In a recent article the question was asked as to whether the war on terror is back in vogue. In that article I referenced the possibility of an attack against Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) which is occupying the northern portion of Mali. This article provides information about the situation in Mali.
For the geographically challenged Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. It is bordered by Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. It is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Recently the UN Security Council approved a resolution authorizing an international military intervention in Mali. Subsequent to that resolution the Al Qaeda linked terrorist group signed an agreement to stop fighting. It had filled a power vacuum in the northern part of the country following a national coup last March.
The UN resolution followed a debate between France and the US on timing. The issue boiled down to whether France and the US would train Malian militia before the attack. The US has had a training mission in Mali for several years but wanted to expand it to insure military success on the part of the attacking soldiers without active US support. There was agreement in the UN that there must be a two-track solution, political and military, to try to wrest control of northern Mali -an area the size of Texas – and successfully reunite the country.
The resolution calls for political reconciliation, elections and the training of the country’s security forces before any operation is launched to reclaim Mali’s northern areas.
The US has had Special Forces troops in Mali for several years to provide training and along with other European militaries has conducted exercises with Malian forces.
Our recent articles about the Dagger Brigade suggest that it may be given the training mission.
In November the African Union asked the Security Council to endorse a military intervention to free northern Mali. The plan, agreed to by leaders of the West African bloc known as ECOWAS, calls for 3,300 soldiers to be deployed to Mali for an initial period of one year. However a report to the Security Council raised fundamental questions on how the international force and Malian security and defense force would be led, sustained, trained, equipped and financed remain. The report added that outside support would be needed to train, equip, and provide logistics and funding for both forces.
The UN peacekeeping chief said he doesn’t expect the military offensive to oust AQIM to begin until September or October of next year because of the need for training and the rainy season in Mali. Any military operation to rout the MNLA and MUJWA from an area the size of Texas will be difficult, analysts have warned. “It is likely AQIM will avoid direct confrontation, in which case the intervention force would have no chance,” a senior French officer told the AFP news agency. “If the force sent to deal with them is credible will certainly leave the towns and head for their sanctuaries in the mountain ranges close to the Algerian border… and that will become a different ball game to dislodge them.”
It is interesting that the coalition between Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger who joined forces to fight against AQIM in the Sahel region have not taken on this problem by themselves.
Next fall will be the decisive time for this little part of the war on terror.