The US Was Operating In Mali Months Prior To French Incursion: Meet The "Intelligence and Security Command"

Tyler Durden's picture

Last week we reported that in the aftermath of the so far disastrous French campaign to eradicate "rebels" in the north of Mali, because of their implied threat fo Europe, that "US Drones, Boots Arrive In Mali." Turns out we were wrong, and as the case virtually always is, for some reason there was already a US presence of at least three US commandos in Mali in the summer of 2012. What they were doing there remains a mystery, as it is a mystery if the ever co-present flip flops on the ground were there inciting the perpetual scapegoat Al Qaeda to do this, or that. Or maybe it was not the CIA. Maybe it was the Army's "little-known and secretive" branch known as the Intelligence and Security Command. Regardless, what becomes obvious is that while the US was on the ground and engaged in secret missions, it needed an alibi to avoid "destabilizing" the local situation once its presence became conventional wisdom. It got just that, thank to one Francois Hollande just over a week ago.

From the WaPo, as of July 8, 2012:

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.


The Obama administration has not publicly acknowledged the existence of the missions, although it has spoken in general about plans to rely on Special Operations forces as a cornerstone of its global counterterrorism strategy. In recent years, the Pentagon has swelled the ranks and resources of the Special Operations Command, which includes such units as the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force, even as the overall number of U.S. troops is shrinking.


At the same time, the crash in Mali has revealed some details of the commandos’ clandestine activities that apparently had little to do with counterterrorism. The women killed in the wreck were identified as Moroccan prostitutes who had been riding with the soldiers, according to a senior Army official and a U.S. counterterrorism consultant briefed on the incident, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.


The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, which is conducting a probe of the fatal plunge off the Martyrs Bridge in Bamako, the capital of Mali, said it does not suspect foul play but has “not completely ruled it out.” Other Army officials cited poor road conditions and excessive speed as the likely cause of the 5 a.m. crash.


U.S. officials have revealed few details about the soldiers’ mission or their backgrounds, beyond a brief news release announcing their deaths hours after the accident.


In many countries, including most in Africa, Special Operations forces work openly to distribute humanitarian aid and train local militaries. At times, the civil-affairs assignments can provide credible cover for clandestine counterterrorism units.


But in Mali, U.S. military personnel had ceased all training and civil-affairs work by the end of March, about a week after the country’s democratically elected president was overthrown in a military coup.


The military’s Africa Command, which oversees operations on the continent, said the three service members killed were among “a small number of personnel” who had been aiding the Malian military before the coup and had remained in the country to “provide assistance to the U.S. Embassy” and “maintain situational awareness on the unfolding events.”


Megan Larson-Kone, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Embassy in Mali, said the soldiers had stayed in Bamako because they were “winding down” civil-affairs programs in the aftermath of the coup while holding out hope “that things would turn around quickly” so they could resume their work.


Two of the soldiers, Capt. ­Daniel H. Utley, 33, and Sgt. 1st Class Marciano E. Myrthil, 39, were members of the 91st Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, which is based at Fort Bragg, N.C.


For two months after the crash, the U.S. military withheld the identity of the third soldier killed. In response to inquiries from The Washington Post, the Army named him as Master Sgt. Trevor J. Bast, 39, a communications technician with the Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir.

Enter the Intelligence And Security Command

The Intelligence and Security Command is a little-known and secretive branch of the Army that specializes in communications intercepts. Its personnel often work closely with the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees missions to capture or kill terrorism suspects overseas.


During his two decades of service, Bast revealed little about the nature of his work to his family. “He did not tell us a lot about his life, and we respected that for security purposes,” his mother, Thelma Bast of Gaylord, Mich., said in a brief interview. “We never asked questions, and that’s the honest truth.”

Why Mali?

U.S. counterterrorism officials have long worried about Mali, a weakly governed country of 14.5 million people that has served as a refuge for Islamist militants allied with al-Qaeda.


With only 6,000 poorly equipped troops, the Malian armed forces have always struggled to maintain control of their territory, about twice the size of Texas. Repeated famines and rebellions by Tuareg nomads only exacerbated the instability.


About six years ago, the Pentagon began bolstering its overt aid and training programs in Mali, as well as its clandestine operations.


Under a classified program code-named Creek Sand, dozens of U.S. personnel and contractors were deployed to West Africa to conduct surveillance missions over the country with single-engine aircraft designed to look like civilian passenger planes.


