Malí, problema europeo

Sahel - AfricaEuropa no debe permitir el surgimiento de un Estado yihadista prácticamente a sus puertas, en Malí. Tampoco los vecinos de la zona, en Argelia, que es reticente a actuar abiertamente pero que tiene mucho que perder: en su territorio, la rama magrebí de Al Qaeda atacó ayer unas instalaciones y secuestró a un número indeterminado de extranjeros, tras asesinar a un británico y a un francés. Francia ha actuado con gran rapidez ante la perspectiva inmediata que grupos radicales islamistas que se habían hecho con norte de Malí ocuparan la capital, Bamako, y el conjunto del país. Su intervención viene legitimada por haber sido solicitada por Gobierno Malí, aunque el de Dioncunda Traoré sea régimen pos-golpista, y apoyada posteriormente por el Consejo de Seguridad ONU. El éxito no está ni mucho menos garantizado cuando hablamos de extensiones que duplican la de España. Es, además, la séptima intervención occidental en cuatro años en sociedades musulmanas, y ninguna de ellas ha sido plenamente completada. Incluso la de Libia fue una operación inacabada, pues los mercenarios yihadistas y tuaregs que apoyaron a Gadafi pudieron posteriormente regresar a Malí y desestabilizarlo. Sería deseable que esta vez Francia y la comunidad internacional hicieran un trabajo cabal. Confusión conceptual no ayuda cuando se vuelve a hablar “guerra contra el terror”. Antes que yihadista, la del norte de Malí fue una rebelión de nacionalistas tuaregs, luego superados por militantes que bajaron de Libia con la marca Al Qaeda y con su radicalismo islamista. De momento, Francia actúa sola. Es verdad, como potencia excolonial, ha salido a defender intereses propios en un país en que residen 6.000 de sus conciudadanos. Pero también lo hace en interés de toda Europa, aunque los europeos arrastran los pies de forma vergonzante (muy). Hace un año que el Gobierno de Malí les pidió que intervinieran y llevan meses preparando misión para encuadrar a una fuerza de la Comunidad de Estados de África Occidental. Este plan solo ahora se va a acelerar, es necesario africanizar la solución. Pero ni las capitales europeas ni la alta representante, Catherine Ashton, han estado a la altura de las circunstancias, en una situación en que EEUU ayudará solo con sus medios de inteligencia, si acaso, logísticos; y la OTAN está a la espera. Los titulares europeos de Exteriores que hoy se reúnen con carácter urgencia en Bruselas deben rectificar esta actitud. El presidente francés, François Hollande, ha ganado estatura política dentro y fuera de su país con su decisiva reacción, aunque el objetivo no puede ser tan solo “destruir a los terroristas” como ha afirmado pretender. No es solo Malí, es todo el Sahel el que se ha convertido en un polvorín islamista que hay que desactivar. Y para lograrlo no bastarán las armas. (Fuente: Editorial – El – 17/01/2013)


Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

19 Responses to Malí, problema europeo

  1. Mamadou Doumbia was so thrilled that France intervened this weekend to beat back a jihadi offensive in Mali that on Monday he took me to buy a French flag to mount next to the Malian flag on the dashboard in his taxi. “If you had given me a French flag nine months ago,” he said, “I would have burned it.” Just last week, Mamadou was waiting in Bamako in terror as the Al Qaeda-linked trinity that controls northern Mali and has imposed a form of Shariah law there advanced southward on multiple fronts. With the militants closing in on the buffer zone between the rebel-held north and the government-held south, the capital erupted in a series of antigovernment protests and strikes. There was no doubt that Mali, whose political class and military forces were decimated by the northern rebellion and a coup d’état last March, was not ready to meet its enemy in battle. In Bamako, we were receiving reports that Malian soldiers were already starting to shed their uniforms and flee. The jihadis seemed set on capturing Sévaré, a garrison town about 350 miles northeast of Bamako, with an airport of unparalleled strategic importance. But Monday, on our way to the busy intersection where a dozen young boys were selling French flags, Mamadou broke into an enormous smile upon hearing a radio broadcast from Sévaré. French airstrikes had killed 60 jihadi rebels in the northern city of Gao, it reported, and the rest were said to be running away. “People have started to smoke cigarettes and wear long pants!” Mamadou translated for me. “They’re playing soccer in the streets!” he said. The French, by all accounts here, saved Mali from an existential threat and the region from the nightmare of seeing a terrorist stronghold expand.

