American forces this weekend conducted raids in Libya and Somalia on targets affiliated with the terrorist group al-Qaeda. The Libyan operation resulted in the capture of Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, who has been wanted for decades for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Join Kojo as he explores what the results of the operations say about America’s shifting strategies against terrorism and the evolving nature of terrorist groups around the world.

Guests

  • Peter Baker Reporter, The New York Times
  • Gordon Lubold National Security Reporter, Foreign Policy
  • Brian Fishman Counterterrorism Research Fellow, New America Foundation

Transcript

  • 13:25:31

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIAmerican forces conducted counterterrorism operations this past weekend in Libya and Somalia, two raids that produced different results but missions that may have revealed a great deal about the philosophy of the president who ordered them. The operation in Libya resulted in the capture of al-Qaida leader Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai who's better known by the name Abu Anas al-Liby and who's now reportedly under interrogation on an American ship in the Mediterranean.

  • 13:25:59

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe operation in Somalia meanwhile did not go as planned as American Navy SEALS reportedly retreated without the capture of the individual they were allegedly after, a member of a militant group in Somalia who serves as one of its top planners for attacks outside the country. Joining us to explore what we can learn from these raids about the future of America's counterterrorism strategy at the global level is Gordon Lubold. He reports on national security for Foreign Policy magazine. Gordon Lubold, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:26:29

    MR. GORDON LUBOLDThanks for having me, Kojo.

  • 13:26:30

    NNAMDIJoining us by phone is Brian Fishman, counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation. Brian Fishman, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:26:40

    MR. BRIAN FISHMANThanks, Kojo.

  • 13:26:41

    NNAMDIGordon, these raids were executed almost simultaneously this past weekend but they were separate missions. Let's start with the operation in Libya. The man known as Abu Anas al-Liby is linked to the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania during the late 1990s. He was reportedly captured in Tripoli on Saturday and is now on an American ship undergoing interrogation. What do we know now about where he's in custody and what's being done with him?

  • 13:27:08

    LUBOLDSo he is onboard the U.S.S. San Antonio which is an amphibious ship in the Mediterranean somewhere in presumably international waters being, -- you know, probably in some kind of makeshift brig onboard the ship. This has been done before. And now I think that we're seeing whatever the results of this process, which may take, you know, several weeks or a couple months before he comes off the ship to glean what it is that he can tell.

  • 13:27:41

    LUBOLDI mean, this guy was kind of a high-end target, smart computer kind of IT guy for al-Qaida. And so I think they're very interested in learning a lot from him.

  • 13:27:52

    NNAMDIWhen does it seem like the plans for the Libyan raid were set in motion? This is a man who's been on the run for years.

  • 13:27:59

    LUBOLDRight. And I think the military is kind of, you know, touting the fact that, you know, we can come after you even many, many years after, you know, kind of the original thing. This was, I think in the planning for at least two or three weeks if not longer. And I think that they were kind of getting their ducks in a row. Why these were simultaneous, I don't think we quite know exactly, in connection with the other raid. But this was something that they planned and executed and seemed to do pretty flawlessly.

  • 13:28:29

    NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for us, call us at 800-433-8850. What do you think this weekend's raids in Libya and Somalia say about how America's counterterrorism policies are evolving, 800-433-8850. You can send email to kojo@wamu.org. Gordon, what's the next step likely to be with the al-Liby case? Some people are saying the 2011 case of a Somalian linked to al-Qaida and al-Shabaab set some precedent for what may happen in the weeks ahead.

  • 13:29:00

    LUBOLDRight. I mean, they may be kind of testing this new legal model. Clearly he's going to stay on this ship for a little while, be interrogated. They'll get as much as they can out of him using, you know, Obama Administration interrogation techniques and then go forward. And then presumably bring him to New York and not to Guantanamo Bay, which clearly there are calls already from Capitol Hill to put him in Gitmo, but...

  • 13:29:30

    NNAMDIAdministration is trying to close it, Capitol Hill forces the administration to keep it open.