In addition, the military flew spy flights over Mali and other countries in the region with ­longer-range P-3 Orion aircraft based in the Mediterranean, according to classified U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.


In what would have represented a significant escalation of U.S. military involvement in Mali, the Pentagon also considered a ­secret plan in 2009 to embed American commandos with ­Malian ground troops, diplomatic cables show.


Under that program, code-named Oasis Enabler, U.S. military advisers would conduct ­anti-terrorism operations alongside elite, American-trained ­Malian units. But the idea was rejected by Gillian A. Milovanovic, the ambassador to Mali at the time.

The stumbling block:

In an October 2009 meeting in Bamako with Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller, deputy chief of the Africa Command, the ambassador called the plan “extremely problematic,” adding that it could create a popular backlash and “risk infuriating” neighbors such as Algeria.


Furthermore, Milovanovic warned that the U.S. advisers “would likely serve as lightning rods, exposing themselves and the Malian contingents to specific risk,” according to a State Department cable summarizing the meeting.


Moeller replied that he “regretted” that the ambassador had not been kept better informed and said Oasis Enabler was “a work in progress.” It is unclear whether the plan was carried out.

Moeller was right, and neighbors such as Algeria eventually did promptly respond in "popular backlash" that led to the deaths of at least one US hostage.

But back to the US Commandos, and, lo and behold, prostitutes:

The soldiers died of “blunt force trauma” when the vehicle landed upside down in the shallow river, crushing the roof, the Army said.


The Special Operations Command said it could not answer questions about where the soldiers were going, nor why they were traveling with the unidentified Moroccan women, saying the matter is under investigation.


Larson-Kone, the embassy spokeswoman, said the soldiers were on “personal, not business-related travel” at the time, but she declined to provide details. Officials from the Africa Command also said that they did not know who the women were, but they added in a statement: “From what we know now, we have no reason to believe these women were engaged in acts of prostitution.”

Hookers or not, what is obvious is that the US did have a largely secretive presence in Mali, which may or may not have led to ongoing social destabilization, which ultimately provided none other than the US with the ultimate cover to engage in whatever "anti-terrorist" operations it so chose. The name of the cover?


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Seer's picture

The "telling" part was done a long time ago.  Nowadays only training and supplies are required.

ch25061's picture

Obvious gold grab....these people are disgusting.

spanish inquisition's picture

I think they were there for countercounterterrorism purposes. The CIA foments terrorism. Elements in the country try to maintain the peace through counterterrorism. The commandos engage them to prevent the CIA terrorist efforts being thwarted, hence countercounterterrorism

logically possible's picture

I think they were left there to "stimulate the economy" they were doing a fine job until they went off that bridge.

Miss Expectations's picture

Good Golly Miss Mali, just call it Operation Dark Whore.

AgAu_man's picture

More like Operation "Gold Mine", as in "Gold is mine". ~ Ben Bernanke

HD's picture

China is developing in Africa at a record pace. How will America compete? Start a war - set up some bases.

Never One Roach's picture

TOKYO (AP)Japan says it may fire warning shots and take other measures to keep foreign aircraft from violating its airspace in the latest verbal blast between Tokyo and Beijing that raises concerns that a dispute over hotly contested islands could spin out of control.

Japanese officials made the comments after Chinese fighters tailed its warplanes near the islands recently. The incident is believed to be the first scrambling of Chinese fighters since the tensions began to rise last spring.


One Brack swan coming up!

HD's picture

Japan needs a diversion and quick - their economy is going to implode and a war with china is great cover.

CPL's picture

Three nukes and that should be over quickly.


Chinese aren't fucking around for the remotest of possiblities that there is oil under that bird shit covered rock.  They need that juice closer to home.

HD's picture

China need not bother. Sadly, Japan is hell bent on destroying itself.

Totentänzerlied's picture

On a slightly longer timeline, both are hell-bent on self-destruction. Japan got started earlier, with ample US "aid", at perhaps the most second-most opportune moment in history (the first being circa 1913).

Super Broccoli's picture

I vote for it ! Let's have them nuking each others to death then we'll have cheap petrol, food and industry back on western soil !

Seer's picture

Pay attention to which way the wind blows.  US soil may not be the sanctuary that you might think should the remains of those war clouds pass by.  This very idea pisses me off.

