Wednesday, October 18, 2017
There Was A Young Lady From Niger
While I yield to no one in my contempt for Five-Deferment Donnie as a wanna-be großer Feldherr, this is ridiculous.
Trump, idiotic as he is, didn't put these people there. AFRICOM, and the elements of the 3rd Special Forces Group that were operating with the unit of the FAN, the Forces Armees Nigerinnes or Nigerien Army, have been in-country for some time. A large multinational exercise, Flintlock 2017, involved the FAN as well as US, Belgian, Australian, and Canadian regulars back in February to early March of this year.
The real question in my mind has nothing to do with short-fingered vulgarians. It has to do with what the fuck are the United States' "national interests" in Niger?
From the descriptions I've read the place looks like a goddamn dumpster fire politically, economically, socially, and environmentally. It's grossly under-resourced and overpopulated. Desertification is pressuring an already fissured multi-tribal society that - crucially bad for social cohesion - is divided into semi-nomadic pastoralists and subsistence farmers. The war between nomads and settled peoples is older than Sumer and anyone, particularly a foreign Great Power, that intends to do anything but deal with the survivors through a slot in a locked and heavily armored door is a complete and utter fool.
The neighboring countries are largely also impoverished, socially chaotic, politically unstable shitholes (Mali? Seriously? Mali is like Mad Max's Thunderdome only with more fucking mayhem. If your neighbors are Mali I suggest you start getting to know them by sowing a thick belt of mines along your spite fence...)
The "government" of Niger seems to be the usual collection of shady African types, and the FAN tends to liven things up by coup-ing every so often (the last one was just back in 2010).
Taken altogether the joint makes Honduras look like Switzerland.
So it appears that the official justification for USAFRICOM involvement, and the patrolling mission that got these SF troopers killed, was, as always...wait for it...waaaaait for it...
Yep. The usual suspects, of course; Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, local franchisees like Boko Haram...you know, your basic Scary Dark People.
Mind you...nobody seems to be asking just exactly who these jokers are.
Because my guess would be "local tribesmen who are pissed off at some other local tribesmen" or "young men without a job looking to make something out of an AK-47 and the willingness to use it" with a side order of "The usual assholes who think that shooting someone is easier than working for a living".
And, of course, the explanation for how teaching one of these bunches of Chaos Warriors to kill the others because Surely That Will Solve The Problem of "Terrorism" is...
...well, kinda nothing. At least nothing sensible. The tribal grudges aren't going away. The political instability isn't, either. The desertification is, if anything, getting worse and so, inevitably, will the clashes between the herdspeople squabbling over shrinking grazing land with farmers whose cropland is becoming increasingly marginal.
The notion of sending U.S. troopers into this hot mess to do...something something defeat "terrorism" is beneath ridiculous.
There is nothing in Niger worth the bones of an Oregonian grenadier.
And there are no "terrorism" problems in Niger that a bullet will solve.
Unless the 3rd SFG(a) is willing to use every bullet ever cast, and more, and leave the land of Niger an empty waste, and call it "peace".
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside.
And the smile on the face of the tiger."
Update 10/19: One thing that does kind of bug me (as a GI) about the Niger thing.
What I get from the reports is that four of the SF team were killed or DOW and one FAN trooper.
That suggests to me that either 1) the guerrillas had terrific intel and knew exactly where and when to initiate their ambush so as to target and kill the Americans quickly, or 2) the FAN unit fell apart under pressure and the SF guys had to (or tried to - it sounds like the FAN rabble was driven off the kill zone in disorder) rally the gomers and, as is often the case, ended up getting killed exposing themselves to enemy fire.
Which, in turn, makes me wonder; why the hell would any smart and experienced NCOs lead a shitshow like this FAN outfit in a patrol in an AO like the Mali border? We're talking the fucking wild, wild West here. The chances that a savvy group of local G's would have way better eyes and ears on the ground and way better knowledge of the ground and way better discipline than whatever this FAN gaggle had seem close to 100% (as it turned out).
Were the FAN officers overconfident? Did the SF team leaders try to talk them out of whatever the fuck they thought they were doing and fail (and have to tag along on this death-ride or lose face with the locals?) Or was the SF team the one that got their baby ducklings in troubled waters?
Either way, there seems to have been some sort of massive fail on a number of levels, including knowledge of the local conditions, assessment of the competence level of the FAN unit, and combat command and control.
Which - since, as I mentioned, the contact between US and FAN troopers is of some standing - makes me question, again, the effectiveness of the U.S. military assistance programs. We've already seen in Afghanistan and Iraq the general worthlessness of U.S. "training" and trainers. The local levies seem to emerge from the U.S. programs just as shit as before they went in (and if you can't get Afghans - some of the fightingest people on Earth - to fight you 're doing it wrong). In a sense I'm hoping that there was some element(s) involved beyond the straightforward reports I'm hearing.
But in another, this just reminds me again what a generally piss-poor job that the U.S. Army seems to do with "training" foreign troops. And, again, the overall worthlessness of these military assistance missions. The most common product always seems to be a national army that's better at coups than anything else.