  • 13:29:35

    LUBOLDSure. It doesn't help if you're going to try to close it to add new tenants. So it seems that he would go presumably to New York to be tried. But this is after they've gleaned as much as they possibly can from him.

  • 13:29:49

    NNAMDIBrian Fishman, let's pivot to Somalia while we're on the subject. It's being reported now that the primary purpose of the failed mission there this weekend was to capture but not kill an al-Shabaab leader who helped plan attacks outside of the country. What are we learning about why American forces were there and what specifically they were trying to accomplish.

  • 13:30:11

    FISHMANWell, yeah, the latest reporting is that they were trying to capture a man named Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir who has been a leading member of the al-Shabaab movement for some time. He apparently has good connections both to al-Qaida central and a militant group based in Kenya, which obviously would be useful, you know, if Shabaab was trying to organize an attack like that on the Westgate Mall a couple of weeks ago.

  • 13:30:39

    FISHMANI think, you know, it's easy to make too much of a couple of very limited data points. When we think about the changes in U.S. counterterrorism strategy, you know, the drone strikes that have been made so much of over the last couple of years, you know, you see a lot of talk that the strategy has changed because these were two efforts to capture leaders rather than strike them with drones. But I think that in general U.S. counterterrorism policy since 9/11 has been to whenever possible capture people because of the intelligence that is generated from those interrogations, whatever the methods used in those interrogations.

  • 13:31:21

    FISHMANAnd so I think when we think about a strike like this in Somalia, in many ways this is what SEAL Team Six was made for, an amphibious strike with the -- to hit a, you know, well-defended target and attempt to capture or if necessary kill a terrorist leader. That attack obviously didn't go as planned and it's not entirely clear why. But this is why this specific fighting force exists. And it's been part of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy from day one.

  • 13:31:57

    NNAMDIBrian Fishman is a counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation. He joins us by phone. Gordon Lubold joins us in studio. He reports on national security for Foreign Policy. You can call us at 800-433-8850. What significance to you see in the potential for the terror suspect captured in Libya this weekend to be tried on American soil? What do you expect the politics of such a trial would be here in the United States, 800-433-8850? You can send us a Tweet at kojoshow or email to kojo@wamu.org.

  • 13:32:31

    NNAMDIBack to you, Brian Fishman. Does it seem like Shabaab's recent attack on a shopping mall in Kenya may have influenced the decision to send Navy SEALS into Somalia or to speed up that operation?

  • 13:32:43

    FISHMANYeah, well, it strikes me that it must've played into the calculations on some level. I mean, this is clearly somebody that has been on the U.S. radar for quite some time. But it's hard for me to believe that the decision to strike now was totally disconnected from the attack in Kenya. You know, perhaps there was intelligent that said something else was in the works or perhaps there was a meeting of leaders after that attack that, you know, presented a target of opportunity. It's not entirely -- it's not clear but I think that you have to -- you know, the severity of the attack in Nairobi must have influenced planning to some degree.

  • 13:33:24

    FISHMANYou know, I think that it's -- you know, when we talk about why did these attacks happen simultaneously, I think that there is a very simple explanation. It may not be the right one but I think it's worth at least mulling over, which is just that if you're going to do a commando style attack in Africa and you've got two very high-level targets you want to hit, you may want to do them at the same time because even if they're totally unrelated personnel, you might drive people underground if they saw the specter of another attack. And that might be a very simple reason to do both at the same time.

  • 13:34:02

    NNAMDIWhich brings me to this question, Gordon Lubold. I'll also address it to you, Brian Fishman. What do these raids say about the geography of terrorist threats being monitored and targeted by the United States? Does this represent a pivot away from targets in the Middle East and South Asia and a pivot toward Africa?