    Yet the hasty, ad hoc French deployment brings dangers of its own. One consequence is that it legitimizes the putschist regime that toppled a twice-elected president last March. Other governments, in particular Washington, had been reluctant to intervene in Mali, largely because of objections to the continued hold on power of Capt. Aya Sanogo, the leader of last year’s coup. The French’s push forward not only validates his presence; it enhances his powers (…..)

  2. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: There we go again. A miserable medieval country — this time, Mali a former French colony in west Africa — faces an Al Qaeda inspired insurgent movement. According to the Bush Doctrine of war on terror, the insurgency movement is labeled a threat to Western security. The reason is not totally clear to the average citizen. In a surprise tour de force, France anticipates the US, asks NATO and African Union for help and send troops to fight the insurgents. If the fight gets tough and prolonged — and financially costly — France will bail out and pass the buck to the US as it did in Vietnam after being defeated in Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

    The lesson from Mali — if the insurgent movement is not defeated rapidly — is that war on terror is an American creation and will be fought and paid by US taxpayers. Europe and Japan can no longer afford costly wars waged by the US.

  3. When French President François Hollande addressed the press in Dubai on Tuesday evening, it was impossible not to think of Afghanistan. Relying on the strong rhetoric he has used so often in the past few days, Hollande struck a belligerent tone. And then, in a single sentence, he defined the aims of the operation France launched in Mali last Friday: “We have one goal. To ensure that when we leave, when we end our intervention, Mali is safe, has legitimate authorities, an electoral process and there are no more terrorists threatening its territory.”

    Just as the international community did at the beginning of the Afghanistan intervention, Hollande has set the bar high. To be sure, the comparisons between the current crisis in Mali and the situation in Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2001 are far from perfect. Still, the goals the French president has set for Mali are just as distant as those established by Washington when it launched the war in the wake of the devastating al-Qaida terror attacks in the US. And in Afghanistan, 12 years after that mission began, very few of those original goals have been met.

    Hollande’s statement made it clear that the French operation is not merely a brief intervention to stop the Islamist advance from northern Mali toward the capital in the south. Rather, Paris is looking for support from Africa, Europe, the US and elsewhere for an operation aimed at freeing northern Mali from the yoke of Islamist extremism and establishing long-term stability in the country. Those who join him must be prepared for a long and difficult war. The transportation of men and matériel are difficult enough. So far, the French have some 750 soldiers in Mali. A third of them are stationed directly on the border of the region under Islamist control, with additional units still in the capital, Bamako, preparing to head to the front (…..)

  4. The attack on the Algerian gas field has raised fears of the conflict in Mali becoming an international battle bleeding across the porous borders of the Sahel and Sahara region. It also presents a major challenge to the military-dominated regime in Algiers – still in the shadow of a decade of bloody civil war – which had been accused of having an ambiguous stance towards the Mali crisis. Algeria will now firmly be dragged into resolving the Mali conflict, while also dealing with the return of major action by Islamist groups on its home turf.

    The hostage-taking has spelled out the complexities of the unrest in the Sahel: a tangled mix of communal tensions, economic struggle, desertification, poverty, criminality, kidnapping and smuggling, which shifts seamlessly across borders.

    With six days of French airstrikes failing to erode the Islamist gains in Mali, French special forces prepared to launch a land assault on Wednesday around Diabaly, 250 miles (450 km) from the capital. France’s aim is to secure the vast desert area seized last year by an Islamist alliance, which combines al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – the terrorist network’s north African wing – with Mali’s homegrown Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mojwa) and Ansar Dine rebel groups. But the Algerian hostage drama at the BP oilfield far away to the north at the Algerian-Libyan border marks a turning point and a widening of the game. Attacks on oil-rich Algeria’s hydrocarbon facilities are very rare, despite the country’s decades of fighting an Islamist insurgency, mostly in the north. Jon Marks, associate fellow at Chatham House, London’s leading foreign affairs thinktank, said: “The attack is remarkable for a number of reasons.

