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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why should the West be concerned with the intentions of the Islamic State in Africa? (Part II)

Links: A. ISIS supporting Al-Shabaab in Africa?
           B. ISIS eager to recruit South Africans.

In Part II we will focus on the Islamic State (IS) in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The Muslim states of West Africa are vitally important, because they will discreetly provide financial and material support to Islamic extremist groups, while publicly disavowing any involvement or knowledge of these organizations.

Mauritania.  To start, Mauritania is a bit of a mystery.  The government gives the appearance of being deeply observant of all Islamic Laws and traditions.  At the same time, Mauritania has steered a very moderate course diplomatically, snuggling up to France in particular.  In truth, Mauritania is a lightly-populated country that consists almost exclusively of SAND.  Eventually, the engineers and researchers will find oil in Mauritania, mark my word.

Al-Qaeda in the Magreb.   Al-Qaeda remains active in West Africa, in Mali and Niger in particular.  In 2013, Al-Qaeda more-or-less surprised everyone by hopping the coat tails of a Tuareg insurrection in northern Mali.  The Tuaregs, who had made repeated complaints to the government in Bamako, were suffering from private French companies occupying oases and disturbing traditional Tuareg trading patterns.  The Tuaregs felt that they had no choice but to take up arms, at least long enough to attract the European press.  But before you can say, "Camel Fart", Al-Qaeda had hijacked the Tuaregs little rebellion.  The Tuaregs quickly faded away, but Al-Qaeda in the Magreb (AQM) meant business, attacking Malian military and government installations as far south as Timbuktu.  In steps the French, who roll up AQM in record time (not many prisoners taken, from what I understand).  In the Fall of 2014, AQM, taking advantage of a government focused exclusively on combating Ebola, popped back up in northern Mali.  And this time, they were better armed and willing to involve others.  AQM repeatedly crossed the border into Niger and conducted raids against simple villages, along with the usual attacks against government and civilian targets in Mali.  Again, the French military has arrived on the scene, and I expect and even more thorough accounting of AQM.  I can hear you now, asking, "why all this AQM bullshit when the post is supposed to be about the IS"?  The answer is simple; the post is about the IS.  Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are, for all practical purposes, the same organization.  They are both Sunni-based, violent, terrorist groups dedicated to the removal of infidels from their "Holy Land".  They communicate with each other, they assist one another, and they play-up the western media's insistence on separating the two. As always, this is only my opinion.  Come see me in a year and remind me how wrong I was.

Al-Shabaab.  One fact that is not debatable is that the IS was born into the Al-Qaeda family.  In its former life, it was known as "Al-Qaeda in Iraq".  After the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed as the leader of the organization, and a new name, "the Islamic State in the Sham" (ISIS) was chosen.  Folks, I'm leaving out all sorts of important background to the genesis of IS, but this post has to stay within reasonable limits.  Al-Baghdadi really began to make the IS about himself, and let it be known to Al-Qaeda head Ayman Al-Zawahiri, that IS was able to function on its own.  Now this is as close to a complete rift with Al-Qaeda as ever occurred.  Zawahiri didn't have much to bitch about because the IS was kicking ass and taking names all over Iraq and Syria.  More recently, as the organization stretches its legs a bit, relationships have been established with like-minded Sunni extremist groups around the world, including Africa.  Al-Shabaab, that nasty bunch of turds that tried to turn Somalia into an Islamic State ruled by Islamic Courts (sounds wonderful, doesn't it?), have established themselves in the townships of Kenya, which are ripe recruitment areas.  Social Media is the master at bringing people together, and the IS and Al-Shabaab have been expressing support for one another for some time.  These two groups need each other.  Al-Shabaab needs the organizational skills, the discipline, and the funding of the IS, and the IS needs the geographic reach, and the potential recruitment opportunities available to Al-Shabaab.  They are both Sunni based, therefore there will be no trouble finding ideological (read: idiot-logical) common ground.  Al-Shabaab has established a presence as far south as South Africa and as far west as Namibia.

Boko Haram.  Ehen the Nigerian based terrorist organization, "Boko Haram", announced its support for the IS, the news was treated as a truly important development.  During the same week, the combined military forces of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Benin inflicted defeat after defeat on Boko Haram, who was now only in control of four northern communities (from twenty just the week before).  It was no surprise that Boko Haram (BH) wanted to change the headline, and the press obliged.  The poor Nigerian Army; after months of getting raked over the coals by the domestic and international press, they finally have a very successful strong of victories, and they get upstaged by BH's announcement of love for the IS.  The truth is, even though BH has very recently received a black eye and a bloody nose, this organization is built similar to the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, and it is more than able to retreat into the jungle and reconstitute itself.  I find BH to be the most dangerous terrorist group on the continent, and that includes north Africa.  Anyone engaged against BH needs to be familiar with its history, as BH is very loyal to its founding principles and the accompanying religious ideology.  The organization was originally established in support of providing Islamic education in northern Nigerian schools.  At the time, there was a need for a bit of a "siege mentality", as the Islamic community in Nigeria had many opponents.  Through concentration of resources and discipline, the Islamic community in northern Nigeria was able to effectively establish a network of Islamic schools.  As is often the case, this well-meaning effort got out of hand.  BH quickly morphed into a organization that allowed no disagreement and enforced the strictest of Islamic codes.  Instead of living peacefully with the Christian community, BH made every effort to either drive them off or convert their children.  When it became apparent that the Nigerian authorities were either unwilling or unable to respond, BH began large-scale forced conversions.  Instead of focusing on education, BH became a para-military organization, bent on proselytizing extremist Islam.  At the zenith of its reach, BH was smart enough to reach out to other like-minded organizations, which will provide a lifeline, if the Nigerian military is successful in forcing BH out of Nigeria.  BH is present in Ghana, in Cote d'Ivoire, and in the Cameroon.  Many of his soldiers are "brainwashed" teens, some not much older than ten, eleven years of age.  In many cases, these young fighters are the most dedicated.  I won't mention the fate of the young girls that are randomly kidnapped.  Suffice to say that the lucky ones are forced into sometimes plural marriages with men usually many years older.

Because of the growing population rate in sub-Saharan Africa, the pressure on the various national economies will only increase.  At the moment, even the most optimistic economies like South Africa, Nigeria, Namibia, Botswana, Gabon and Ghana, have unemployment rates for post-high school males as high as forty percent.  This group of unemployed, bored, many times hungry, unable to afford university fees, young men are the perfect targets for the IS.  Since the Islamic faith has done such an outstanding job introducing Islam to poorer African communities, many of these young men are already halfway home.        

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