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Old 10-31-2012   #181
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Default What to Make of Foreign Fighters in Mali?

As always a thorough analytical comment on al-Wasat, with multiple links, on this many faceted issue:http://thewasat.wordpress.com/2012/1...hters-in-mali/

I was curious to note the reports of fighters moving to Mali from Tindouf, a city in western Algeria, better known as the base for the secular nationalist group Polisario. There are thousands of trained, experienced fighters there and their families (in exile from Western Sahara, now absorbed into Morocco).
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Old 10-31-2012   #182
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Default IISS on Extremism spreads across West Africa and the Sahel

The latest Strategic Comment, a broad brush so wider than Mali & The Sahel:http://www.iiss.org/publications/str...and-the-sahel/
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Old 10-31-2012   #183
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
The latest Strategic Comment, a broad brush so wider than Mali & The Sahel:http://www.iiss.org/publications/str...and-the-sahel/
I get the impression that Ansar Dine might not have come into being had its leader been able to find room at the MNLA table and that his being left out seems to have had more to do with Tuareg social structure than it did with religious ideology. I am not certain that is the case, but it is a possibility that I hope is kept in mind by the planning and policy-making class.
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Old 11-02-2012   #184
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Default Mali, and the next war

Paul Roger's column looks at:
Quote:
The growing prospect of western-backed military intervention to reverse the spread of Islamism in west Africa is good news for an evolving al-Qaida movement.
Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-ro...i-and-next-war

Paul takes a pessimistic view on the "blow-back" Western involvement:
Quote:
....a "shadow war" involving drones, special forces and private military contractors will rapidly develop, backing up regional troops whose main functions will focus on garrisoning regained land.

This key western involvement is likely to have a definite untoward impact. Jihadist propaganda may appear shadowy and opaque to those beyond its reach; but it will persistently and effectively represent such involvement in Mali as yet another western assault on Islam, and link the phenomenon with the suppression of Boko Haram in Nigeria...
Having tried to follow what has happened and the policy options for external parties I have yet to see any mention of:

a) external, non-coercive options
b) internal Mali options
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Old 11-03-2012   #185
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Before another season of folly starts, please take a look at the Sahel - it is vast.

There are too many unemployed young men in that part of the World. Too many for us to promote an aggressive "military only" solution.
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Old 11-12-2012   #186
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Default ECOWAS Strikes Back : Taking Mali

Not the latest Disney blockbuster, but worthy of it's own thread. Get your popcorn ready now, 'cause these guys won't be home by Christmas.

Quote:
West African regional leaders have agreed to deploy 3,300 soldiers to Mali to retake the north from Islamist extremists. At a summit of Ecowas, the group's chairman said it was ready to use force to "dismantle terrorist and transnational criminal networks". The soldiers would be provided mainly by Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20292797

Time's grade school level backgrounder -

Mali’s Looming War: Will Military Intervention Drive Out the Islamists?

Read more: http://world.time.com/2012/11/12/mal...#ixzz2C1y3KMr6
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Old 11-15-2012   #187
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Default One minus, one plus

AdamG,

The second linked article by a Time journalist in Mali has this amazing line:
Quote:
Northern Mali is barely a hop and skip across the Mediterranean.
Really?

Politics aside how the local population react is a good indicator, so this was a gem:
Quote:
Buses to the north are now packed, filled with refugees no longer willing to wait out the now quiet conflict far from home. Their departure has left refugee camps at a fraction of their original size, say local officials.
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Old 11-15-2012   #188
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Default Mali, preparing for war

Paul Rogers looks at what is happening, with several links in support:http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-ro...paring-for-war

I note the stance taken by Algeria:
Quote:
The entire operation would be greatly aided were Algeria to be supportive.. Algeria seems unlikely to alter its stance, however. A security advisor of Algeria's government... says that external intervention would not work and that instead a political solution must be found
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Old 11-16-2012   #189
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Default A slow road to intervention

The heralded ECOWAS intervention does appear to be a rather slow process. Assembly of contributions, movement into Mali, re-equipping and training of the Malian military, negotiations with some of the militants and an EU training mission.

Quote:
Any foreign-backed offensive to retake control of northern Mali from al Qaeda-linked Islamists will take at least six months to prepare, plans seen by Reuters show, a delay that runs counter to the expectations of many Malians.
Links, text from:http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/...8AF0SD20121116 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20342369
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Old 11-23-2012   #190
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Default ECOWAS intends to......

