On Target: The mess we made in Libya gave power to AQIM

By: Scott Taylor

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are a group of Islamic extremists, waging their jihad in the Saharan and sub-Saharan region of Africa. They claimed responsibility for the Jan 15 attack in Ouagadougou. (wikimedia)

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are a group of Islamic extremists, waging their jihad in the Saharan and sub-Saharan region of Africa. They claimed responsibility for the Jan 15 attack in Ouagadougou. (wikimedia)

Emotions in Canada are certainly running high in the wake of two recent terrorist attacks — the first in Jakarta, Indonesia, the second in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso — which left a total of seven Canadian citizens dead.

The first thing many of the victim’s grieving family members did was to publicly denounce the Liberal government for being too soft on terrorism. A husband of one of the deceased went so far as to hang up the phone on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he called the widower to express his condolences on behalf of Canada.

One bereaved relative — who lost four family members in the Burkina Faso attack — expressed her shame over the fact that Canada was going to pull out of the bombing campaign against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

It is easily understood that shocked and grieving family want to lash out at somebody, anybody to offset their loss. However, it is a mistake on the part of the media to even pretend that these emotional outbursts should give any gravitas to the shaping of Canada’s foreign policy.

The Jan. 15 attack in Ouagadougou that left 29 people dead was carried out by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Yes, they are a nasty little bunch of Islamic extremists, waging their jihad in the Saharan and sub-Saharan region of Africa.

They are in no way connected to Daesh and their self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. In fact, AQIM went so far as to denounce Daesh for their overly violent practices back in November 2015. Apparently there is a code among these nutjobs wherein it is okay to gun down innocent civilians in cold blood, but it is a no-no to engage in mass beheading and setting victims aflame while they are still alive.

Canada actually has had a far more direct role with AQIM than we ever have with the Daesh evildoers. Back in December 2008, Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay were kidnapped in Niger by AQIM jihadists. These two were held for 130 days before being released in Mali. The condition of that release involved the payment of millions of dollars, and the release of top AQIM operatives that were being held in Algerian and Malian prisons.

Following the provision of this windfall from Canada, AQIM was handed yet another major boost in 2011. Canada prided itself on the fact that our air force took a lead role, and a Canadian general commanded the allied force that toppled President Moammar Gaddafi in Libya.

While the Canadian-led allies may have successfully murdered Gaddafi, no one had prepared for a stable regime to replace the dictator. As a result, the fragmented Libyan rebels, many of them Islamic extremists, including AQIM, took advantage of the resulting anarchy and the NATO supplied arsenal to run amok.

A large number of Gaddafi loyalists had in fact been nomadic Tuaregs. With the defeat of Gaddafi these Tuaregs, in alliance with AQIM, scooped up a vast quantity of abandoned heavy weapons and munition, and made their way into northern Mali.

With their new arsenal, they were easily able to defeat the Malian security forces and establish their own safe haven of operations. France was forced to dispatch a combat force to the region in January 2013 in order to reverse AQIM’s successful advances. To add salt to the wound AQIM actually issued a statement thanking NATO for creating the chaos in Libya, which had inadvertently strengthened the terrorist organization.

The continued unrest and AQIM bloodletting in Burkina Faso can be much more directly linked to Canada’s misguided intervention in Libya, than the cessation of future bomb attacks against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

As for the Liberal party’s plan to simply increase our training efforts in order to produce an effective anti-Daesh force, well even that is not so straightforward.

Amnesty International has just released a report alleging that Kurdish militias — the very same ones that Canadian soldiers have been training and equipping since November 2014 — have been using their newfound skills and weaponry to conduct ethnic cleansing operations against Arabs, Yezidis, and Turkmen.

That’s right, folks, while we want them to simply battle Daesh, the Kurds are fighting to establish an ethnically pure, sovereign state, and committing atrocities in the process. There are no easy answers to this incredibly complex equation, but bombing Daesh targets in Iraq and Syria does not counter AQIM terrorism in Burkina Faso. Neither does training Kurds who then use that skill-set to subjugate innocent civilians.

If you don’t know the rules, and you cannot identify the players, you should not be in the game. Canada stands to achieve nothing by either bombing targets in Iraq or training warriors in Kurdistan.

We have no say in the ultimate outcome and no responsibility for the current chaos there.

We would do better to focus on fixing the mess we made in Libya, and by consequence the empowerment we gave to AQIM.