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Obama to O’Reilly: Fox News Reason for My Problems.


President Barack Obama twice blamed Fox News Channel for misinforming the public on issues that have bedeviled his presidency in the past year during a pre-Super Bowl interview with the network’s Bill O’Reilly.

The two sat down in the White House on Sunday for a live pregame interview that started about 4:35 p.m. and aired for about 10 minutes.

Story continues below video.

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O’Reilly first noted that Obama’s detractors believe he did not initially say the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead was terrorism because it happened in the heat of an election.

Obama had just weeks earlier said al-Qaida was on the run after U.S. Navy SEALs assassinated its leader, Osama bin Laden.

“That’s what they believe,” O’Reilly said of Obama’s detractors.

“And they believe it because folks like you are telling them that,” Obama said in the often testy interview.

“No, I’m not telling them that. I’m asking you whether you were told it was a terror attack,” O’Reilly countered.

Obama said it was “inaccurate” to say that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told him the attack was terrorism when he first gave him the news. O’Reilly noted that Gen. Carter Ham, head of operations in Libya, has testified he immediately told Panetta the attack was terrorism, and not the result of a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Muslim video.

“But it’s more than that because of Susan Rice,” O’Reilly said, noting that Rice, who was then U.N. ambassador, used the video explanation days later on the Sunday talk shows.

“Just as an American, I’m just confused,” he said.

“Bill, I’m trying to explain it to you if you want to listen,” Obama countered.

The president also turned on Fox News when questioned about the IRS scandal, in which conservative groups were scrutinized more heavily when seeking tax-exempt status.

“These kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part, because you and your TV station will promote them,” Obama said.

O’Reilly asked if Obama was saying there was no corruption in the IRS scandal.

“No,” Obama said.

“There was some boneheaded decisions out of a local office,” adding that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption.”

O’Reilly also asked why Obama didn’t fire Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the botched rollout of the Obamacare website in October.

Obama argued that while glitches had been anticipated, no one expected a complete failure of the site. He said everything had been fixed, and the site is now running as it should.

O’Reilly noted that only 8 percent of Americans agree with Obama, and again pressed about firing Sebelius.

“I’m sure that the intent is noble,” O’Reilly said, “But I’m a taxpayer, and I’m paying Kathleen Sebelius’ salary, and she screwed up. And you’re not holding her accountable.”

“Well, I promise you that we hold everybody up and down the line accountable,” Obama said. “But when we’re midstream, Bill, we want to make sure that our main focus is, how do we make this think work so that people are able to sign up, and that’s what we’ve done.”

O’Reilly asked if Obama considered the biggest mistake of his presidency telling “the nation over and over, if you like your insurance you can keep your insurance?”

“Oh, Bill, you’ve got a long list of my mistakes in my presidency,” Obama said.

But he did admit he regretted that the “grandfather clause” written into the Affordable Care Act didn’t cover everyone.

“That’s why we changed it,” he said.

“You gave your enemies a lot of fodder for it,” O’Reilly said.

The interview was scheduled to continue after the live broadcast. The recorded interview is set to air Monday night on “The O’Reilly Factor.”

“I know you think maybe we haven’t been fair,” O’Reilly noted near the end of the live interview, “but I think your heart is in the right place.”

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By Greg Richter

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Obama Writes Bizarre, Rambling Benghazi Letter To Assassinated Ex-SEAL Tyrone Woods Father.


#benghazicoverup – read the archive

On September 11, 2013, Charles Woods appeared on Fox News’s Hannity and read aloud four questions about Benghazi from a letter he’d sent to President Obama.

obama-writing-letter-wh-photo-benghazi-murder-victim-tyrone-woods-fatherWoods, whose son, ex-SEAL Tyrone Woods, was one of four Americans killed in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, added: “What we want are not just answers. We also want the truth.”

President Obama has now written in reply to Woods’ letter. This marks the president’s first response to direct questions about Benghazi since May of this year when he answered one question at a press conference. That particular question concerned aftermath “talking points,” not the attack itself.

Charles Woods’ questions for the president are very different. Rather than address post-attack spin control or even pre-attack security – as most press and politicians are wont to do – Woods’ questions for the president concern the attack itself.

