Category Archives: Africa

Fight Terrorism Or Control Resources: What’s the Real Reason for U.S.’s Increased Presence In Africa?

David Love reports for the Atlanta Black Star:

Although the Trump administration has not expressed much of an interest in Africa, the U.S. has an increased presence in the continent. As China has ramped up its economic presence and enlarged its footprint in Africa, the U.S. is not waging economic war but rather a shadow commando war.

Uncle Sam is building a massive presence of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command as VICE news reported, with an unprecedented growth in deployment among elite units such as the Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs. While at least 116 special operations missions took place at once around the world in 2011, today these commando units are engaged in close to 100 missions in Africa alone. More specifically, 1,700 Americans are involved in 96 missions in 20 African nations at any one time, according to a declassified October 2016 document from the Special Operations Command in Africa, or SOCAFRICA. SOCAFRICA supports the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM, which is responsible for Defense Department operations on the African continent. The U.S. military has divided the world into six geographic sectors — AFRICOM, NORTHCOM, PACOM, SOUTHCOM, EUCOM and CENTCOM. As reported by HuffPost, AFRICOM now maintains 46 U.S. military bases in 24 African countries.

The Government Accountability Office report on Special Operations Forces documented a dramatic rise of U.S. commandos in Africa, from 1 percent of all special forces abroad in 2006 to 3 percent in 2010 to over 17 percent last year. Only the Middle East has more elite U.S. forces conducting operations in its region.

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Dutch Arms Dealer Who Fueled Liberian Civil War Convicted

Sharmini Peries speaks with Andrew Feinstein, the author of The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, who recounts the background of Guus Kouwenhoven’s involvement in arms dealing for Liberia’s civil war. (The Real News)

U.S. Special Operations Numbers Surge in Africa’s Shadow Wars

Nick Turse reports for The Intercept:

Map-7-03Africa has seen the most dramatic growth in the deployment of America’s elite troops of any region of the globe over the past decade, according to newly released numbers.

In 2006, just 1% of commandos sent overseas were deployed in the U.S. Africa Command area of operations. In 2016, 17.26% of all U.S. Special Operations forces — Navy SEALs and Green Berets among them — deployed abroad were sent to Africa, according to data supplied to The Intercept by U.S. Special Operations Command. That total ranks second only to the Greater Middle East where the U.S. is waging war against enemies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

“In Africa, we are not the kinetic solution,” Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, told African Defense, a U.S. trade publication, early this fall. “We are not at war in Africa — but our African partners certainly are.”

That statement stands in stark contrast to this year’s missions in Somaliawhere, for example, U.S. Special Operations forces assisted local commandos in killing several members of the militant group, al-Shabab and Libya, where they supported local fighters battling members of the Islamic State. These missions also speak to the exponential growth of special operations on the continent.

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As Zimbabwe’s Money Runs Out, So Does Mugabe’s Power

Ed Cropley reports for Reuters:

In Zimbabwe, where worthless $100 trillion notes serve as reminders of the perils of hyperinflation, President Robert Mugabe is printing a new currency that jeopardizes not just the economy but his own long grip on power.

Six months ago, the 92-year-old announced plans to address chronic cash shortages by supplementing the dwindling U.S. dollars in circulation over the past seven years with ‘bond notes’, a quasi-currency expected at the end of November.

According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), the bond notes will be officially interchangeable 1:1 with the U.S. dollar and should ease the cash crunch. The central bank also promised to keep a tight lid on issuance.

After a 2008 multi-billion percent inflationary meltdown caused by rampant money-printing, many Zimbabweans are skeptical. The plan has already caused a run on the banks as Zimbabweans empty their accounts of hard currency.

Internal intelligence briefings seen by Reuters raise the possibility that the bond notes, if they crash, could spell the end of Mugabe’s 36 years in charge.

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Can $10 Billion End Nigeria’s Century-Long Oil War?

Magnus Boding Hansen writes for IRIN:

Image result for Can $10 billion end Nigeria’s century-long oil war?[…] The battle against criminality has intensified under President Muhammadu Buhari. The NSCDC has stepped up its patrols, and the army has launched Operation Crocodile Smile against armed militants, young men who claim they are fighting for a greater share of the wealth generated from their region.