Catullus's picture

I don't think Mali is a backlash to a very light US intelligence presence.  The US has intelligence officers all over the world.Civil Affairs Battalion is a like a Navy Seabee. They could have been building an airstrip for the Malinese government. 

North Mali went into rebellion when mercenaries in Libya returned to Mali.  The Libyan coup against Gaddafi was started by the French.  And Mali, a former French colony, has been under an autocratic regime installed by Paris since the 1960s, when the French granted Mali it's "independence".

Call this what it is: The Tuareg Rebellion. 

The 1991 Rebellion was a backlash to the IMF, which I suppose you can call backlash against the US>

Totentänzerlied's picture

But the Tuareg are just another pawn on the chess board.

rsnoble's picture

What's the real mission? Hand over your oil fields or be killed?  Would anyone want chinese troops here in the US taking crap over?  And the hostage situation is a big surprise.

e-recep's picture

germans await delivery, be quick comrades, loot as much as you can.

max2205's picture

Lets attack Antarctica

Totentänzerlied's picture

They have no oil and penguins and polar bears don't qualify for student/car loans.

knukles's picture


They supposedly have Nazi UFOs and alien underground bases.
Now that'd be some real shits and grins!


pull my tentacle

Jam Akin's picture

Plenty of way cool penguin shit down there

BTW just for the record, Civil Affairs troops aint commandos.

ziggy59's picture

But didnt Oh, just the other day, want to know what happened...

So either he lied or was kept out of the loop...


I pick C). Both A and B

Super Broccoli's picture

look it's obvious !

1) The french own the mines and the president of Mali is loyal to them

2) The americans wants the mines

3) While undercover US troops wanders around Mali for whatever reason, all of a sudden a bunch of Al-Qaedas in bran new toyota pick up trucks invade the country

4) The french decides to counter the al-qaedas


... sounds a lot like Vietnam doesn't it ? How is it called again ? Proxy war ?

GMadScientist's picture

Agreed on general French incompetence vis a vis maintaining a hold on their colonies worldwide.

Super Broccoli's picture

what about the US waging wars every place there is petrol ?

i'll listen to US-democratic rethoric once they'll have bring that beautiful governance system to North Korea :-)

GMadScientist's picture

"The NATO air campaign to oust Muammar Qaddafi began with French Mirage jets destroying a column of his tanks on the outskirts of Benghazi seven months ago."

Welcome to Realpolitik!

Super Broccoli's picture

I agree. Just said america's been doing it a lot as well : Kuwait, Irak, Iran ...

GMadScientist's picture

Debriefing the assets indeed.

Super Broccoli's picture

can't we just false flag a Chinese attack in Japan ?

It would take something ugly like erm, duno the bombing of kindergarden school for Fukushima ophans ...

Notarocketscientist's picture

Of course he is - because Morsi is his new Mubarak.   You are aware that Morsi was educated in the US?  He is the new US puppet in Egypt - why do you think the students there are opposed to him?

Remember this - Muslims throughout history were business people - there were traders.   They were not 'fanatics'

The Muslim Brotherhood is first and foremost interested in BUSINESS. In making MONEY.

Kow towing to the US and making money makes far more sense to a man like Morsi and those who surround him than does engaging in nonsensical terrorism.

booboo's picture

"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"

Total bullshit, these were experienced well trained military booty spankin machines. This maneuver (driving off a bridge) is known in spook circles as the Wet Eruption. It involves all members timing their climax with the vehicle hitting the water. It went wrong when Sgt. 1st Class Marciano "The Hot Cherry" Myrthil drunkenly demanded that they perform the "Flying Fish Eater" (another top double dog secret maneuver) meant only for air travel during turbulent conditions where oral sex is performed on the ladies, but forgetting that water does not compress like air and forgetting also that these were Moraccan Prostitutes (who's last gig was the camel show) and were do I say this, able to take large girth? Well, anyway, they found the three mens heads embedded into the birthing canal of the young ladies of the night along with a suit case holding U.S. One Hundrend dollar printing plates and 3 Pocket Pussies.

Thats the truth and I will swear to it and so will my other three personalities.

Redfish's picture

Wow, the anti-U.S. propaganda coming out from this article is a bit overwhelming.  What is so unbelievable about US military personnel operating covertly within an African country where Islamists have taken cover?  Did you not get the memo?  Islamists declared war on the U.S. and, while a rag tag, loose network of nercenaries, their numbers dictate our country take this seriously. They should be thanksful we don't simply drop a few a-bombs during their travels to Mecca. 

