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Thread: Mali mainly, 2012 coup, drugs & more

  1. #241
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    I'm incredibly tired right now, but I remember something about Mali having had relatively decent governance until a year or two, until a coup d'tat happened.
    From the late '90s until last year there had been a working multiparty electoral system. I honestly don't know how much governing the government did, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    We have to rethink the Malian state and if necessary, let the maps reflect the reality on the ground. The more we postpone it the more time we waste.
    For better or worse, Westphalian sovereignty is at the heart of how modern nation states work. The MNLA does appear to be considering confederation/semi-autonomy as a possible acceptable solution to their demands, if I hear this piece correctly.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

  2. #242
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    I did now check up a bit on Mali, with the help that mighty Western imperialist nework. Sometimes it is important to remind oneself of the basics before writing.

    To be honest I'm much surprised that Wikipedia has a rather long article about an unrecognized state called Azawad which was proclaimed by the rebels.

    Demographics


    Timbuktu census in 1950
    Gao (which includes Kidal) census in 1950

    Northern Mali has a population density of 1.5 people per square kilometre.[72] The Malian regions that are claimed by Azawad are listed hereafter (apart from the portion of Mopti Region claimed and occupied by the MNLA). The population figures are from the 2009 census of Mali, taken before Azawadi independence was proclaimed.[73]Since the start of the Tuareg rebellion in January 2012, probably 250,000 former inhabitants have fled from the territory.[74]
    --

    In July 2009, Mali's population was an estimated 14.5 million. The population is predominantly rural (68% in 2002), and 5–10% of Malians are nomadic.[60] More than 90% of the population lives in the southern part of the country, especially in Bamako, which has over 1 million residents.[60]

    In 2007, about 48% of Malians were less than fifteen years old, 49% were 15–64 years old, and 3% were 65 and older.[42] The median age was 15.9 years.[42] The birth rate in 2012 was 45.2 births per 1,000, and the total fertility rate was 6.4 children per woman.[42] The death rate in 2007 was 16.5 deaths per 1,000.[42] Life expectancy at birth was 49.5 years total (47.6 for males and 51.5 for females).[42] Mali has one of the world's highest rates of infant mortality,[60] with 106 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007.[42]
    If the 2009 census and the reports are mostly correct the northern territory is populated, after taking some general population growth into accout, by less then a million. Overall the population is of course very young compared to developed nations and composed of a various ethnic groups with two dominant ones, the Tuareg and Songhai.

    Certainly the north is very sparsely populated and I wonder what which parts parts of the population have in their hearts and minds.

    ---

    P.S: It seems that most of the French fighting force consists of medium forces using wheeled AFVs, which seems rather typical for French operations in similar circumstances. I think it is interesting to compare it to the kind of forces SA used in it's border wars.
    Last edited by Firn; 01-16-2013 at 07:19 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  3. #243
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    The Arabist blog surveys the internal situation, starting with:
    it might be helpful to look forward to what the French campaign is about (and what it’s not), as well as to look north to the implications for North Africa.
    and concludes:
    What does all of this mean for northern Mali – expect periodic bombing campaigns and sustained guerilla fighting/insurgency for the remainder of the year, with the strong likelihood of an ever-present jihadi threat for the foreseeable future. It’s not ideal, not least for the residents of northern Mali, but for the broader Maghreb it is acceptable.
    Link:http://www.arabist.net/blog/2013/1/1...e-maghreb.html

    A Stratfor analyst writes:
    But unlike Afghanistan, with its mountainous terrain, Mali, and other areas of the arid Sahel, are easy to surveil and thus poorly suited to host terrorist training camps. With Western and African military forces converging on Mali, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb will struggle to survive.
    Link:http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate...-in-the-desert

    Not very convincing IMO. Mali is the same size as Afghanistan, yes it is arid mainly in the "rebel" north; the sheer scale of surveillance - especially if minus any meaningful ground coverage and 'training camps' are pre-9/11. There are ample alternatives, especially if the focus is not on attacking the 'far enemy'.
    davidbfpo

  4. #244
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    A fascinating biography, context and details on 'The Chameleon':
    Since the seizure of northern Mali during 2012 the Malian jihadist figure Oumar Ould Hamaha has emerged from the often formless haze of rarely glimpsed AQIM kidnap groups operating in the Sahel region.

