On a searing morning this spring, Brig. Gen. James B. Linder leaned against the red-webbing seats of a C-130 as it flew over the Sahara. On his camouflaged knee, he balanced two dog-eared Moleskine notebooks and a map of Africa. Linder, who is in his early 50s, commands the United States Special Operations forces in Africa. He was on his way to visit a detachment of 12 Army Green Berets training with African troops to fight Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Niger. Through the plane’s scratched plexiglass portholes, dunes crested like waves in an ocean of sand, and hot blasts of wind buffeted the fuselage. An hour’s flight to the south, his team of Special Forces was deployed along the Nigerian border, where the militant group Boko Haram was targeting children in its bid to establish an Islamic state.
“My job is to look at Africa and see where the threat to the United States is,” Linder said as he unfolded his map and traced circles around the territories where he knew extremist groups were operating. “I see Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Libyan problem set, Al Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, Benghazi and Darna.”
A Green Beret teaching navigation techniques to soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Credit Michael Christopher Brown/Magnum, for The New York Times
The United States Africa Command, known as Africom, was established in 2007 but stepped up its operations after the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, when the overthrow of dictatorships from Tunisia to Libya to Egypt allowed militants and criminal networks to spread. In 2012, Al Qaeda and its affiliates seized control of Northern Mali and held a territory the size of Texas for nearly a year. With American support, French and Chadian forces managed to dislodge them, but they are still active in the region. In 2013, some 30 militants took over the Tigantourine gas facility in Algeria and killed 39 hostages. That same year, Somali militants raided the Westgate shopping center in Kenya’s capital, leaving 67 dead.
These attacks underscore how the threat to U.S. interests has shifted from Iraq and Afghanistan to Yemen and Africa. Linder arrived at Africom just after the storming of the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. “Instability in Libya is causing a lot of the instability in West Africa,” he said. But it isn’t simply a matter of dots on a map. “I see the enemy, and then I look for connective tissue.” With his index finger, he traced how the conflicts in Libya and Syria are flooding Africa to the south with weapons and fighters. “Foreign fighters coming out of Syria are a serious problem,” he added. As terrorists move around and try to build networks between cells and like-minded organizations, Linder looks to break them apart.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/magazine/can-general-linders-special-operations-forces-stop-the-next-terrorist-threat.html
And I don't care if it is the Slimes - read the whole thing. Brig Gen. Linder is one smart SOB and, rarely for a flag officer, universally respected by those he commands. And he commands the hard asses. Potted bio here: http://www.socafrica.africom.mil/bio/Commander.asp