Simon Tisdall, Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor / The Guardian – 2006-02-18 08:35:53
US Introduces Radical New Strategy
LONDON (February 15, 2006) — Concern is growing in Europe about US plans to involve governments in an expanded, all-out campaign against Islamist extremism from north Africa to south-east Asia, using beefed-up special forces, hi-tech weaponry and more intrusive surveillance and intelligence gathering.
The Pentagon plan, designed to fight what it describes as “The Long War”, envisages “long-duration, complex operations involving the US military and international partners, waged simultaneously in multiple countries round the world”.
The post-Iraq rethink, known as the Quadrennial Defence Review, was published last week, and calls on existing allies such as NATO and “moderate” governments in the Muslim world “to share the risks and responsibilities of today’s complex challenges”.
Measures proposed, to be funded through $513 billion (£295.6 billion) in US defence spending for 2007, include boosting the number of special operations forces and unmanned drones used for surveillance and targeted assassinations, the creation of special teams trained to detect and render safe nuclear weapons anywhere in the world, and a long-range bomber force.
Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, in north Africa this week, said the US was increasing cooperation with Algeria and others, including through possible arms sales, to help create “an environment inhospitable to terrorism”. Echoing the US thinking, Jack Straw, said while on visit to Nigeria yesterday: “The terrorist threat to and from Africa is likely to grow in the next 10 years.
“The biggest risk is not of a generation of homegrown African terrorists. It is the ability of external terrorists to use Africa as a base from which to launch attacks on African and western interests in Africa and beyond.”
European governments are still digesting the contents of the US report and are expected to give full responses in the next few weeks. But initial reaction appears to be one of caution.
The Ministry of Defence said yesterday it had been consulted by the Pentagon as the review was drawn up and was pleased to see references to working with allies. As the consultation took place, Royal Marine commandos arrived at their base in southern Afghanistan yesterday at the start of a mission described in the Commons by government opponents as confused and unclear.
But British commanders expressed concern that increased attacks on suspect terrorists using drones – in which decisions are made rapidly by secret watchers based thousands of miles away – could have legal implications. They also highlighted potential infringements of sovereignty and the bypassing of political controls and of established rules of engagement.
Lord Garden, a retired air marshal and the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman in the Lords, said there was a “widening gulf” between US and European approaches: “The US wants the Europeans to do more at the hard end while Europe sees NATO as a post-conflict stabilisation organisation.”
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has backed the idea of NATO moving beyond its borders, as it has in Afghanistan. But she suggested there should be limits on future military operations.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO secretary general, said: “NATO is not a global policeman but we have increasingly global partnerships.”
The French government, anxious not to reignite pre-Iraq tensions with Washington, reacted cautiously. Michèle Alliot-Marie, the French defence minister, said: “The key word is complementarity in our actions and not to expect the submission of one to the other.”
The report proposes increased training and financing of security forces in the Muslim world for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations, and relaxation of arms export controls and national legal regulations. It also projects a big propaganda effort.
US analysts, including former Pentagon staff, said the plan reflected a positive evolution in US strategic thinking that contrasted with past unilateralism.
“Previously the emphasis was ‘we’ll do what we have to do, and it’s nice to have allies’, but now it’s seen as essential to what we are trying to do,” said Carl Conetta, a military specialist at the Massachusetts-based Project on Defence Alternatives.
But Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University, a columnist for the openDemocracy website, said the long war “is hugely convenient in that it simplifies everything into a ‘them and us’ global confrontation … This is clearly a global war and the world as a whole is involved, whether or not it wants to be.”
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