    (It ends)..Despite the apparent fractures between AQIM, MOJWA, Belmokhtar and others, the case study of Oumar Ould Hamaha suggests that factional politics and rivalries is unlikely to alter the practical relationships on the ground of the jihadist elements in the Sahel region that have operated together in various guises for years.
    Link:http://www.gctat.org/fr/analyses-rap...ee-groups.html

    I've not heard of this Geneva-based think tank, their 'home' page is at:http://www.gctat.org/fr/presentation.html
    davidbfpo

  5. #245
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    I took yesterday a virtual tour of northern Mali to get a better understanding of the geography and the demographics going with it. If we estimate that somewhat less of a million live in those three nothern provinces then it is important to point out that the vast majority of those is of course living along and south of the Niger. Dayuhan already cited the conflicts between Tuareg and islamist groups to which one has to add the mixed ethic and linguistic make-up.

    So the population living under the de-facto rule of the militant groups is rather small and it is difficult to find prove of wide-spread support, certainly not of a single faction or movement. To achieve their recent military success the specific groups didn't to need much manpower or much popular support. To me it seems likely that the jihadis are relative few, transnational, well armed and decently trained and led for the standards of the regions. It will be interesting to see how things turn out.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-17-2013 at 04:15 PM. Reason: Moved here from the parallel mali ripples thread
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  6. #246
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Intelligence gap?

    Some interesting points made, albeit from a US perspective:
    But the surveillance missions in northern Mali have had only a limited effect. Islamist leaders have banned cellphones, closed Internet cafes and shut down cellular towers in an effort to cut the region off from the outside world. With the clock turned back decades, there are few electronic communications for American eavesdroppers to intercept.

    General Ham said that it had been very difficult to get consistent, reliable intelligence about what he called a militant “safe haven” in Mali.

    “It’s tough to penetrate...It’s tough to get access for platforms that can collect. It’s an extraordinarily tough environment for human intelligence, not just ours but the neighboring countries as well.”
    Link:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/wo...agewanted=all&

    I am not so sure about the mobile network being closed, yesterday several experienced reporters cited calling people in the insurgent north.
    davidbfpo

  7. #247
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Reminder and pointer

    More useful for the context given The Guardian chimes in with:
    The French government claim they are merely softening up the territory for military intervention led by the Malian army and a coalition of regional Ecowas forces. What they have failed to mention is that the Malian army hasn't won a military encounter against Tuareg rebels in the north since the early 1960s, at least not without the help of pro-government Tuareg and Arab militias who know the terrain. Unfortunately, these militias won't be on hand to help this time round - not in the short term at least.

    (Later) The Tuareg, discredited by an association with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other jihadist groups that only a small handful of their leaders ever really wanted, will be back where they were before the great rebellion of the early 1990s; a marginalised, harassed and vilified people living under military occupation and watching their nomadic lifestyle and culture slowly disappear.
    Link:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013...war?CMP=twt_gu

    Amidst the comments was a wise one suggesting we look at the war between Morocco and Polisario in Western Sahara, a conflict in a desert, albeit one that was more conventional "hit & run" at the immense defence line built, than an insurgency amongst the people.
    davidbfpo

  8. #248
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    One can certainly see part of the point the Guardian makes about the Tuareg/Moor/Arab groups and the Mali army. As I have written before two major ethnic groups seem to dominate in the northern provinces.
    Mali's population consists of diverse Sub-Saharan ethnic groups, sharing similar historic, cultural, and religious traditions. Exceptions are two nomadic northern groups, the Tuaregs, a Berber people, and Maurs (or Moors), of Arabo-Berber origins. The Tuaregs traditionally have opposed the central government. Starting in June 1990 in the north, Tuaregs seeking greater autonomy led to clashes with the military. In April 1992, the government and most opposing factions signed a pact to end the fighting and restore stability in the north. Its major aims are to allow greater autonomy to the north and increase government resource allocation to what has been a traditionally impoverished region. The peace agreement was celebrated in 1996 in Timbuktu during an official and highly publicized ceremony called "Flamme de la Paix"--(peace flame).