The gunmen have responded with attacks on oil installations, the kidnapping of oil workers and assassinations. The military, so far, has avoided the heavy-handed clampdowns that were its tactics in the past.

It’s been a long struggle for the communities in the delta, who feel they’ve always been exploited by the powers that be. A century ago, it was over the valuable palm oil they produced. Now the fight has turned to crude.

What some call the “120 years’ oil war” began in January 1895, when 1,000 ethnic Brass men in 40 canoes sailed to an outpost of the colonial Royal Niger Company in the delta to protest the control the trading company had over the palm oil trade.

It was a violent confrontation, and they took 60 hostages. In revenge, three weeks later, the British Navy attacked a Brass village and massacred 300 people.

Many still celebrate King Koko, the leader of the Brass people at the time, as the first freedom fighter in an ongoing struggle for a fair distribution of oil wealth.

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South Africa’s Move on ICC Raises Concerns of African Exodus

Christopher Torchia reports for the Associated Press:

Michael MasuthaSouth Africa on Friday reversed its early support for the International Criminal Court and said it will withdraw from it, raising concerns of a possible African exodus that would undermine a human rights tribunal accused by some leaders of unfairly targeting the continent.

The announcement followed a similar decision by Burundi this week and was criticized by human rights groups that see the ICC as the best means of pursuing perpetrators of the world’s worst atrocities. The treaty creating the court entered into force in 2002 after years of efforts by South Africa’s post-apartheid government and others.

No country has ever withdrawn from the ICC. Now, the debate over a mass African withdrawal is expected to be a “hot issue” at an African Union summit in January 2017, said Oryem Okello, deputy foreign minister of Uganda, a critic of the court.

“We think the matter is best decided as a bloc,” Okello said.

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What the New York Times Left Out About Obama’s ‘Secret War’ in Somalia

Sharmini Peries speaks to Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report who recounts what was left out of a recent New York Times story on the U.S. role in Somalia, namely the more than two decades of American involvement there. (The Real News)

U.S. Military Is Building a $100 Million Drone Base in Africa

Nick Turse reports for The Intercept:

From high above, Agadez almost blends into the cocoa-colored wasteland that surrounds it. Only when you descend farther can you make out a city that curves around an airfield before fading into the desert. Once a nexus for camel caravans hauling tea and salt across the Sahara, Agadez is now a West African paradise for people smugglers and a way station for refugees and migrants intent on reaching Europe’s shores by any means necessary.

Africans fleeing unrest and poverty are not, however, the only foreigners making their way to this town in the center of Niger. U.S. military documents reveal new information about an American drone base under construction on the outskirts of the city. The long-planned project — considered the most important U.S. military construction effort in Africa, according to formerly secret files obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act — is slated to cost $100 million, and is just one of a number of recent American military initiatives in the impoverished nation.

The base is the latest sign, experts say, of an ever-increasing emphasis on counterterror operations in the north and west of the continent. As the only country in the region willing to allow a U.S. base for MQ-9 Reapers — a newer, larger, and potentially more lethal model than the venerable Predator drone — Niger has positioned itself to be the key regional hub for U.S. military operations, with Agadez serving as the premier outpost for launching intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions against a plethora of terror groups.

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In Africa, the U.S. Military Sees Enemies Everywhere

Nick Turse reports for The Intercept:

militant-islamist-in-africa-April-2016From east to west across Africa, 1,700 Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and other military personnel are carrying out 78 distinct “mission sets” in more than 20 nations, according to documents obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act.

“The SOCAFRICA operational environment is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous,” says Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, using the acronym of the secretive organization he presides over, Special Operations Command Africa. “It’s a wickedly complex environment tailor-made for the type of nuanced and professional cooperation SOF [special operations forces] is able to provide.”

Equally complex is figuring out just what America’s most elite troops on the continent are actually doing, and who they are targeting.

In documents from a closed-door presentation delivered by Bolduc late last year and a recent, little-noticed question and answer with a military publication, the SOCAFRICA commander offered new clues about the shadow war currently being waged by American troops all across the continent.

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Hillary Clinton’s State Department Gave South Sudan’s Military a Pass for Its Child Soldiers

Nick Turse reports for The Intercept:

I met a few of them in the town of Pibor last year. These battle-tested veterans had just completed two or three years of military service. They told me about the rigors of a soldier’s life, about toting AK-47s, about the circumstances that led them to take up arms. In the United States, not one of these soldiers would have met the age requirements to enlist in the Army. None were older than 16.

Rebel forces in southern Sudan began using child soldiers long before seceding from Sudan in 2011. The United States, on the other hand, passed a law in 2008 that banned providing military assistance to nations that use child soldiers. The law was called the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, or CSPA, but after South Sudan’s independence, the White House issued annual waivers that kept aid flowing to the world’s newest nation despite its use of child soldiers. President Obama stated in 2012 that the waiver that year was in “the national interest of the United States.”

The president’s move was criticized by human rights activists and others. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska and the author of the CSPA, described the use of child soldiers as an “unthinkable practice.” The U.S. “must not be complicit in this practice,” he said. “The intent of the law is clear — the waiver authority should be used as a mechanism for reform, not as a way of continuing the status quo.” Because of the requirements of the law, the waivers were issued by the White House rather than the State Department, so Obama was the target of most of the criticism.

Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state when the first waivers were issued, was apparently never asked to comment on them, and the State Department never provided any explanations about its role. Clinton had spent years vowing to defend the rights of children worldwide — in 2012, she railed against “modern-day slavery” in the introduction to a State Department report on human trafficking that took aim at the “unlawful recruitment or use of children” by armed forces. Yet she does not appear to have publicly explained her role in allowing South Sudan and other countries to receive military support despite using children as combatants. In fact, the State Department played a central role in issuing the controversial waivers, according to two sources, including a former State Department official.

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From U.S. Ally to Convicted War Criminal: Inside Chad’s Hissène Habré’s Close Ties to Reagan Admin

Amy Goodman speaks with Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, who has worked with victims of Hissène Habré’s regime in Chad since 1999 and played a critical role in bringing Habré to trial. Habré’s close role with the United States. Hissène Habré is a former U.S. ally who has been described as “Africa’s Pinochet.” He came to power with the help of the Reagan administration in 1982. The U.S. provided Habré with millions of dollars in annual military aid and trained his secret police, known as the DDS.  (Democracy Now!)

In Historic Ruling, Ex-Dictator of Chad Hissène Habré Convicted of Crimes Against Humanity: Interview with Reed Brody

Amy Goodman speaks with Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, who has worked with victims of Hissène Habré’s regime in Chad since 1999 and played a critical role in bringing Habré to trial. The former U.S.-backed dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison. Habé is accused of killing as many as 40,000 people during his eight years in power in the 1980s. At the landmark trial in Senegal, Habré was convicted of rape, sexual slavery and ordering killings during his reign of terror. Habré was tried in a special African Union-backed court established after a two-decade-long campaign led by his victims. This is the first time the leader of one African country has been prosecuted in another African country’s domestic court system for human rights abuses. (Democracy Now!)

How the World Runs on Looting the Congo

In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin takes a look at the the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and how the world runs on the looting of the country situated in the heart of Africa. (The Empire Files)

The Paradox Of Congo: How The World’s Wealthiest Country Became Home To The World’s Poorest People

Esther Yu Hsi Lee reports for Think Progress:

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the vast majority of people live in extreme poverty, earning only around $400 a year. The country is reeling from instability, hunger, and disease. One in seven children dies before they turn 5 years old. And more than 5.4 million people have died since 1993 because of armed conflict. But the issues plaguing Congolese citizens are in sharp contrast to the country’s wealth. The DRC sits on untapped, raw mineral ores worth $24 trillion — money that isn’t directly benefiting the people who live there.