These questions, which Woods would discuss later in September before the House Oversight Committee, are:

  1. Why did the president not give “cross-border authority” to rescue the 30 Americans that needed to be rescued?

Cross-border authority is an order only the president can give to enable U.S. forces to cross an international border in action.

  1. Who made the decision to “stand down,” and when and why was that decision made?

Woods told the House committee that while there is disagreement over whether an order to “stand down” was issued, credible evidence suggests that his son Ty and Ty’s fellow CIA security contractors, after registering the distress signal from the US compound under attack, were ordered to “stand down” not once but three times. In Charles Woods’ telling, it was after the third “stand down” order that Ty and his team disobeyed orders and finally left the CIA Annex to go rescue Americans, including Amb. Christopher Stephens, under fire at the compound.

  1. Is it true that General Ham was relieved from duty for refusing to follow the order not to rescue?

Woods related to Congress that a general has told him that Carter Ham, then AFRICOM commander, was relieved of duty in the middle of the Benghazi attack. Immediately after the distress signal was relayed to Ham, and Ham was then told to stand down, Ham’s words, according to this general, were “Screw it.” “And within moments,” Woods recounted before the committee, “General Ham was relieved of his duty by an inferior officer.” Woods continued: “Now, the spin that was given by the administration was that this was a `pre-scheduled rotation’ of generals. Well, I think it’s an insult to the intelligence of the American community to say that a general in the middle of a battle would be relieved because of a `pre-scheduled rotation’ and especially by an inferior officer.”

Woods went on: “We need to have that direct testimony by General Ham — and it needs to be public so that the public, so that voters, can [assess] the credibility of who is telling the truth.” Woods added that the State Department report on Benghazi, also known as the ARB report, contradicts this claim about Ham, reporting on p. 37 that there was no denial of support by anyone in Washington. All the more reason for Congress to resolve this discrepancy by calling General Ham to testify in public testimony, Woods maintains, along with other witnesses who were actually on the ground, including “Ty’s friends.”

Woods’ final question for the president was father to father:

  1. If the president’s child had been in Benghazi, would the rescue attempt have been more aggressive?

On September 27, Obama answered Woods with a five-paragraph letter. Four of the paragraphs are devoted to presidential boilerplate: “prayers,” “challenges,” “courage,” “security,” “justice,” “commitment,” and “service.”

One paragraph pertains to Woods’ questions about Benghazi.

Obama writes:

On that tragic day, I directed my national security team to do everything possible to respond to the attacks against our people and facilities in Benghazi. The United States Government considered a range of options and deployed additional military capabilities, but as our military leaders have said, the military forces needed to carry out the type of operation you describe were not close enough to have made a difference. Please know that my actions would have been the same if the attack had been against my own family. The sad truth is that attacks happened so rapidly that U.S. forces could not arrive in time to prevent the loss of our brave Americans.

Notice there are no answers to Woods’ very specific operational questions. Not one. In fact, the only question Obama addresses is Woods father-to-father “child” question, which Obama broadens into a “family” answer to assert that his “actions would have been the same” regardless.

We know from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s testimony before the Senate in February that after briefing President Obama about Benghazi, Panetta never heard from the president again during the attack. It’s hard to imagine that a commander-in-chief with a teenage daughter in Benghazi wouldn’t have checked in at least once with his SecDef to find out whether she had been rescued yet. But that’s just conjecture.

At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied.

At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied.

We know for a fact, however, that President Obama’s other answers to Charles Woods are either hotly disputed, demonstrably false, or an illogical evasion.

Obama wrote:

  1. “On that tragic day, I directed my national security team to do everything possible to respond to the attacks against our people and facilities in Benghazi.”

There is no evidence of such a presidential directive. Nor is there evidence it was carried out.

  1. “The United States Government considered a range of options and deployed additional military capabilities”

But not during the attack. Not a single Pentagon asset was “in motion before the attack concluded,” as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) put it on questioning both Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, both of whom could only point to the aircraft that were dispatched to evacuate survivors after the attack.

  1. “but as our military leaders have said, the military forces needed to carry out the type of operation you describe were not close enough to have made a difference.”

