New report reveals spread of US war on Al-Qaeda around the world
The 60-page report and the accompanying letter shows deployments in over half a dozen areas – including Somalia, Yemen, Jordan, Niger, Cameroon, Central Africa, the Red Sea, and South Sudan – involving troops on the ground, regular airstrikes, and surveillance efforts, all in the name of counter-terrorism.
In a presidential memorandum released on Monday, the White House said the US military operations are grounded in the October 7, 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), by which Congress approved military operations and counterterrorism combat operations against Al-Qaeda. Since August 2014, those have expanded to include operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), which was “formerly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”
The Obama administration’s broad use of the 2001 resolution has raised concerns about how President-elect Donald Trump might use the authority.
The memo includes some new details about how the Obama administration determines which regions are “areas of active hostilities” or war zones, taking into account, not only whether a war has been declared there, but also the size and scope of the threat, the scope of US involvement, and threats posed to US forces in the area.
President Barack Obama has called for the report to be updated and released publicly on an annual basis.
“The United States has deployed combat-equipped forces to a number of locations in the US Central, Pacifica, European, Southern and African Command areas of operation,” said the White House, adding “such operations and deployments… consistent with Public Law and the War Powers Resolution, and operations and deployments remain ongoing.”
“It is not possible to know at this time the precise scope or the duration of the deployments of the US Armed Force necessary to counter terrorist threats to the United States,” the memo added.
In the report, the US identified Al-Shabaab in Somalia as Al-Qaeda for the first time, but provides no justification for the change. The administration believes it can target Al-Shabaab because it “seeks to establish a strict Islamic emirate.”
“United States advises, assists, and occasionally accompany regional forces … during counterterrorism operations… conducted airstrikes [in Somalia] on June 21, July 20, July 31, August 31, September 25 and September 28, 2016,” said the memo.
The US has deployed “a small number of military personnel in Yemen to support operations against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)” and carried out 18 airstrikes since June 13, 2016.
In Africa, the US has a base of operations in Djibouti and has conducted airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Libya. The US is also conducting military operations in Niger, where it has deployed approximately 575 personnel, and is sharing intelligence with French forces. There are another 285 US troops in Cameroon, conducting intelligence and surveillance operations. Washington has also deployed troops in Central Africa, conducted military operations in the Red Sea, and assigned 700 military personnel to Egypt.
Further in the memorandum, the White House said it had deployed over 2,300 military personnel to Jordan “to support counter-ISIL operations,” and to provide security to the country.
The report also included an update on the prison camp inside the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which still holds 59 detainees.
The Obama administration said it had tried to apply “rules, practices and policies long used in traditional warfare” to a new type of conflict embodied by extremist groups that often “do not wear uniforms ore respect geographic boundaries” and show little regard for the rules of war.
“To say that a military tactic is legal, or effective, is not to say that is wise or moral in every instance,” the White House said, according to AP, which obtained a copy of the memo and report.