Switch to Desktop Site
 
 

To fight Al Qaeda, US troops in Africa build schools instead

Next Previous

Page 2 of 4

About these ads

"Some of them did have links with Al Qaeda but for the most part there doesn't seem to be an active Al Qaeda or even an Al Qaeda franchise," says Mr. Bryden. "But the US has discovered that there are actually much fewer targets than they expected."

No targets but hearts and minds

Unable to find or strike at any visible Al Qaeda members, US forces based in Camp Lemonier - Djibouti's former French Foreign Legion base - have instead begun to work to tackle the factors that might contribute to the growth of extremism in the future.

Ghormley's men have so far built more than 30 schools and 25 clinics, as well as new wells and bridges. They are focusing particularly on the mainly Muslim areas close to the porous Somali border where poverty and dissatisfaction with pro-Western central governments might make many receptive to extremist teachings.

"Ungoverned spaces are vulnerable. The forces of law and order don't exist there," says Lt. Col. Richard Baillon, of Britain's Parachute Regiment. A small contingent of British troops are working with US forces in a coalition effort. "The people in these areas aren't getting government support."

Planners in Camp Lemonier say that their long-term strategy is to gradually move deeper into these poor and ungoverned areas.

"We're not likely to go where we're not wanted or where there's open hostility," says Baillon, tapping a wall-map like a schoolmaster. "But it's about pushing the boundaries of where we are wanted."

The Coalition's planners hope that by tackling localized dissatisfaction now, they can create long-term goodwill toward the US in the region. "A lot of times when we first show up there's a mixed reaction," says Sgt. Richard Crandall of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion. "One place we went to they considered the US to be warmongers. But we built a school and when we left they said they considered us friends."

The military is taking time to adapt to its new humanitarian mission too - and this means that there have been some mistakes made along the way.

Next Previous

Page 2 of 4

Share