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12 October 2012


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Always heard the Tuaregs were like the Pashtuns, Kurds, etc in that they liked a good fight and were capable fighters in their area of expertise. Have you heard the same?

The beaver


Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga is living in Paris or just outside:

Last see during that concert on September 24th and he has been in the written media and Radio France Internationale during the summer months.

Babak Makkinejad

Mr. TTG:

You assert, without much elaboration, that vital interests of US are at stake there - in the Sahara Desert.

Could you please elaborate?

And when you use the word "vital" - can you please furnish a yard-stick, by way of comparison?

The Twisted Genius


They are a traditionally nomadic pastoralist society characterized by camel herding and caravans. Colonialism and development over the last century have caused them to become more sedentary. They seem quite able to hold their own and more in a fight, but I feel literature and cinema of the "Beau Geste" variety have overemphasized the fierce warrior nature of the Tuareg. They are artists as much as warriors.

The Twisted Genius


Glad to hear he is alive and well and living in Paris... although a little heart broken. He is a journalist by training and trade. I doubt we've heard the last of him.


Your recommendation of 10th grp has much to commend but there seems to be moves afoot to put an African face to intervention in Mali in the form of an ECOWAS-led force. Malians have voiced their displeasure at the ECOWAS plan. I suspect that the ECOWAS plan is being ginned up by the EU and the US. The Nigerians, whom are been tapped up as being the principal source of troops, see this as an opportunity to make more money from the international 'peace-keeping', UN underwritten money machine.
I have a mate in Bamako right now ( a journo) and he's calling me to find out what's going on (and I'm in Nigeria) !


On national interests: I would amend the term to say "significant interests."

The only one ever mentioned is "terrorism." That is to say, the Sahara as aplanning and operational base for launching terrorist attacks against the United States. No one, however, official or otherwise, ever has said how this might be done by whom with what motivation. No one ever has explained why a Saharan oasis is a better launching pad than Hamburg or Londonor or any number of other places.

Finally, would we reach the same judgment about the threat if we had not assiduously built the military capability to deploy Special Forces and related assets in such out-of-the-way places - evn with a sorry record of failure?

The Twisted Genius


I think the containment of Salafi jihadist groups worldwide is in the interest of the U.S. AQIM and its affiliates are not just staying in the Sahara. They are spreading to North, West and East Africa. I don't recall reading anything like a "Mr. X" article or "The Long Telegram" on this subject, but it is a stated goal of our military strategy. I'm not the person to write a "long telegram" on the subject, but I wish a George Kennan would appear and do so.

I admit that I vacillated about using the word vital, perhaps there is a more appropriate word. However, I do feel that the unchecked spread of these groups and their influence will eventually have a detrimental effect on our lives in the U.S. Like communism, the object of our last containment policy, Salafi jihadism will probably eventually collapse of its own weight, but we should be hastening that day.


Speaking of Lettow-Vorbeck, he surrendered undefeated at the end of World War I. Quite a feat.


Two questions:

Is his campaign studied in the US armed forces as a case study?

Can anyone recommend literature on the subject (beyond what's listed on the Wiki page)?



What you describe as the national interest is exactly what has been the foundation stone of our GWT for the pasr 11 years. It is not a strategy for protecting the United States from attack per se. It is a war against Islamic fundamentalism which encompasses salafists, jihadis, anyone who sympathizes with them and/or is hostile to the United States anywhere in the world.

Isn't it obvious by now not only that that war is unwinnable, it also augments the number of people in each category.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comment.

I hope you are not offended when I respectfully completely disgree with you for I cannot credit Jihadist, etc. to be as formidable a threat to US as USSR was.

I can admit that they could be a nuisance to certain states but their spread in Africa, in my opinion, has very little bearing on US security within the American continent.

For example, I think what is happening in Mexico is much more vital to US than what occurs in Mali.

In regards to containing Jihadists; you must defeat them on the field of ideas as well. US and her allies - such as they are - cannot do so. Only Iranians can, and they won't.


This question is to all who may have the answer.

Why the salafists/jihadists ideas are spreading over the ME and African region?

