US Was Operating In Mali Months Prior To French Incursion:
Meet The "Intelligence and Security Command"
By Tyler Durden
January 21, 2013 "Zero
-- Last week we reported that in the aftermath of
the so far disastrous French campaign to eradicate "rebels"
in the north of Mali, because of their implied threat fo
Europe, that "US
Drones, Boots Arrive In Mali." Turns out we were
wrong, and as the case virtually always is, for some
reason there was already a US presence of
at least three US commandos in Mali in the summer of 2012.
What they were doing there remains a mystery, as it is a
mystery if the ever co-present flip flops on the ground were
there inciting the perpetual scapegoat Al Qaeda to do this,
or that. Or maybe it was not the CIA. Maybe it was the
Army's "little-known and secretive" branch known as the
Intelligence and Security Command. Regardless, what becomes
obvious is that while the US was on the ground and engaged
in secret missions, it needed an alibi to avoid
"destabilizing" the local situation once its presence became
conventional wisdom. It got just that, thank to one Francois
Hollande just over a week ago.
WaPo, as of July 8, 2012:
darkness, a Toyota Land Cruiser skidded off a
bridge in North Africa in the spring, plunging into
the Niger River. When rescuers arrived, they found
the bodies of three U.S. Army commandos — alongside
three dead women.
What the men
were doing in the impoverished country of Mali, and
why they were still there a month after the United
States suspended military relations with its
government, is at the crux of a mystery that
officials have not fully explained even 10 weeks
At the very
least, the April 20 accident exposed a team of
Special Operations forces that had been working for
months in Mali,
a Saharan country racked by civil war and a
rising Islamist insurgency. More broadly, the crash
has provided a rare glimpse of elite U.S. commando
units in North Africa, where they have been
secretly engaged in counterterrorism actions
against al-Qaeda affiliates.
administration has not publicly acknowledged the
existence of the missions, although it has spoken in
general about plans to rely on Special Operations
forces as a cornerstone of its global
counterterrorism strategy. In recent years, the
Pentagon has swelled the ranks and resources of the
Special Operations Command, which includes such
units as the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force,
even as the overall number of U.S. troops is
At the same
time, the crash in Mali has revealed some details of
the commandos’ clandestine activities that
apparently had little to do with counterterrorism.
The women killed in the wreck were identified as
Moroccan prostitutes who had been riding with the
soldiers, according to a senior Army official and a
U.S. counterterrorism consultant briefed on the
incident, both of whom spoke on the condition of
anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Criminal Investigation Command, which is conducting
a probe of the fatal plunge off the Martyrs Bridge
in Bamako, the capital of Mali, said it does not
suspect foul play but has “not completely ruled it
out.” Other Army officials cited poor road
conditions and excessive speed as the likely cause
of the 5 a.m. crash.
have revealed few details about the soldiers’
mission or their backgrounds, beyond a
brief news release announcing their deaths hours
after the accident.
countries, including most in Africa, Special
Operations forces work openly to distribute
humanitarian aid and train local militaries. At
times, the civil-affairs assignments can provide
credible cover for clandestine counterterrorism
But in Mali, U.S. military personnel
had ceased all training and civil-affairs work by
the end of March, about a week after the country’s
democratically elected president was
overthrown in a military coup.
Africa Command, which oversees operations on the
continent, said the three service members killed
were among “a small number of personnel” who had
been aiding the Malian military before the coup and
had remained in the country to “provide assistance
to the U.S. Embassy” and “maintain situational
awareness on the unfolding events.”
a public affairs officer for the U.S. Embassy in
Mali, said the soldiers had stayed in Bamako because
they were “winding down” civil-affairs
programs in the aftermath of the coup while holding
out hope “that things would turn around quickly” so
they could resume their work.
Two of the
soldiers, Capt. Daniel H. Utley, 33, and Sgt. 1st
Class Marciano E. Myrthil, 39, were members of the
91st Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th Civil Affairs
Brigade, which is based at Fort Bragg, N.C.
For two months
after the crash, the U.S. military withheld the
identity of the third soldier killed. In response to
inquiries from The Washington Post, the Army named
him as Master Sgt. Trevor J. Bast, 39, a
communications technician with the Intelligence and
Security Command at Fort Belvoir.
Enter the Intelligence And Security Command
The Intelligence and Security
Command is a little-known and secretive branch of
the Army that specializes in communications
personnel often work closely with the military’s
Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees
missions to capture or kill terrorism suspects
During his two decades of
service, Bast revealed little about the nature of
his work to his family.
“He did not tell us a lot about his life, and we
respected that for security purposes,” his mother,
Thelma Bast of Gaylord, Mich., said in a brief
interview. “We never asked questions, and that’s the
counterterrorism officials have long worried about
Mali, a weakly governed country of 14.5 million
people that has served as a refuge for Islamist
militants allied with al-Qaeda.
6,000 poorly equipped troops, the Malian armed
forces have always struggled to maintain control of
their territory, about twice the size of Texas.
Repeated famines and rebellions by Tuareg nomads
only exacerbated the instability.
years ago, the Pentagon began bolstering its overt
aid and training programs in Mali, as well as its
classified program code-named Creek Sand, dozens of
U.S. personnel and contractors were deployed to West
Africa to conduct surveillance missions over the
country with single-engine aircraft designed to look
like civilian passenger planes.
the military flew spy flights over Mali and other
countries in the region with
longer-range P-3 Orion aircraft based in the
Mediterranean, according to
classified U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by
the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
In what would have represented a
significant escalation of U.S. military involvement
in Mali, the Pentagon also considered a secret plan
in 2009 to embed American commandos with Malian
diplomatic cables show.
program, code-named Oasis Enabler, U.S. military
advisers would conduct anti-terrorism operations
alongside elite, American-trained Malian units. But
the idea was rejected by
Gillian A. Milovanovic, the ambassador to Mali
at the time.
The stumbling block:
In an October
2009 meeting in Bamako with Vice Adm. Robert T.
Moeller, deputy chief of the Africa Command, the
ambassador called the plan “extremely problematic,”
adding that it could create a popular backlash and
“risk infuriating” neighbors such as Algeria.
Milovanovic warned that the U.S. advisers “would
likely serve as lightning rods, exposing themselves
and the Malian contingents to specific risk,”
according to a State Department cable summarizing
replied that he “regretted” that the ambassador had
not been kept better informed and said Oasis Enabler
was “a work in progress.” It is unclear whether the
plan was carried out.
Moeller was right, and neighbors such as Algeria
eventually did promptly respond in "popular backlash"
that led to the deaths of at
least one US hostage.
But back to the US Commandos, and, lo and behold,
died of “blunt force trauma” when the vehicle landed
upside down in the shallow river, crushing the roof,
the Army said.
The Special Operations
Command said it could not answer questions about
where the soldiers were going, nor why they were
traveling with the unidentified Moroccan women,
saying the matter is under investigation.
the embassy spokeswoman, said the soldiers were on
“personal, not business-related travel” at the time,
but she declined to provide details. Officials from
the Africa Command also said that they did not know
who the women were, but they added in a statement:
“From what we know now, we have no reason to believe
these women were engaged in acts of prostitution.”
not, what is obvious is that the US did have a
largely secretive presence in Mali, which may or may
not have led to ongoing social destabilization,
which ultimately provided none other than the US
with the ultimate cover to engage in whatever
"anti-terrorist" operations it so chose. The name of
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