This remains one of Benghazi’s disputed points. Defense of the Obama line, though, includes such hard-to-believe statements as when Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey declared to the Senate that it could have taken up to 20 hours to get an F-16 from Aviano, Italy to Libya.

Obama continued:

  1. “Please know that my actions would have been the same if the attack had been against my own family.”

Hard to imagine, but impossible to know.

  1. “The sad truth is that attacks happened so rapidly that U.S. forces could not arrive in time to prevent the loss of our brave Americans.”

However often we hear this line, it makes no sense. When the Benghazi compound came under attack on September 11, 2012 at around 5 PM Washington time, there was, of course, no projected end-time, nor could there have been. No one knew or could have known that the fighting would span roughly eight hours.Not a single Pentagon asset, and not a single NATO asset, however, was deployed by the Obama administration to rescue Americans as the attack unfolded.

Why not? We still don’t know.

President Obama’s letter to Charles Woods provides more answers—but not the truth. source – Breitbart.

by NTEB News Desk

Africa Needs Indigenous Investment, Not Foreign Aid — Achebe Colloquium.


By SaharaReporters, New York

The 4th edition of the annual Chinua Achebe Colloquium on Africa held at Brown University from December 7 to 9. The colloquium’s coordinating committee has just issued a communique that focusing on issues of conflicts, investment, democratic growth and development in Africa.

The full text of the communique is reproduced below:
The fourth edition of the Chinua Achebe Colloquium on Africa convened by Nigerian novelist and humanist Chinua Achebe, the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies, was held at Brown University on December 7-8, 2012, at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. With its theme as “Governance, Security and Peace in Africa,” the 2012 colloquium attracted leading experts from academia, business, non- governmental organizations, and governments from Africa, Europe and the United States. The Colloquium was well-attended by delegates who actively participated in two days of intense deliberation and exchange of ideas on the importance of strengthening democracy and peace on the African continent. The Colloquium featured panel discussions which highlighted the complex security issues that confront African nations, security challenges surrounding the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, homegrown terrorism, and the persistence of ethno-religious insurgency. The colloquium noted that these were serious concerns that challenge the establishment of institutions and principles of good governance on the continent.

Highlights  of  the  Colloquium  included  four  keynote  addresses  by  Dr.  Mohamed  Ibrahim, founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for the promotion of good governance in Africa; Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, the executive governor of Lagos State, Nigeria; General Carter F. Ham, Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), based in Stuttgart, Germany; Ambassador Bisa Williams, U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Niger; Professor Emma Rothschild of Harvard University, and Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, South African anti-Apartheid activist and former managing director of the World Bank.

The Colloquium acknowledges the fact that the main driver of conflict in Africa is poverty originating from the failure of leadership and governance. Among the resolutions advanced at the Colloquium are:

1.   The Colloquium urges governments in Africa and bold private initiatives to work to grow additional,  dedicated  indigenous  investment  and  entrepreneurial  groups  rather  than depend largely on foreign aid. To paraphrase one of the keynote speakers, foreign aid is morphine; what is really needed in Africa is a dedicated and thorough operation to remove debilitating poverty that robs the people of their dignity and makes them vulnerable to the manipulation of corrupt, self-serving, and divisive leaders and warlords.

2.   The Colloquium calls on Africans at home and in the Diaspora, as well as members of the international community, to promote good governance in Africa by acknowledging the outstanding examples of remarkable African leaders such as Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former president of Mozambique, Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires, former president of Cape Verde, and Festus Gontebanye Mogae, former president of Botswana. The Colloquium encourages African ruling parties in particular to respect three essentials to democratic governance:  an independent and credible election system, viable and vibrant political opposition, and free and rigorous civil society engagement in politics.

