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[For eighteen months FTW has been documenting and predicting that the war on terror would soon migrate to West A frica in its search for oil reserves. Today, as reported in The Guardian, it was announced that a new front in the has been opened in West African nation of Mauritania. This is not surprising since major oil companies and drilling operations like Kerr McGhee have recently made substantial investments there. The overall amounts of oil may be small in comparison to Iraq or Saudi Arabia, but there won't be major wars to fight or long distances to ship to get the oil into American gas tanks.

As one oil expert told me last May, “There is no elasticity in the system.” The quick addition of even a few hundred thousand barrels a day of production capacity provides a small bit of breathing room as the jaws of Peak Oil begin to close around a sleeping planet. – MCR]

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

US Opens New Front in War on Terror by
Beefing Up Border Controls in Sahara

By Rory Carroll and Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian UK

Wednesday 14 January 2004

The US is sending troops and defence contractors to the Sahara desert of west Africa to open what it calls a new front in the war on terror.

A small vanguard force arrived this week in Mauritania to pave the way for A$100m (£54m) plan to bolster the security forces and border controls of Mauritania, Mali, Chad and Niger.

The US Pan-Sahel Initiative, as it is named, will provide 60 days of training to military units, including tips on desert navigation and infantry tactics, and furnish equipment such as Toyota Land Cruisers, radios and uniforms.

The reinforcement of America's defences in a remote, poorly patrolled region came on a day when US police forces gained important powers in the homeland to conduct searches.

In a 6-3 ruling, the supreme court yesterday reversed a lower court decision in Illinois not to allow police to set up roadblocks to collect information from motorists. The supreme court said it did not represent an unreasonable intrusion on privacy. The three dissenting judges said the ruling exposed motorists to police interference.

West Africa is not known as a hotbed of support for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network but Washington is taking no chances in Aregion with strong Arab and Muslim ties.

"A team of military experts has been here since Saturday to teach, train and reinforce the capacities of the Mauritanian army charged with frontier surveillance against cross-border terrorism," Pamela Bridgewater, A US deputy undersecretary of state for African affairs, told reporters in the capital, Nouakchott.

Since dropping support in the mid-90s for Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime, the government of Mauritania has angered some local Islamic groups by forging links with Washington. At least one such group was allegedly behind a failed coup last year but some sceptics claim the government exaggerated the threat.

Mali, Chad and Niger also have porous borders, sizeable Muslim populations and disgruntled opposition groups but al-Qaida has so far concentrated its African operations in the east: blowing up US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and a rocket and car bomb attack against Israeli targets in the Kenyan resort of MombasAlast year.

Armed groups roving the desert have abducted western tourists and caused the Paris-Dakar rally to be rerouted, but whether they are opportunistic bandits or Islamist guerrillas is not clear.

Ms Bridgewater said there had been threats against US interests in Mauritania's neighbour Senegal , the scene of extraordinary security measures during President George Bush's visit last year.

"Yes, we have heard. But this question is very sensitive, and I don't want to respond to this question," she said.

West Africa is comprised largely of former French colonies and Paris might be expected to be wary. The French defence minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, is to visit Washington this week to meet Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser.

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