“Why are we living through hell in paradise?” Vital Kamerhe, a Congolese politician and leader of the Union for the Congolese Nation, asks in the film When Elephants Fight, which details how foreign interests have ravaged the Congo region. “That is the paradox of Congo.”

Foreign companies have made large investments in eastern Congo’s mines, buying from suppliers funding armed groups within the country. This type of foreign investment in the Congo’s extraction industry has led to a loss of at least $1 billion in resource revenue that could otherwise be used to reform the country’s security, health, and education sectors.

Now, two well-known activists have begun a campaign to pressure mining companies, the DRC government, and Western governments to disclose exactly what they’re doing in the region. Alongside House of Cards television star Robin Wright, JD Stier, the president of the social activism organization Stier Forward, created the #StandWithCongo campaign to get mining entities to disclose the beneficial owners of offshore companies that are profiting from these mining deals.

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Corrupt Elites Will Fight Hard to Stop the Dismantling of the Looting Machines from Which They Draw Their Vast Wealth

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Can corruption be controlled by reform or is it so much the essential fuel sustaining political elites that it will only be ended – if it ends at all – by revolutionary change?

The answer varies according to which countries one is talking about, but in many – particularly those relying on the sale of natural resources like oil or minerals – it is surely too late to expect any incremental change for the better. Anti-corruption drives are a show to impress the outside world or to target political rivals.

The [recent] anti-corruption summit in London may improve transparency and disclosure, but it can scarcely be very effective against politically well-connected racketeers, busily transmuting political power into great personal wealth.

This is peculiarly easy to do in those countries in the Middle East and Africa which suffer from what economists call “the resource curse”, where states draw their revenues directly from foreign buyers of their natural resources. The process is described in compelling detail by Tom Burgis in his book, The Looting Machine: Warlords, Tycoons, Smugglers and the Systematic Theft of Africa’s Wealth. He quotes the World Bank as saying that 68 per cent of people in Nigeria and 43 per cent in Angola, respectively the first and second largest oil and gas producers in Africa, live in extreme poverty, or on less than $1.25 a day. The politically powerful live parasitically off the state’s revenues and are not accountable to anybody.

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Zimbabwe Opposition March Against Mugabe

AFP reports:

Zimbabwe’s main opposition staged a mass rally against President Robert Mugabe on Saturday , calling on the 92-year-old leader to step down over his failure to fix the economy.

Thousands of placard-waving Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters gathered in the second city of Bulawayo,chanting slogans and singing songs denouncing the veteran leader who has been in power since 1980.

“You are too old Mugabe- Step Down”. one banner read, while another was emblazoned with the words; “Mugabe can rig elections but cannot rig the economy”.

The MDC protest followed a similar march in the capital Harare last month, the largest against Mugabe in nearly a decade.

On Wednesday, Mugabe supporters held their own march in support of the veteran leader, drawing a huge crowd.

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Zimbabwe’s Trillion-Dollar Note: From Worthless Paper to Hot Investment

Dominic Frisby reports for The Guardian:

What’s been one of the best-performing investments of the past seven years? Shares in Facebook? London property? Bitcoin? Up there with the best, believe it or not, are Zimbabwean 100 trillion dollar notes.

A trillion, by the way, is a million million. There are 12 zeros in a trillion. Add another two to reach the total on the Zimbabwean 100 trillion dollar bill, the note with the most zeroes of any legal tender in all recorded history. The bills circulated for a few months in 2009 at the zenith – or, more precisely, the nadir – of one of the most terrible instances of hyperinflation in history, before Harare finally abandoned the Zimbabwean dollar in favour of the South African rand, the US dollar and several other foreign currencies.

At one stage a hundred trillion dollar note would not even cover a bus fare. You needed a bale of notes just to buy a few household essentials. However, it’s thought that only a few million of them were ever printed.

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David Cameron Accused of Gaffe After Telling Queen That Nigeria and Afghanistan Are ‘Fantastically Corrupt’

Tom Marshall reports for the London Evening Standard:

cameronqueen1005a.jpgDavid Cameron has been accused of a making a diplomatic gaffe after being overheard telling the Queen that Nigeria and Afghanistan are “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”.