  • 13:34:21

    LUBOLDWell, of course, we know that there's a lot of this kind of activity across Africa. And despite, you know, the Obama administration's and the Pentagon's kind of pivot to Asia, we knew that there's a lot of kind of squirrels to chase as it were, not only in the Middle East, but in Africa. And again, in the case of Africa, this is -- the Pentagon in particular has tried to reinforce the partnerships and getting host nations to do as much of the water-carrying as possible. But clearly the capabilities aren't there in many cases and the U.S. has to go in.

  • 13:35:00

    NNAMDIWhat do you say, Brian Fishman?

  • 13:35:02

    FISHMANWell, I think it's important to remember that our counterterrorism policy is implemented through lots of different vectors, not just these direct strikes. And that's been a bit of a misnomer I think over the last several years because drone strikes and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have garnered so much attention. But, you know, U.S. counterterrorism policy under both the Bush and Obama Administrations, as Gordon said, have done much to try to diplomatically to try to gain favor with local governments, to support local governments on a capabilities level.

  • 13:35:37

    FISHMANBut I think what you see right now in North Africa and in Horn of Africa is a real challenge where the governments have so little capacity that working, you know, by, with and through those governments is an enterprise fraught with risk, that it simply isn't going to work. But I think when you -- you know, when you step back and you look at the broader picture, this doesn't necessarily represent a pivot to Africa in the biggest sense when you look around the world at where al-Qaida is still active.

  • 13:36:08

    FISHMANThey still exist in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As the U.S. draws down troops there we will see, I think, a larger al-Qaida presence again in Afghanistan. And Yemen, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is still a viable organization. And the big one -- the biggest change these days is the, like, explosive growth of al-Qaida-affiliated organizations in Syria. So the Middle East is not on the front page today but it certainly will be again.

  • 13:36:39

    NNAMDIGordon, what significance should one take out of the American willingness to go into Libya or Somalia on this kind of mission? Somalia is essentially ungoverned. What message did the United States send to the Libyan government about how it views the control the Libyan government has over its own territory?

  • 13:36:56

    LUBOLDRight. I mean, clearly these kinds of strikes -- and I would just say that, you know, clearly reflection of the administration's push for these kind of unilateral actions when they need to, it's kind of an interesting show of force. And it's kind of appealing and the raid in Pakistan, they got Osama bin Laden, clearly informs the way the president thinks about these things. And when they work, that's great. And when they don't, you know, maybe they don't.

  • 13:37:24

    LUBOLDIn the case of Somalia, you know, there's the different spins. Clearly the Shabaab sees us as a win for them. And the administration says, hey we can go in there and we can see you. And, you know, that's kind of the message sent. I think that, you know, for an administration who's trying to get away from its reliance on drones, this is kind of the next best thing. You can do these kind of precision strikes. Again, they work, sometimes they don't. But you can kind of put some skin in the game, avoid the criticism that you're just conducting an antiseptic war from above and presumably get thing in.

  • 13:38:02

    LUBOLDAs Brian notes, you know, the intelligence is key. And so if you can capture them and bring them home...

  • 13:38:06

    NNAMDIWe have callers who'd like to address all of the above. I'd like to start with Sukria in La Plata, Md. Sukria, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:38:15

    SUKRIAHello.

  • 13:38:16

    NNAMDIHi, Sukria, you're on the air.

  • 13:38:19

    SUKRIAHi, how are you?

  • 13:38:19

    NNAMDII am well.

  • 13:38:19

    SUKRIAI really like your show. I really enjoy your show. I mean, I always listen. And just for you make -- you make listen my children and they are teenagers.

  • 13:38:30

    NNAMDIOkay. Well, you got a question?

  • 13:38:32

    SUKRIAYeah, my question is, how come American government do all these raids and all the countries we don't even, you know, where are they. And they don't do nothing about it in Syria. And, you know, almost hundred thousand people died in Syria in two years. And my country -- I'm from Turkey -- and we've been taking care of the refugees almost two years. We have 500,000 refugees in our country. And plus we don't get no help from American government and United Nations.

  • 13:39:02

    SUKRIAAnd then they...

