US lawmakers slam ‘unauthorized’ military aid for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen

US lawmakers slam ‘unauthorized’ military aid for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen
The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution which states Washington’s support for the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war is unauthorized. However, the resolution does not call for an immediate halt to US assistance.

In a non-binding move, the lawmakers publicly acknowledged that the US military support for Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen, which involves sharing information and refueling warplanes, goes beyond what Congress has approved. It further explains that US forces are authorized to combat only Al-Qaeda or its affiliates as well as other terrorist groups in Yemen – but not the Houthi rebels that are targeted by the Saudis.

Congress “has not enacted specific legislation authorizing the use of military force against parties participating in the Yemeni civil war that are not otherwise subject to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force [AUMF] or the 2003 AUMF in Iraq,” the resolution says. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who co-sponsored the document with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), also drew attention to the fact that what the US military is doing goes beyond its authorized capacity.

“What our military is not authorized to do is assist the Saudi Arabian regime in fighting the Houthis,” Khanna said, as cited by Politico. He also claimed that Washington’s aid to Saudi Arabia runs counter to its own stated goals in the region.

“In many cases, the Saudis have aligned with Al-Qaeda to fight the Houthis, undermining our very counterterrorism operations,” he said. The document itself also states that “the conflict between the Saudi-led Arab Coalition and the Houthi… alliance is counterproductive to ongoing efforts by the United States to pursue Al-Qaeda and its associated forces.”

Khanna, also a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has previously accused Washington of contributing to Saudi airstrikes “that kill civilians” and “are creating a security vacuum that allows groups like ISIS [Islamic State/IS, also ISIL] to gain a foothold.”

The resolution adopted 366-30 on Monday is, however, largely symbolic and does not call for an immediate stop to US military aid to the Saudi-led coalition. Khanna particularly criticized the US interventions in the Middle East by saying that they had not “made the United States or the world any safer.” In a Twitter post he also called on Washington to embrace “a foreign policy of restraint and diplomacy.”

Our interventionism in the Middle East has not made the United States or the world any safer. Instead of calling for regime change, we need a foreign policy of restraint and diplomacy.

Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on lawmakers to “sunset the 2001 AUMF,” adding that the document had never been intended to be “a blank check,” Politico reports. The 2001 AUMF authorized the US president to use military force against “nations, organizations, or persons” that are considered to be in any way linked to the 9/11 attacks, to prevent further terrorist assaults on the country.

The authorization has been used numerous times to justify military action against Afghanistan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Philippines, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, according to the Congressional Research Service.

There were calls to halt US support for the Gulf countries fighting in Yemen even before the Monday resolution. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said in June that it was “astounding what’s going on in Yemen]” with US weapons, during a debate on American arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California and a long-time advocate for the suspension of US cooperation with the Saudi-led coalition, also said earlier this year that Washington should not increase its involvement in the Yemeni civil war “without any explanation” by the president.

Since March 2015, the UN has recorded a total of 13,504 civilian casualties in Yemen, including 4,971 killed and 8,533 injured. Yemen’s conflict has also brought one of the region’s poorest countries to the brink of famine.

Courtesy: RT

MIKE PENCE VOWS TO END ‘UNPRECEDENTED ASSAULT ON CHRISTIANITY’ IN MIDDLE EAST WITH U.N. FUNDING

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Vice President Mike Pence has pledged that the Trump administration will come to the rescue of Christians in the Middle East, as persecution of religious minorities in the region continues.

He said that Washington will move funding away from the United Nations to the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, in order to directly assist Christian communities in the Middle East.

“Christianity is under unprecedented assault in those ancient lands where it first grew,” the vice president said at a speech to the In Defense of Christians conference.

“Across the wider Middle East, we can now see a future in many areas without a Christian faith. But tonight, I came to tell you: Help is on the way.”

He took aim at the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), which overran large areas of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and forced thousands of Christians to flee, and imprisoned or executed them if they remained. He said the group’s fighters had committed “vile acts of persecution animated by hatred for Christians and the Gospel of Christ.”