3. The Colloquium reviewed the strategic role of the United States Africa Command, AFRCOM, in relation to the role of African peacekeepers, and the success of the African Union Mission in certain flashpoints on the continent such as Somalia, Sudan, and Mali. The Colloquium welcomed the participation of AFRICOM Commander, General Carter Ham, in passionate debates on the role of the United States in African security, within an intellectual space dominated by scholars and diplomats from Africa. The Colloquium acknowledges the idea of ‘partnership’ between African states and the international community to maintain peace and democratic governance. However, the Colloquium believes that the international community should be wary of the unintended consequences of military support, such as training and arming ambitious elements and war mongers who disrupt democratic regimes and the rule of law in parts of the continent. More resources should be committed, instead, to developing education, technology, health care, agriculture, and basic infrastructure. The Colloquium recognizes AFRICOM’s efforts to collaborate with African governments in their fight against terror groups on the continent in particular, but cautions that any US military activities in Africa must be restrained, must reinforce African government efforts to seek peaceable solutions to their conflicts, must support democratic development, and should be sufficiently transparent and responsive to African civil society review and feedback.

4.   The Colloquium recognizes the teeming youth and children of Africa as the hope for a new cultural politics and for the development of the continent. The Colloquium encourages African governments to create opportunities for citizens, especially the youth, to freely express themselves. By ensuring openness in governance, transparency, and increasing  social  spaces  for  young  people  to  participate  in  the  democratic  process, African leaders could create a more conducive environment for politically negotiated settlements of conflict through dialogue instead of through arms. In thinking of mediation and resolution of conflicts, African leaders should not forget African traditional peacemaking as exemplified by the elders in Ethiopia.

5.  The Colloquium highlights the valuable and continuing roles of women in all African communities and countries and calls on all African governments to enhance and institutionally empower more women in leadership and government. The Colloquium agrees that the case-study of Moroccan feminism and Islamism presents a unique opportunity to interrogate the tremendous role that women played in both the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts in terms of a “movement moment”; the Colloquium further supports the  view  that  such  an  exposition  represents  an  example  of  the  Islamisation  of  the women’s movement in these countries, and urges scholars and policy makers to look more deeply at these trends.

6.  The Colloquium recognizes that the vestiges of race and racism do indeed continue to impact the progress that is being made in modern-day southern Africa. Race was the fault-line of the 20th century and will continue to be for some time to come, particularly in countries such as Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This is manifested by the structures of the economies of these countries and the roles played by multinational companies. While the Colloquium acknowledges the injustices of the past created by race and racism, it is important for the current post-independence and liberation struggle heroes to take responsibility for their own shortcomings in addressing issues of economic disparity,  inequity  and  good  governance.  At  the  same  time  however,  there  are  still residual issues to be dealt with that were largely papered over by post-independence settlements,  for  example,  the  trauma  that  liberation  fighters  went  through  in  their struggles against colonialism. The Colloquium recommends that the next steps therefore are:

a)  Acknowledge the past and move on to deal with current issues b)  Focus on dealing with residual trauma in these societies
c)  Citizen engagement to hold leaders accountable for good governance.

7.  The Colloquium notes that the history of violence and wars in all countries is often contested, and calls for adequate attention to be paid to the task of preserving the continent’s memory. The Colloquium therefore encourages relevant institutions and authorities on the continent as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to address this issue comprehensively by investing in, and promoting research and archiving of Africa’s history and cultural production. UNESCO and international donors could partner with one university in each of Africa’s five subregions in a pilot project to spur the development of research networks on this matter across the continent.

8.   The Colloquium celebrates the exponential growth of the artistic expressions of African youth via creative writing, music, film, and theatrical performances inside Africa and all over the world, and calls on African governments to demonstrate greater commitment to supporting the creative enterprise of African youth.

9.   The Colloquium calls on African governments to develop a Diaspora Engagement Plan to promote more robust ways of harvesting and leveraging the rich and diverse experience of Africans in the Diaspora.

10. The Colloquium notes Prof. Achebe’s particular commitment to Nigeria, and in that regard raises specific concerns that the current terrorist attacks and other increasing acts of violence across Nigeria reflect deeper socio-political inequities and pathologies. The Colloquium recognizes in particular the significance of Prof. Achebe’s recent book on Biafra (There Was A Country) and the much-needed debate that it has sparked, not only about the war, but about the scars it left on southeastern Nigerians (and the areas which constituted the Republic of Biafra) that remain unaddressed 45 years after the start of the war in 1967. The Colloquium notes that these scars also have detrimental effects on the entire country.

