William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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HUH? – AT 8:13 A.M. ET:  It is quite remarkable when American service personnel are sent into possible combat, and the press barely takes notice.  Are you aware that American pilots were involved in just recent days, in a French operation in the African nation of Somalia?  The White House has acknowledged the involvement, and no one seems to care.  From the Washington Post:

U.S. military fighter jets provided backup support to a failed French hostage rescue mission in Somalia, the White House announced Sunday in a rare public acknowledgment of American combat operations in the Horn of Africa.

In a letter to Congress, President Obama said U.S. combat aircraft “provided limited technical support” to French forces late Friday as they attempted to rescue a French spy who had been held captive for more than three years.

The risky mission by French commandos ended disastrously after a gun battle with Islamist fighters from the al-Shabab militant network. The hostage, identified by his cover name, Denis Allex, was presumed killed and a French soldier was reported missing.

Obama said the U.S. warplanes “briefly” entered Somali airspace but did not open fire and departed Somalia by 8 p.m. Friday, Washington time. He said he approved the mission but gave no other details.

Also, France has become very active in Africa, conducting anti-Al Qaeda military operations in Mali.  From Fox:

PARIS – France, breaking its own rules with a surprise military intervention in Mali, appears to be halting the lightning advance of radical Islamists seen as a threat to Europe.

But the operation raises the specter of an African quagmire in a new theater of the West's war on terror just as France and other U.S. allies emerge from the old one in Afghanistan. And it undermines President Francois Hollande's promise to end the cozy, paternalistic ties France has long sustained with its former African colonies.

France fears a new sanctuary of terrorism could take root in Mali, and says fast action was the only choice after sudden extremist advances last week.

French authorities contend that Mali and its neighbors in West Africa, Europe and especially France are threatened by three radical organizations, including an al-Qaida affiliate, that control northern Mali and are looking to extend their grip to the crucial south and the capital of Bamako to set up a terror state.

French authorities acknowledged Sunday that the militants have turned out to be better-armed and equipped than France had initially thought.

Eyes around the world are on France to see what it does next.

Will French troops move into a support role, behind African troops, as initially set out for the West by a United Nations Security Council resolution on Mali? Or will they be lured into deeper involvement at the behest of Mali and other African nations — and, perhaps, take Western allies with them?

COMMENT:  So, apparently Al Qaeda isn't on the ropes, as Field Marshal Obama has assured us.  At least the French understand that. 

Action is occurring just as Chuck Hagel prepares to become secretary of not-too-much defense, with orders to slash the Pentagon.

Anyone care?

January 14,  2013