Quote:
Mali under pressure to give separatists autonomy in fight against al-Qaida; Ecowas wants Tuaregs to help take on militants as officials say priority is to remove all terrorists
Link:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012...tists-al-qaida

This reads like "divide & rule" from my faraway armchair, but I am wary of ECOWAS having enough influence, let alone power to get Mali's cooperation, nor that there is such a "moderate" element to talk with. Interesting to note the famed Tuaregs only constitute 11% of the population in the northern area.
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Old 11-24-2012   #191
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
Interesting to note the famed Tuaregs only constitute 11% of the population in the northern area.
An undercount, perhaps? I am under the impression that about 10% or so of the population of the whole of Mali is Tuareg, though I do not know if a real census has been done in Mali. And the Tuareg do have a tendency to move around, at least if allowed to do so.

I do think the percentage of Tuaregs in the total population begins to decrease as one moves south towards the Niger River. My friend recently noted that Ansar Dine had a hand in a dispute in the Dogon village where she formerly resided. Islamists adjudicating a dispute amongst the Dogon is something that I do not think anyone would have imagined ever happening a year ago!

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
[…] I am wary […] that there is such a "moderate" element to talk with.
My impression is that the MNLA are moderate in the sense that they are secularists and I have read a couple of commentators claiming that Ansar Dine may be if not necessarily moderate at least pragmatic. I have not seen any similar claims regarding the MUJAO.
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Old 11-28-2012   #192
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Default The Challenges of Retaking Northern Mali

CTC Sentinel's leading story:http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-ch...-northern-mali

Quote:
This article will show why northern Mali is prone to rebellion. It will then explain how the state has supported militias to quell these frequent uprisings, argue that the state might re-employ that same strategy to unseat Islamist militants in the north, and identify what results an international military intervention might bring.
It is really a primer on the challenges and is dismissive of international action.

There is a second, longer article 'An Algerian Press Review: Determining Algiers’ Position on an Intervention in Mali' looks at:
Quote:
According to many press accounts, while Algeria reportedly still favors a “political solution” to the crisis in Mali, it now appears that Algiers will participate in an international intervention within specified parameters and discretion. Algerian media reports remain divided, however, over whether military intervention is desirable, and several articles suggest that while Algiers has identified political processes it favors with respect to Mali, it has yet to decide on a desired end state from negotiations or military action.
Link:http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/an-alg...ention-in-mali
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Old 11-29-2012   #193
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Default Mali: Disaster Needs Analysis

Hat tip to Cimicweb newsletter for a pointer to a very comprehensive human security briefing, which is IMHO a "one stop" primer on everything:http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb...y_nov_2012.pdf
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Old 12-02-2012   #194
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
Hat tip to Cimicweb newsletter for a pointer to a very comprehensive human security briefing, which is IMHO a "one stop" primer on everything:http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb...y_nov_2012.pdf
That's a good one, David. Thanks, I have passed it along.
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Old 12-06-2012   #195
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Default The "Libyan Afterparty"

Jack Goldsmith (at Lawfare), The Libyan Afterparty Continues (December 5, 2012):

Quote:
Walter Russell Mead coined the phrase “Libyan afterparty” to describe the many unintended and unhappy consequences – especially for the rise of Islamist terrorist power centers in Northern Africa – of the 2011 U.S. and NATO invasion of Libya. (Some of Mead’s terrific posts on the issue can be found [JMM: linked with titles and ledes below]; there are more.) The afterparty continues this week. Here is Mead today:

The full extent of the damage caused by the Libyan afterparty is slowly becoming clear, as bad news from Mali continues to trickle in. Flooded with weapons and veterans from Libya, the northern half of Mali has become a Texas-sized Saharan safe haven for al-Qaeda and affiliates. Newly galvanized young men from across the region are drawn to the fighting, which threatens to destabilize much of West Africa. ...
Earlier links -

July 4, 2012 - The Libyan Afterparty Continues As Timbuktu Dies:

Quote:
In the ongoing struggle between northern Mali’s secessionist Taureg fighters and a local Islamic jihadist group, Ansar Dine, the Islamists claim to have driven all remaining rebels from a third and final large town in the region. If the reports are accurate it would complete their control over a lawless area that may serve as a stronghold for al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups in the Maghreb. ...
October 19, 2012 - Libyan Afterparty Getting out of Hand:

Quote:
It’s now been nearly a year since the NATO’s Libya mission was completed, but the afterparty is still dragging on in nearby countries. This week, the FT reported that France is growing particularly concerned with the growth of al-Qaeda groups in northern Mali, where Islamic militants have established a firm foothold in the region ...
October 22, 2012 - Get Ready for the Mali Invasion:



Quote:
France is sending drones to Mali while hundreds of Islamist fighters are coming in from across the Middle East, preparing to defend their safe haven.