Pence said Washington would take “the fight to terrorists on our terms, on their soil” and “hunt down and destroy ISIS at its source, so it can no longer threaten our people or anyone who calls the Middle East home.”

The president’s team has predominantly focused on talking about helping Christians in the Middle East, as opposed to Muslims in the region affected by radical Islamist groups. Critics of the government accused it of targeting Muslims in a proposed travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries that President Donald Trump said was only touted for security reasons.

10_27_Mike_PenceJared Kushner (L), senior advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) attend a joint statement in the Rose Garden held by U.S. President Donald Trump and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong October 23, 2017 in Washington, DC.WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY

Pence explained the divergence of funds from the U.N., saying that it was an “ineffective” use of U.S. money.

“Here is the sad reality: the United Nations claims that more than 160 projects are in Christian areas. But for a third of those projects, there are no Christians to help,” the vice-president said.

Christian leaders have said that followers of the religion are experiencing some of the worst persecution in its history.

A report recently released by Christian organization Aid To The Church In Need said the U.N. was not meeting the requirements of Christians in the Middle East and failing to provide “the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the Catholic Herald reported.

The population of Christians in the Middle East has declined over the past century. But the insecurity faced by Christians in recent years has seen their population decrease even more. As of July 2015, a third of Syria’s 600,000 Christians had fled; Lebanon’s Christian population share has shrunk from 78 percent to 34 percent over the previous century; and only a third of the 1.5 million Christians who lived in Iraq in 2003 remain today, according to The New York Times.

10_27_Christians_Middle_EastLyon’s Archbishop Cardinal Philippe Barbarin stands next to an Islamic State (IS) group graffiti during a visit to the Church of the Annunciation in east Mosul on July 25, 2017.SAFIN HAMED/AFP/GETTY

Catholic organization the Knights of Columbus lauded Pence’s words.

“A year ago the United States used the right word to describe what was happening to Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. That word was genocide. Tonight, those words were put into action,” the group’s Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said in a statement.

Others were more skeptical about the U.S. pledge. Diana Sarkisian, who works for A Demand For Action, an advocacy organization for minority groups in the Middle East, tweeted: “Mike Pence makes big promises to defend Christians in ME (Middle East). Yeah, heard that one before.”

Courtesy: Newsweek

‘Hell on earth’: 80% of Raqqa destroyed, covered with mines – journalists

‘Hell on earth’: 80% of Raqqa destroyed, covered with mines - journalists
Up to 80 percent of Raqqa, the Syrian city that was captured from jihadists by US-backed militias last week, is destroyed and covered with road mines left behind by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

A Radio France correspondent described the scene as “Hell on Earth” as he posted horrific images of the destroyed city on social media.“The situation here is relatively calm. The fighting has stopped, though some sporadic shots can be still heard, including those celebrating IS’ defeat. There’s a huge number of road mines here.”

“Between 70 and 80 percent of Raqqa is mined. There are teams of de-mining experts to neutralize land mines left by Islamic State militants in their de facto capital,” Omar Ouahmane said on Sunday.

There are mixed feelings about the liberation of Raqqa, he added. “Civilians know that their city is totally destroyed, that it would have to be rebuilt, and that it will take a long time to do it… There’s also some sadness and a little anger because people believe that a lot of time had been wasted in trying to retake Raqqa from the terrorists.”

The French journalist made the comments while standing just a short distance from the famous Raqqa stadium. “Jihadists turned it into a prison. Executions took place here,” he said.

Another journalist, France 2 reporter Arnaud Comte said that some 80 percent of Raqqa has been destroyed. “[It’s] a ghost town where everything is frozen. Hell on earth,” he wrote on Twitter, posting heart-wrenching images of the city.

Raqqa, which has served as the Syrian stronghold of terrorist group IS since January 2014, was seized by the US-backed group Syrian Democratic Forces earlier this week. Most residential buildings in the city are believed to have been rendered uninhabitable during the fighting, which involved massive bombardment by the US-led coalition’s airstrikes and artillery shelling.