    “If you look at Algeria’s conflict of the 1990s, out of which AQIM sprang, the major oil and gas fields of the deep south, a strategic interest to Europe, were not attacked. Even in Algeria’s bloody history, this is the first time there has been major attack on a hydrocarbon facility”. “It shows the degree to which the events in Mali are an international Sahel and Sahara-wide issue. These groups are international: including Malians, people who came from the Libya conflict, but also from Algeria and Mauritania”.

    He said the attack showed how deep-rooted those groups were. “The groups we are now calling AQIM, that the French military are targeting, have roots going back decades in the region. They have been involved in cigarette smuggling, electronic goods smuggling, guns, drugs, a lot of criminality.” He described it as a potent “interface” where criminality meets politics in an area that is “more and more desperate” (…..)

  5. As Islamic militants methodically carved out a base in the desert of northern Mali over the past year, officials in Washington, Paris and African capitals struggling with military plans to drive the Islamists out of the country agreed on one principle: African troops, not European or American soldiers, would fight the battle of Mali. But the surprise French assault last Friday to blunt the Islamists’ advance upended those plans and set off a cascading series of events, culminating in a raid on Wednesday by militants on a foreign-run gas field in Algeria.

    That attack threatens to widen the violence in an impoverished region and drag Western governments deeper into combating an incipient insurgency. And yet the rush of events has masked the fact that officials in Washington still have only an impressionistic understanding of the militant groups that have established a safe haven in Mali, and they are divided about whether some of these groups even pose a threat to the United States. Moreover, the hostage situation in Algeria has only heightened concerns that a Western military intervention could transform militant groups that once had only a regional focus into avowed enemies of the United States — in other words, that the backlash might end up being worse than the original threat. Largely for these reasons, the Obama administration adopted a strategy over the past year to contain the Islamists in Mali until African troops were ready to confront them, rather than to challenge them directly with an American military campaign of drone strikes or commando raids. During Congressional testimony in June, Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, played down the terrorist threat to the United States from Mali, saying that the Qaeda affiliate operating there “has not demonstrated the capability to threaten U.S. interests outside of West or North Africa, and it has not threatened to attack the U.S. homeland.” Some Pentagon officials have long taken a more hawkish stance, and they cite intelligence reports that fighters with ties to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has a loose affiliation to the remnants of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, played a role in the deadly attack in September on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. They have pushed for targeted strikes against Islamist leaders in northern Mali, arguing that killing the leadership could permanently cripple the strength of the militants (…..)

  6. (NYT GOLDEN PICK) Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Mali raises another question in the use of the Bush-Obama national security doctrine of war on terror. The question is: Will the US intervene in any insurgent movement labelled Al Qaeda sponsored? the latitude of such doctrine makes US military action almost inevitable in many regional conflicts. The ongoing civil war in Syria is a good example since Al Qaeda is supposedly involved in the conflict.

  7. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Addition to my comments above. The Bush-Obama national security doctrine reminds me of Hotel California: “Relax,” said the night man, We are programmed to receive; You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!”

  8. What went wrong with the counterterrorism efforts the State and Defense departments ran in Mali for 10 years?

    French troops are moving against Islamist fighters who’ve traveled south from northern Mali. The White House or Congress, or both, should examine why the U.S. programs targeting the groups failed. It’s worth understanding, since the United States is trying similar efforts in other nations. In November 2002, the State Department announced that officials from its Office of Counterterrorism had visited Mali and other West African countries to brief governments on the Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI), which was “designed to protect borders . . . combat terrorism, and enhance regional cooperation and stability.” Despite those big goals, State funded PSI with only $7.75 million, the first $6.65 million coming in 2004. With that money, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) sent U.S. Special Forces training units to work with the Mali military. The fear was that Islamic fighters driven from Afghanistan would settle in northern Mali. Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeffrey B. Kohler, then head of planning at EUCOM, said, “We’re helping to teach them [the Malian military] how to control this area themselves so they can keep it from being used by terrorists” (…..)

