Monday, October 23, 2017

Blood on Trump's Hands - A 4 Soldiers Reader

A Quick Note From MeanMesa:

This kind of post that is the most challenging of all. This story has many "moving parts" which complicate its telling. Nonetheless, it is so important that it's "worth the doing." Perhaps the best approach is offer a series of articles which are the product of excellent reporting on the matter. [Additional links will be provided as possible.]

No. This is not about Trump's meat handed phone call. Nonetheless, when the pathological liar inhabiting the Oval Office is silent, it becomes immediately important to determine exactly why he is terrified of something. Further, when the comedic distractions which so tickle his 30% base lurch into "frantic mode," the imperative to delve deeply becomes even more pressing. This is where we are.

The ISIS Attack in Niger Was
 "Just One Of Those Things," Right?
The same thing probably goes with why
 Trump wouldn't even mention it for weeks, right?

Naturally, when the "news" of the events in Niger which resulted in four US military deaths surfaced, there was an instant "PR Problem" in the White House. When the response to this "problem" turned out to be dead silence on the part of the President, all sorts of possible explanations began to roll around in the mind of MeanMesa.

The incessant drivel about NFL players and "supporting the troops" continued at a "fever pitch;" the President gave FEMA -- and of course, himself -- an A+ for the way Puerto Rico had been "handled;" the constant stream of insults and threats against the N. Korean dictator rattled forward as usual;  and, the GOP "budget" slimed its way through the GOP House and the GOP Senate, promising the Owners of the Republican Party a scandalously gigantic tax break to pack into the pockets of their already dynastic wealth. But, unlike previous, carefully devised "distraction overloads" from Trump, this time all the usual fevered incitement seemed to be falling flat. Talking to Americans about dead soldiers turned out to not be a "optional, discretionary" duty for the President. Neither was, it turned out, the delicate responsibility of calling the widows.

Naturally, Trump headed directly for the golf course. As usual, he immediately began making this "hidden matter" worse and worse by the day. Since then, it has become apparent that Trump's confidence rattling, "self-imagined image problem" was clearly not to be eased much by a pathetic effort to assuage his goblins with mindless golfing. A severely artificial con man is rarely finds an eviscerating -- ripping and clawing -- "moment of truth" painless.

Let's plow right into the "moving parts."

Chadian Special Forces' Active Role in 
Fighting Sub-Saharan Terrorists
Chadian forces are also active in Mali, Niger,
 Nigeria and other nations in the region.

First, compared to the forces of other nations in the region, the Chadian Special Forces are remarkably effective. They have the well deserved record of assisting regional governments in successfully fighting terrorists -- especially Boko Haram -- in a long series of "hot spots." 

Chadian Special Forces, until a couple of weeks ago, were assisting the government of Niger in its effort to drive ISIS fighters out of the country. In many cases Chadian Special Forces troops were working directly with American troops in various military functions.

[map credit]
"Initially, Boko Haram’s presence on the Chadian side of the lake was limited. But violence rapidly escalated in 2015, partly in reaction to the intervention by Chadian forces in neighbouring states."

"In the aftermath of the April 2016 presidential election, which saw Idriss Déby win a fifth term, Chad became central to the struggle against terrorism in Africa."

Chad is a poor country. For years a single dictator essentially "absorbed" the revenue generated by Chad's oil resources. [Hissene Habre - dictator of Chad/BBC] The man who finally replaced him, Idriss Deby, is currently the democratically elected President. [President of Chad wins 5th term, promises to re-instate term limits after this term- BBC News] Even before Chad reverted to a democratic government, it was clear that the country would be facing the "African style" of Islamic terrorism, hence the substantial investment in its Special Forces.

Now, Chadian forces involved in the effort are considered to be some of the very best. Further, the Chadian government and people have been quite generous in sending these troops to aid their neighbors -- including their neighbors in Niger. Chadian troops helped the French retake the upper region of Mali from Boko Haram.

However, the cost of such "expeditions" has rapidly increased beyond what the economy of Chad can sustain.

