By Walid Phares
As Americans are debating who among their candidates for the primaries can best confront the Jihadists or at least preempt their offensives worldwide, future Jihadi forces have in one day invaded an African country (under European protection), a key location for the Darfur forthcoming Peace missions. In less than 12 hours the so-called armed opposition of Chad, crossed the entire country from its Eastern frontiers with Islamist-ruled Sudan to the capital N'Djamena across from Northern Nigeria. The latest reports mention fierce battles around the Presidential Palace and back and forth inside the city. But at this stage the geo-political consequences are crucial for the next stages locally, regionally and internationally. The bottom line is that in one day, what could become the future Taliban of Chad have scored a strategic victory not only against the Government of the country (which was supposed to back up the UN plans to save Darfur in Sudan) but also against the efforts by the African Union and European Union to contain the Sudanese regime and stop the Genocide. Today's offensive, regardless of the next developments, has already changed the geopolitics of Africa. Outmaneuvering the West and Africans, those regimes and forces standing behind the "opposition" have shown that they are restless in their campaign against human rights and self determination on the continent. But even more importantly the events of today shows how unprepared are Europeans and Americans in front of Jihadi regimes which seem weak on the surface but highly able to surprise and crumble Western efforts of containment.
On Saturday February 2, 2008, and as French President Nicolas Sarkozy was getting married in Paris and Americans were shopping for food to enjoy the "super Bowl" on Sunday, Jihadi-backed military forces launched a blitzkrieg across Chad using one thousand 4 X 4 armed trucks. They reached the capital in few hours and started battling the Chadian Army isolating the President in his Palace and declaring victory to the international media. This so-called "opposition" has a Unified "Military Command" and includes: The Union of Forces for Democracy (UFDD) led by Mahamat Nouri, Rally of Forces for Change (RFC) led by Timane Erdimi, and the UFDD-Fundamental led by Abdelwahid Aboud Mackaye. At first sight a non seasoned observer would conclude that this is yet another African troubled country with a bunch of "separatists," "rebels" and "insurgents." In fact it is not that simple. These forces have been backed by the Jihadi regime in Khartoum and some of its funding -according to the Chadian Government- has been sent from Saudi Arabia.
At the center of the confrontation is Darfur. This Black Muslim province inside Sudan has been the victim of Genocide at the hands of Arab fundamentalist forces known as the Janjaweed, essentially backed by the regime of Sudan. The people of Darfur have resisted the forced "Arabization" -turned ethnic cleansing- at the hands of the Janjaweed. Both neighboring Chad and the United Nations came to the help of Darfur since 2005. In return, the Salafists and Wahabis of the region came to the support of Sudan's regime against the Africans and the West. France dispatched some military units to Chad and soon a "Eurofor" (European Force) was set under UN auspices to be dispatched on the borders between Chad and Sudan to help the Darfur refugees. The Islamists of Khartoum opposed the international initiative and seems to have enlisted -although discretely- the backing of the Wahabi circles in Saudi Arabia, but also the Syrian and Iranian regimes. Hence the battlefield for Darfur became a fault line between the international community and the strange bed fellows of the Jihadi axis.
Using the classical doctrine of Khid'aa (or deception) the Khartoum regime bought as much time as it needed to allow the arming and training of the "rebels" inside Chad. The equipment used by the militias has been obtained in few months and "offices" were opened in several countries in the region. Oil dividends quickly poured on the future Taliban of Chad and their political and media training went very fast. All what the Sudanese regime had to do to abort the forthcoming Darfur UN operations was to collapse the basis from where these operations will be launched: Chad. The question is not about how did the Jihadists figure this out, it is rather how the strategists in Washington and Paris failed to predict it. Although it was very simple: Movements on the ground inside Chad and intense media activity in support on al Jazeera for months projected what was to come. How did the Atlantic allies fail to see the threat gathering is stunning?
For Western and international defense systems to dramatically fail to monitor and detect the movement of thousands of armed men crossing an allied country from border to border is alarming. The US has just organized an African Command -backed by the highest technologies worldwide- and the French military have a presence in Faya Largau as well as a jet squadron in the capital ready to scramble. Was there an abandonment? Was there a deal cut on Darfur? We will see. However the most interesting development -along with the militia's blitzkrieg, was the preparedness of the Jihadi propaganda machine. Amazingly, as the "opposition" forces have reached N'Djamena the official minister of what could become the future Taliban regime in Chad, Jibrin Issa was comfortably seated in al Jazeera's studios in Qatar. Obviously he wasn't flown from Africa to the Gulf on the request of the booking Department of the Qatari funded network to "react" to the offensive. He was already at the station -or at least in Qatar-when the offensive began. Very interestingly, the man was wearing a classical Western business outfit and clean shaved. The PR strategy was to show the world, including France and the US, that the forces thrusting into their ally wasn't a sister of the Islamic Courts of Somalia or a Taliban "looking" militia. The game was to project this coup as "domestic" against "corruption" and the rest of the litany, thus boring for average Western public.
Issa played the script very well until a point where reality surfaced abruptly. At first, as I was listening to his impeccable Arabic, I was wondering why did he have this Arabian Peninsula accent and utter those mechanical sentences. It was strange to hear an African "minister" of a future regime in Chad speaking excellent Arabic, but I gave it a pass. Until, at the end of his interview he made a troubling mistake. Out of the blue he started to thank the "brave commander of the Islamic Republic of Sudan" General Omar al Bashir (the head of the regime responsible for the Genocide in Darfur) for his help to the "movement" and started to praise his "highness the servant of the two shrines," (that is the Saudi Monarch) for his support (obviously to the movement). Suddenly, and despite the frustration of the al jazeera anchor that the game may have been exposed, I connected the dots. It was indeed a Sudanese-backed operation to change the regime in Chad, and backed by Wahabi circles, as a preemptive move to crumble the forthcoming humanitarian operation in Darfur. The Jihadists, kings of strategies, won another day. To preempt a UN move against one of their regimes (Sudan) they took out the Government which had agreed to help the UN and the West. In my sense this was highly predictable. But the failure of the West to predict is highly questionable.
The days ahead may shape or reshape the ground in Chad and the direction of events could lead to more dramatic change in the political landscape in Africa. If Washington and Paris tergiversate, the future Chadian Taliban will consolidate their grip and thrust further into the Sahara. The Darfur operation will be doomed. If the Chadian Army resist and the international community intervene,the status quo ante could be restored.It is also predicted that the "opposition" will work hard on is image. It will try not to show the "Jihadi" identity immediately. Besides, not all components of the "opposition" are Taliban-type. When the opposition settles in the capital, the Islamists will slowly surge and strategically behead their allies a la Afghanistan. It is really too early to tell.
For now, Americans are busy watching the game, electing nominees and questioning their candidates as to who has the best "credentials" to win the war on terror. In France the debate is about where will the Presidential couple spend their honeymoon. Let's admit it, the Jihadi strategists are having a blast. One more country has fallen on the way to Constantinople.
****Dr Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author of the best seller Future Jihad and the recent War of Ideas.
By Walid Phares on February 2, 2008 7:50 PM
Counter Terrorism Blog Article
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