Thursday, January 17, 2013


Now that didn't take long. Reports are coming in about the "Battalion of Blood" storming a gas production facility in Algeria and capturing 41 foreigners. The Battalion of Blood is demanding a halt to military operations against Al Qaeda insurgents in Mali.

A local source told Reuters six foreign hostages were killed along with eight captors when the Algerian military fired on a vehicle being used by the gunmen. Mauritania's ANI news agency, which has been in constant contact with the kidnappers, said seven hostages were still being held: two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British citizen. It quoted one of the kidnappers as saying that Algerian ground forces were trying to fight their way into the complex. Reuters

After I wrote my blog about Mali, I was going to wrtie one abou the French and their involvement in Indochina (Vietnam) in the mid 1940s through 1950s. The French attempted to use conventional forces and tactics to fight unconventional forces (the Viet Minh) in a jungle. The result was the eventual defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu. You may recall US forces had a similar experience a mere ten years later fighting the Viet Cong with conventional forces with the end result being the same as the French.

In the 1980s, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Despite the long history of others who tried and failed (including the might 19th Century British Army), the Soviets had one thing up their sleeve that should have made the difference. The Mujahideen fighters loved to run up into mountain caves and fired down on their enemies. Works like a charm on infantry, cavalry and even armored troops. It doesn't work so hot against a flying tank better known as the Mi-24 Hind. A hovering gunship was not something the Mujahideen were ready for until the US gave them stinger missiles (through our former friend, Osama bin Laden). The carnage became too high even for the Soviets and they pulled out.

Then in 2002, the US thought it was worth a shot chasing Osama bin Laden around Afghanistan. Needless to say, the US faced the same challenges as the Soviets. Ten years later, and the Obama administration is pulling out and there is not a lot to show for all of the carnage (remember, Osama bin Laden was actually killed in Pakistan).

It seems to me the West (especially the United States) is being drawn slowly into another Vietnam, only on a much larger scale. The US has been focused on Iran and Syria but now is also involved in Mali and potentially Algeria. We are still trying to use conventional forces to fight a hit and run type of foe. We do not have the forces to deal with all of these pop-ups and our enemies know it.

The British and French for that matter aren't that well off militarily either. Protracted involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan have tired the populace and caused a depletion of much of their wartime spares. Escalating conflicts in Northern Africa is not something the West should be drawn into.

Since the Tehran Embassy crisis, the West has focused on the Middle East as the potential region for a major conflict. What this mindset overlooks is that pan-Islamism is actually rooted in Northern Africa (the very region we are now being drawn into). The more Western military forces are used, the more strength the movement to create an Islamic state becomes.

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