    Historically, interethnic relations throughout the rest of the country were facilitated by easy mobility on the Niger River and across the country's vast savannahs. Each ethnic group was traditionally tied to a specific occupation, all working within proximity to each other, although the distinctions were often blurred. The Bambara, Malink, Sarakole, Dogon and Songhay are farmers; the Fula or Fulani, Maur, and Tuareg are herders, while the Bozo are fishers. In recent years, this linkage has shifted considerably, as ethnic groups seek diverse, nontraditional sources of income.

    Ethnic groups: Mande 50% (Bambara, Malinke, Soninke), Fula[5] 17%, Voltaic 12%, Songhai 6%, Tuareg and Moor 10%, other 5%
    The Songhai seem to be farmers and should be thus mostly be settled in the souther areas of the northern provinces, along the riverbeds and lakes, especially of course along the great Niger. Ok, this ethnic map ( from the African Art Virtual Gallery ) seems to give a general idea of the situation. Note that quite some of the recent fighting took place in the traditional homeland of the Songhai, in areas where relative little Tuareg live. (Both Songhay and Songhai seem to be valid).



    From the Guardian:

    Even if the Malian and Ecowas troops manage to march in and recapture most of the major cities in the north, they're likely to find their enemy strangely invisible. The local youth who have been fighting for one or other of the Islamist katibat or cells will no doubt stash their Kalashnikovs, khaki robes and ammo pouches and don the uniform of the local inhabitants; a civilian robe and a turban that covers the head and face, leaving only the eyes exposed. A junior army officer from Lagos, Cotonou or even Bamako will find it very hard to tell the Islamist apart from the innocent native city-dweller or nomad. Local informants will offer their services and summary executions and brutality against both the guilty and the innocent will ensue. Anger against "white" northerners - Tuareg, Arab and Fulani – that has been brewing among southern black Malians and the darker skinned northerners such as the Songhoi is likely to spill over into racial and ethnic violence. Vigilante groups, such as the feared Songhoi militia, the Ganda Izo, are ready to roar into action with their machetes and petrol cans. Human rights organisations will have to work overtime.
    This linguistic map ( from the Fragile states center) shows a similar picture in the specific area:



    It is of course of great importance to partly ignore the state borders, especially under the present circumstances, Afghanistan docet. The raid in Algeria was certain not needed to give further prove of that.

    Guardian:

    This is the land where the local Tuareg or Arab in his souped-up turbo 4x4 is king. Iyad Ag Ghali, the Tuareg leader of the Salafist Ansar Dine militia, is a master of the kind of hit-and-run guerrilla warfare that suits the desert conditions and the sheer size of territory, roughly equal to that of Spain. His mujahideen showed their verve last Sunday by capturing the small town of Diabaly, north of Mopti, with a lightening strike that originated over the border in Mauritania. This ability to crisscross borders is another important aspect of the Islamists' Houdini-esque style of combat.
    In this case it was a raid out of the traditional Moorish homeland (in Mauritania) into a Southern/Central region of Mali populated by quite different ethnic and linguistic groups. With a vast area of relatively speedily crossed terrain and a rather ineffective army it is no surprise that small organized forces with enough pickups and fuel can mount such strikes.
    Last edited by Firn; 01-17-2013 at 05:38 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  9. #249
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Firn View Post
    Note that quite some of the recent fighting took place in the traditional homeland of the Songhai, in areas where relative little Tuareg live.
    Northern Songhay languages show clear historical influence from Tuareg, though, so there is a longstanding history of interaction. (Mostly unrelated note: one of my favorite ethnographies is set amongst the Songhay.)
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

  10. #250
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    Northern Songhay languages show clear historical influence from Tuareg, though, so there is a longstanding history of interaction. (Mostly unrelated note: one of my favorite ethnographies is set amongst the Songhay.)
    Nice catch. It is rather obvious considering history and geography that there has been much interaction between both, interesting to see part of it imprinted into the language of one ethnic. And of course it is rather clear that this doesn't mean that there isn't conflict between them, as time shows us. The strong French impact on good old Saxon Anglish didn't result in an ever peaceful coexistence....