Before the war, the city had some 220,000 residents. The outbreak of violence caused mass migration, with tens of thousands arriving in Raqqa throughout the years, but the city’s Kurdish minority was targeted with evictions and executions under IS rule. It is estimated that 200,000 still lived there at the beginning of the siege last June.

READ MORE: Victory through annihilation: Ruin, death & discord left after US-led coalition takes Raqqa

The destruction caused to Raqqa is comparable with the infamous Allied bombing of Dresden in 1945, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday, adding that the US-led coalition may be rushing to pour money into Raqqa to cover up the aftermath.

“Raqqa’s fate calls to mind that of Dresden in 1945, levelled by the US-British bombings,” Defense Ministry Spokesman Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.

Courtesy: RT

‘Interference’: Iraq PM’s office rejects Tillerson’s call for Iran-backed militias to ‘go home’

‘Interference’: Iraq PM’s office rejects Tillerson’s call for Iran-backed militias to ‘go home’
In a tight-lipped statement, Baghdad rejected a call by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for Iran-backed Shia militias to “go home” after the demise of Islamic State in Iraq.

Earlier on Sunday, Rex Tillerson said at a rare meeting with top Iraqi and Saudi Arabian officials that Iraq’s Shiite militias – also known as Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) – and their Iranian advisers need to leave Iraq as the struggle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is nearing an end.

But Baghdad seems reluctant to go along with Washington’s request, judging by a polite but robust remark made on Monday by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office.

“No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters,” the statement posted on Facebook reads. It added that many PMU members were native Iraqis who made “enormous sacrifices to defend their country and the Iraqi people.”

The Iraqi government was surprised by Tillerson’s suggestion, according to the release.

During the Sunday meeting, Tillerson said “Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against… ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home.”

Foreign fighters in Iraq “need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control,” the secretary of state said, amid US efforts to contain Tehran’s growing presence in the region.

Meanwhile, Tillerson also called on other countries to sever business ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which the US itself recently designated as a terrorist organization.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis joined militia units in 2014 after Iraqi Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for a national uprising against Islamic State terrorists by issuing a non-sectarian fatwa. Shiite PMU units were often referred to as part of the Iraqi security apparatus.

Though there are no official statistics, at some point PMU units numbered up to 100,000 fighters, according to US military estimates dated last year. The forces’ estimates ranged from 80,000 to 100,000, according to military spokesman Colonel Chris Garver.

READ MORE: Iran-backed Shiite forces in Iraq now estimated at 100,000 – US military spokesman

Iran has secured major strategic gains in the war against IS in Iraq over recent years, as it funded and trained the PMU which fought alongside the Iraqi Army in the battle of Mosul and other northern Iraqi cities. In contrast, US ally Saudi Arabia, a Sunni kingdom, has been on bad terms with Shiite-majority Iraq for more than two decades, after Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, despite attempts to mend ties in recent years.

Courtesy: RT

The women fighters who helped defeat ISIS in Raqqa

Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT) October 22, 2017

Raqqa, Syria (CNN)Kurdish female fighters have celebrated in Raqqa this week after the defeat of ISIS militants, whose brutal rule over the city has come to an end after almost four years.

When asked what motivated them to dive into one of the fiercest battles against the terror group to date, the women said they did it both for the Kurdish cause and to liberate the women of Raqqa.
ISIS ruled the Syrian city with a barbarity that gripped the world, and women in particular experienced an oppression many never thought imaginable.
They were forced to cover their bodies head to toe or risk public lashings. ISIS also captured and sold girls and women as sex slaves, particularly Kurdish-Yazidi minority women trafficked into Raqqa from northern Iraq.
After Tuesday’s announcement that ISIS had been defeated, the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) vowed to keep on fighting, many lamenting the 30 women they lost in the operation.
“As the YPJ we vow that will continue this path, go after terrorism where it is in our country, avenge all women victims in the world and continue the message of our martyred comrades,” the YPJ said in a statement.
Here’s what some of the YPJ fighters said.

