Saturday, December 16, 2017
Military News

Where is al-Qaida? A look at terror presence in Mali, Yemen and Afghanistan

President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai met Friday to discuss bringing down the curtain in the long Afghan war. As U.S. involvement in one war against the terror movement draws down, there's increasing talk about using force to stop al-Qaida affiliates elsewhere in the world, notably in Mali and Yemen. A look at the al-Qaida presence in all three countries:

AFGHANISTAN

U.S. officials say al-Qaida now has fewer than 100 fighters left in Afghanistan. Instead, the main enemy is the Taliban, the terror movement's Afghan allies who threaten the U.S.-backed government. The U.S. hopes that after 2014, the Afghan government can deal with the Taliban — politically and militarily — while a small American counterterrorism force goes after hardcore al-Qaida remnants. Obama and Karzai must agree on how many Americans will remain as part of the counterterror force and to train and equip Afghan forces. If all that works, U.S. officials believe al-Qaida will be unable to revive its presence in the country.

MALI

Mali once enjoyed a reputation as one of West Africa's most stable democracies with more than 90 percent of its 15 million people practicing a moderate form of Islam. That changed in April 2012, when Islamist extremists took over the main cities in the country's north amid disarray following a military coup and began enforcing strict Shariah law.

The extremists include al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other groups which share al-Qaida's goals. Security experts warn they are carving out their own territory in northern Mali from where they can plot terror attacks in Africa and Europe. The militants, estimated at about 1,000, include recruits from other countries and are well-armed and funded.

Despite training from U.S. and other Western advisers, the Mali army has been ineffective in fighting the militants. The French military arrived in Mali on Friday to help the army, a day after the militants won the strategic town of Konna in central Mali.

YEMEN

In the past few years, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the group's branch in Yemen is known, has been bolstering its operations in the Middle East nation after key Saudi operatives fled there following a major crackdown in Saudi Arabia. The franchise has been blamed for directing a string of unsuccessful bomb plots on U.S. soil from its hideouts. Those included a foiled plan to down a U.S.-bound airliner using a new, sophisticated explosive to be hidden in the bomber's underwear, and a plot to send mail bombs on planes to the U.S. hidden in the toner cartridges of computer printers.

In response, the U.S. has stepped up its drone war, carrying out 42 airstrikes last year — four in one week last month — against al-Qaida militants in Yemen, according to statistics gathered by the Long War Journal.

AQAP overran entire towns and villages last year by taking advantage of a security lapse during nationwide protests that eventually ousted the country's longtime ruler. Backed by the U.S. military, Yemen's army was able to regain control of the southern region, but al-Qaida militants continue to launch deadly attacks on security forces that have killed hundreds.

Comments
Howard Altman: Military-themed gifts for your holiday shopping needs

Howard Altman: Military-themed gifts for your holiday shopping needs

The season of giving is upon us, so here’s a selection of military-themed gifts for the folks on your Christmas and Hannukah lists.Drink up: American Freedom Distillery is a veteran-owned maker of artisan whiskeys, rums, vodkas and gins located in St...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Woman fired from Bay Pines health center calls it retaliation for complaints of harassment

Woman fired from Bay Pines health center calls it retaliation for complaints of harassment

Chalea Weekes fumes each time she sees another entertainer, politician or public figure stand accused of sexual harassment.Fired from her job in the social work department at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, Weekes says in federal complaints that ...
Published: 12/14/17
Saturday’s sonic booms likely from F-15 fighters, NORAD says

Saturday’s sonic booms likely from F-15 fighters, NORAD says

Those sonic booms heard across the state Saturday afternoon were likely from two F-15 fighter jets protecting President Donald Trump during his visit to Florida, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.The jets, which belong to the ...
Published: 12/11/17
Transgender people can enlist in military Jan. 1

Transgender people can enlist in military Jan. 1

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is allowing transgender people to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, despite President Donald Trump’s opposition. The new policy reflects growing legal pressure on the issue, and the difficult hurdles the federal gover...
Published: 12/11/17
Gold Shield Foundation honors Bondi

Gold Shield Foundation honors Bondi

TAMPA — Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was honored by the Gold Shield Foundation, which assists families of first responders killed in the line of duty.At a luncheon Thursday, Bondi received the Philip A. McNiff "Lifetime of Service" award, named...
Published: 12/08/17
Local vets remember Pearl Harbor

Local vets remember Pearl Harbor

TAMPA — On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Ed Socha and Bill Monfort were several hundred miles away from each other, sharing a horrible moment of reckoning.Socha, 96, was at Pearl Harbor, aboard the USS Oklahoma. Bill Monfort was a radio operator aboar...
Published: 12/07/17

Talking subs, ships and the controversial F-35 with the Navy’s newest assistant secretary

TAMPA — James "Hondo" Geurts, a familiar face at MacDill Air Force Base, was sworn in as the Navy’s newest assistant secretary last week ."I’ll be responsible for acquisition for the Navy and Marine Corps," said Geurts, sitting in a chair on the brid...
Published: 12/07/17
A storage unit opened, and a family’s World War II service and secrets were revealed

A storage unit opened, and a family’s World War II service and secrets were revealed

MESA, Ariz. — The storage unit’s corrugated metal door slid upward, revealing 100 square feet of mostly empty space. Not very promising, thought Joe Alosi, a businessman who bid on units, sight unseen, when tenants stopped paying the rent. Several pl...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Navy’s newest assistant secretary talks ships, subs and jet fighters

Navy’s newest assistant secretary talks ships, subs and jet fighters

TAMPA — Saturday afternoon, just three days before his swearing in as the next Navy assistant secretary for acquisition, research and development, James "Hondo’ Geurts talked about how his old job prepared him for the new one."I’ll be responsible for...
Published: 12/05/17
Stealth jets, other aircraft fly in U.S., South Korean drills

Stealth jets, other aircraft fly in U.S., South Korean drills

Associated PressSEOUL, South Korea — Hundreds of aircraft including two dozen stealth jets began training Monday as the United States and South Korea launched a massive combined air force exercise. The war games come a week after North Korea test-fir...
Published: 12/04/17