  • 13:39:03

    NNAMDIWell, allow me...all right. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:39:07

    SUKRIA...and then they have this agreement recently about getting from the chemical weapons, you know, they had the agreement and Russia going to stop the chemical weapon from them. How come they can trust a person like that, he kills his own people? That's my questions. Why -- how come Barack Obama can trust person, he can kill his own, you know, people.

  • 13:39:30

    NNAMDIBrian Fishman, as you can see, there are a lot of people who would like the administration to pivot back from Africa to the Middle East with Syria on their minds, of course. That is a broad policy question still being debated here in Washington, D.C. Care to comment?

  • 13:39:46

    FISHMANYeah, I guess I would say that when you think about the kinds of strikes that we've seen in African in the last -- you know, in the last couple weeks, these kind of activities are really pin pricks and they are focused on very specific organizations that really -- even though they can pull off an attack like the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, these organizations are limited. They're operating from a position of weakness.

  • 13:40:13

    FISHMANAnd so the assumption is, when you're dealing with a relatively narrow terrorist organization like Shabaab, like the network that Abu Anas al-Libi presumably was still involved with in Libya, that these kinds of pinprick strikes, very targeted strikes make a difference because they disrupted those networks. The situation in Syria is immensely more complex. Even the al-Qaida affiliated organizations have thousands of members, and the -- and Syrian society is deeply, deeply divided.

  • 13:40:48

    FISHMANThe notion of engaging that problem in my mind, in any productive way is just on a scale that is very, very different than what we're seeing in Libya and Somalia. We have teams like Field Team 6 that are designed very specifically for the kinds of limited missions like what we saw in Somalia. We don't really have anything other than the entire U.S. government working together to respond to something like Syria, and even then, frankly, you know, I just don't see a lot of positive outcomes in the near term.

  • 13:41:23

    FISHMANBut the other thing I would say is I don't think that President Obama trusts Bashar al-Assad. I think that President Obama is feeling his way through a very difficult set of choices, and there aren't a lot of people, even the Russian allies of Bashar al-Assad, I think that trust him.

  • 13:41:38

    NNAMDISukria, thank you very much for your call. Onto Mark in Washington DC. Mark, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:41:45

    MARKKojo, thank you very much for taking my call, and Mr. Fishman and Mr. Lubold, thanks for being on the show. It's been a very interesting half an hour or so that I've been listening as I'm on the road. My question is two questions. The first is concerning a statement you made about 15 minutes or so ago about the general objectives of Seal Team 6 and organizations like that to typically be involved with attempting to capture and gain intelligence, and to kill or to, you know, to do what's necessary if the situation warranted, but generally, to obtain additional intelligence.

  • 13:42:18

    MARKAnd we see this happening a lot, and certainly saw it attempted recently in Somalia. So my question is, in the case of the Osama bin Laden, why do you think that the decisions were made to not attempt to gain additional intelligence from this particular individual? Why do you think those decisions were made. So that's one question. The second question...

  • 13:42:39

    NNAMDIAllow me to have that question answered first. I'll start with you, Gordon Lubold.

  • 13:42:43

    LUBOLDYou know, hard to say. I think the mission is always going to be dictated by the circumstances on the ground, and in that case, you know, I mean, you could kind of engage in some conjecture that capturing Osama bin Laden could be maybe an intelligence burst, but also very problematic politically. So he was better off dead. In this case, I do think that these small teams though have to, you know, if they can take somebody, they will.

  • 13:43:14

    LUBOLDIn this case, I think it was more driven -- in the case of Somalia, I think it was more driven by even if they were to try to get him from on the ground to kill him, it was going to result in too many civilian casualties, and that's clearly what the White House wants to avoid, especially in that country.

  • 13:43:33

    NNAMDIThe political difficulty you mentioned in the case of Osama bin Laden had to do with whether or not he could be tried in this country and what would happen with him afterwards would have been too much of a political brouhaha?

