The NY Times discovers the dark side to the Arab Spring:
Jihadists’ Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring
WASHINGTON — As the uprising closed in around him, the Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi warned that if he fell, chaos and holy war would overtake North Africa. “Bin Laden’s people would come to impose ransoms by land and sea,” he told reporters. “We will go back to the time of Redbeard, of pirates, of Ottomans imposing ransoms on boats.”
In recent days, that unhinged prophecy has acquired a grim new currency. In Mali, French paratroopers arrived this month to battle an advancing force of jihadi fighters who already control an area twice the size of Germany. In Algeria, a one-eyed Islamist bandit organized the brazen takeover of an international gas facility, taking hostages that included more than 40 Americans and Europeans.
Coming just four months after an American ambassador was killed by jihadists in Libya, those assaults have contributed to a sense that North Africa — long a dormant backwater for Al Qaeda — is turning into another zone of dangerous instability, much like Syria, site of an increasingly bloody civil war. The mayhem in this vast desert region has many roots, but it is also a sobering reminder that the euphoric toppling of dictators in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt has come at a price.
Interestingly, their presumably careful reporting is careful not to mention either Hillary or Barack, for either credit or blame. Late in the story we do get this suggestion of Western culpability:
The Algerians also have little patience with what they see as Western naïveté about the Arab spring, analysts say.
“Their attitude was, ‘Please don’t intervene in Libya or you will create another Iraq on our border,’ ” said Geoff D. Porter, an Algeria expert and founder of North Africa Risk Consulting, which advises investors in the region. “And then, ‘Please don’t intervene in Mali or you will create a mess on our other border.’ But they were dismissed as nervous Nellies, and now Algeria says to the West: ‘Goddamn it, we told you so.’ ”
Oh, well - a bunch of cranky Algerians who don't understand modern kinetic military actions.
While on the topic, let's revisit this Times account of America's role in the utter debacle in Mali:
For years, the United States tried to stem the spread of Islamic militancy in the region by conducting its most ambitious counterterrorism program ever across these vast, turbulent stretches of the Sahara.
But as insurgents swept through the desert last year, commanders of this nation’s elite army units, the fruit of years of careful American training, defected when they were needed most — taking troops, guns, trucks and their newfound skills to the enemy in the heat of battle, according to senior Malian military officials.
“It was a disaster,” said one of several senior Malian officers to confirm the defections.
Then an American-trained officer overthrew Mali’s elected government, setting the stage for more than half of the country to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. American spy planes and surveillance drones have tried to make sense of the mess, but American officials and their allies are still scrambling even to get a detailed picture of who they are up against.
Now, in the face of longstanding American warnings that a Western assault on the Islamist stronghold could rally jihadists around the world and prompt terrorist attacks as far away as Europe, the French have entered the war themselves.
Some Defense Department officials, notably officers at the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, have pushed for a lethal campaign to kill senior operatives of two of the extremists groups holding northern Mali, Ansar Dine and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Killing the leadership, they argued, could lead to an internal collapse.
But with its attention and resources so focused on other conflicts in places like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, the Obama administration has rejected such strikes in favor of a more cautious, step-back strategy: helping African nations repel and contain the threat on their own.
Over the last four years, the United States has spent between $520 million and $600 million in a sweeping effort to combat Islamist militancy in the region without fighting the kind of wars it has waged in the Middle East. The program stretched from Morocco to Nigeria, and American officials heralded the Malian military as an exemplary partner. American Special Forces trained its troops in marksmanship, border patrol, ambush drills and other counterterrorism skills.
But all that deliberate planning collapsed swiftly when heavily armed, battle-hardened Islamist fighters returned from combat in Libya. They teamed up with jihadists like Ansar Dine, routed poorly equipped Malian forces and demoralized them so thoroughly that it set off a mutiny against the government in the capital, Bamako.
A confidential internal review completed last July by the Pentagon’s Africa Command concluded that the coup had unfolded too quickly for American commanders or intelligence analysts to detect any clear warning signs.
FWIW they don't blame Bush. But they could! Here is a poignant December 2008 flashback to the start of our program in Mali:
U.S. Training in Africa Aims to Deter Extremists
By ERIC SCHMITT
KATI, Mali — Thousands of miles from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, another side of America’s fight against terrorism is unfolding in this remote corner of West Africa. American Green Berets are training African armies to guard their borders and patrol vast desolate expanses against infiltration by Al Qaeda’s militants, so the United States does not have to.
American officials say their strategy is to contain the Qaeda threat and train the African armies, a process that will take years. The nonmilitary counterterrorism programs are just starting, and it is too early to gauge results.
“This is a long-term effort,” said Colonel Connors, 45, an Africa specialist from Burlington, Vt., who speaks French and Portuguese. “This is crawl, walk, run, and right now, we’re still in the crawl phase.”
With the benefit of hindsight we think he meant "Crawl, walk, stage coup".