The Prime Minister was caught on camera making the comments two days before the leaders of both countries are due in London to attend an anti-corruption summit, which he is hosting.

He was filmed telling the Queen: “We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain.

“We’ve got Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world.”

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Barbie Challenges ‘White Saviour Complex’

Damian Zane writes for BBC News:

Barbie with a baby on her backBarbie has ditched her riding gear, her ball gown and her ballerina costume and travelled to Africa to help the people there, while still managing to stay fashionable.

That is at least according to a much talked about Instagram account, Barbie Savior, which is charting her imaginary volunteer journey.

It starts with her saying farewell to her home in the US and wondering if the “sweet sweet orphans in the country of Africa” are going to love her the way she already loves them.

The satirical account encapsulates what some see as the white saviour complex, a modern version of Rudyard Kipling’s White Man’s Burden.

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The Dark Side Of Chocolate

This 2010 documentary shows that the exploitation and slavetrading of African children to harvest chocolate was still occurring a decade after the cocoa industry pledged to end it. (The Dark Side of Chocolate)

The Drone War Goes Awry in Africa

Geoff D. Porter reports for Foreign Policy:

Three years ago this month, a previously unknown Islamist group, the Mourabitoun, launched an unprecedented attack on a natural gas facility near the eastern Algerian town of In Amenas. But after its dramatic opening salvo, the group went strangely quiet. Some argued the In Amenas attack was as irreproducible as it was unprecedented — and those voices gained strength after Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the Mourabitoun’s leader and founder, was reported to have been killed by a U.S. drone strike last summer.

The doubters have now been quieted. After three years of inactivity, the Mourabitoun has abruptly reappeared. The Jan. 15 attack on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, which left at least 28 people dead, was the second deadly incident involving Belmokhtar’s group in less than two months. The first, some 500 miles away in neighboring Mali on Nov. 20, was a joint operation with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). It involved three assailants, armed with AK-47s and grenades, who rampaged through the Radisson Blu hotel in downtown Bamako, sparking an hours-long siege during which 27 people were killed. It remains unclear whether the assailants were trained and equipped by AQIM or by the Mourabitoun — or even whether the distinction is still valid.

But the Bamako and Ouagadougou attacks, though nearly identical, represent a marked departure from the In Amenas attack. The differences underscore how much the Mourabitoun’s capabilities, tactics, strategy, and even its geographical focus have shifted over the last 36 months. They also offer plenty of reasons to reconsider the strategy, developed by proponents of the U.S. drone war, of neutralizing terrorist groups by “decapitating” their leaders.

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Youth Activist Kidnapped by Congo’s Secret Police: Interview with Kambale Musavuli

Jessica Desvarieux talks to Friends of the Congo’s Kambale Musavuli who discusses the kidnapping of a youth activist and how the United States has supported Congo’s President Joseph Kabila despite human rights abuses. (The Real News)

Why Are Parts of Nigeria’s Ruling Elite Supporting Boko Haram? Interview with Baba Aye

Jessica Desvarieux talks to United Action for Democracy’s Baba Aye who explains how Boko Haram rose with the support of Nigeria’s ruling elite and how there is now evidence pointing to their influence in the Nigerian Army and political establishment. (The Real News)

Jihadists Deepen Collaboration in North Africa

Carlotta Gall reports for The New York Times:

A group of light armored vehicles skated over the moonscape of the Sahara, part of one of the largest detachments the French military has deployed here since colonial times. Its mission is growing ever more urgent: to cut smuggling routes used by jihadists who have turned this inhospitable terrain into a sprawling security challenge for African and international forces alike.

Many of the extremist groups are affiliates of Al Qaeda, which has had roots in North Africa since the 1990s. With the recent introduction of Islamic State franchises, the jihadist push has been marked by increasing, sometimes heated, competition.

But, analysts and military officials say, there is also deepening collaboration among groups using modern communications and a sophisticated system of roving trainers to share military tactics, media strategies and ways of transferring money.

Their threat has grown as Libya — with its ungoverned spaces, oil, ports, and proximity to Europe and the Middle East — becomes a budding hub of operations for both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to reach deeper into Africa.