  • 13:43:43

    LUBOLDI think political and maybe even a national security, you know, certainly national security implications, where are you going to put him and how are you going to guard him, and how's that going -- I mean, there's a myriad of issues there.

  • 13:43:54

    NNAMDIBrian Fishman, same question.

  • 13:43:56

    FISHMANYeah. I largely agree with Gordon. I think that the political complications of someone like Osama bin Laden are a lot more severe. I also think that, you know, at the end of the day it's very difficult to know exactly what the operational and tactical decisions are of these folks on the ground. And, you know, we've seen over and over and over again, you know, if you look back at the history of U.S. Special Operations in Iraq, there's a lot of widely published information about sort of how these groups sped up the intelligence cycle.

  • 13:44:26

    FISHMANThey would do a raid and they would interrogate people on the ground, and they would pick up pieces of paper, and they would go out and do another raid. And so intelligence -- expediting intelligence is in many ways, you know, is the heart and soul of what these Special Operations units do these days. And in terms of the bin Laden raid, I just -- there are so many factors there that complicate that decision, and it's hard to know exactly what was preeminent.

  • 13:44:51

    NNAMDIMark, thank you very much for your call. Hold on, we will get to the second part of your question, but we do have to take a short break first. 800-433-8850 is the number. You can join the conversation even while we're taking this break. What do you think this weekend's raids in Africa reveal about the nature of American power abroad? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:47:05

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on the significance of the U.S. operations in Somalia and Libya over this past weekend. We're talking with Brian Fishman. He's a counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation. Gordon Lubold reports on national security for Foreign Policy magazine. And joining us now by phone is Peter Baker. He's a reporter for the New York Times. Peter Baker, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:47:28

    MR. PETER BAKERHey, thanks for having me.

  • 13:47:29

    NNAMDIPeter, much has been made about the Obama administration's heavy use of drone strikes as a tool for fighting terrorism. What sense are people getting that these raids are a signal of a shifting preference to capture missions, if at all?

  • 13:47:42

    BAKERWell, of course, the president did talk this recently in his speech at the National Defense University. He wanted to kind of scale back the use of drone strikes, particularly outside of the Pakistan frontier area, handing them over from the CIA to the military. In this particular case though, you know, we've got to be careful about over interpreting. I think as Gordon was saying, and some of the other folks are saying on your show, there was this fear of civilian presence in the Somalia camp, for instance, Somalia villa, and a drone strike might not have been the best approach.

  • 13:48:14

    BAKERTurns out maybe the Seal team approach didn't work out as well either, but I don't know that it necessarily means they're off of drone strikes entirely, but there is an attempt to shift away from them and maybe perhaps more toward a capture-type mentality.

  • 13:48:28

    NNAMDIThere seem to be some tricky politics waiting in the weeks ahead for the administration. Let's start with the international politics of this al-Libi case. A lot of people have kneejerk flashback to the politics of the Bush administration when they hear words like rendition. What does the administration risk on the international stage and the handling of this case?

  • 13:48:49

    BAKERWell, it's a very good question, and, you know, instead of taking al-Libi to Guantanamo, we've got him on a ship in the middle of the Mediterranean, in effect, sort of a floating Guantanamo. I'm not sure why a boat is any different than an island in terms of people's perceptions of these things. But, you know, I think there is a feeling abroad that America has taken liberties, if you will, with some of these policies, and that will play out, I think, again in this case in Europe. Having said that, President Obama probably gets a little bit more of a benefit of the doubt than his predecessor simply because he's perceived as being more attuned to the civil liberties issues that the Bush administration was criticized about.

  • 13:49:30

    BAKERSo even if they have sometimes the same policies, or what amount to the same policies, you know, the perceptions are somewhat more softened by virtue of who's at the top of the pyramid.

  • 13:49:43

    NNAMDISame question to you, Gordon Lubold.

  • 13:49:45

    LUBOLDWell, it seems to me that they can continue with this approach and maybe dodge some of this political kind of backfire, but it kind of remains to be seen. There haven't been enough of these kind of high profile civilian cases yet to really see kind of how it plays out, but it does clearly, obviously, it reinforces what Obama is trying to with Gitmo by staying out of it.

