William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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ALGERIA LATEST – AT 11:23 A.M. ET:  As America ramps up a new inauguration, and a celebration of Obama, come to save us, reality intrudes.  The latest Al Qaeda terror attack, against an oil installation in Algeria, paints a picture of a group not in disarray, but on the rebound.  The latest news is not good.  From WaPo:

LONDON — Algerian forces launched a final assault Saturday against Islamist militants holding foreign hostages at a desert energy complex, resulting in the deaths of 11 kidnappers and their seven remaining captives, according to Algerian and French news reports.

Reports of the raid — which unfolded despite calls for restraint from foreign governments, including the United States, whose nationals were being held captive — remained sketchy and unverified, but state media said the operation targeted a remaining stronghold of militants at the sprawling, remote facility run by BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algeria’s state-run energy company. Reports from Algeria’s state news agency and France’s AFP, both quoting an unnamed Algerian security official, suggested the militants may have killed their hostages as forces approached.

Also from WaPo:

LONDON — The hostage crisis in Algeria has upended the Obama administration’s strategy for coordinating an international military campaign against al-Qaeda fighters in North Africa, leaving U.S., European and African leaders even more at odds over how to tackle the problem.

For months, U.S. officials have intensively lobbied Algeria — whose military is by far the strongest in North Africa — to help intervene in next-door Mali, where jihadists and other rebels have established a well-defended base of operations. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other high-ranking U.S. officials made repeated visits to Algiers in the fall in a bid to persuade the oil-rich country to contribute troops to a U.N.-backed military force in Mali.

But Algeria’s unilateral decision to attack kidnappers at a natural gas plant — while shunning outside help, imposing a virtual information blackout and disregarding international pleas for caution — has dampened hopes that it might cooperate militarily in Mali, U.S. officials said. The crisis has strained ties between Algiers and Washington and increased doubts about whether Algeria can be relied upon to work regionally to dismantle al-Qaeda’s franchise in North Africa.

COMMENT:  Another "outreach" program that failed.  The fact is, we are losing in the Mideast and in northern Africa.  No one seems to care.  We have two new political hacks coming in – John Kerry and Chuck Hagel – who never met a dictatorship they didn't like.  But there are plenty of people in the press who believe that Obama has found the way in foreign policy.  Why, hes bringing the troops home, isn't he? 

But what about tomorrow?  The picture is bleak.

January 19, 2013