If my backchannel to Algiers is working as it should my respectful congratulations should already have reached General Tartag, in charge of the successful operation to rescue the hostages at the Tigantourine natural gas facility. If not, well done!
Now I know full well that the British media are having a go, and calling it a fiasco, but that’s nonsense. The loss of innocent life is very sad, but look at the lives saved – over 700. With 30 + terrorists and probable inside help there was no way all the hostages were going to get out alive. What’s more many lives have been saved in the future by taking out the terrorists, and discouraging further mass hostage-taking operations. The ‘Blind Sheikh’ has not been released and no concessions have been made to al Qaeda.
If the Department of Justice don’t want more American lives put at risk with respect they should abandon their policy of being soft on terrorists. If the Sheikh had been executed (after a fair trial of course) there would have been no point in negotiating for his release. In fairness we made the same mistake, failing to execute a single IRA terrorist, e.g., except unofficially when we got the Force Research boys involved, which isn’t quite the same thing.
This was a huge, carefully planned operation. There was no hope of getting everybody alive, SAS or no SAS. In my opinion the decision to strafe the convoy of Landcruisers was the right one. There was little hope of recovering any hostages and no other way of stopping them.
My preliminary view is that the Algerian Special Forces showed impressive fire discipline, were well-led and were careful to discriminate between terrorists and hostages. Our people were treated well once the firefight was over and we should be thanking the Algerians.
We also need to be asking tough questions of BP and its partners. We know BP has been penetrated by the DVD (the old Anglo-Iranian Oil Company pretty much reported to the Abwehr, keeping quiet about oil reserves in the Middle East for fear that we wouldn’t have to expose tankers to German U-Boats in the Atlantic). From where did the terrorists get their plan of the complex? And what were plant security doing? That convoy of ‘mechanicals’ must have raised a fair old dust cloud. There may not have been time to get the T-90’s down from In Amenas but there was surely time to lock the plant down. It would be interesting to know what Sterling and the other security boys were allowed by way of kit. I’ll bet it wasn’t a Bushmaster 35 mil, which would have come in handy.
GCHQ may have some questions to answer too. That part of the world is great for SATINT – wide open spaces, lots of dust from moving vehicles, and more birds than there used to be, given the situation in Mali. How was that convoy missed? What did they think a bunch of pick-ups with machine-guns and Landcruisers were doing in southern Algeria? Admiring the view? Wandering about on safari, hoping to pot the odd rhino? Doing a wildlife documentary for BBC2?
The Algerians were right to keep London in the dark. They know about the DVD, whose ops in Algeria go back to the civil war, when the Jerries were trying to pull the rug from under the Fourth Republic. They also know that London is penetrated. The Algerian Prime Minister is somewhat better informed than David Cameron, almost inevitably with Sir Jeremy Heywood as the Cabinet Secretary. Sir Jeremy of course plays the role of Sir Humphrey Appleby in Whitehall, and does it with aplomb (the role of the Cabinet Secretary, apart from running the country, is to keep the Prime Minister in the dark).
Algiers knew full well that if they told London Dachau would have it in half an hour and AQIM in an hour. The same applies to Washington. They must have found it trying, having this irritating little man in London demanding sensitive intelligence which they knew well he wouldn’t be able to keep quiet. Cameron has been humiliated by this episode, yet another reason to thank the Algerians. Well done boys!
Could be some interesting Senate nomination battles coming up. Everyone is saying that John Kerry is a slam dunk for State, but that assumes that the Republicans don’t find out about what his father-in-law was doing for Dr. Mengele in World War Two. Hideous biological warfare experiments on African children tend not to play well on prime time and could cause problems with the NAACP. Of course I am not suggesting for one moment that either the good Senator or his lady wife are aware of what was went on. So far as they are concerned he was Dr. Schweitzer. The Ebola files are kept under pretty tight wraps even now.
I wouldn’t put too much money on the Supreme Court allowing a hearing on the Obama eligibility issue. Word on the street is that Mr. O has cut a deal with the ‘supremes,’ or with one of them at any rate, a video-assisted deal, as it were. Watch this space!
21st January 2013