Monday, October 18, 2004

Theater Africa: The war on terror

Failed states are fertile ground.

We can no longer ignore the third world. The UN will never bring democracy or freedom to the poorest nations on the earth. To win the war on terror we will have to work to bring the same capitalism, freedom, and democracy that makes our country prosperous and free to the third world. President Bush will do that, and is doing it in Africa.

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2004 -- Africa is also a front in the global war on terrorism, according to the U.S. general responsible for U.S. military operations and military-to-military ties in Africa.

"We're seeing evidence that terrorism is moving into Africa, especially the radical, fundamentalist type," said Marine Gen. James L. Jones, commander of U.S. European Command, during a recent interview. Africa falls under EUCOM's area of responsibility.

The countries on the rim of the Mediterranean Sea -- Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco -- are the most pressing concern for the command, but failed states further south also pose problems, Jones said.

Terrorists are moving into failed or failing states where the people don't have a lot of hope, he said. In many countries in this region the economies are not stable, there is a tremendous imbalance in the distribution of wealth, the governments don't have full control, borders are not secure, and millions of people are HIV-positive and millions more have already died from AIDS.

Terrorists see the continent as a place to hide, a place to train and a place to organize new attacks. "It's in our interests to proactively engage in this global concern about terrorism with our friends and allies," Jones said.

Despite all the problems -- and the general did not play them down -- there is enormous potential on the continent, he said. "There are quite a few countries in Africa that would like to be democratic. They are trying hard to be democratic and need a little help," he said. "The wrong thing to do is say this is too hard and walk away from it."

While terrorism based in Africa is a long-term threat to the United States, it is a more immediate one to Europe. "The Mediterranean that separates Africa from Europe is no longer a physical barrier; it's a pond that people can step over," Jones said. "We have to make sure that we deal with the problems where they are and we work with our African friends and struggling democratic nations to make sure they survive."

...And it is a long-term commitment. African nations need to realize that the United States and its allies "are not just coming in for two months never to be seen again," he said. "We're investing proactively with countries whose governments we'd like to see go along the democratic path."

This engagement will stop the terrorists from using African territory as a sanctuary or training base. It will "deny them the opportunity of demonizing the United States and Europe as the source of all (Africa's) problems," he said. defencelink.mil

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