Shanda Afreen

Shanda Afreen has been fighting ISIS for 4 years.

Shanda Afreen has been fighting ISIS for four years.
“The leader — Abdullah Ocalan — has concentrated on women’s freedom, so we are fighting to free women and to liberate people mentally. Our fight is not only against ISIS, our fight is against the chauvinist mentality against women,” Afreen said.
“Evil is not only from ISIS men — evil could come from women. Women need to educate themselves and evolve ideologically.”
Abdullah Ocalan is the jailed founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — or PKK — a separatist group that Turkey, the United States and the European Union regard as a terrorist organization. Kurdish fighters raised a flag bearing Ocalan’s face in central Raqqa earlier this week.

Avrim Difram

Avril Difram, 20, has been fighting  for 3 years.

Avrim Difram was still a teenager when she started fighting against ISIS three years ago, and now at the age of 20, she recalls losing several fellow fighters. But it has made her all the more determined to keep fighting.
“We are fighting to free the people who are under oppression and to free the leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who is imprisoned in Turkey,” she told CNN.
“Women were especially oppressed by ISIS in Raqqa. That’s another reason why we fight ISIS — we wanted to free women from oppression.”

Wulat Romin

Wulat Romin, 24, from Waan,  has been fighting ISIS for a year and half.  She fought in Raqqa, Tabqa and Al-Hol.

Wulat Romin, 24, has been fighting ISIS for a year and half, joining the battle in Raqqa, Tabqa and Al-Hol.
“I fight for the freedom of the Kurdish people. I fight against injustice, for righteousness in general,” she said.
“And I fight for the freedom of women in particular.”

Sozdar Derik

Sozdar Derik has been fighting ISIS for six years.
“I am fighting against the big oppression that has befallen our homeland and our women. These people — ISIS — see women as sex objects, as sub-human,” she said. “We fight against that.”

Courtesy: CNN

‘Why are Americans fighting & dying in Niger & other countries?’ – former diplomat Jim Jatras

‘Why are Americans fighting & dying in Niger & other countries?’ – former diplomat Jim Jatras
There is a strategic problem regarding a broader US policy which has been moving forward on inertia since George W. Bush with a global war on ‘whoever they are this week’ without a whole lot of examination, said former diplomat Jim Jatras.

Senator John McCain said the White House hasn’t been forthcoming regarding the ambush in Niger which left four US soldiers dead and two wounded. McCain told reporters on Thursday the Senate Armed Services Committee, which he chairs, has been told “very little” about the incident in Niger. He added that the committee may have to take legal action to get answers from the White House.

READ MORE: 3 American soldiers killed, 2 wounded in ambush in Niger

RT America’s Ed Schultz asked former US diplomat Jim Jatras where he thinks this is going when McCain is talking subpoena.

Jim Jatras: To tell the truth he shouldn’t have to subpoena anything. He is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and the administration should be willing to provide him whatever information he asked for. My only concern here is that: are they just going to look at the worm’s eye view of what happened on the ground tactically, who may be messed up here that these guys got killed, or they are going to look at the bigger picture that I think most Americans are worried about. Niger, where is Niger? Why do we have Americans fighting and dying in Niger? What other countries, under what authority, do we have Americans fighting and dying? I think those are the real questions there. And I hope chairman McCain and the Armed Services Committee delve into that, not just who messed up here.

RT: What is your analysis? Why is the US in Niger?

JJ: In a way, some people especially on the Democratic side, say “Well, this is going to be Trump’s Benghazi.” Maybe there’s an element to that. Because remember the enemy here in Niger is Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This is the same group the French had to come in 2012 against in Mali. It all leads back to the boneheaded decision to overthrow Gaddafi and which was just a huge shot of adrenaline, a big pile of weapons to go to all of these terrorist groups that destabilized now the whole region including Niger. Let’s look at the big picture here, not just what happened here a few days ago that tragically resulted in these deaths.