According to the Associated Press, French drones will soon be patrolling the skies above the Malian desert. ...
October 31, 2012 - Libya: America’s New Nation Building Commitment (Mali Next):

Quote:
Regular readers know that we’ve never been optimists about the results of President Obama’s decision to wage an air war in Libya against the Qaddafi regime. The consequences of the war have more than justified our concern; this story in the FT, about the ongoing tribalist chaos around the town of Bani Walid, only underlines the utter fecklessness of the new Libyan government and the dangerous chaos taking root in that country. ...
October 31, 2012 - The War on Terror Opens A New Front:

Quote:
At Via Meadia we’ve been closely following the ongoing Libyan afterparty, which saw thousands of heavily armed mercenaries flood south across the Sahara, promptly leading to war and a coup in Mali, which not so long ago bright eyed development optimists touted as one of Africa’s model democracies and a sign of a bright new day for the battered continent.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies has published a helpful write-up on the rise of radical Islamic throughout the Sahel and West Africa—a development that still only fuzzily registers in the minds of American politicians and voters. ...
November 5, 2012 - Why The Ambassador Died:

Quote:
A story in this morning’s New York Times points out that the United States did not have forces in place capable of protecting its personnel and Benghazi last September.
...
But the story raises deeper and far more troubling questions about how unprepared the administration was to deal with the new situation its intervention in Libya created. For months now, the security situation throughout Libya, in neighboring Mali, and in other countries has been deteriorating sharply. Bands of jihadis and their supporters are roaming almost at will. Under conditions like this, it was only a matter of time before American citizens or diplomats would be attacked or taken hostage. ...
Today's NYT followup to last story, U.S.-Approved Arms for Libya Rebels Fell Into Jihadis’ Hands:

Quote:
By JAMES RISEN, MARK MAZZETTI and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
Published: December 5, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.
...
The administration has never determined where all of the weapons, paid for by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, went inside Libya, officials said. Qatar is believed to have shipped by air and sea small arms, including machine guns, automatic rifles, and ammunition, for which it has demanded reimbursement from Libya’s new government. Some of the arms since have been moved from Libya to militants with ties to Al Qaeda in Mali, where radical jihadi factions have imposed Shariah law in the northern part of the country, the former Defense Department official said. Others have gone to Syria, according to several American and foreign officials and arms traders. ...
Not a pleasant set of articles.

Regards

Mike
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Old 12-06-2012   #196
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Default Honey badgers, &tc.

I did a guest post at the On Violence blog if anyone is interested. Nothing new, really, just some (hopefully) useful information in a (hopefully) readable format.
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Old 12-07-2012   #197
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Default Northern Mali: the Politics of Ethnicity and Locality

An article by Andrew Lebovich, a Dakar-based researcher focused on security and political issues in the Sahel and North Africa:http://thinkafricapress.com/mali/pol...ity-mali-mujao

Rightly he mentions two factors, one which is given little attention - the Malian army - and the history of local militias, which has appeared here before:
Quote:
Mali’s army continues its halting movement towards reorganisation alongside a group of citizen and sectarian militias with past involvement in northern Mali. These militias, which include new iterations of the Ganda Koy (“Masters of the Land”) and the Ganda Iso (“Sons of the Land”), bring to the fore the possibility of ethnic violence and retribution in any operation to retake northern Mali. Already, observers describe the language employed by some militia members as “quasi-genocidal” toward ‘light-skinned’ populations like Tuareg and Arabs, recalling the bloody violence perpetrated by similar militias during rebellions in the 1990s and 2000s.

Northern Mali is an ethnically diverse, if sparsely populated, area. Accounting for approximately 10% of Mali's population in an area roughly the size of France, the region encompasses traditionally nomadic and semi-nomadic Tuareg and Arabs, as well as sedentary Songhai, Peul, Bella, and others.
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Old 12-08-2012   #198
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Davidbfpo,

I think the West should stop seeing Africa through the prism of "Global War on Terror" - and see what is happening for what it is - the normal process of state formation and a sneak preview of what Africa will look like when the French finally withdraw.

Any intervention in Mali is likely to be a waste of manpower and money.
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Old 12-09-2012   #199
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Default Liaison Officers

So it appears that the various nations that are sending liaison officers is to include the UK? This may not be a huge surprise but the seniority of those selected to go, and the pace at which they have been deployed is quite something. I have read about individual officers being deployed over 2 months earlier than they had expected. This suggests that the recent escalation in activity really is quite significant.

Any more French speakers willing to miss Christmas at home?!?
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Old 12-11-2012   #200
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Default The U.S. Pivots (Slightly) Toward Africa – By Michael Keating

Interesting article on US policy (or lack of it) in Africa.

Quote:
As Ambassador Carrington concluded at his UMass address: “Mali is a cautionary tale for any country seeking U.S. assistance.” Because the United States lacked real intelligence about what was going in Mali’s political circles, American actions helped to topple one of Africa’s oldest democracies. Unintended consequences, to be sure; but an undertaking deeply unworthy of – and damaging to – the kinds of outcomes the U.S. would like to see in Africa, and the principles it claims to stand for.
http://africanarguments.org/2012/12/...chael-keating/
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