Nonetheless, when compared to other nations receiving US aid for anti-terrorism, any aid sent to Chad would have been a very good investment. The record supporting that claim is already "on the books," based on Chadian successes. [Exercises With US Military Help Chad Fight Extremism/NPR]

FP - Foreign Policy - the magazine

America Should Beware a Chadian Military Scorned
Stung by its inclusion on the Trump administration’s travel ban, 
Chad is already making life harder for U.S. troops in Africa.

For reasons that remain unclear, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration included the Central African nation of Chad in the latest iteration of its infamous travel ban, which also targets citizens from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. The move came as a shock to most observers, not least because Chad, in the White House’s own words, is an “important and valuable counterterrorism partner” in a region threatened by al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and Boko Haram. Now Washington may learn, in the least pleasant fashion possible, just how important and valuable Chad has been.

Fighting Boko Haram. [Chadian Military/FRONTERA]
In the wake of the new travel ban announcement on Sept. 24, Chad has withdrawn hundreds of troops from neighboring Niger, where up to 2,000 of its soldiers were part of a coalition battling Boko Haram. The Chadian government has not yet offered an official explanation for the pullout, but Communications Minister Madeleine Alingué condemned Chad’s inclusion on the travel ban, saying that it “seriously undermines” the “good relations between the two countries, notably in the fight against terrorism.”

Despite its relative poverty, Chad plays an outsized role in African security and politics. Its troops are considered some of the most capable in the region, and its president, Idriss Déby, has won considerable influence with the African Union, France, and, until recently at least, the United States by deploying them to clean up others’ messes. In addition to leading the fight against Boko Haram, Chad’s military is busy countering al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other jihadis in the Sahel, a volatile region that includes parts of Mali and Niger.

The groundwork for the country’s current security partnership with Washington was laid in northern Mali in 2013, when Chadian soldiers fought alongside French forces in some of the harshest terrain and deadliest battles as they sought to roll back jihadis who had dug in there. When less than two years later Boko Haram began seizing huge swaths of territory in northeastern Nigeria, Washington looked to Chad as part of a regional response because it didn’t believe Nigeria could handle the threat on its own. Chad and Niger, which also has a budding security partnership with the United States, mounted an armed intervention in early 2015 that pushed Boko Haram out of numerous towns and broke up the group’s Islamic emirate. Later, Chad took on a leading role in the Multinational Joint Task Force, a larger military coalition that included troops from four other nations, hosting its new headquarters as well as a coordination cell partly staffed by Western experts advising the campaign against Boko Haram.

Chad has also continued to play an important role in Mali, where the United States is a significant contributor to the United Nations peacekeeping mission and aides French counterterrorism efforts with financial, logistical, and intelligence support. It is a former Chadian minister, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who leads the U.N. mission in Mali, and Chad has signed on to another regional effort — the so-called “Sahel G5” force that also includes forces from Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger — that is tasked with improving security in the troubled Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso border region. The G5 force was a brainchild of the French, and the Trump administration has been skeptical of the effort because of the projected cost but initially gave it some rhetorical support.

But while Chad has burnished its image abroad by participating in military operations, it has struggled with mounting unrest and economic hardship at home. An authoritarian leader who seized power in 1990, Déby finds himself increasingly threatened by student and labor union unrest as persistently low oil prices and mounting security expenditures have at times left his government unable to pay workers. As his position has grown more tenuous, Déby has been blunt with his Western partners: Give more money, or Chad will scale back its regional security commitments.

France and others have heeded Déby’s threats. In June, the International Monetary Fund approved over $300 million in extra loans for Chad. In September, a donor roundtable in Paris generated nearly $20 billion in pledges designed to support Chad’s 2017-2021 national development plan.

But instead of rewarding Chad as other donors have, the Trump administration has punished it. Experts are still baffled by the decision to include the country on the latest travel ban, which was partially blocked by a federal judge on Tuesday, hours before it was set to go into effect.

The administration said it was because “several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region” and the government has failed to “adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information.” Yet on the first count, at least — terrorist groups active within its borders — Chad is better off than many of its neighbors. One possible explanation for this discrepancy, which would be preposterous in any administration except this one, is that the architects of the ban, having repeatedly heard the phrases “Boko Haram” and “Lake Chad” in the same sentence, assumed that Chad must be the epicenter of Boko Haram. (Lake Chad in fact lies on the border of Chad and three other countries, and Boko Haram is mostly confined to northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and southeastern Niger.)