RT: The mainstream media has got a lot of Americans ginned up about the fact the White House is not forthcoming. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday he didn’t have a full report on what happened in the Niger attack. How unusual is this?

JJ: I think that they should have most of those details now, it doesn’t sound so much that these details are available even to the Pentagon. But even what the Pentagon knows is not being turned over to the committee. I don’t think chairman McCain would be that angry and essentially accused them of not cooperating and threatened a subpoena unless he thought they had more information than they were giving him.

RT: It’s two weeks after the attack, these investigations shouldn’t take that long because the military is in total control of this. But what I find interesting is that the intel for the military told the patrol that violence was “unlikely.” Apparently, they got it wrong. Why and how?

JJ: The same questions people asked about the death that occurred in Yemen early in the Trump presidency. Again, how many countries do we have where Americans are in these situations, where “violence is unlikely”? But it is likely to happen anyway. And that is the real question that, I think, needs to be gotten to hear. I hope the committee addresses it.

RT: Leaving a soldier behind on the field – that just isn’t good. Is someone going to have to answer for that?

JJ: I think so. And of course, you do hear coming out of the administration “We don’t leave people behind.” Is that just a slogan or is that something that they’re actually committed to? At least, from what I understand of the circumstances, three soldiers were killed and then another one was missing. And then later was found dead. How did they lose account of him? What exactly happened? Those are legitimate questions. Let’s not lose the forest for the trees here. There’s a strategic problem here in terms of a broader US policy that is simply moving forward on inertia without a whole lot of examination.

RT: But it really does seem that the Trump administration is just following what the Obama administration did with scattering troops across the globe and hitting these hotspots. What do you think?

JJ: Exactly right. And let’s be honest the Obama administration was simply following the George W. Bush administration’s precedent on this as well that we have this global war on whoever they are this week: whether it’s ISIS or Al-Qaeda or some spinoff from Al-Qaeda. Where is the strategy? I don’t see the strategy and I don’t think there is one coming out of this administration either.

Courtesy: RT

West eyes recolonization of Africa by endless war; removing Gaddafi was just first step

Dan Glazebrook
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
West eyes recolonization of Africa by endless war; removing Gaddafi was just first step
Exactly six years ago, on October 20th, 2011, Muammar Gaddafi was murdered, joining a long list of African revolutionaries martyred by the West for daring to dream of continental independence.

Earlier that day, Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte had been occupied by Western-backed militias, following a month-long battle during which NATO and its ‘rebel’ allies pounded the city’s hospitals and homes with artillery, cut off its water and electricity, and publicly proclaimed their desire to ‘starve [the city] into submission’. The last defenders of the city, including Gaddafi, fled Sirte that morning, but their convoy was tracked and strafed by NATO jets, killing 95 people. Gaddafi escaped the wreckage but was captured shortly afterward. I will spare you the gruesome details, which the Western media gloatingly broadcast across the world as a triumphant snuff movie, suffice to say that he was tortured and eventually shot dead.

We now know, if testimony from NATO’s key Libyan ally Mahmoud Jibril is to be believed, it was a foreign agent, likely French, who delivered the fatal bullet. His death was the culmination of not only seven months of NATO aggression, but of a campaign against Gaddafi and his movement, the West had been waging for over three decades.

Yet it was also the opening salvo in a new war – a war for the militarily recolonization of Africa.

The year 2009, two years before Gaddafi’s murder, was a pivotal one for US-African relations. First, because China overtook the US as the continent’s largest trading partner; and second because Gaddafi was elected president of the African Union.

The significance of both for the decline of US influence on the continent could not be clearer. While Gaddafi was spearheading attempts to unite Africa politically, committing serious amounts of Libyan oil wealth to make this dream a reality, China was quietly smashing the West’s monopoly over export markets and investment finance. Africa no longer had to go cap-in-hand to the IMF for loans, agreeing to whatever self-defeating terms were on offer, but could turn to China – or indeed Libya – for investment. And if the US threatened to cut them off from their markets, China would happily buy up whatever was on offer. Western economic domination of Africa was under threat as never before.