    The U.S. Africa Command had planned to hold a Flintlock 2012 exercise in Mali, but it was canceled because of problems in the north. Then the coup in March ended U.S. military assistance. Even coup leader Capt. Amadou Sanogo represents something of a U.S. failure. He had participated in the Pentagon’s International Military Education and Training programs, with basic training at Fort Benning, Ga.; English-language training at Lackland Air Force Base, Tex.; an intelligence course at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; and study at Quantico, Va., with the Marine Corps. Last November, Army Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr., deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, told a Defense Strategies Institute conference in Alexandria that “we are not going to kill our way to victory” using Navy SEAL raids and drone strikes alone. What’s needed, he said, are “preemptive efforts before the fight starts . . . done with [host country] partners.” Wasn’t that our Mali strategy?

  9. The latest intervention shows that the only military allies that France can capably rely upon are the United Kingdom and the United States. This raises an important question about the strategic future of Europe and the transatlantic community. Does the future of crisis management in key strategic areas for Europe lie in the EU or in the transatlantic triangle of France, the U.K., and the United States, a situation in which Germany remains conspicuously absent and where other European states — such as the Nordic countries and Poland — can increase their strategic relevance? It is, in that sense, interesting that the two countries that have contributed the quickest to the mission — the U.K. and Denmark — are hostile to or absent in the ongoing Common Security and Defense Policy negotiations. The predominant absence of European contributions to the Mali mission also reflects the general absence of interest in Africa for many European countries. This is a misguided calculation, as Europe’s emerging security threats lie more in Africa than in the Pacific. In fact, at a time when the United States and Europe are preoccupied with the effects of emerging economies — in particular China — more attention should be paid to the dangers posed by failed and failing states in Africa, and especially in the Sahel. U.S. President Barack Obama has already invested considerable resources in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia, including military support and training for local security forces so they can then contain threats on their own. But this outsourcing strategy cannot work if such military training is conducted in a political vacuum, such as if the security forces being trained are not attached to or do not pledge allegiance to a legitimate political authority.

    Current and looming threats in Africa cannot wait for Brussels to get its house in order. In the face of U.S. disengagement from certain regions, the glacial pace at which decisions are taken at the national level to support France’s efforts in Mali only underscores the need for European leaders to be willing to discuss common security issues. Perhaps only then will Europe to remain (or finally become?) a strategically relevant actor.

    (source: Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer and Martin Michelot – German Marshall Fund)

  10. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is an extremely disciplined politician. Even when speaking off the record, she weighs her words carefully and avoids strong language. But a few weeks ago, during a classified meeting of the Federal Security Council, Gerhard Schindler, head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), gave a presentation on the situation in Mali. The chancellor exclaimed: “What a crap region” (…..) While Germans don’t seem to be involved in the hostage incident, it has become increasingly clear that Berlin cannot stand on the sidelines. On Wednesday, Germany provided more details about its offer of logistical assistance, saying it will rapidly transfer two Transall cargo airplanes to the region. They are primarily to be used for flying soldiers into Mali from the West African alliance ECOWAS, which has pledged to send up to 3,300 troops to join the 2,500 French soldiers that Paris has promised. The German planes will only be authorized to fly into the relatively safe Malian capital city of Bamako. The narrow limits of the mission presented by Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle are by design — it means that German parliament does not have to grant its approval. But it also shows just how nervous Germany is about the new foreign hotspot.

    Under no circumstances does Germany want to become involved in a messy conflict with no clear end in sight — particularly not in an election year

    (…..) Experience has shown that those involved, no matter what their capacity, can quickly become enmeshed in war, says one source in the Merkel government. Germany fears that if the French meet more resistance from the Islamists than expected, Paris could request additional urgent military support from its partners. Such a situation would place Berlin in a difficult dilemma, having to choose between solidarity with France and its own declared unwillingness to become directly involved in the fighting. Some parliamentarians in Merkel’s governing coalition are even unwilling to rule out such an eventuality. War, they say, can’t be planned. Merkel and her cabinet aren’t willing to go that far, but the chancellor and Defense Minister de Maizière have indicated a willingness to review their current offer as needed.

