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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Point worth clarifying

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Dear editor,

I have been heartened by the concerns expressed by many of my sympathetic readers regarding my recent and unexpected interaction with the GAF command. This interaction arose due to my personal opinions concerning the ill-conceived notion of Gambian soldiers being deployed to participate in a conflict in Niger. I believe it is important to address this matter publicly and provide clarity to alleviate the restlessness that some may be feeling.

It is clear that much of the concern expressed stems from the cautionary statement issued by the GAF command in their extensive communication. They reminded me that, as a retired Lieutenant Colonel, I remain subject to the obligations of the Official Secret Act that I had solemnly sworn to uphold during my tenure in the Armed Forces. This includes accountability for my actions or inactions even in my capacity as a private citizen. While this statement might come across as a veiled threat, its significance is truly relevant only to those unfamiliar with the privileges afforded to former senior military officers and commanders. These privileges encompass the ability to openly express opinions and insights about imminent conflicts, their commencement, cessation, and the ensuing implications.

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Allow me to share my perspective. I devoted a quarter of a century of my adult life residing in the USA, during which I was privy to at least fifteen international armed conflicts involving the US Armed Forces, either directly or indirectly. The memories of these conflicts remain vivid, beginning with my time as a college student in Georgia, USA, when President Ronald Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada in 1983. That operation aimed to prevent the rise of a potential Marxist regime under the leadership of Maurice Bishop. The most recent significant US military engagement was the Afghanistan war spanning from 2001 to 2021.

Across all fifteen of these conflicts, I meticulously followed their historical trajectories and transformations as a scholar. A striking observation that emerged was the consistent involvement of former US military commanders and senior officers in public and private media, sharing their personal perspectives on the successes and shortcomings of these operations. This practice was not only anticipated but also embraced. Notably, in today’s digital age, it has become commonplace to witness former commanders and senior military officers from democratic nations engaging on social media platforms, discussing ongoing issues such as the enduring Ukraine conflict. I myself have contributed periodic comments on this matter.

In light of these precedents, it is essential to recognise the value of allowing former military leaders the opportunity to contribute their insights. This fosters a robust dialogue and enriches public discourse, ultimately leading to a more informed and holistic understanding of complex military endeavors. In the spirit of promoting transparency and collective wisdom, I intend to continue sharing my observations and viewpoints, mindful of the responsibility that comes with my position as a retired Lieutenant Colonel and former Commander of the GNA.

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One doesn’t need to hold a diploma from a war college to discern the correlation between the resurgence of diverse viewpoints from retired military officers and commanders in democratic nations and the unfolding of wars – a phenomenon notably accentuated within the United States. Noteworthy figures such as General Howell Patraeus, General Wesley K Clark, and Colonel Douglas Macgregor, despite their retirement from active service, continue to be in demand for their valuable insights and perspectives on global conflicts, spanning the periods preceding, during, and following such events.

Only those embedded within the circle of commanders from the GFA might construe such actions as a breach of military protocols. This standpoint could possibly arise from their unfamiliarity with prevailing contemporary military norms.

Hence, as someone who previously held the position of commander within the GNA, I feel an obligation to candidly express my apprehensions concerning the reasoning behind deploying Gambian soldiers overseas to partake in a contentious war. These concerns are underlined by the fact that these soldiers have been engaged in an ongoing security reform for six years, aimed at bolstering their efficiency and professionalism. It becomes incumbent upon me to question the rationale behind dispatching Gambian soldiers into a controversial conflict while Ecowas forces remain stationed in The Gambia, awaiting the culmination of a long-awaited and necessary GAF reform prior to their withdrawal. The situation becomes even more perplexing when these very soldiers are being prepared by Ecowas for deployment to Niger to confront an unidentified adversary.

Although I would have supported an international peacekeeping mission involving the GAF, with Ecomig providing interim support during their absence, I staunchly oppose their involvement in the ongoing war. My standpoint is rooted in my conviction that such a deployment does not align with the best interests of the GAF or the nation at large. Simply correct me if I am wrong!

In conclusion, I wish to emphasise that it is both my responsibility and prerogative, as a former army commander and military scholar, to provide my insights on every conflict transpiring in our world. No quantity of baseless threats can sway me from this duty. I implore my readers to abstain from unwarranted personal attacks, particularly when employing baseless allegations and inflammatory language. It is expected that officers uphold a higher standard of communication, both privately and publicly.

Samsudeen Sarr

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