Libya and Mali: Forever Linked Together

the capital within a few days. The day after Konna was lost the French took military action to support the Malian government’s efforts to push back the Islamist force Eye witnesses reported that the advancing Islamist forces were severely mauled by French aircraft and attack helicopters. By Tuesday evening French ground forces had began to engage the Islamist.

Malian governmental soldiers joined by French forces surrounded a sizable Islamist rebel force at the town of Diabaly. Military and civilian witnesses are reporting that the Islamists have embedded themselves among the civilian population. The public is being used as human shields to thwart France’s superior military power. According to a New York Times January 16, 2013 article – “French Troops Move North as Mali Rebels Dig In”– written by a trio of correspondents:

“Containing the rebels’ southern advance toward Bamako is proving more challenging than anticipated, French military officials have acknowledged. And with the Malian Army in disarray and no outside African force yet assembled, displacing the rebels from the country altogether appears to be an elusive, long-term challenge”

France and its allies have to be dismayed that no African nation has sent troops to join in the fight for Mali’s freedom. Prior to committing military resources to Mali French officials made it clear that their country was acting to protect strategic interests and not for humanitarian reasons. The objective of the French campaign is to prevent al-Qaeda from establishing an Islamic state in Africa from which European and American interests could be threatened. Frances is not concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the Islamists’ presence in Mali.

It is not believed that France can free Mali of the Islamists’ hold. Mali is about the size of California and Texas combined. There is simply too much area in which the Islamist can retreat into, regroup and wait for the proper moment to resume their takeover of the country. The al-Qaeda network is vast and well financed. Islamist Jihadists can be sent from various countries to fight in Mali. Fresh fighters can enter the country through the porous northern border at will The West should consider other options in light of its long term strategic interests. The Mali government has failed to address the needs of the underdeveloped northern part of the country and the Tuareg ethnic group has been completely marginalized. This is a problem that Mali has created for itself. There is little doubt that France can militarily defeat the Islamist and weaken their hold on the north. In the end it might be necessary to resurrect the Tuareg rebels as a fighting force though they would have to be offered tangible political power and economic incentives. It is possible that they could be used as proxies to  eliminate the al-Qaeda presence in northern Mali. The rebels would undoubtedly ask for independence in exchange for their existence. France does not want to re-colonize Mali to impose political stability. I believe that in near future Mali will become to separate countries.

The U.S. is reluctant  to become militarily involved in Mali. U.S. policy makers are not convinced that Mali can be counted on as a trustworthy partner. For some time U.S. military advisers have been training Mali’s officers in tactics to fight the insurgents. Some of the soldiers that were in the training program deserted from the army to join the Islamists. They took with them their American made weapons. U. S. trained Capt. Sonago led the March 2012 coup against the government. His actions led to the chaos that permitted the Islamists and Tuareg rebels to assert their control over the northern part of the country. Only a sustained ground war can defeat and dislodge the Islamists militias from Mali. Any such campaign must be funding with billions of dollars. The Americans are not to keen on again committing vast resources to fight insurgencies, regardless of where they might be located. The lessons learned in Afghanistan will not be quickly forgotten.

The better reasoning leads to the conclusion that France cannot defeat the Jihadists without involving the local Malian population in a comprehensive counter-terrorism policy. The ordinary Malians must be integrated into a comprehensive political agenda that seeks long term stability. Before implementing any political solution the West must first determine if Mali’s current problems are due to a strong Jihadist movement or the lack of effective government.

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