    “If the situation changes, then we would of course not shy away from petitioning parliament for a mandate,” Merkel said. Such a mandate is necessary for “armed” missions. German troops, in other words, could ultimately become more involved.

  11. “Take but degree away, untune that string, and hark what discord follows.” This Jacobean plea for stability should be ringing in our ears as we watch the latest manifestation of instability in the Middle East/North Africa (Mena), this time in Algeria. And while much of the Arab Spring was self-generated, current troubles in the Sahel owe a great deal to the Nato “triumph” in assisting in the downfall of Gaddafi. In autumn 2010 I visited Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Egypt before my post in International Security Policy at the MoD was scrapped as “nothing ever happens in the Mena region” (I then moved to a newly formed cyber security post). As I had found in a previous trip to Sudan, the greatest threat in the region came from the changing manifestation of Islamic observance, from locally attuned or Sufi to Salafism/Wahhabism. The cause was the spread of madrasahs built, staffed and indoctrinated by Saudi money and theology, a spread evident across Muslim North Africa and down the Indian Ocean coast from Somalia through Kenya to Tanzania. In doing business with these regimes, the UK held its human rights nose, as the methods these states employed owed more to local than Western standards. And no surprise, for the challenges are horrendous. Algeria is now (since the split of Sudan) the largest country in Africa. “Our man in Algiers” is closer to London than he is to the oil fields he is reporting on. The scale of the challenge of controlling the Sahel would defeat the US. We should not wonder at the local methods of “control”. Gaddafi was a lynchpin in this informal Sahel security plan, in which all the above participants, opponents on so many other issues, were united – the suppression of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb and stability in the Sahel. Gaddafi’s overthrow broke all kinds of local ethnic, tribal and commercial bargains and power-broking arrangements that we never understood. We should not be surprised if the Algerian response again owes more to local than Western custom. And we should not rush to criticise, for there is no easy alternative.

  12. A colleague’s question could have come from anyone in the United States. “So the French now have their own Afghanistan?” he asked. The answer is yes and no. Several thousand jihadists threaten to destabilize Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Algeria. Beyond the human rights abuses, their attacks will discourage foreign investment, paralyze local economies and produce vast numbers of refugees. Skeptics play down the threat, but the instability these extremists create will spread over time. The tragic kidnapping in Algeria, where many hostages appear to have died in a rescue attempt, is already prompting oil companies to pull foreign workers out of the region. Islamists can’t be ignored and won’t disappear. They should be confronted or contained. The question is how. To ensure that Mali is not another Afghanistan, it is vital that France and the international community have reliable allies on the ground. They should mount diplomatic and economic efforts not just lethal force against the jihadists as well. Many commentators immediately dismissed France’s intervention. Some denounced it as “militarism.” Others declared it “neo-colonialism.” The most common phrase was “quagmire” (…..) The Islamist fighters have taken control of northern Mali with surprising speed. They are well organized, heavily armed and in control of a desert area the size of France. Their fighters include members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, a North Africa-based group allied with al Qaeda. In the future, they could easily use Mali as a base to carry out attacks in France and Europe. Until now, the group has not said it intends to carry out attacks in the United States, but members of the groups are believed to have been involved in the murder of the American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans. They have also amassed an estimated $100 million by kidnapping Westerners and demanding enormous ransoms. Robert Fowler, a Canadian diplomat who was kidnapped by the group in 2009, said his captors told him their hope was to create an Islamic emirate that spanned Africa. “They would tell me repeatedly that their objective was to extend the chaos of Somalia across the Sahel to the Atlantic coast,” Fowler said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “They believed that in that chaos their jihad would thrive.” My perspective is not neutral. Four years ago two Afghan colleagues and I were kidnapped by the Taliban and held captive for seven months in Pakistan. I saw their brutality, ignorance and determination first-hand. I believe economic growth is the best way to counter militancy, not massive Western military interventions. To me, a threat exists from militancy. It is not manufactured. Yet we declare that there is no threat or we grow impatient when it is not quickly solved. France faces months of casualties and conflict, but that should be expected. Quick solutions are illusory. So are claims that we can ignore violent militants. Countering militancy involves a combination of limited military force, expansive diplomacy and patience. We, Americans, rarely show those qualities. I hope the French do.