  • 13:50:14

    NNAMDIPeter Baker, what sense do you have for how the domestic politics of high-profile terrorism trial like the one al-Libi would face would be likely to play out here?

  • 13:50:24

    BAKERWell, it's interesting, right? I mean, a number of his co-conspirators, or alleged co-conspirators were in fact put on trial in New York on the old days. This was stemming from the 1998 bombings of the African embassies prior to 9/11, but the political atmosphere obviously has changed significantly in these last 15 years. The very idea of bringing, you know, a high-profile terrorist to New York as the president in fact tried to do with Eric Holder earlier in his administration, is now a hot button issue, and will be criticized.

  • 13:50:57

    BAKERI think in Gordon's publication, we saw quoted Senator Lindsey Graham saying, you know, go ahead and send him to Guantanamo. What you also hear though from Democrats is that they don't actually have the legal authority to send him to Guantanamo because of the fact his crimes that he's been charged with predate the 2001 authorization to use force. I'm not sure of the legalities myself, but it would open a Pandora's box of debate about this.

  • 13:51:22

    NNAMDIBrian Fishman, think we can handle a trial like that?

  • 13:51:24

    FISHMANI think we need to. I think in many ways you know, when you look at historical counterterrorism campaigns, you know, none of which have been as wide-ranging as what we see today against al-Qaida, but, you know, what succeeds is good intelligence and good law enforcement, and that means that you take folks that try to operate fundamentally outside of institutions and force them to be accountable within the institutions of a legitimate government.

  • 13:51:49

    FISHMANAnd bringing Abu Anas al-Libi to New York or some other civilian court, I think, is an important step in reestablishing that principle that we've gotten away from since 9/11. That's not a matter of being light on terrorism. That's a matter of going back to what has worked in the past, and frankly, what I think can work in the future. Gitmo right now has created far more problems than it has solved, and the suggestion that we should somebody like al-Libi there, in my view, is very narrow-minded political posturing, and actually doesn't -- isn't really a serious national security argument. It's just politics.

  • 13:52:26

    NNAMDILet's go to James in Bethesda, Md. James, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:52:32

    JAMESHi, Kojo. Great program again. My question -- well, first of all, this morning's Post reports the reason they retreated in Somali was that there were the potential for too many casualties among women and children in the area.

  • 13:52:46

    NNAMDIYeah.

  • 13:52:47

    JAMESThat aside, do you see this as being a normal campaign in the future as far as smaller skirmishes instead of, you know, big political wars like the previous administration?

  • 13:53:00

    NNAMDIPeter Baker?

  • 13:53:01

    BAKEROh, I think so. Yes. I think that's right. I don't think you're going to see Obama go in the direction of an Afghanistan/Iraq-type operation, and my guess is his successor probably won't either. The country is obviously not in the mood for it. Look what happened with Syria just a couple weeks back. So, you know, in this case, he can order a very small scale, very targeted, very precise hopefully type of operation, get in and out before the American public even has woken up to read the newspapers about it, and hopefully, therefore, from his point of view, as a matter of domestic politics, keep the public on his side by not, you know, asking to do too much in effect, you know, to say, look we're going keep the fight on against al-Qaida, but we're not going to ask American boys and girls to suit up in the way that they have over the last decade.

  • 13:53:47

    NNAMDIPeter, you wrote with David Sanger earlier this week that these raise -- also revealed the limits of American military strikes, even the limits of units like Seal Team 6. What did you mean by that?

  • 13:53:59

    BAKERWell, I think that, you know, the success of the bin Laden raid in Pakistan and the popularization of it with the, you know, very compelling Hollywood movies and so forth have given us the mythology that, you know, our units can do anything we choose to do, and obviously they did succeed in getting into this place and they were at least causing some damage to the other side, but they couldn't get away with the target they were looking for.

