Operation Enduring Freedom - Chad
On 11 March 2004, news sources reported that a firefight had occurred between the Chad military and an Algerian terrorist group, Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). This firefight, which was believed to have resulted in the death of some 43 GSPC members, apparently began in Niger and crossed into Chad. Reports indicated that the combat operations were supported by the United States, which provided communications, intelligence and reconnaissance support. The fighting took place over 2 days. The group, led by a former Algerian soldier named Saifi Ammari and nicknamed "the Para," had been tracked across the Sahara from its bases in the Algeria-Mali border area.
On March 15, 2004, European Command issued a release indicating that according to Chad officials, 3 Chadian army soldiers were killed and 16 were injured when they encountered and engaged a group of fighters from the Salafist Group for Call and Combat who had crossed from Niger into Chad between the cities of Zouarke and Wour, 600 kilometers North of there. Officials also said that 40 of the militants were killed and 4 were taken into custody.
On or about 15 March 2004, the US military delivered food, medical supplies and other assistance to Chad, to support government troops there who had battled suspected terrorists linked to al-Qaida. Two C-130 Hercules cargo planes delivered more than 19 (metric) tons of aid to Chad, including food, blankets, and medical supplies. The rush mission was ordered by the US military's European Command, following a request from the government of Chad. The aircraft were from the 37th Airlift Squadron based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Landing on the 7,700-foot runway just outside of Faya-Largeau, the crews taxied the C-130s amid scrub brush and sand. The temperature soared into the 100s at the one-building airport. More than three-dozen armed Chadians, ready to help download the aircraft, greeted the crews. With no heavy equipment in sight to unload the aircraft, the crew opted to "combat offload" the 9 pallets of food, blankets, and medical supplies. While the aircrew took care of getting the aid off the aircraft and to the Chadian forces, members of the 86th Contingency Response Group from Ramstein handled security at the austere airfield where the aid was being delivered.
US supported anti-terror operations in Chad were not related to US aid and assistance provided under the Pan Safel Initiative. The Pan Sahel Initiative was a US Department of State Security Assistance Program focusing on 4 countries in the Sahara region of Africa. The initiative supports US national security interests combating terrorism and enhancing regional peace and security. It directly assisted Mali, Niger, Chad, and Mauritania in protecting their borders and exploiting opportunities to detect and deter terrorists by providing basic training and equipment.
While initial statements from the US State Department spokemen stated that US forces did not participate in either the initial operations in March 2004 or subsequent operations in Chad, subsequent reports indicated that US support to Chadian forces included a Navy P-3 aircraft operating from Algeria, likely part of Joint Task Force Aztec Silence, and roughly 100 American servicemen, possibly Special Forces from 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
While this and other operations in Africa conducted by the United States have received little publicity due to regional sensitivities, it was reported that this operation is part of a broader effort by the US to support Algeria, Mali, and Niger in dealing with the GSPC. Operations in Chad were referred to as Operation Enduring Freedom - Chad, and were likely folded in with Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara, which began in 2005 as a component of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI), later renamed the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), which was an outgrowth of the Pan Sahel Initiative.
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