  13. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Mali will be forgotten unless the military conflict prolongs in time, expands and get the US directly involved. France’s priority today is stop wealthy folks from fleeing the country to avoid paying higher taxes. Mali is the first regional armed conflict, post Iraq-Afghanistan wars, to test the application of the Bush-Obama war on terror doctrine. If the French convince Americans that Mali’s insurgency is Al Qaeda related — there are good reasons to think they can — the fight will be shifted to the American taxpayers.

  14. (…..) As early as last April, Alain Juppé, the then French foreign minister, was warning of the “extremely grave threat” posed by the Qaeda-linked insurgents and their aim of establishing a jihadist regime in northern Mali. In early September, António Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, was telling readers of the IHT: If unchecked, the Mali crisis threatens to create an arc of instability extending west into Mauritania and east through Niger, Chad and Sudan to the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, characterized by extended spaces where state authority is weak and pockets of territorial control are exercised by transnational criminals. So, did the international community, and Europe in particular, react too slowly to the escalating crisis? Or has France acted precipitously in opting for a military solution to contain the threat? David Rohde writes elsewhere on Rendezvous that regional experts believe the French had to act. But, as French troops launched ground operations this week in support of local forces, how far are France’s European allies prepared to be sucked into a potential Malian quagmire? Germany, Denmark and Britain are among European Union partners that have offered logistical support in Mali. However, as David Cameron, the British prime minister, assured Parliament when he announced the offer of transport aircraft to assist the French mission, there was no question of putting British boots on the ground (…..)

  15. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Mali’s conflict is a litmus test to evaluate (a) the future of the Bush-Obama war on terror doctrine; and (b) whether the European Union can afford to incorporate the doctrine in their foreign policy approach. Financial and political reasons preclude the EU to incorporate the Bush-Obama doctrine into action. Europe is under tremendous political stress due to an economic recession and a public debt crisis that threats the integration process and the Euro. Overwhelmingly, public opinion favors military spending cuts in favor of keeping intact social spending. Even England is making deep cuts in military spending. The US has been the military striking force in the third world since WW II. However, a decade of costly military wars in Iraq-Afghanistan finds the US as the largest debtor nation in the world. Foreigners now lend 55 cents on each dollar of issued debt. Taxpayers are fiercely opposed to any tax increase. Politically, Obama cannot get the US involved in another costly military conflict if Democrats expect to continue occupying the White House. The Bush-Obama war on terror doctrine has a serious flaw. Its interpretation is so wide open that any insurgent group can be designated a terrorist threat. Mali is a good case in point. How does the Obama administration respond if the conflict becomes regional? France has said that Al Qaeda is involved in the insurgency, and alone it cannot handle the situation. Washington is invited to take center stage.

  16. The desert sands of Mali and Algeria provide an unlikely arena for an existential challenge to the global alliance system the United States has managed since World War II. But the hesitant and timid U.S. and European Union responses to the crisis in northwestern Africa drip like acid on the rock of alliance cohesion. The Obama administration’s self-described preference to lead from behind in messy conflicts in the Islamic world has much value for war-weary, financially strapped Americans. But great care must be taken with that approach to avoid driving U.S. leadership into a strategic dead end. After days of very public hesitations by Washington and Brussels to provide even non-lethal help — such as in-air refueling — to France’s reluctant intervention in Mali, the United States and the 27-nation European Union committed just four transport aircraft to the effort (…..)

    Hollande expected to spend this week swaddled in the glory of celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty of cooperation between France and Germany. Charles de Gaulle conceived that document as the foundation for France’s exit from its colonial past into a European future built on French-German partnership. Instead, Hollande grimly deals like the Lone Ranger with a desperate post-colonial expedition totally at odds with Germany’s hypercaution on foreign military involvement. Growing divergences between Paris and Berlin in economic policies and performance also undercut the joint vision and commitment needed to maintain European unity.