Notarocketscientist's picture

America is by far the biggest terrorist organization in the world.  How many did they kill, maim and torture in the terrorizing of Iraq?

Redfish's picture

Wow, the anti-U.S. propaganda coming out from this article is a bit overwhelming.  What is so unbelievable about US military personnel operating covertly within an African country where Islamists have taken cover?  Did you not get the memo?  Islamists declared war on the U.S. and, while a rag tag, loose network of nercenaries, their numbers dictate our country take this seriously. They should be thanksful we don't simply drop a few a-bombs during their travels to Mecca. 

booboo's picture

Considering what you believe may be at stake in "the war on terrorism" perhaps the present day spook community and military s-hould take their job a little more serious otherwise they open up their community to be openly mocked by a jackass like me on the world wide web. For some reason I just cannot fathom a car load of American spies and whores flopping off of a bridge over the Rhine during WW2 and the US coming out on top and this is just one of our recent spy vs. Goat herder follies.



AgAu_man's picture

"Red fish, blue fish...  er, Black fish, white fish, yellow fish.  Aka Black gold, white gold, yellow gold.  Black ppl, white ppl, yellow ppl.  One net to catch them all!" ~ Central Banksters in London, NY.

Herdee's picture

Maybe the CIA needs another country right now just in case Afganistan goes down in a direction that they don't like.Simple tribesman know that their ancestors defeated the Greeks,Romans,British and the Russians.A waiting game while rheir enemy goes bankrupt in foreign wars.After all,when you're running weed and heroin at the amounts that they are and none of the bread goes through The General Accounting Office,you'd better make sure that you have a backup joint.God forbid that the CIA couldn't supply the Mafia with all the dope needed for Europe and America and multi billions weren't available to overthrow foreign governments.A nw French-American military Dictator too.I smell dirty moula.

QQQBall's picture

Will Obomber be pushing for Gun Control in Mail?

post turtle saver's picture

In G.O.D.* We Trust




* Gold, Oil, Drugs

Rustysilver's picture

Crap! Now I need to study African geography.

Money 4 Nothing's picture

Just like we were in Afghanistan before 9-11-2001

Why does it seem the whole world is recievership?

AgAu_man's picture

"Just like we were in Afghanistan before 9-11-2001"

Yeah, when we were supplying "our" Muhajadin (our 'freedom  fighters' before they became 'terrorists') to fight the Ruskies.  And when we were also providing then with communication equipment.  You think that we could not have cracked our gear, to know what they were planning against us -- if they even were 'planning' against us!? /sarc

How frikkin gullible and naive can one nation be?

tony bonn's picture

the old tired prostitute theory has been trotted out again under the assumption that the stoopid public will believe soldiers will be soldiers just as bast's dumbass mother just move along - there is nothing here....

and yes the tired old al qaeda boogeyman has been trotted out again as another excuse for qaeda is a mercenary group of the provides the good cop / bad cop excuse to invade nations with impunity...

the usa was in mali to secure natural resources and pre-empt growing chinese presence in africa....

terrorists are anyone who would dare to challenge or object to the bush crime syndicate and rockefeller axis of god, who is so fucking stupid to believe that an impoverished african nation is a threat to europe or the united states????? the only threat was that someone might come to power to deny imperial corporations access to free - i mean cheap - natural resources....

earleflorida's picture

news [old] flash?:  The Mexican and Columbian drug cartels have been using West [various countries between Senegal and Liberia] Africa as a clandestine 'port-o-call' for the their lucrative global drug trade.

The al-Qaeda offshoots have been commissioned to act as protection [couriers/ with indegenous feral tribesmen guides] for the smuggling... which traverses up into the Sahara desert craddling/ engulfing the Mediterranean, with final distribution destination-- Europe'a!!!

The protection money is phenomenal, and is paid in gold?!

What does this have to do with U.S. Counter terrorism? Perhaps the Mexican and Columbian's are working the, umm... Iran-Contra[diction] insurgency?

Ps.   Stranger things have happened, or is it I'm just to cynical?  

Ps2.  The U.S.imports more oil from Angola and Niger, than they do from the Saudi's!


ninja247's picture

Jeez. I love this site.

Everything is laid out so well here.


Bansters-in-my- feces's picture

SOC it to them USA dot gov dot killer.

TNTARG's picture

"which may or may not have led to ongoing social destabilization"?????????

Come on, please.