Sens. McCain, Corker: N.Africa Unrest Due to Obama Administration’s “Lack of Engagement”

Algerian security personnel on Monday look on as empty coffins are transported to collect victims that were killed during a hostage crisis at a desert gas plant in Algeria's deep south. (FAROUK BATICHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Reluctance to put U.S. military boots on the ground in Africa was a big reason why the George W. Bush administration late last decade opted against erecting a headquarters facility on African soil. But as the vast continent becomes the epicenter of al-Qaida activities, some GOP lawmakers are hinting that should change.

Sen. John McCain on Tuesday pinned a large part of the blame for ongoing unrest in Mail and a deadly hostage situation in neighboring Algeria by al-Qaida offshoot groups on the Obama administration.

That’s because of , according to the Arizona Republican, “a lack of engagement” by Washington the last four years in Northern Africa. 

Asked by Defense News what the Obama administration should have done differently, McCain cited border security assistance to some African nations and other relatively modest moves that the Obama administration opted to “not provide.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also told reporters Tuesday that the White House should have employed “more engagement” in North Africa over the last few years.

The duo’s similar language is notable because both now are senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And that panel on Thursday morning will hold a confirmation hearing for its chairman, Sen. John Kerry. The Massachusetts Democrat has been nominated by President Obama to become secretary of state.

Al-Qaida’s activities in and the unrest plaguing the region will be a subject on which GOP members press Kerry, Corker said. He predicted a hearing of pointed questions, but with “a good tone.”

Kerry’s nomination is expected to receive little resistance in the Senate, but McCain and Corker’s comments show he first must sit across from the very chairman’s seat he has occupied for several years and endure sometimes-tough questioning from his panel mates.  And one question just might be whether the Obama administration intends to step up its military and/or intelligence efforts in Africa.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett