Published: 29 January, 2013, 22:58
Ron Paul (Reuters / Joe Skipper)
Ron Paul said US assistance to the French intervention in Mali is a sign that the Obama administration is creeping into another war – especially since questions about the extent of US involvement remain largely unanswered.
The recently retired congressman outlined his fears in his weekly column, “Texas Straight Talk”. Paul said that while the US has only announced its transport and intelligence assistance to the French initiative, “this is clearly developing into another war”.
“President Obama last week began his second term by promising that ‘a decade of war is now ending,’” Paul wrote. “As he spoke, the US military was rapidly working its way into another war, this time in the impoverished African country of Mali.”
Paul believes that unanswered questions about possible US involvement on African soil further indicates that Obama has been more active in the conflict than he admits, and that Congress has been kept out of the loop.
“Media questions as to whether the US has Special Operations forces, drones, or CIA paramilitary units active in Mali are unanswered by the Administration,” Paul said. “Congress has asked few questions and demanded few answers from the president. As usual, it was not even consulted. But where does the president get the authority to become a co-combatant in French operations in Mali, even if US troops are not yet overtly involved in the attack?”
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that US assistance in Mali is a good example of future military assistance it might provide to its allies and that the US would not bring its own troops into the conflict. The US first became involved by airlifting French soldiers and equipment to Mali with its C-17 transport planes, but gradually expanded its roles in Africa.
In response to a French request, the US on Saturday agreed to fly tankers to refuel French jet fighters and bombers who are located primarily in the conflict zone in northern Mali. An unnamed US defense official told The Guardian that the KC-135 tankers would be involved in the operation for months, or as long as needed.
The US on Monday signed an agreement with the West African country of Niger that would allow it to increase its US military presence and create a hub near the Malian border from which American drones could monitor al-Qaeda militants in northern Mali. The hub could be used as a launching pad for strikes and intelligence gathering, but the government has still remained mute about the extent of its contributions to the French military campaign.
Although the Obama administration has hesitated at the thought of entering another war, officials have no ruled out the use of armed drones or special-operations units to go after al-Qaeda militants in Mali.
The US involvement in Mali has sparked concern among war-weary Americans.
France “doesn’t have the military resources to sustain its fight against Mali’s jihadists without help from the US military. For now, that amounts to the use of giant transport planes to ferry French troops into Mali, and planes to refuel French combat aircrafts that are pummeling the militants’ positions,” writes USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham. “But that might now be enough. As recent events have shown, Northern Africa has become an expanding battleground for jihadist groups with links to al-Qaeda.”
Wickham believes that as other al-Qaeda-linked groups begin to support their comrades in Mali, the US “will not be able to avoid a bigger military involvement.”
Paul fears that similarly to the Libya conflict, the Obama administration will intervene in Mali without consulting Congress, and that keeping legislators out of crucial decisions will spiral the US into further African conflicts.