Without obtaining permission from Congress and despite repeatedly vowing not to put U.S. boots on the ground in Mali, the Obama administration has already deployed a small contingent of American troops to help international forces prop up the ruling regime in the capital city of Bamako, which seized power in a coup.
According to a report in the Washington Post, the president sent the U.S. soldiers to provide supposed “liaison support” to French and African troops battling separatist rebels in the north as part of a deeply controversial United Nations-backed operation. There are strong indications that American Special Forces are on the ground as well.
In addition to other forms of support such as transporting troops, intelligence sharing, re-fueling assistance, and more, Obama has reportedly deployed some two dozen U.S. soldiers to Mali. Of those, about 10 are providing what the Post called “liaison support,” while the others were apparently assigned to protect the American embassy in Bamako as the Malian conflict continues to rage on.
Lt. Col. Robert Firman, a spokesman for the Pentagon, claimed the U.S. troops were not engaged in combat operations. However, those claims are in doubt as well. The Post and other publications reported on evidence that U.S. Special Operations forces have been deployed on secret missions for some time.
One of the indicators: a “mysterious” car crash in Bamako that killed three American soldiers last year. The subject of secret operations has also come up in congressional hearings, with a congressman asking U.S. Special Operations Command chief Adm. William McRaven whether his forces were coordinating with French troops to avoid “shooting each other.”
Adm. McRaven responded: “There is very close coordination on the ground.”
The news that U.S. troops are on the ground comes in stark contrast to various statements issued by top administration officials in recent months. As The New American reported in January shortly after the Socialist French government invaded Mali with UN support, for example, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said there was “no consideration of putting any American boots on the ground at this time.”
A month later, then-Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson — the top diplomat for Africa — offered similar remarks in front of a House Committee. “We are assisting the French and we are assisting the Africans, but we have no intentions of putting boots on the ground or engaging our forces militarily there,” he claimed.
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