SUDAN WATCH: Miranda Darling: Action needed on al-Qa'ida's hiding place

Monday, January 17, 2005

Miranda Darling: Action needed on al-Qa'ida's hiding place

One has to wonder why the international community and African Union are so slow in deploying security forces for Darfur. The Janjaweed were not disarmed. 3,000 AU troops were agreed months ago. Security has been desperately needed to help provide unimpeded access for aid and protection for UN observers, aid workers and civilians. Press reports quote the AU as saying that the delay in troops arriving in Darfur is not due to shortage of funds but lack of accommodation for the troops arriving in Darfur.

My father served 25 years in the British Army, and so as a child I lived in Nairobi for three years (Mau Mau), Cyprus for three years (Eoka) and various military stations during the Cold War in Germany, Belgium, Scotland and England. At British Forces schools we were taught there were usually 30 or so wars going on in the world at the same time. I believe I had grasped the reasons behind most of the wars, but what has been happening in the Sudan over the past two years, particulary politically, has stumped me.

Surely one has to conclude there is more going on behind the scenes than politicians are letting on. Africa seems like a murky world of corruption, arms dealings, oil exploitation, terrorist training camps, poachers, bandits, murderers, genocidal dictators and spies. Not to mention supporters of the global Islamic jihad. The despotic dictators in Khartoum are Islamic, along with their Arab speaking supporters in northern Sudan. Southern Sudan rebels are now forming their own government. My understanding of their supporters is they are mainly English speaking and non-Islamic.

After all the time and effort that has been put in lobbying politicians, it's about time the public were given a proper account by politicians in the international community to explain why they have not organised adequate security forces for Darfur to protect aid workers and civilians and ensure that publicy funded aid reaches those most in need.

What is going in the Sudan these past few years is different from what went on before it became independent from the British over 50 years ago. Nowadays there appears to be four new issues: (1) a global Islamic jihad (2) terrorist groupings and training camps to carry out the global jihad (3) oil/mineral discoveries in Africa (4) unethical companies putting business before human rights in countries run by despotic dictators.

Russian and Asian companies appear to have no qualms taking the place of Western countries pressured into pulling out because of human rights issues. To be fair, when it comes to countries like the Sudan, Russian and Asian companies should be put under the same pressure. China has a lot going for it these days and may want to build a good reputation in the world's eyes. Russia, China, Malaysia, India and Pakistan ought to be targeted, named and shamed on the world stage.

In an opinion piece at the Australian News Jan 17, Miranda Darling, a research associate at the Centre for Independent Studies, writes:
Sudan is on the way to becoming a haven for al-Qa'ida militants and their violent worldwide struggle. It has a history of housing al-Qa'ida (Osama bin Laden was based there in the first half of the 1990s) and a government that tolerates militant Arab groups on its soil. Sudan sits just across a narrow, pirate-infested stretch of the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia and is a prime springboard for launching attacks in Jeddah (such as the one on December 6 on the US consulate) and elsewhere in the country.
Here is another excerpt from Miranda Darling's report that gives us something else to chew on [here's a thought: maybe the West and AU are going out of their way not to antagonise Sudan in order to deter them hosting al-Qa'ida around the area?]
The Sudanese navy is under-equipped to patrol its Red Sea coast. It has about a dozen decrepit former Iranian and Yugoslav patrol boats and very few are believed to be seaworthy. It is impossible for Sudan to maintain adequate maritime security and control its sea border. This only makes it more attractive to terrorists. If, as some experts predict, there is a strong likelihood of a new wave of attacks in Saudi Arabia, this is where the counter-terrorist activities must focus.

The terrain of the Jebel Kurush will be every inch as inhospitable to Western fighting forces as the mountains of Afghanistan. The US and France are best placed for armed intervention in Sudan and their best options are likely to be maritime ones. Both countries maintain naval forces that patrol Sudan's Red Sea coast and are based in Djibouti. By stopping the illicit sea traffic between Saudi Arabia and Sudan, it would be possible to strangle the al-Qa'ida militants' lifeline. The Sudanese Government, however, has announced it will resist with force any attempts by the US or Britain to intervene by sea.

It has also threatened to withdraw its armed forces from Darfur. This announcement presumably includes interventions for humanitarian reasons and for any further al-Qa'ida hunts. The UN is unlikely to be of much help.

The UN Security Council agreed in July to take action against the Sudanese Government if it remained unable or unwilling to halt the brutalities of the Janjaweed militia in Darfur. However, Arab members opposed the inclusion of the threat of force (against Arab rebels) in that resolution and the UN omitted it. Yet the Sudanese Government has little problem accommodating Chinese troops stationed in the country to protect the Chinese National Petroleum Company's stake in the oilfields and the 10,000 Chinese prisoners who are reportedly forced to work there. Sudan's proximity to al-Qa'ida's piggy bank and spiritual home has certainly not gone unnoticed by the group. Nor has the fact that the Sudanese Government would have little problem hosting terror cells - provided they paid rent.

It is now believed that al-Qa'ida has chosen the Jebel Kurush mountain range for its new training camps. The range runs alongside the Red Sea and is backed by the Nubian Desert. The mountains are a good size at 1000m-2000m and it is an area where the Sudanese Government has little control. The location is perfect for smuggling drops - drugs, weapons and fighters - and for insurgent excursions into Jeddah and other parts of Saudi Arabia.
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