Getting out of the game

According to this story, 134 members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (which really means the most extreme holdouts  from Algerian GSPC who don’t understand that the war is over) have turned in their weapons and embraced the national reconciliation process.  This came after Hassan Hattab, the group’s founder, issued a statement and set up a website calling for remaining fighters to turn themselves in.  The articles quotes local experts who said that Hattab’s appeal is causing an “violent earthquake” amongst the followers of Abdal Malek Drudekal, the leader of AQIM, causing many of them to want to embrace the reconciliation.

Update on Russian MiG donation to Lebanon

A few months ago, Rob and I discussed Russia donating  10 MiG-29 fighter jets to Lebanon (read here and here).  The cost of maintenance was back then considered a serious issue  for (and probably by) the Lebanese government.  As it turns out, so too it was for the Russian government.

Russia has apparently failed to invest enough roubles to make its military hardware operational.  A few weeks ago, AP and several newspapers, including Al Nahar and The Moscow Times, started publishing reports that the planes are too unsafe and unreliable for use, and a word of warning was sounded out to the Lebanese:

“Lebanon has been advised to “wait” before accepting MiGs after reports that at least a third of Russia’s fighter jets are unsafe and should be written off or repaired.”

Apparently, Russia had tried to pull a similar act of generosity towards Algeria recently.  That didn’t last very long, as Algeria returned 15 MiG 29’s back to Russia, citing “poor quality”.

Blog Endorsement

Most organizations — unis, think tanks  or media — claim that they cover “the Middle East and North Africa” but it’s all a big lie.  Its not even accurate to say they cover the Middle East.  In practice, they cover Cairo, Beirut, and Iraq, and ignore the other 90% of the region.  When’s the last time you read an article in the Times or Post from Libya?  Or from Algeria that doesn’t involve stuff getting blown up?  

By contrast, sometimes I get the sense that everybody and their brother in Cairo has been the subject of a feature piece.  Seriously.  If you can do a good job cleaning  S*** in Cairo people will write about it.  Like me.  I almost succeeded in convincing an editor to let me write an article on the guy in charge of sewage disposal in Egypt.  Readers are probably wondering why this is important. Try this:  Imagine life in Cairo if all the nasty stuff didn’t go where its supposed to.  That’s something to keep in mind for those who criticize the Egyptian government.  20 million people taking S**** every day and it all goes to the right spot.  That’s no small logistical and engineering feat and I shudder to think what would happen it they got that one wrong… life in Egypt would really stink.

Anyway, back to my original point.  I’ve got good news for people who want more coverage of North Africa.  Help is on the way.   Two esteemed MediaShack readers and North Africa gurus,  Kal and   Alle,  have started up a group blog called   Maghreb_Politics_Review.   All those looking for more analysis of the Maghreb, or, perhaps more accurately, any, should read this blog.  These guys clearly know what they’re talking about.

Guess Who’s Back? Adrian on Algeria

Adrian has another post today as part of the MediaShack 9/11 series.   Its a follow up to last week’s superb superb look at CT in the South Sahara.  Given his numerous guest posts, frequent commenting and passing along of articles, I think its time to give him full membership at AMS, so I sent him an official neo-green Arabic Media Shack t-shirt.  It really looks good.  He’ll get so many numbers wearing this baby around town, and I know he will because he has a habit of wearing t-shirt to literally every bar he goes to (even if that means getting kicked out)!!! Anyway, the floor goes to Adrian (I lost his password, thats why the post is under my name). 

ADRIAN TAKES THE FLOOR

 The Economist this week has  a decent article on North African terror networks.  Some comments:

AQIM says it has also carried out attacks in Mauritania. It claims responsibility for the killing of four French tourists, which forced the cancellation of this year’s Paris-Dakar car rally;”;”

There is no actual iron-clad confirmation that that was AQIM and not some random robbery/homicide, although a recent blog post has done more to convince me that it was in fact terrorism-related.  The Moor Next Door has just posted some extremely interesting observations based on the notes on interrogations of some AQIM members he received from his “well placed Mauritanian friend’ (sketchy/awesome!) where the local AQIM/Mauritania “emir” states they killed the tourists to steal their passports.  This might explain why there was no triumphant declaration of responsibility.  This should be taken with a grain of salt, as it IS the Mauritanians interrogating him, so while before I thought it was 50/50 as to whether its AQIM related, now it’s probably 80/20.  People interested in AQIM should watch The Moor Next Door’s blog, as he says he’ll be posting more notes from the interrogations.

and an attack on Israel’s embassy in the capital, Nouakchott.”

At 2am some dudes shot up a nightclub next door to the embassy that was full of alcohol and prostitutes.  Not exactly Carlos the Jackal at work.

Tunisia is yet another apparent target of AQIM. The group has boasted that it kidnapped two Austrian tourists there earlier this year.”

The kidnapping occured across the border in Algeria because the tourists got lost.  It looks more like a crime of opportunity designed to get some quick cash than any serious terrorist Nicholas Berg-like event.  There hasn’t been much news about the hostages in the last couple months but I haven’t heard that they were killed – they were still alive on Sept 9.

North African groups tied to al-Qaeda have yet to carry out attacks in Europe.”

In fact some of the GIA-era cells from the 1990s have been turned by French intelligence and as far as we know AQIM has no assets in Europe even with all the Algerians in France.  (Sorry no source available.)

The Moor Next Door reports that the Algerian wing (i.e. the main wing) has been sending the Mauritanians some money to do terrorism, and so the Mauritanian wing is dependent on the Algerians for cash.  But how much money do you need to do nothing?  While there was a recent big event with 12 Mauritanian soldiers beheaded, it looks like Algerians were responsible for that (similar to the raid they launched in Mauritania just before Operation Flintlock 2005).  Compared to the Algeria’s two major guerrilla operations in Mauritania in 3 years, the Mauritanians themselves have been able to murder some tourists and shoot up a disco.

The last sentence of the article I think is the right idea: “But governments in the Maghreb are certainly trying to stir Western anxieties in order to get more American and European cash and support.”  Aid money may be hard to come by when you are a corrupt dictatorship with a rule-of-law problem, but it becomes much easier when you suddenly (through no fault of your own!) find yourself fighting terrorists.