The response from the West, of course, was a military one. Economic dependence on the West – rapidly being shattered by Libya and China – would be replaced by a new military dependence. If African countries would no longer come begging for Western loans, export markets, and investment finance, they would have to be put in a position where they would come begging for Western military aid.

To this end, AFRICOM – the US army’s new ‘African command’ – had been launched the previous year, but humiliatingly for George W. Bush, not a single African country would agree to host its HQ; instead, it was forced to open shop in Stuttgart, Germany. Gaddafi had led African opposition to AFRICOM, as exasperated US diplomatic memos later revealed by WikiLeaks made clear. And US pleas to African leaders to embrace AFRICOM in the ‘fight against terrorism’ fell on deaf ears.

After all, as Mutassim Gaddafi, head of Libyan security, had explained to Hillary Clinton in 2009, North Africa already had an effective security system in place, through the African Union’s ‘standby forces,’ on the one hand, and CEN-SAD on the other. CEN-SAD was a regional security organization of Sahel and Saharan states, with a well-functioning security system, with Libya as the lynchpin. The sophisticated Libyan-led counter-terror structure meant there was simply no need for a US military presence. The job of Western planners, then, was to create such a need.

NATO’s destruction of Libya simultaneously achieved three strategic goals for the West’s plans for military expansion in Africa. Most obviously, it removed the biggest obstacle and opponent of such expansion, Gaddafi himself. With Gaddafi gone, and with a quiescent pro-NATO puppet government in charge of Libya, there was no longer any chance that Libya would act as a powerful force against Western militarism. Quite the contrary – Libya’s new government was utterly dependent on such militarism and knew it.
Secondly, NATO’s aggression served to bring about a total collapse of the delicate but effective North African security system, which had been underpinned by Libya. And finally, NATO’s annihilation of the Libyan state effectively turned the country over to the region’s death squads and terror groups. These groups were then able to loot Libya’s military arsenals and set up training camps at their leisure, using these to expand operations right across the region.

It is no coincidence that almost all of the recent terror attacks in North Africa – not to mention Manchester – have been either prepared in Libya or perpetrated by fighters trained in Libya. Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, Mali’s Ansar Dine, and literally dozens of others, have all greatly benefited from the destruction of Libya.

By ensuring the spread of terror groups across the region, the Western powers had magically created a demand for their military assistance which hitherto did not exist. They had literally created a protection racket for Africa.

In an excellent piece of research published last year, Nick Turse wrote how the increase in AFRICOM operations across the continent has correlated precisely with the rise in terror threats. Its growth, he said, has been accompanied by “increasing numbers of lethal terror attacks across the continent including those in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Tunisia.

In fact, data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland shows that attacks have spiked over the last decade, roughly coinciding with AFRICOM’s establishment. In 2007, just before it became an independent command, there were fewer than 400 such incidents annually in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, the number reached nearly 2,000. By AFRICOM’s own official standards, of course, this is a demonstration of a massive failure. Viewed from the perspective of the protection racket, however, it is a resounding success, with US military power smoothly reproducing the conditions for its own expansion.

This is the Africa policy Trump has now inherited. But because this policy has rarely been understood as the protection racket it really is, many commentators have, as with so many of Trump’s policies, mistakenly believed he is somehow ‘ignoring’ or ‘reversing’ the approach of his predecessors. In fact, far from abandoning this approach, Trump is escalating it with relish.

What the Trump administration is doing, as it is doing in pretty much every policy area, is stripping the previous policy of its ‘soft power’ niceties to reveal and extend the iron fist which has in fact been in the driving seat all along. Trump, with his open disdain for Africa, has effectively ended US development aid for Africa – slashing overall African aid levels by one third, and transferring responsibility for much of the rest from the Agency for International Development to the Pentagon – while openly tying aid to the advancement of “US national security objectives.”

