whisky-drinking rebel turned Islamist chief,”

[12] Michael Gordon and Mark Landler, “ Senate Hearing Draws Out a Rift in U.S. Policy on Syria,” New York Times, February 7, 2013,