Regardless of the rationale for including Chad in the ban, the decision was a mistake. The partial withdrawal of Chadian soldiers from places like southeastern Niger, an area that has been heavily targeted by Boko Haram in recent years, could result in swift and serious consequences.


Initial reports indicate that the security situation there has already begun to deteriorate in the vacuum left by departing Chadian forces: Boko Haram attacks have escalated since the withdrawal, and so has banditry, a chronic regional problem. A security vacuum will also have political and humanitarian consequences, imperiling tentative deradicalization and amnesty efforts by Niger’s government and making it more difficult to get vital assistance to millions of displaced people in the Lake Chad region.

A more significant Chadian pullback would likely embolden Boko Haram, which already seems to be getting some of its mojo back. This year has seen an uptick not just in suicide bombings, but also in audacious and successful attacks on Nigerian military convoys and bases. If Chadian authorities take even more dramatic steps to halt their cooperation with the United States and other regional militaries involved in the fight against Boko Haram, the Multinational Joint Task Force itself could be partly dismantled, as could the coordination cell in Chad’s capital, developments that would impede the entire regional effort to counter the terrorist group.

There are good reasons why the United States should consider reducing its dependence on Chad, Déby’s autocratic rule being one of them, but the travel ban does not appear to be part of a considered rebalancing of U.S. security relationships in the region. The confusion and anger engendered by Chad’s inclusion, moreover, seem unlikely to lead to reform. Of course, the last word about the travel ban has not been said, as Tuesday’s court ruling suggests. Déby is a tough and skilled negotiator who has faced down savvier interlocutors than Trump — including the World Bank and ExxonMobil — and has come away each time with at least part of what he wanted. The Chadian president is likely betting that with his forces withdrawn from Niger, the Trump administration will quickly come to appreciate his country’s security contributions and remove it from the list. The danger for Déby, Washington, and especially for the region, however, is that the administration’s characteristic disorganization and stubbornness may delay a course correction until after serious harm has occurred.

Being Screwed by EXXON "Sours the Deal" With Chad
EXXON CEO [turned Secretary of State], Rex Tillerson thinks a 2% oil royalty is just too high.
Looks like Big Daddy and Rex decided to get even.

Exxon in negotiations with Chad
NOVEMBER 15, 2016 Reuters staff

(Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) is negotiating with Chad over a record $74 billion fine the U.S. oil company was told to pay by a court in the central African nation over unpaid royalties, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

Exxon has appealed the Oct. 5 court ruling, but the appeals court hearing has been delayed because of the talks, Bloomberg reported, citing a lawyer for Exxon. 

Exxon declined to comment.

The court decision fined a consortium led by Exxon over 44 trillion CFA francs ($73.44 billion) - nearly four times BP’s Deepwater Horizon settlement and roughly seven times Chad’s annual gross domestic product.

The unpaid royalties stem from a dispute over fees, sources in the Chadian Finance Ministry have told Reuters. The Finance Ministry, they said, is seeking a 2 percent royalty fee from the consortium, a rate the defendants have said is higher than the agreed level.

Secretary of State Rex "Settles" His Feud
 With the Uppity Chadians
Trump jumps in -- who cares about US troops when there's big money on the table?

An unavoidable component of the path to oligarchy or mobster is the necessity to leave "examples" of a "failure to cooperate" which can be observed by those to be intimidated. Is this beginning to sound "thuggy?" MeanMesa agrees. Too bad the story is too complicated for anyone in Trump's base.

Why did the U.S. travel ban add counterterrorism partner Chad? 
No one seems quite sure.
By Kevin Sieff September 25, 2017
[Visit the original article here.

NAIROBI — For years, the United States and its European allies have praised the central African nation of Chad as a helpful partner in the fight against terrorism.

But on Sunday — shocking both Chadians and regional analysts — the Trump administration announced that Chad's citizens would be included in the newest American travel ban. In a statement, the U.S. government cited the presence of terrorist groups in the country and said Chad “does not adequately share public safety and terrorism related information.”

