The killing of Osama bin Laden was touted as the beginning of the end of Al Qaeda (the term "war on terror" having long since been abandoned). Yet as the nation's capital prepares for President Barack Obama's second inauguration, Al Qaeda is opening new fronts, including ground assaults on French forces in Mali and, today, the kidnapping of foreign workers at a natural gas facility in Algeria, which borders Mali to the north.
French troops are preparing to fight Islamist guerillas in northern Mali, which has been turned into a virtual Al Qaeda state following the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. In what has been described as a failure of U.S. strategy and intelligence, former Libyan soldiers united with terror groups and American-trained defectors from the Malian army to stage a coup and to begin imposing sharia law on the residents of the area.
French air strikes began last week, and French ground forces were committed to the campaign as U.S.-led multilateral efforts failed. The French forces are expected to welcome a combined African regional force soon.
Notably, France failed to obtain--or even seek--UN, NATO, or Arab League approval for its operations. There was, however, no international outcry of the sort that greeted U.S. intervention in Iraq. France has long regarded its former colonial realm in West Africa as a special and unique responsibility.
The Obama administration has remained largely disengaged from the widening war against Al Qaeda, and the U.S. media has likewise remained uninterested. Coverage of the attacks on U.S. embassies on Sep. 11, 2012 was muted, and the media has since shown little interest in the cover-up surrounding the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya which saw four Americans killed, including the U.S. ambassador.
Ironically, it is France's Socialist president, François Hollande, who has taken the lead in the fight against terror, warning that the fight in Mali could be a long one, and declaring that French forces will remain there until Al Qaeda is routed and the country's legitimate government has been restored. Though he shares the Obama administration's enthusiasm for taxes, Hollande takes a different view of international leadership.