And as Africa’s jihadists come under the wing of distant and more powerful patrons, officials fear that they are extending their reach and stitching together their ambitions, turning once-local actors into pan-national threats.

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Is the African Union a Western Front for Civil War in Burundi? Interview with Glen Ford

Jared Ball talks to Glen Ford, executive editor and founder of Black Agenda Report who discusses the latest in the apparent civil war in Burundi describing much of the problem as originating in Western/outside influences. (The Real News)

U.S. Officials Warned of Mali Terror Strike Prior to November Attack

Nick Turse reports for The Intercept:

On November 20, two heavily armed Islamic militants stormed a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, killing 22 people, including one American. As initial reports of the carnage emerged, so too did word that elite U.S. troops were also involved in the rescue operation.

About two years prior, another team of Americans — State Department and Africom personnel — traveled to Mali on a low-profile mission, interviewing local experts and government officials about the country’s antiterrorism capabilities. The internal report, marked “sensitive” and not intended for audiences outside the U.S. and Malian governments, offered a bleak assessment of the West African nation’s counterterrorism capabilities as well as a prophetic caution.

The December 2013 State Department Antiterrorism Assistance report, obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act, characterized the north of the country as imperiled by a number of terror groups that “remain able to evade French pursuit.” The south was portrayed as far more secure, though the report notes that “a small number of experts” told the authors to “anticipate a terrorist attack in Bamako at some point.”

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Rwanda’s Kagame Eligible for Third Term Despite Civil Society Crackdowns: Interview with Claude Gatebuke

Jessica Desvarieux talks to Rwanda genocide survivor Claude Gatebuke who says the U.S., which spends $200 million a year on the Rwandan government, is starting to see president Paul Kagame more as a liability than an asset. (The Real News)

The African Origins of Christmas: Interview with Anthony Browder

The Real News speaks to historian, author, and educator Anthony T. Browder who summarizes the African origins of Christmas. (The Real News)

America’s Secret African Drone War Against ISIS

Nick Turse writes for TomDispatch:

On October 7th, at an “undisclosed location” somewhere in “Southwest Asia,” men wearing different types of camouflage and dun-colored boots gathered before a black backdrop adorned with Arabic script.  They were attending a ceremony that mixed solemnity with celebration, the commemoration of a year of combat that left scores of their enemies slain.  One of their leaders spoke of comraderie and honor, of forging a family and continuing a legacy.

While this might sound like the description of a scene from an Islamic State (IS) video or a clip from a militia battling them, it was,  in fact, a U.S. Air Force “inactivation ceremony.”  There, Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Drake handed over to Colonel John Orchard the “colors” of his drone unit as it slipped into an ethereal military limbo.  But that doesn’t mean the gathering had no connection to the Islamic State.

It did.

Within days, Drake was back in the United States surprising his family at a Disney “musical spectacular.”  Meanwhile, his former unit ended its most recent run having been responsible for the “neutralization of 69 enemy fighters,” according to an officer who spoke at that October 7th ceremony.  Exactly whom the unit’s drones neutralizedremains unclear, but an Air Force spokesman has for the first time revealed that Drake’s force, based in the Horn of Africa, spent more than a year targeting the Islamic State as part of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the undeclared war on the militant group in Iraq and Syria.  The Air Force has since taken steps to cover up the actions of the unit.

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Gambia Declared Islamic Republic by President Yahya Jammeh

BBC News reports:

Yahya JammehGambian President Yahya Jammeh has declared his Muslim-majority country an Islamic republic, saying the move marks a break with the colonial past.

Mr Jammeh told state TV the proclamation was in line with Gambia’s “religious identity and values”.

He added that no dress code would be imposed and citizens of other faiths would be allowed to practise freely.

Some 90% of Gambians are Muslim. The former British colony’s economy relies heavily on tourism.

However, relations with the West have soured recently.

The European Union temporarily withheld aid money to Gambia last year over its poor human rights record.

Mr Jammeh has been president of the tiny West African country for 21 years.

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