- Detroit’s Heidelberg art project hit by 8 fires in 8 months
- Pa. police pull people over for random DNA tests for feds
- NASA pushing hard to get back into space game
- Harvard student to face federal charges for bomb hoax
- Ronnie Biggs of ‘Great Train Robbery’ fame dies, 84
- Pope Francis wins another ‘Person of the Year’ — from gay rights magazine
- Rep. Steve Stockman: Give my campaign $10, and you’ll get an Obama barf bag
- Putin: Russia to buy $15 billion in Ukraine bonds
- Expert: Obamacare ‘death spiral’ fears exaggerated
- Alabama firefighters dig for survivors of apartment blast
Panetta: No U.S. troops on the ground in Mali
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday that the U.S. has ruled out putting any American troops on the ground in Mali, but officials are hoping the French will be able to succeed in establishing better security for the West African nation.
Panetta spoke at a press conference in Lisbon with Portuguese Defense Minister Jose Aguiar Branco.
The U.S. is providing intelligence-gathering assistance to the French in their assault on Islamist extremists in Mali, and officials would not rule out having American aircraft land in the West African nation as part of future efforts to lend airlift and logistical support.
On Tuesday, Panetta said the U.S. is still working through the details of assistance it will provide France.
The comments came after French forces led an all-night bombing campaign over a small Malian town, working to dislodge Islamist extremists who had seized the area, including its strategic military camp.
Meanwhile, a convoy of 40 to 50 armed trucks carrying French troops crossed into Mali from Ivory Coast, where they were stationed, as France prepares for a possible land assault. The insurgents, however, have been gaining ground, pushing closer to Mali’s capital, Bamako.
Panetta has called the military operation important, although “there is no consideration of putting any American boots on the ground at this time.” He said that although al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, also known as AQIM, and other affiliate groups in Mali may not pose an immediate threat to the United States, “ultimately that remains their objective.”
“We have to take steps now so that AQIM does not get that kind of traction,” he said, and ensure it does not secure a base of operations in the region.
He said al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen and Somalia have been weakened. But he said the job is not finished.
“I honestly believe that after four years, America is safer from that kind of attack that we experienced on 9/11,” Panetta said. Still, he said, the United States has a responsibility to go after al-Qaida wherever it is, including Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and North Africa.
The Pentagon chief said U.S. officials have promised Portugal that America will do whatever it can to help and to insure that AQIM is ultimately stopped. He also noted that the Economic Community of West African States, which representing 15 nations, will be deploying forces in Mali soon.
French President Francois Hollande authorized the military assault as it became clear that the rebels could break Mali’s military defenses in Mopti, the first town on the government-controlled side, located in the center of the country.
The French have suggested that the rebels are better armed than initially expected, having obtained caches of weapons stolen from the abandoned arsenal of Moammar Gadhafi, the former Libyan leader who was killed in the wake of the rebel uprising in his country. The Islamists also have gained control of weapons left by Mali’s army when it abandoned the north as the rebels began advancing last spring.
Panetta met with Aguiar Branco at the minister’s residence, an imposing medieval fort at the mouth of the Tagus River. The two men spoke about U.S. plans to reduce its presence at the Lajes military base in the Azores islands, cutbacks that would remove more than 400 military personnel and as many as 500 family members from the base in 2014. It is expected that the Air Force service members who remain would serve yearlong tours and would not be accompanied by their families.
Aguiar Branco said he spoke with Panetta about Portugal’s concerns that pulling troops from the base would have a serious economic impact. Panetta said the U.S. is pledging to do all it can to mitigate the economic losses.
By John R. Bolton
The president fiddles at his domestic altar while the world burns
- U.S. Army mulls wiping out memory of Robert E. Lee, 'Stonewall' Jackson
- PRUDEN: The scam that will not die
- Gov't wasted $30 billion on 'pillownauts,' crystal goblets -- buying human urine!
- Top Democrats reject court ruling over NSA spying on Americans
- BOLTON: Nero in the White House
- White House is obstructing probe on Navy Yard shooter, NSA leaker, Darrell Issa says
- We told you so: Conservatives foresaw polygamy ruling
- Colorado revolt: 55 of 62 sheriffs refuse to enforce new gun laws
- Senators in rush to pass budget vow to undo cut to military retirement pay
- Embassy Row: India strikes back over diplomat's arrest
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Politics, economics, and business from a real world perspective.
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up by Lisa King Dolloff and friends.
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow