Libya and Mali: Forever Linked Together

could readily transport. Clearly the Qaddafi regime had stopped paying them so their business in Libya had come to an end.

Some of Qaddafi’s staunchest supporters realized that the end of the regime was near. They too stopped fighting against the inevitable and decided to go into business for themselves. They removed from the country and/or sold military hardware to the only buyer with cash and a willingness to buy, legally or illegally, arms; the Islamist extremists.

In my opinion the removal of Qaddafi has had negative repercussions for the West in Egypt, Syria, and certain African nations. Yet, the issue that now confronts France, Britain and the United States is how best to meet the march of Islamist extremism in Mali.

While fighting as mercenaries in Libya the Malian Tuareg rebels had status and a station in life that was not attainable in Mali. Col. Qaddafi made sure that his mercenaries were well paid and properly housed. The mercenaries were afforded a status in Libyan society. Since they were not fighting in any particular conflict the rebels from Mali were able to fulfill their contract obligations without too much risk to their person. It was possible for them to support their families back in Mali. While stationed in Libya the Tuareg rebels received extensive military training and always had an opportunity to receive an educational. Some of the rebels returned to Mali for a time to fight for “their homeland.” The Tuareg rebels’ good life in Libya come to an abrupt end when the West using the military might of NATO brought about the collapse of their benefactor, Col. Qaddafi. The highly trained rebels returned to a Mali that had nothing to offer them in comparison to what they had lost in Libya. I think it is safe to assume that these Tuareg fighters harbored resentment towards the West for destroying their good life. Unfortunately for the returning rebels their source of financial support and arming no longer existed. They were on their own in Mali.

For years the Tuareg ethnic freedom fighters had fought and against and negotiated with the Malian government. The authorities from the South make many promises and agreed to some terms but never took steps to carry out any reforms. Many in the government realized that the returning Malian Tuareg rebels from Libya might reignite the rebellious spirit in the north. High level representatives were dispatched from Bamako to meet with the rebels in the north. Unfortunately, by this time the fighters had no confidence in the government’s overtures and renewed promises. The negotiations went nowhere and events were left to run their course. Crushing poverty and complete despair had radicalized the youth into believing that independence was the only path to a better life. They preferred to fight for freedom instead of negotiating for more of the same.

While many of the rebels were away in Libya another group had started to infiltrate the north and established a political and military presence. Ansar Dine, a militant extremist Muslim group had settled into the region. Roughly translated from Arabic to English Ansar Dine means the “defenders of the faith.” Actually the group is made up of a number of Islamic fundamentalist groups. One group is led by a former prominent rebel leader, Iyad Ag Ghaly. Western intelligent services believe that he (his group) has ties with the with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Unlike the Tuareg rebels that only wanted to partition Mali in half and declare the north independent, Ansar Dine goals has always been the imposition of Sharia law across all of Mali. The Islamist were better funded and equally armed. Most importantly; the Ansar Dine fighters could count on continued financial and military support where the Tuareg rebels were fighting on borrowed time.

In the beginning Ansar Dine supported the Tuareg rebels’ military action against the Malian military. Experts have said that the rebels would defeat the Malian soldiers while Ansar Dine would hoist a flag and start giving the civilian population orders. The alliance between the two groups was tenuous at best and short-lived.

The Malian Army has never been an effective fight force. Its soldiers are poorly trained and their equipment was outdated when it was handed out. The leaders of the country expected the army to quell the insurgencies in the North though it never gave its troops the means to carry out its mission. By March 2012 many soldiers had become fed up with the government’s failure to properly support the Army’s efforts in the north of the country. In what many believe was a spontaneous uprising, soldiers at a base only miles from the presidential palace mutinied. The angry soldiers marched towards the presidential palace. The coup was led by a mid-level officer, Capt. Amadou Sanogo. It does

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