At the Wall Street Journal, "Developments in Mali and Algeria Spur Debate Within Obama Administration About America's Military Role on Continent":
WASHINGTON—The White House has promoted a strategy of keeping as light a U.S. footprint as possible in Africa, focusing on training and funding local militaries and providing logistical and intelligence support to African Union-led combat operations.Yeah, that Mike Rogers nails it.
But events in Mali, Algeria and other countries are now spurring a reconsideration of the military role the U.S. should take on the continent, U.S. officials said.
The White House and African analysts have voiced fears that a more direct U.S. role could weaken local governments and further inflame Islamist extremism. U.S. officials have also questioned the direct national security threat posed by such Africa-based militants as AQIM, Somalia's al-Shabaab militia and the Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa.
Obama administration officials said this strategic view is being challenged by the rising terrorist activities in North Africa, including the abduction this week of Western hostages, including Americans, working at a natural-gas field in Algeria. Reports that the militants are demanding the release of two Islamic extremists from American prisons have emphasized their conflict with the U.S.
The hostage crisis follows September's terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans. Piracy linked to Islamist extremists also is posing a rising threat to international shipping off Africa.
Some American military officials said this week that AQIM, which is also active in Libya, Morocco, and Algeria, has grown more dangerous, more quickly than many assumed several years ago.
The Obama administration this month said it is providing limited logistical and intelligence support to a French military intervention in northern Mali, where Islamists militants fighting under the banner of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, have carved a regional haven.
The quick rise of Islamist militants, officials said, may mean that drones assigned to hunt al Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan, or al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, could be reassigned to Africa.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview that he still doesn't see a cohesive administration approach to countering gains by al Qaeda and Islamist militants across the continent. "You have to have an overarching policy that puts pressure on these groups from every corner," he said. "That is what's missing."
President Barack Obama could visit Africa this year, making stops in several democratic countries, administration officials said.
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MAP CREDIT: The Other McCain.