    There must have certainly a fair bit of trading between the relative fertile and densely populated regions around the Niger and the cultures on the southern coasts of our mare nostrum, mostly done by the nomadic tribes like the Tuareg. If you look at the maps it is rather obvious that the vast desert areas are quite foreign to the 'dark-skinned' (All is relative, considering that in the dear USA fellow countrymen were sometimes not considered 'white' enough). I wonder which part played the spread of Islam.

    As usual the history is quite interesting. It always amazes me that people tend to imprint the current human borders on older ones. People move, people stay, nothing remains the same.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  11. #251
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    A cautious IISS Strategic Comment, that ends:
    There is no short-term fix to these problems. Mali's security forces are institutionally weak and have limited capabilities. Continuing operations in the manner France has thus far pursued will be dependent on French forces' ability to degrade the rebels' military capacity; the ability of an effective core of Mali's troops to regroup relatively quickly; the timetable to train and equip new troops in the midst of conflict; and the capacity of AFISMA military personnel to engage rebel groups alongside their Malian counterparts. Otherwise it is possible that French military operations might be of longer duration than currently envisaged. Even if AFISMA forces are able to deploy in strength, wider international involvement will likely remain vital in the areas of organisational, intelligence and logistics support, as well as financing.
    Link to article:http://www.iiss.org/publications/str...apid-reaction/ and link to Table on French Forces deployed:http://www.iiss.org/publications/str...eaction/table/
    davidbfpo

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    Default Nigerian Army arrives in Bamako

    Nigerian Army arrives Bamako. They seem better equipped and hopefully, better prepared than the bunch that went into Sierra Leone / Liberia.




  13. #253
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    This is the land where the local Tuareg or Arab in his souped-up turbo 4x4 is king. Iyad Ag Ghali, the Tuareg leader of the Salafist Ansar Dine militia, is a master of the kind of hit-and-run guerrilla warfare that suits the desert conditions and the sheer size of territory, roughly equal to that of Spain. His mujahideen showed their verve last Sunday by capturing the small town of Diabaly, north of Mopti, with a lightening strike that originated over the border in Mauritania. This ability to crisscross borders is another important aspect of the Islamists' Houdini-esque style of combat.
    Sounds like LRDG to me.

    The West Saharan rebels did similar raids.

  14. #254
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Those wonderful men in their Antonov's

    The Daily Telegraph has a laudatory article on the RAF C-17s supporting the French, despite the fact one broke down upon arrival in France:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...Islamists.html

    Within the article is this gem, the real heavy lift comes from private Russian / Ukrainian companies, familiar to many in "hot spots":
    Last Thursday seven Antonov aircraft – one of the world’s largest transport planes – arrived crammed with weapons, ammunition and armoured vehicles
    davidbfpo

  15. #255
    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Hat tip to a "lurker"

    Algeria shows we need a new approach to terrorism, By Roula Khalaf, January 18, 2013 7:20 pm, Financial Times, www.ft.com

    Spectacular terrorist attacks; talk of a “war on terror”; pre-emptive military action in faraway, politically unstable places. As the world watches the resurgence of jihadi activity, and in particular the unfolding of the hostage crisis at a remote gas complex in the Algerian desert, one could be forgiven for asking whether we ever truly made it out of the last decade.
    The other important factor is the jihadis’ exploitation of the security vacuum in north Africa that followed the Arab uprising. Jihadis were panicked by the sight of millions of young Arabs demonstrating to the world not just that their grievances are with their own authoritarian regimes – not some foreign enemy – but also their commitment to non-violent struggle.

