Saturday, June 11, 2016

US Up to Serious Mischief in South Africa, Region
June 10, 2016
Christopher Farai Charamba
Zimbabwe Herald

In years following the war on terror would be used as a catchphrase and justification for a US military campaign or the deployment of forces and creation of military bases around the world.
On Saturday June 4, the US Embassy in South Africa issued a terror alert after it said it had “received information that terrorist groups are planning to carry out near-term attacks against places where US citizens congregate in South Africa, such as upscale shopping areas and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The information they said was “against the backdrop of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) and the Levant’s public call for its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks globally during the upcoming month of Ramadan.”

In response the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said in a statement that, “The information provided as a basis for the latest terror alerts on South Africa has been found to be very sketchy. On closer examination, we have found the information to be dubious, unsubstantiated and provided by a “walk-in” source based on questionable conclusions.

“It is within this context that the South African government rejects attempts by foreign countries to influence, manipulate or control our country’s counter-terrorism work. We reject attempts to generate perceptions of government ineptitude, alarmist impressions and public hysteria on the basis of a questionable single source.”

Dirco spokesperson Mr Clayson Monyela added, “It’s important to emphasise that we value relations between us and the US, they are strong and cordial, they are political, economic and social — and we want to build and strengthen them further as they are already good, but we need to sort out these issues because alerts of that nature have the unintended consequence of causing panic.”

This is in fact the second time in two years that the USA has issued a terror alert in South Africa. In September last year the US Embassy issued a similar alert warning US citizens against an attack on US interests and facilities and advising them to take the necessary precautionary measures.

Nothing ever came of the terror alerts in 2015 however they did have political and economic ramifications on South Africa.

On Monday both the UK and Australia updated their travel advisories for South Africa. As Clayton Monyela pointed out, “alerts of that nature have the unintended consequence of causing panic.”

The Westgate Shopping Mall attack in Nairobi Kenya three years ago is not far removed from people’s minds and a clear example of the horrific and devastation caused by a terrorist attack. A second warning in nine months is therefore not something one should take lightly.

But one must be critical of these alerts. The South African government has labelled the information “dubious and unsubstantiated.” Should this be the case then what motive would the US have to issue this second alert?

In 2013 there were reports that the Botswana government had given the American military permission to start construction of facilities inside the Thebephatshwa air base in Gaborone. This was seen as the first step in plans to relocate the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) from Stuttgart, Germany to the Southern African country.

Both the US and Botswana governments denied that this was the case and stressed that there were no plans to relocate AFRICOM or establish a military base in Botswana. For the US such scaremongering could play into their hands and further their cause to establish an AFRICOM base in the region.

Under the guise of the war on terror the USA has invaded countries, disposed governments, established military bases in a number of countries. With these new alerts in what is arguably one of the most peaceful regions in the world, SADC countries should be sceptical of US intentions.

The words “war on terror” were said for the first time by the then US President George W. Bush on September 20, 2001. Nine days earlier the USA had suffered the 9/11 terrorist attack orchestrated by Al-Qaeda led by Osama Bin Laden.

The September 11 attacks saw four passenger planes hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon and one plane which was destined for Washington crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

In response the USA embarked on this war on terror to root out Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. After the Taliban Government in Afghanistan refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden without evidence that he was behind the 9/11 attacks, the USA invaded Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom as a move to oust the Taliban from power.

Two years later the war on terror found itself in Iraq.

On March 20, 2003, 160 000 troops, the bulk of whom were from the USA invaded Iraq and set of the Iraq War in what was called Operation Iraqi Freedom.

At the time the war on terror was barely out of its infancy.

The USA had invaded Afghanistan a year and a half previously in 2001 and now convinced its allies to turn their efforts to Iraq despite failing to seek United Nations approval.

In fact, in September 2004 the then UN Secretary General declared that the invasion of Iraq was illegal and breached the UN Charter.

Under the false pretence of wanting to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism and bring democracy to the Iraqi people, George W. Bush led a war that would last close to a decade and cause irreparable damage to the Middle East region. The irony of it all was that Al-Qaeda was not in Iraq until the US invaded that country.

In years following the war on terror would be used as a catch phrase and justification for a US military campaign or the deployment of forces and creation of military bases around the world.

Operation Enduring Freedom would extend out of the Middle East to Northern Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Philippines.

American political scientist Francis Fukuyama argued that terrorism was a tactic and not an enemy therefore labelling it a “war on terror” would make it difficult to distinguish between conflicts such as anti-occupation insurgents and international mujahideen.

A by-product of the war on terror has been the USA’s extension of its military hegemony worldwide.

In Africa the USA has only one military base in Djibouti however, through the AFRICOM, the US Defence Department has some 2000 personnel in 38 African countries.

The nature of these deployments ranges from US military training, advising and tactical deployments to US security cooperation, Army National Guard partnerships as well as US bases, Forward Operating Sites, Contingency Security Locations and Contingency Locations.

From the end of apartheid in 1994, the Southern Africa has remained a relatively peaceful region, particularly free from terrorism.

The terror alerts in South Africa therefore come as a surprise to those in South Africa and in other parts of the region.

Since the US embarked on this war on terror has actually increased terrorism worldwide.

Terrorist organisations have sprouted in US occupied countries as resistance movements to the US forces.

According to The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)Global Terrorism Database, global terrorism had been falling between 1992 and 2004, but has been sky-rocketing since.

Much like a self fulfilling prophecy such terror alerts as the one in South Africa might actually attract an attack.

As such South Africa and the region should conduct a threat assessment off these new warnings, more than that they should also be on alert for the coming of the AFRICOM.

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