  • 13:54:25

    BAKERThey were sent in to capture a specific individual because of the circumstances on the ground that perhaps the poor intelligence or the fact that they also might have been tipped off or whatever the circumstances turned out to be, they weren't able to complete the mission as assigned, and, therefore, had to retreat. Thank goodness without the sort of casualties that we saw of Black Hawk Down 20 years ago -- as Gordon pointed out, almost 20 years ago to the day. But, you know, in the end, military operations are, you know, likely to go wrong as they are to go right.

  • 13:54:59

    NNAMDIHere is back to Mark in Washington DC with the second part of your question. Mark, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:55:06

    MARKThanks, Kojo. The second part of my question, I appreciate you taking the first one about Osama. That was a bit of a hand grenade, and you guys handled it well. I was just curious. The second part's much more intellectually serious. One of your viewers, and I think a number of you, tacitly agreed with the focus currently being on the Middle East for counterterrorism operations, and not as much on Africa. And this Somalia operation being a little bit of an outlier.

  • 13:55:36

    MARKWhat I wanted to hear your perspectives on, was my though in that that might not actually be as true as the American public might want to believe. With the Iranian Republican Guard, it being so involved with funding Hamas and Hezbollah for so many years, and using Egypt and Sudan as conduits for a lot of those weapons and funds, it seems like Africa's been a little bit of a political sleeper, but it's always been very, very involved. And so the statement that your other listener might have made, I think could have been taken out of context. I'm thinking that Africa is very involved, we just simply haven't talked as much about it.

  • 13:56:17

    NNAMDIGordon Lubold?

  • 13:56:18

    MARKIn regards to that...

  • 13:56:19

    NNAMDIOkay. But we're running out of time...

  • 13:56:20

    MARK(unintelligible) Guard involved with Somalia. Thanks.

  • 13:56:23

    NNAMDIGordon Lubold?

  • 13:56:23

    LUBOLDWell, you know, the military's experience in Africa has been a little bit bumpy since it created what's called a combat and command called Africom, to which no troops are assigned. But the military kind of stumbled out of the gate when they tried to announce this thing, and they didn't really frame it properly. I think there was a lot of concern in Africa that, you know, the U.S. was trying to militarize the continent. It's clearly, you know, a hotbed of a lot of different activity that the U.S. needs to be paying attention to. But as I said, you know, the only way to really do it is to harness these partnerships and build up capability.

  • 13:57:02

    LUBOLDBut very quickly, I spent a month in Mali at one point, and the U.S. Special Forces trying to train these guys, they're starting from scratch in many places, Mali and Mauritania for example, and they've just got a long way to go before they can build any kind of capability that's -- where they can go it alone.

  • 13:57:21

    NNAMDIPeter Baker, final question. To what degree were these raids an opportunity for President Obama to reassert himself inside of Washington where he's been caught in the middle of a domestic feud over the government shutting down, healthcare law, debt ceiling. One of his advisors said in the past few days, this is an area where the president is the decision maker.

  • 13:57:39

    BAKERYeah. No, it's interesting. I mean, you know, nobody in the White House would say that that had anything to do with the timing of this, and yet, as a result of this, happenstance or not, it does come at a time where the president is trying very hard to reassert control in a domestic arena that's eluded him now in his second term. And the Syria debate a few weeks ago, the debate where he looked, you know, he looked passive or ambiguous or ambivalent, or what have you, and now they've got the shutdown to face.

  • 13:58:09

    NNAMDIPeter Baker is a reporter for the New York Times. Peter, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:58:12

    BAKERThanks for having me.

  • 13:58:13

    NNAMDIBrian Fishman is a counterterrorism research fellow with the New American Foundation. Brian, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:58:18

    FISHMANThank you.

  • 13:58:19

    NNAMDIGordon Lubold reports on national security for Foreign Policy. Thank you for joining us in studio.

  • 13:58:23

    LUBOLDThanks so much, Kojo.

  • 13:58:24

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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