    The Obama administration appears to give insufficient weight to the complex interaction of the many moving parts in international relations as it rolls out one tactical response after another on Syria, Iran, and China and now to justified requests for quick help from a European ally willing to lead from the front (…..) Worse: The problem may be even larger and more insidious. Interlocking modern revolutions in instantaneous global communications, social media, trade and means of warfare have created a world that increasingly grants neither the time nor the space leaders need to develop and implement coherent strategic options (…..)

    A West African diplomat with whom I discussed U.S., British and French involvement in Libya nearly a year ago put it more succinctly: “We saw what you could do militarily in Libya. But we are not impressed by the after-sales service.”

  17. (…..) Concern at the international composition of the Algerian kidnap brigade will be compounded by reports from residents in Diabaly, Mali, that Islamists who overran the town last week contained English-speakers and militants of European appearance. Speaking to The Independent yesterday after French and Malian forces had retaken the town, student Amadu Dumbia said: “I definitely heard them and there’s no chance that I made a mistake with another language. They spoke like they were from England, but had darker skins.” Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of the group who is suspected of masterminding the gas plant attack from outside Algeria, yesterday warned that there would be more attacks on those participating in the military campaign in neighbouring Mali. In a statement to a radio station in Mauritania, which received regular communications from the militants during the In Amenas plant siege, the Algerian-born militant said: “We warn all the states who took part in the Crusader campaign against the Azwad region [northern Mali] that if they do not retreat from their decision there will be more operations.” He also insisted that the brigade which undertook the attack was not local, saying “only five Algerians” took part in the attack and “none of them were locals from the city”. Prime Minister David Cameron today told the Commons that the West faced a “generational struggle” in combating the “poisonous ideology” of Islamic extremists in the Sahel. Mr Cameron said that Britain would join the manhunt for Belmokhtar and promised extra support for the French campaign in Mali. Echoing the language used by Tony Blair in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, he said: “This is the work our generation faces and we must demonstrate the same resolve and sense of purpose as previous generations have with the challenges that they faced in this House and in this country” (…..)

  18. Alas, poor Mali. Finally it is getting some sustained world attention, only to be widely depicted as a benighted sandbox full of killers on camels. Nine months back, I wrote with more wishful thinking than reasoned analysis that Mali might find its way back to the kaleidoscope culture, easy tolerance and boisterous democracy that had made it one of my favorite places on earth. Fat chance of that now. As a kid in Tucson, Arizona, I fantasized about ancient adobe splendor in Timbuktu. I nearly got there in 1969. The Air Mali (Air Maybe, more commonly) plane was about to touch down, but a sudden sandstorm obscured the runway. Instead, I explored dramatic Bandiagara Cliffs of Dogon country, near Mopti, The Grand Mosque at Djenné (above) and spice-scented markets ablaze in color at Segou. At a party in Bamako, I heard a guy named Toumani Diabati play magic on a stringed kora. By the time Malian music got famous, and Ali Farka Touré recorded “Talking Timbuktu” with Ry Cooder, I’d gotten to the exotic old city again and again. This is not a travelogue; it’s a lament.

    Web chatter and guesswork reporting are predicting that a few French Legionnaires, African troops, and some air strikes will push Islamist zealots off the map. Don’t count on it. The sandbox portion of Mali is twice the size of France, dappled with caves and rocky outcrops, across which Tuaregs have traveled for a millennium. Religious fervor and Qaeda campaigns are only part of it. Mali is at war with itself, a nomadic north against a sedentary south.

    One dispatch from a distance called Tuaregs “the blue people,” which brings to mind that popular trio of painted entertainers. Those Blue Men of the Desert are named for the indigo that dyes their turbans. They are very tough dudes, whose victories and losses are not easily tracked as “breaking news” (…..)

  19. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Mort Rosenblum’s piece provides context and background to understand the ongoing conflict in Mali. This kind of analysis provides useful information to understand conflicts in forgotten places. Mali appears to be the epicenter of another bloody regional conflict in Africa. The US eventually will be dragged into it. The Bush-Obama war on terror doctrine is wide open to encompass this kind of regional conflict. Moreover, desert warfare is particularly suitable for the use of armed drones.


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