Indeed, Chad does face a number of terrorist threats, most notably from Boko Haram along its western border with Nigeria. But many other countries in the region are not included in the U.S. travel restrictions, including Nigeria, Mali and Niger are considered far more vulnerable to terrorism.

“The reaction has been astonishment and then indignation,” said Nour Ibedou, director of the Chadian Human Rights Association. “We do not understand how our country achieved this lack of trust from the United States.”

A statement from Chad's government asked Trump to reconsider a decision that “seriously undermines the image of Chad and the good relations between the two countries.”

“The Chadian Government expresses its incomprehension in the face of the official reasons behind this decision,” the statement added, “reasons that contrast with the efforts and the ongoing commitments of Chad in the fight against terrorism.”

Under the new U.S. order, North Korea also was added, as well as more targeted restrictions on Venezuela’s leaders and their families. Citizens from Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Syria remained on the list.

According to the Institute for Security Studies, Boko Haram waged more than 120 attacks in Nigeria last year, but only four in Chad. In its statement, the White House said al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was also active “within Chad or in the surrounding region.” But AQIM has a much more substantial presence in Mali, where militants frequently attack United Nations peacekeepers.

“We don’t have any significant indications of other violent extremist activity [aside from Boko Haram], so in that respect, this is completely baffling,” said Richard Moncrieff, central Africa director at the International Crisis Group.

Perhaps even more mystifying, Chad has proved to be one of the United States’ most willing counterterrorism partners in the region. In March, about 2,000 U.S. troops staged a military exercise in Chad aimed at bolstering regional security forces. In recent years, Air Force personnel have used the country as a staging ground for Boko Haram surveillance missions.

“Our nations are working together to build a better future, not just in Chad, but across the entire region,” Ambassador Alexander M. Laskaris, the deputy to the commander for civil-military engagement at the U.S. Africa Command, said during a visit last year.

Chad’s capital, Ndjamena, is also used as the headquarters for France’s 4,000-person regional counterterrorism mission, called Operation Barkhane. Chad’s own military has intervened across borders, in the Central African Republic, Mali and Nigeria. In 2013, forces reportedly killed an al-Qaeda commander in Mali. In 2014 and 2015, during major battles against Boko Haram, Chadian troops were considered by many to be more effective than Nigerian soldiers, even though Chad is a much poorer nation.

“The E.U., France and the U.S. in particular today consider Déby as their principal partner in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel,” wrote Moncrieff of Chad's president, Idriss Déby, earlier this month.

So why Chad's sudden inclusion in the travel ban?

For now, that's largely a mystery, particularly to Chadians. But the decision seems to hinge on problems with information sharing, according to the U.S. statement. Administration officials said they removed neighboring Sudan from the list of banned countries because cooperation had improved in recent months.

It is also unclear whether Chad has the administrative capacity to share information about visa applicants, or whether the U.S. moves reflect a growing strains in relations.

Chad's economy has struggled as the price of oil, its biggest source of income, has fallen in recent years. In a report last year, the State Department suggested that economic problems had led to a deterioration in the country's security forces.

“The Government of Chad continued to prioritize counterterrorism efforts at the highest level; however, the worsening financial crisis affected its ability to meet even basic financial commitments, such as paying police and military salaries,” said a State Department report last year.

Moncrieff said that any lack of cooperation with the U.S. was likely due to a lack of bureaucratic capacity rather than a refusal to assist on terrorism issues.

“It has a very, very weak state capacity, and that’s not helped by a massive financial crunch at the moment,” he said.

Chad has emerged as one of the most important hosts of refugees in the region, with nearly 400,000 refugees living in the country, including many who have fled from the Darfur region of Sudan.

So, How Did All This Turn Out?

After being included in the latest Trump travel ban, Chad withdrew its Special Forces troops from Niger. The move required two weeks. Days after the withdrawal, the "locals" in Niger with whom the Americans had been working, became suspiciously jumpy. Almost immediately ISIS fighters in Niger resumed terrorist attacks. Days after the terrorist attacks began, the American soldiers were ambushed and killed. 

In between his golf trips, Trump has been accusing the kneeling NFL players of "not supporting the troops," and telling lies about the Florida Congresswoman who was with the Johnson family when he called.

Sgt. La David Johnson, US Army [image/ABC]

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