Why the world is preparing for war in Mali.


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Regional volatility, imported weapons from Libya, and a poisonous religious ideology have turned the West African nation into a newAfghanistan

According to the commander of U.S. Africa Commandal Qaeda is operating terrorist training camps in Mali, a land-locked country in West Africa. In a recent speech to the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, Gen. Carter F. Hamdescribed the ascendant al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, saying that this al Qaeda affiliate has been recruiting and providing support to militant Islamic organizations in the region.

Mali was once considered to be among the few bright spots on an often-grim continent, but over the last decade it has seen a gradual erosion of stability. Earlier this year, a military junta overthrew the democratically elected government, and in April, separatists in the north declared independence. Islamic rebels soon rejected the idea of secession, however, in favor of imposing sharia law in Mali. Areas where sharia fell into practice soon saw the medieval brutality that typically follows its implementation. The general volatility of the region, coupled with weapons imported from Libya and a poisonous religious ideology, have rendered Mali — which is roughly twice the size of Texas (with half the population) — a new Afghanistan.

This has not gone unnoticed. Last month, the United Nations began a process by which an African security force might bring order to the north. Though no funds were appropriated for the cause, recommendations were made for other countries to provide training and intelligence for such forces. The United States is well positioned to do just such a thing.

Operation Enduring Freedom is generally associated only with Afghanistan, but is, in fact, a global mission. Mali falls under OEF-Trans Sahara, and U.S. forces have already deployed humanitarian aid packages and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms in the region. (Congress has written a $500 million check for ongoing operations.) It’s almost certain that many elements of an African expeditionary force deployed to take back the north will have already received training from U.S. special operations forces.

Every year, multinational “Flintlock” exercises are held in Africa and rotated between countries. The goal of the training is to build up indigenous counterterrorism capabilities. Flintlock 2012, slated to be held in Mali, was postponed because of the deteriorating situation. A smaller exercise called Atlas Accord was held instead.

Since the onset of the war on terror, Green Berets from the 3rd, 10th, and 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) have conducted much of the training in the region. And U.S. Africa Command was stood up in 2008 to direct military operations on the continent. With its activation has come a massive increase in the American footprint, and its first combat engagement — Operation Odyssey Dawn, which enacted a no-fly zone over Libya. The new Defense Clandestine Service, which is part of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is expected to play a large role in human intelligence and espionage in Africa.

It has long been known that the elite Joint Special Operations Command is engaged in special reconnaissance and direct action missions across all of Africa. Additional evidence of a presence in Mali came in July, when three U.S. soldiers were killed there in a car crash. One of the soldiers belonged to the Intelligence and Security Command, a highly secretive signals intelligence unit that works closely with JSOC. (WikiLeaks had earlier revealed plans to embed commandos with the Malian ground forces.)

Clearly, a U.S. force is needed if order is ever to be restored in Mali. Perhaps the most obvious sign of just how hopelessly outmatched the Malian army is versus al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb came in 2009, when terrorists inflicted the worst casualties seen by the military since 1991. U.S. soldiers from 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) later investigated a July 4 ambush that turned into a debacle for Mali. “When the survivors of the July 4 ambush were asked why they had left behind so many vehicles to be captured by AQIM, they said the drivers had been killed and no one else in the unit knew how to drive. When asked why they had not used a heavy machine gun, they answered that the gunner who knew how to operate the weapon had also been killed, and he was the only one who knew what to do.”

Today, militias comprised of young men and women are attempting to pick up where the army of Mali has failed. This makeshift fighting force has a much greater interest in defeating the terrorist threat in the region than does its professional soldiering counterpart. Sharia has obliterated a way of life, brutalized a populace, rendered tourist-friendly areas such as Timbuktu inhospitable, and even razed ancient shrines and artifacts for insufficient deference to Allah. Last month in Timbuktu, six young people from ages 16 to 22 were each given 100 lashes for conversing while unmarried. Such daily barbarism is more than sufficient motivation to pick up a rifle and help restore sanity to a war-torn land. If recent actions of the U.N. and U.S. are any indication, they will soon have much-needed help.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By D.B. Grady | The Week

US military planners focused on Mali intervention.


WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. military planners are working closely with African nations in advance of an offensive to wrest control of northern Mali from al-Qaida linked extremists, Obama administration officials said Wednesday.

The cooperation reflects the increasing U.S. and international concern about the political, security and humanitarian challenges in Mali after a military coup ousted the democratically elected government this year. Capitalizing on the upheaval, al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb, the best financed al-Qaida affiliate, now controls northern Mali — an area the size of Texas.

That makes it “the largest territory controlled by Islamic extremists in the world,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African Affairs.

Officials from the State and Defense departments told senators that the United States was working with the African Union and ECOWAS, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States, on a planned military action in northern Mali. But there are limits to U.S. involvement.

“We have sent military planners to ECOWAS to assist with the continued development and refinement of the plans for international intervention,” said Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary for African Affairs. “Any attempt to militarily oust a AQIM from northern Mali must be African-led. It must be Malian-led,” he insisted.

Earlier this week, Army Gen. Carter Ham, the top U.S. commander in Africa, warned against any premature military action in Mali, saying negotiation is the best approach, If there is an offensive, he said, it must be successful and at the appropriate time.

Amanda Dory, the deputy assistant secretary for Africa at the Pentagon, told the subcommittee that the United States is considering support for countries that contribute troops to the mission. That possible assistance includes training and equipment, as well as additional planning and advisers.

“Northern Mali has become a safe haven for extremist and terrorist groups, including AQIM and affiliates,” Dory said. “As the government of Mali lost control of its northern territory, these groups took over administration of northern cities and began imposing a harsh version of Sharia law. This expanded safe haven and control of territory allows al-Qaida and affiliates to recruit supporters more easily and to export extremism.”

Dory echoed recent comments by military leaders, saying AQIM played a role in the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. She declined to provide any specifics or additional information at the open hearing.

In a technological first, Mohamed Ould Mahmoud, vice president for the Lobbying Network for Peace, Security and Development for Northern Mali, testified before the committee from Bamako, Mali.

Connected via Google Hangout, he told U.S. lawmakers that organized elections in the spring are critical to the future of Mali.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By DONNA CASSATA | Associated Press

Exclusive: Mali war against Islamists unlikely before mid-2013.


  • Military experts take part in a meeting to discuss the Mali crisis in Bamako October 30, 2012. REUTERS/Adama Diarra

    Enlarge PhotoReuters/Reuters – Military experts take part in a meeting to discuss the Mali crisis in Bamako October 30, 2012. REUTERS/Adama Diarra

DAKAR/PARIS (Reuters) – Any foreign-backed offensive to retake control of northern Mali from al Qaeda-linked Islamists will take at least six months to prepare, plans seen by Reuters show, a delay that runs counter to the expectations of many Malians.

The timing allows space for talks aimed at fragmenting the Islamist militias and stabilizing a shaky Bamako government, but it risks giving Islamist hardliners an opportunity to dig in.

“You won’t have boots on the ground in northern Mali until everything is ready to go,” said a Bamako-based diplomat following the situation closely who asked not to be named.

“It is quite conceivable that there will be no military action for up to a year. Any intervention will probably need to be before April or after September,” the diplomat said, referring to complications arising from the mid-year rainy season.

The fall of Mali’s north to Islamists, including AQIM, al Qaeda’s North African wing, has carved out a safe haven for militants and international organized crime, stirring fears of attacks in West Africa and in Europe.

African leaders will later this month seek a United Nations mandate to dispatch a mainly West African force of some 4,000 to Mali tasked with rebuilding its army and then backing operations to win back the occupied desert zones in the north.

A planning document seen by Reuters, known as the Strategic Concept of Operations, provides 180 days from the time the mandate is approved for forces to deploy in Mali, and retrain and equip the nation’s army which is in tatters since a March coup and the subsequent rebel seizure of the north.

French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday he was seeking a mandate for the mission by the end of this year.

Operations to retake the north will then be launched and are expected to last 120 days, the plan shows. Three more months will be needed to stabilize the situation, it says.

Helping Mali’s army retake its lost territory has been complicated by the coup and subsequent rows between the military and civilians now officially in power.

DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE

General Carter Ham, the top U.S. military commander for Africa, said the current plan consisted of “broad outlines” that will require further detail.

“As with all plans, further detail work is required to finalize logistics planning, transportation, the details of training a Malian force (…), how do they bring together the elements of many different nations under a single command and control architecture,” he said while in Paris this week for talks with French officials.

Diplomats say additional time is needed to define the role of nations like Chad, Mauritania and Algeria, which are not part of ECOWAS but are regarded as crucial to any military operation, as well as determine who will foot the mission’s bill, estimated at $300-500 million.

The African battle plan, drawn up by West Africa’s ECOWAS bloc and endorsed by the African Union, estimates there are 2,500-3,000 core fighters amongst the Islamists coming from Africa, Europe and Asia.

The U.S. estimates the hard-core contingent of Islamists much lower at between 800 and 1,200. The conflict has forced 400,000 Malians to flee their homes.

The European Union is planning to send 200 troops to Mali to help training. But like the U.S. and former colonial power France, which is the keenest of Western nations for military action, Brussels has ruled out a combat role.

Regional diplomats are in the meantime pushing diplomacy to try and pick apart the Islamist alliance, in which AQIM has forged ties with Malian Islamist group Ansar Dine and MUJWA, an AQIM splinter that has attracted hundreds of local and foreign recruits.

While dialogue is not being considered with AQIM or MUJWA, labeled terrorist groups by African leaders, Ansar Dine representatives have met officials from regional mediator Burkina Faso and the United Nations this week.

Some Ansar Dine members have hinted at concessions such as distancing themselves from terrorist groups and dropping demands for sharia (Islamic law) to be imposed across Mali. Others have rejected any such moves.

“There has to be time given for more moderate elements … to get off the battlefield. That has to play out,” the diplomat said.

(Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Robert Woodward)

 Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By David Lewis and John Irish | Reuters

US: Al-Qaida link to consulate attackers in Libya.


  • FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 file photo, Malians opposing a foreign military intervention to retake Mali's Islamist-held north clash with police as they march in the streets of the capital, Bamako, Mali. Nigerian state-run TV says a bloc of West African nations has agreed to send 3,000 troops to stabilize Mali. The decision came late Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, at the end of an emergency ECOWAS bloc summit in Nigeria's capital. Military experts from the U.N., ECOWAS, Europe and the African Union have drafted a plan to recapture northern Mali from militants, but it would need final approval from the African Union and the U.N. Security Council before it could be carried out. (AP Photo/Harouna Traore, File)

    Enlarge PhotoAssociated Press/Harouna Traore, File – FILE – In this Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 file photo, Malians opposing a foreign military intervention to retake Mali’s Islamist-held north clash with police as they march …more 

PARIS (AP) — Some of the culprits in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, had links to al-Qaida’s North Africa arm, a top U.S. military official said Wednesday, adding that it remained unclear if the terror network led or organized the deadly assault whose victims included an American ambassador.

Al-Qaida links had been suspected in the attack on Sept. 11, but not publicly detailed, and an investigation is underway. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others were killed. The assault occurred around the same time that protests erupted in Muslim countries over an anti-Islam film made in the United States.

Gen. Carter Ham, the head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, said some of the attackers had ties to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which was built on the remains of a former Algerian militant group.

“Clearly some of these individuals have some linkages to AQIM,” Ham told reporters in Paris. “That’s not to say that this was an AQIM-planned or organized or led activity.” He did not elaborate.

AQIM and its allies control a vast swath of neighboring Mali. The United States and France are among the Western powers that are worried about the Sahel region of northeastern Mali could become a terrorist haven, and are pushing for international action in the region.

“I don’t think today they possess a credible, imminent threat to the U.S. homeland. But that network already killed four Americans,” Ham said of AQIM. “If we collectively — the international community — do not find a way to help the Africans address this threat, it’s going to worsen, the network will become stronger, and they will gain the capability to export violence.”

There has been controversy over the U.S. response to the consulate attack, and the Pentagon and the State Department are assessing what additional or improved arrangements might be necessary to secure U.S. diplomatic outposts in the Middle East.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By JAMEY KEATEN | Associated Press

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