    Sadly, extremists have found an opportunity for a comeback. Suspected terrorists who were in prison have been released. Dictatorial regimes and their all-powerful intelligence services have been replaced by weak authorities struggling to assert themselves.
    Sapere Aude

  16. #256
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    Russia to help with transport in Mali. http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/01...roops-to-mali/

    How significant is that?

  17. #257
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Private or state-owned Russian airlift?

    Kingjaja,

    Press TV for once is catching up with it's report, Russian private aircraft have already been helping. What would be significant is if the Russian Air Force contributed heavy airlift capability.

    As I posted earlier privately operated Antonov heavy lift aircraft are a regular feature in UN and non-UN expeditions - including NATO, not sure about the USA.
    davidbfpo

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    This seems fairly recent:

    MOSCOW, January 20 (RIA Novosti) – French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Moscow has offered its help to Paris in transporting French troops and supplies to crisis-hit Mali.
    "The Russians have proposed to provide means of transport for the French," Fabius said in the interview with Europe 1 radio on Sunday.
    The Russian Foreign Ministry has not made official comment on the statement, which was made following Saturday’s phone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his French counterpart.
    During the conversation, the sides voiced support for the UN Security Council’s resolution authorizing the deployment of an African-led international Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).
    Last week France launched the deployment of 2,500 troops to Mali to help the country's army contain a sudden advance of Islamists from the Tuareg heartland in the north.
    The French involvement was endorsed by the ECOWAS, a bloc comprising 15 West African countries, including Mali. The bloc called on the UN Security Council on Saturday to fast track the release of logistics and financial packages to support Africa-led Mission in Mali.
    http://en.ria.ru/russia/20130120/178...s-to-Mali.html

    Still waiting for comments from the Russians (as to what sort of help)

  19. #259
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Kingjaja,

    Press TV for once is catching up with it's report, Russian private aircraft have already been helping. What would be significant is if the Russian Air Force contributed heavy airlift capability.

    As I posted earlier privately operated Antonov heavy lift aircraft are a regular feature in UN and non-UN expeditions - including NATO, not sure about the USA.
    The USAF chartered lots of big Antonovs for air lift into AFG all while lots of Americans chastised Europeans for having insufficient logistical means for stupid wars in distant places.


    Read the correct blogs and you would know

  20. #260
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Mali has become 'Sahelistan' or is at risk of becoming so? Well if this report is accepted this is not a matter of "black or white". Sounds more like the Yemen, Pakistan and a few others places the West is entangled with. Hostages ransoms shared with the government, sorry persons in the government.

    Note this is December 2012 report.

    For years Malian Tuaregs have been complaining that their government was in bed with al-Qaeda, but their cries fell on deaf ears. According to numerous northern residents, AQIM fighters have been circulating openly in Tuareg towns, not for the past year, but for the past 10 years; shopping, attending weddings, and parading fully armed in the streets, in front of police stations and military barracks.

    Colonel Habi ag Al Salat, a Malian army commander who defected in 2011 to join the MNLA, was one of the first to notice the Algerian fighters from the Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) entering Tuareg towns of the far north such as Aguelhoc, which was under his command.

    But when Habi warned his army superiors they told him to stand down and leave the men alone because they were "not enemies" of Mali. When the GSPC changed its name to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, following a pact announced by Ayman Al Zawahiri, that policy did not change.
    Link:http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spo...157169557.html

    The conclusion, with my emphasis:
    The one armed force that has both the numbers and local knowledge to credibly expel al-Qaeda from a wide swath of the Sahara and keep them out over the long term would be the region's indigenous Tuareg fighters.

    But giving them a mandate to do that would mean recognising and empowering them as a force with legitimate demands, which neither Mali, nor any neighbouring country wants to do. Meanwhile the Tuaregs have a sinking feeling: The fear that they are the ones who will be killed in any coming war, in the name of fighting al-Qaeda.
    davidbfpo

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