by Ann Garrison
KPFA Weekend News broadcast June 25, 2016
Obama’s nominee to head the U.S. Africa Command, Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, reassured the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that he would expand the so-called War on Terror and seek authority to assassinate without presidential supervision in Libya and elsewhere on the African continent.
KPFA Weekend News Anchor David Rosenberg: Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee questioned Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, President Obama’s nominee to become the next four-star general commanding AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Command. Most of the discussion focused on the conflict in Libya, where territory is now controlled by seven different forces: the Council of Deputies and Libyan National Army; the Government of National Accord and Libya Shield Force; the Islamic State; the Shura Councils of Benghazi, Derna and Ajdabiya; the Petroleum Facilities Guard; the Tuareg; and local forces. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has more.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: U.S. policymakers describe AFRICOM’s goals as, one, stopping genocide and mass atrocities and, two, fighting terrorism. In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Advisor Samantha Power all argued that the U.S. was morally obliged to bomb Libya to stop its leader, Muammar Qaddafi, from committing genocide and mass atrocities as, they claimed, the U.S. had failed to do in Rwanda.
E-mail on Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server has since revealed that control of oil and currency issues were the actual motives behind the U.S. and NATO’s bombing war and the ouster of Qaddafi. At this week’s hearing, Senate Armed Services Committee members were more concerned with the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups in Libya and elsewhere on the African continent.
South Carolina’s Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham questioned Obama’s nominee, Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser:
Senator Lindsay Graham: Libya? Do we fly in Libya?
Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser: The answer is yes, if there is a target that is an imminent threat to the United States.
LG: OK. Is ISIL an imminent threat to the United States?
LG: Is ISIL in Libya?
LG: How many sorties have we flown in Libya?
TW: To my knowledge, none at this time.
LG: That makes no sense then, does it?
TW: It does not. What I can say, Senator, at this time, is there are targets that are being developed, but there have been no flights flown.
LG: How many people do we have on the ground in Libya?
TW: I don’t have that answer. It’s not a large number.
LG: Do we need people on the ground in Libya?
TW: Yes, we do.
LG: OK. Do you see any change in policy any time in the near future?
TW: I’m not aware of any of those discussions, Senator.
LG: Does the buildup of ISIL and other related Al Qaeda type groups present a threat to our European allies?
TW: Eventually they could. Yes.
LG: OK, thank you. When it comes to Africa, what are the rules of engagement in terms of targeting ISIL in Africa?
TW: Senator, I believe the rules of engagement have to do with the presidential policy guidance. That’s what, when these targets pop up, the three that I mentioned that were hit in Libya this year, they fall under that criteria.
LG: But you don’t have the authority to, without presidential direction, to go and find ISIL members in Africa and kill them?
TW: Well, sir, if the question is “Do we have authority to take out targets?” the AFRICOM commander has some authority for various targets in Somalia, for example, with Al-Shabab, but I’m not familiar with the details and if …
LG: Do you have the authority as AFRICOM commander do go after ISIL targets in Africa on your own?
TW: I do not.
LG: Do you think that would be wise to have that authority?
TW: It would be wise. It would certainly contribute to what we’re trying to do inside Libya.
LG: Is the war moving to Africa over time, do you think?
TW: It could. It’s possible. I mean that’s why ISIL has taken hold inside Sirte, to be kind of a backup if Iraq and Syria fail.
LG: So the ungoverned spaces in Africa are likely places for ISIL to flee to if we dislodge them from the traditional Mideast?
TW: They’re very likely. That’s why instability inside Africa is to ISIL’s advantage.
LG: When you come to, say, ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] shortages, how severe is that for your command?
TW: Senator, if confirmed, I’d have to look into that to be specific. I think in the main, it goes without saying, I think it’s common knowledge that AFRICOM’s an economy theatre. I think it’s common knowledge that AFRICOM could use more ISR, but beyond that, I don’t have the specifics.
LG: Is it a fair statement when it comes to radical Islamic threats emanating from Africa, we’ve got a long way to go in upping our game?
TW: We do. That’s an away game. I know that you’ve mentioned before we are fighting an away game in Africa to contain it on that continent.
KPFA: And that was South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham questioning Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, President Obama’s nominee to head AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Command. In Berkeley, for Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at email@example.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.