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January 18th, 2013
The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Algerian Troops Attack Site to End Hostage Standoff,” shows all the confusion engendered by brute use of force in trying to free hostages without taking any care to protect the captives. The Algerian storming of the gas fields, where a multinational group of workers were seized while on the bus to the airport, resulted in deaths of some of the hostages and terrorists alike.
In its rush to assert its sovereignty, the Algerian government failed to take any intermediate steps to ameliorate the situation, and, as a result, the conditions on the ground can not be described by any words other than confusion and chaos.
The U.S., French, British and Japanese governments were not consulted prior to the action, if only to provide input and expertise from similar situations. That left strained diplomatic ties to go with the obvious failure involved.
Seven Americans were believed to be among the hostages, and their fate has not been ascertained. Meanwhile, the war in Mali, the motivating factor for the terrorist attack, grinds on, and the French decision to begin airstrikes is increasingly entangling the United States. France, as our ally, is receiving U.S. assistance in ferrying troops and equipment to Mali, and the decision to insert “boots on the ground” seems increasingly likely.
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