From Strategic Culture
Refugees of the fighting in the Central African Republic, January 2014
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Fighting terrorism is now morphing into clamping down on human migration, as far as the European Union is concerned. France's President Emmanuel Macron is leading the charge, claiming at a conference in Paris last week that terrorism and human trafficking are part of the same problem, requiring the deployment of a military force spread across Africa.
The melding of the two concepts provokes serious legal and moral questions. But so desperate, it seems, is the EU to halt illegal migration into the bloc that it is moving to militarize the problem in Africa -- under the guise of "fighting terrorism."
This is tantamount to European Neo-imperialism. That is, attempting to sort out deep-seated socio-economic problems down the barrel of a gun. Not only that, but using futile heavy-handed methods to deal with problems that European powers themselves are responsible for creating.
Such an approach will only worsen humanitarian problems for millions of displaced war-torn and impoverished people. In typical arrogant imperialist fashion, the EU is not addressing root causes of the problem -- its own role in shattering African societies from illegal wars and predatory economics.
The panicky reaction this week in Brussels to the formation of the new Austrian government led by populist Chancellor Sebastian Kurz shows that the other European powers are still rattled by the rise of nationalistic politics across Europe and the underlying long-term problem of migration into the EU.
Kurz's People's Party has formed a coalition government with the Freedom Party. Both share anti-immigration policies and are deeply critical of the EU. The new Austrian administration has been described with trepidation in the news media as the first "far-right" government in the European Union. That epithet appears to be aimed at demonizing the new Austrian authorities with the taint of "fascism."
However, what seems to be the real concern among the pro-EU governments of Germany and France is that Austria rekindles wider fears in regard to large uncontrolled flows of refugees entering into Europe and the knock-on effect of rising anti-EU populist politics that those fears tend to fan.
Another sign of the EU's concern over the flow of migrants into the bloc is the attempt by France, Germany and Italy to morph the issue of refugees into one of "fighting terrorism." This is an audacious, not to say reprehensible, step of treating a humanitarian crisis with military force. But because the emotive "anti-terror" card is invoked, the intention is to mask the controversial, unethical move with a veneer of humanitarianism.
Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a summit in Paris which was billed as countering terrorism in the Sahel -- the vast Northwest desert region of Africa. Macron has taken the lead earlier this year in forming what is known as the Group of Five (G5) countries straddling the Sahel region, comprising Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania.
The leaders of the G5 were hosted by Macron at a chateau near Paris on December 13. Also in attendance were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italy's premier Paolo Gentiloni. Significant too was the attendance at the summit by the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In a brazen appeal for financial funding, Macron asked the Saudis and Emiratis to stump up money for the G5 military force. Both the oil-rich states responded with pledges of $100 million and $30 million, respectively. Other donors to the G5 "anti-terror operations" were the EU and the United States, each pledging $60 million. In other words, the Saudis and Emiratis are bankrolling the G5 "anti-terror" military coalition to the tune of nearly half its total budget.
The G5 comprises some 4,000 troops from the five mentioned African countries -- all of them former French colonies. The French forces in the region are believed to number around the same. There are also American special forces operating, as was shown by the dramatic deadly shootout in Niger in October when four US troops were killed in an ambush.
What Macron is claiming to do is to replace the French forces with local troops from the G5. That move will save Paris millions of euro it is currently shelling out on the presence of its military in the Sahel. Knowing that these poor African countries would never be able to finance the operations, the French president is deftly involving the Saudis and Emiratis in the funding.
Macron's proposal beggars belief. Given the record of the Gulf Arab hardline Sunni regimes in sponsoring terrorism across the Middle East, it is absurd to propose that these same regimes could support "anti-terror" operations in the Sahel.