As a reminder that the United States is still at war, 6 US soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan. As a reminder that the United States is still at war in countries you don’t even know about, there’s this from the Washington Post:
In pre-dawn darkness, a Toyota Land Cruiser skidded off a bridge in North Africa in the spring, plunging into the Niger River. When rescuers arrived, they found the bodies of three U.S. Army commandos — alongside three dead women.
What the men were doing in the impoverished country of Mali, and why they were still there a month after the United States suspended military relations with its government, is at the crux of a mystery that officials have not fully explained even 10 weeks later.
At the very least, the April 20 accident exposed a team of Special Operations forces that had been working for months in Mali, a Saharan country racked by civil war and a rising Islamist insurgency. More broadly, the crash has provided a rare glimpse of elite U.S. commando units in North Africa, where they have been secretly engaged in counterterrorism actions against al-Qaeda affiliates.
You’ll be forgiven for not knowing that Al Qaeda operated in Mali, or that there was a civil war going on there, with a coup in March led by military leader Amadou Haya Sanogo, destroying two decades of democracy. The story involves Tuareg rebels armed by the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, and rival militant groups inspired by, but not directly associated with, Al Qaeda.
Most of all, it involves our new American way of war, with Special Operations forces unknown to the public striding around the world making trouble. If it weren’t for this car accident with three commandos and three Moroccan prostitutes, we wouldn’t know about this one either. The US reportedly ended all special operations in Mali in March, as far as training and civil-affairs work went, after the coup by Captain Sanogo. But these bodies were found in April.
I don’t see how at this point it would surprise anyone that the US military operates in secret in virtually every country in the world. Without untimely crashes like this or the help of Wikileaks cables (which pinpointed surveillance flights and discussions of embedding special forces with Malian troops in its State Department releases), it would remain just a supposition.