(and I agree with Babak that Salafists must be defeated on the field of ideas)


Lettow-Vorbeck is certainly an interesting man. There's a short write up here:

Apparently he wrote an autobiograhpy that was translated into English, (My Reminiscences of East Africa?) though I haven't read it.


So all the salifist in the world, and any potential recruits, can only infuenced by Iranians? Please explain that?

The Twisted Genius

Dr. Brenner,

You summed up the problem with our GWOT succinctly. Why wage war against terrorism? Why not wage war against aerial bombardment? It makes just as much sense. It should not be a war against Islamic fundamentalism. You are right. It is unwinnable and self defeating. GWOT was successful in one thing... providing a bottomless bucket of money for every bureaucratic and contract expansion that could claim a connection to the nebulous idea of GWOT.

Kennan didn't call for containment of communism. His specifically identified the Soviet Union as the focus of his alarm, just as we should have identified specific groups.

The Twisted Genius


Of course I'm not offended. You raise good points and I appreciate the critical review. I absolutely agree with you that the jihadists must be defeated on the field of ideas as well. The Iranians would be a natural ally in this, as well as those of the Sufi tradition like the Tuaregs.

The Twisted Genius


I've admired von Lettow-Vorbeck since high school. It's unfortunate that I have never heard of a study of his campaign in East Africa in all my years in the Army. I found a link to his book under the Gutenberg Project, I believe. I'll provide a link later. However, I did just found this student paper from the Army War College. I'll read it later.


Babak Makkinejad

Nobody in EU, in Russia, in India, in China, and in North America can put on the table a set of ideas and arguments by means of which the ideas of (neo-)Salafis and others of their kind can be rebutted.

This must be accepted as a fact.

Iranian Doctors of Religious Sciences of Islam and their politico-religious leaders have both the legitimacy, the scholarship, and the authority to combat these Sunni extremists.

No one else in the World of Islam is capable of doing so - not Saudi Arabia, not Al Azhar, not Sufis, and certainly not Mulsim Brotherhood (in Egypt or in Turkey).

The Salafis are not saying anything that is not in the Sunni Tradition, in my opinion.

The Twisted Genius

Here's the link to von Lettow-Vorbeck's book. Enjoy. It's excellent.


The Twisted Genius


The more the merrier and the sooner the better. It will take whatever force ECOWAS puts together with a revitalized Malian army and the MNLA Tuaregs to put down AQIM and their allies. I still think the Tuaregs will be key. Looking forward to any tidbits you or your mate in Bamako come across.

Lord Curzon


Good to see some still prefer a proper rifle to be 7.62 rather than the abomination that is 5.56!


Good post TTG and great comments to all posters, but to defeat the Salafist we need to call on Iolaus.

Abu Sinan

The problem is with the proposed "Iranian solution" is that there is a large percentage of Sunni Muslims that will reject almost anything that comes from a Shi'a standpoint, especially from the Shi'a establishment and scholars.

Latent anti Shi'a beliefs are widespread in the Sunni Muslim community and amongst many Sunnis active Shi'a involvement in trying to argue against Salafist ideas will actually have the opposite effect, giving the Salafist ideas credibility.

Any change will have to come from within the Sunni community. Just because there isnt any such force at the moment doesnt mean that an outside force, especially the Shi'a, are going to come in and lead any such change.

Babak Makkinejad

You will have to wait for a long time for that.

FB Ali

I agree with Abu Sinan's comment above. The Salafi/jihadi ideology exists in the Sunni Muslim community, and has to be met and defeated by others in that community. Shia scholars and religious leaders may well have good arguments to level against it, but they will carry no resonance with Sunni Muslims. This is not an intellectual debate; it is a battle for hearts and minds.

It is also not fought just on ideological grounds. The biggest propeller of the Salafi movement is Saudi money and influence. It is strange that the US enables the Saudis to bolster and boost the Salafi ideology and cause (of whom jihadis are an offshoot), and then launches wars to contain and defeat these same jihadis.

AQIM and other similar organizations are the tentacles of an octopus; the heart of the beast is Saudi Arabia.

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