24 November 2015

Belmokhtar, Hekmatyar and Blowback in Bamako

If reports are to be believed, Belmokhtar's Al-Mourabitoun movement, a branch of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is responsible for the 20 November 2015 attack on the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, Mali. This claim has been countered by al Qaeda's rival, ISIS who also wishes to claim credit for the attack.

There's an irony here. Belmokhtar as a young man fought in Afghanistan under the command of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the Mujahideen warlords heavily backed by the United States. Hekmatyar is a character straight out of a novel, a man of blood and intrigue, a keeper of secrets and dark alliances.

Today, Hekmatyar fights with a militant group identified as a branch or affiliate of the Taliban.

But in the late 1980's and early 1990's Hekmatyar's fighters were closely affiliated with the bin Laden and the people that were in the process of forming al Qaeda. At the time the United States had little problem with this. Hekmatyar was among the Mujahideen invited to visit Reagan in the White House, but Gulbuddin turned him down. This is not to say he didn't benefit from his relationships with other American officials. For some reason he was more than happy to meet with Margaret Thatcher - at Downing Street no less.

Hekmatyar's story also ties in with US/CIA drug smuggling activities which were used in Southeast Asia, Central America and Afghanistan to fund clandestine wars and other black operations.

Of course the possibly deceased Jalaluddin Haqqani also pictured in the linked spread, became one of the chief opponents of the United States post-2001 and a leader of a Taliban affiliated group. During the 1980's he was one of America's darlings in the Afghan-Soviet War even as he aided in laying the groundwork for what became al Qaeda by the recruiting of foreign fighters to the Afghan cause, among whom were bin Laden himself.

The Algerian Belmokhtar who has also been active in post-Gaddafi Libya is a classic example of the schizophrenic and perhaps cynical nature of US policy. This is someone that at one time was being backed and supported by US money and interests. It's as if the US seeks to create its own enemies or for the sake of expediency backs and supports groups without thinking about the long term consequences. Is it the Keystone Cops, the Puppetmasters or a bit of both? People still debate these points.

The CIA has been thinking about these issues at least since the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953 when the term Blowback first appears. And yet they continue to act in a way that all but guarantees this effect.

It's hard not to be cynical about the way in which the war machine functions and all but assures its perpetuity.

It's also of interest to note how little the Western press has covered the activities of the French and the Americans in the region and the way in which mining and other economic interests are being factored in to the equation... on all sides.

It's also noteworthy that among the dead in the hotel were Chinese. Here in this incident we find a very poignant picture, a microcosm of the region as a whole and the struggles that are being played out.

While politicians, armies and corporations play their games, people die and not a few Christians are caught in the middle.