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U.S., NATO Expand Afghan War To Horn Of Africa And Indian Ocean

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U.S., NATO Expand Afghan War To Horn Of Africa And Indian Ocean
Rick Rozoff

In parallel with the escalation of the war in South Asia - counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and drone missile attacks in Pakistan - the United States and its NATO allies have laid the groundwork for increased naval, air and ground operations in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden.

During the past month the U.S. has carried out deadly military strikes in Yemen: Bombing raids in the north and cruise missile attacks in the south of the nation. Washington has been accused of killing scores of civilians in the attacks in both parts of the country, executed before the December 25 Northwest Airlines incident that has been used to justify the earlier U.S. actions ex post facto. And, ominously, that has been exploited to pound a steady drumbeat of demands for expanded and even more direct military intervention.

The Pentagon's publicly disclosed military and security program for Yemen grew from $4.6 million in 2006 to $67 million last year. "That figure does not include covert, classified assistance that the United States has provided." [1]

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In addition, "Under a new classified cooperation agreement, the U.S. would be able to fly cruise missiles, fighter jets or unmanned armed drones against targets in the country, but would remain publicly silent on its role in the airstrikes." [2]

On January 1 General David Petraeus, the chief of the Pentagon's Central Command, in charge of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as operations in Yemen and Pakistan, was in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and said of deepening military involvement in Yemen, "We have, it's well known, about $70 million in security assistance last year. That will more than double this coming year." [3]

The following day Petraeus was in the capital of Yemen where he met with the country's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to discuss "continued U.S. support in rooting out the terrorist cells." [4]

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White House counterterrorism adviser (Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism) John Brennan briefed President Barack Obama on Petraeus' visit to Washington's new war theater and afterward stated "We have made Yemen a priority over the course of this year, and this is the latest in that effort." [5]

The alleged terrorist cells in question are identified by U.S. and other Western governments as being affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). However, on January 4 CNN reported that "A senior U.S. official cited a rebellion by Huti [Houthi] tribes in the north, and secessionist activity in the southern tribal areas" as of concern to Washington. [6]

The Houthis' confessional background is Shi'a and not Sunni Islam and the opposition forces in the south are led by the Yemeni Socialist Party, so attempts to link either with al-Qaeda are inaccurate, self-serving and dishonest.

In both the north and south the United States, its NATO allies - Britain and France closed their embassies in Yemen earlier this week in unison with the U.S. - and Saudi Arabia are working in tandem to support the Saleh government in what over the past month has become a state of warfare against opposition forces in the country. Saudi Arabia has launched regular bombing raids and infantry and armored attacks in the north of the country and, according to Houthi rebel sources, been aided by U.S. warplanes in deadly attacks on villages. Houthi spokesmen have accused Riyadh of firing over a thousand missiles inside Yemen, and in late December the Saudi Defense Ministry acknowledged that its military casualties over the preceding month included 73 dead, 26 missing and 470 wounded. In short, a cross-border war on the Arabian peninsula.

The West, though, has even larger plans for Yemen, ones which include integrating military operations from Northeast Africa to the Chinese border. Typical of recent statements by U.S. officials and their Western allies, last weekend British Prime Minister Gordon Brown disingenuously claimed that "The weakness of al Qaeda in Pakistan has forced them out of Pakistan and into Yemen and Somalia." [7]

Brown told the BBC on January 3 "Yemen has been recognized, like Somalia, to be one of the areas we have got to not only keep an eye on, but we've got to do more. So it's strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation, it's working harder on intelligence efforts." [8] It is up to Mr. Brown to explain why, if al-Qaeda has been "forced out" of Pakistan, he is adding soldiers to the U.S. and NATO surge that will soon bring combined Western troop numbers to over 150,000 in Afghanistan while intensifying deadly attacks inside Pakistan itself.

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The British prime minister has also called for an international meeting on Yemen for later this month and announced that "The UK and the US have agreed to fund a counter-terrorism police unit in Yemen...." [9]

In Western news reports, or rather rumor peddling, Yemeni rebels are accused of supplying weapons to Somali opposite numbers and the second are reported to have offered fighters to the former.

In short the officially discarded but in fact revived and expanded "global war on terrorism" is now to be fought in a single theater of war that extends from the Red Sea to Pakistan. A joint endeavor by the Pentagon's Central and Africa Commands and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to build upon the consolidation of almost the entire European continent under NATO and Pentagon control and the ceding of the African continent to the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). (Except for Egypt, an individual Pentagon asset and NATO Mediterranean Dialogue partner.)

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/

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