‘US has enough roles’:  not interested in  nation-building

Read more: https://on.rt.com/89ft 

In other words, the US has made a strategic decision to drop the carrot in favor of the stick. Given the overwhelming superiority of Chinese development assistance, this is unsurprising. The US has decided to stop trying to compete in this area, and instead to ruthlessly and unambiguously pursue the military approach which the Bush and Obama administrations had already mapped out.

To this end, Trump has stepped up drone attacks, removing the (limited) restrictions that had been in place during the Obama era. The result has been a ramping up of civilian casualties, and consequently of the resentment and hatred which fuels militant recruitment. It is unlikely to be a coincidence, for example, that the al Shabaab truck bombing that killed over 300 people in Mogadishu last weekend was carried out by a man from a town in which had suffered a major drone attack on civilians, including women and children, in August.

Indeed, a detailed study by the United Nations recently concluded that in “a majority of cases, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa.” Of more than 500 former members of militant organizations interviewed for the report, 71 percent pointed to “government action,” including “killing of a family member or friend” or “arrest of a family member or friend” as the incident that prompted them to join a group. And so the cycle continues: drone attacks breed recruitment, which produces further terror attacks, which leaves the states involved more dependent on US military support. Thus does the West create the demand for its own ‘products.’

It does so in another way as well. Alexander Cockburn, in his book ‘Kill Chain,’ explains how the policy of ‘targeted killings’ – another Obama policy ramped up under Trump – also increases the militancy of insurgent groups. Cockburn, reporting on a discussion with US soldiers about the efficacy of targeted killings, wrote that: “When the topic of conversation came round to ways of defeating the [roadside] bombs, everyone was in agreement. They would have charts up on the wall showing the insurgent cells they were facing, often with the names and pictures of the guys running them,” Rivolo remembers. “When we asked about going after the high-value individuals and what effect it was having, they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, we killed that guy last month, and we’re getting more IEDs than ever.’ They all said the same thing, point blank: ‘[O]nce you knock them off, a day later you have a new guy who’s smarter, younger, more aggressive and is out for revenge.”’

Alex de Waal has written how this is certainly true in Somalia, where, he says, “each dead leader is followed by a more radical deputy. After a failed attempt in January 2007, the US killed Al Shabaab’s commander, Aden Hashi Farah Ayro, in a May 2008 air strike. Ayro’s successor, Ahmed Abdi Godane (alias Mukhtar Abu Zubair), was worse, affiliating the organization with Al-Qaeda. The US succeeded in assassinating Godane in September 2014. In turn, Godane was succeeded by an even more determined extremist, Ahmad Omar (Abu Ubaidah). It was presumably Omar who ordered the recent attack in Mogadishu, the worst in the country’s recent history. If targeted killing remains a central strategy of the War on Terror”, De Waal wrote, “it is set to be an endless war.”

But endless war is the whole point. For not only does it force African countries, finally freeing themselves from dependence on the IMF, into dependence on AFRICOM; it also undermines China’s blossoming relationship with Africa.

Chinese trade and investment in Africa continues to grow apace. According to the China-Africa Research Initiative at John Hopkins University, Chinese FDI stocks in Africa had risen from just two percent of the value of US stocks in 2003 to 55 percent in 2015, when they totaled $35 billion. This proportion is likely to rapidly increase, given that “Between 2009 and 2012, China’s direct investment in Africa grew at an annual rate of 20.5 percent, while levels of US FDI flows to Africa declined by $8 billion in the wake of the global financial crisis”. Chinese-African trade, meanwhile, topped $200 billion in 2015.

China’s signature ‘One Belt One Road’ policy – to which President Xi Jinping has pledged $124 billion to create global trade routes designed to facilitate $2 trillion worth of annual trade – will also help to improve African links with China. Trump’s policy toward the project was summarised by Steve Bannon, his ideological mentor, and former chief strategist in just eight words: “Let’s go screw up One Belt One Road.” The West’s deeply destabilizing Africa policy – of simultaneously creating the conditions for armed groups to thrive while offering protection against them – goes some way toward realizing this ambitious goal. Removing Gaddafi was just the first step.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

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