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Old 08-28-2012   #161
davidbfpo
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Default On patrol in Mali

A strange report on a patrol with the army in Mali. I expect this passage is not "winning hearts & minds":
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This, for now, is as far we can go, an army captain tells me. We decide to film this unmarked border between north and south. As we jump off the truck, a coach full of people - possibly northern refugees - comes tearing around the corner towards us.

While we wait for the vehicle to pass out of shot, the captain starts shouting and waving his arms. In an effort to be helpful to our film, he orders the coach off the road and out of sight.

Within seconds (this being the wet season) it is stuck in an ocean of mud and that - despite the efforts of its many pushing passengers - is the last we see of them all, as our patrol turns around and heads for home.
Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19372083
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Old 08-28-2012   #162
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Default As a veteran of many a meeting

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Sitting on a sofa in what passes for the officers' mess is Colonel Didier Dako. Speaking in clear, well articulated English, he extends his hands and invites us to sit down.

Gently stroking his well-tended moustache, our host smiles warmly and says, "Wherever you go here, my special forces will ensure your safety."

After thanking him for this generous offer, I ask what distinguishes his "special forces" from the rest of his men? "Ah," he whispers with a gentle shake of the head, "that is sensitive information".

[…]

As promised, we are being tailed by a pick-up truck full of heavily armed soldiers and these, it seems, are not any old squaddies. They are wearing light brown instead of green uniforms, as well as fancy knee pads and black T-shirts. Are these the Mali Army's special forces? It appears so.
during which hours of nothing was discussed but prior to which great effort was expended in the procurement of stackable white plastic chairs and refreshments I must compliment the author on his fine balance of cheek and tact in this piece.
Quote:
The next morning – after a night of intermittent power cuts, clouds of ravenous mosquitoes and thunderous downpours – we pile into an old Landrover, before speeding off to join an army patrol hunting for insurgents.
As someone who has spent a rainy season lodging in a household set up with the assumption of the presence of electricity, I count the realization that daily life would actually have been less hassle for all of us if things were set up to run without electricity altogether as one of the more important insights I have had about the state of the modern world.
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Old 09-16-2012   #163
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Default A nice overview of the players and options

related to the current situation in Mali via Global Observatory. Important meeting in Abidjan tomorrow, apparently.
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Old 09-22-2012   #164
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Default The "jam in the middle": the ordinary people

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More and more refugees arrive in Mauritania every day from Mali: last January at the beginning of the conflict in Northern Mali, there were 16,000; today there are more than 100,000. And the influx continues.


Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/intagri...ds-of-refugees

Quote:


In the beginning, the reason for the flight from the conflict area was the people’s belief that the Malian Army would exact reprisals following their confrontation with the MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad). But the next wave of refugees occurred due to the pressure exercised by the Islamists.


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Old 09-24-2012   #165
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Mali: The Need for Determined and Coordinated International Action

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Africa Briefing N°90
24 Sep 2012
Please note the full briefing is only available in French

OVERVIEW

In the absence of rapid, firm and coherent decisions at the regional (Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS), continental (African Union, AU) and international (UN) levels by the end of September, the political, security, economic and social situation in Mali will deteriorate. All scenarios are still possible, including another military coup and social unrest in the capital, which risks undermining the transitional institutions and creating chaos that could allow religious extremism and terrorist violence to spread in Mali and beyond. None of the three actors sharing power, namely the interim president, Dioncounda Traoré, the prime minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, and the ex-junta leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, enjoys sufficient popular legitimacy or has the ability to prevent the aggravation of the crisis. The country urgently needs to mobilise the best Malian expertise irrespective of political allegiance rather than engaging in power plays that will lead the country to the verge of collapse.

Almost six months after a coup overthrew President Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT) and the Malian army relinquished control of the three northern administrative regions to armed groups – the Tuareg separatists of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Islamist fighters of Ansar Dine (Ançar Eddine), the Movement for Unicity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – none of the pillars of the Malian state was able to give a clear direction to the political transition and to formulate a precise and coherent demand for assistance to the international community to regain control of the north, which represents more than two thirds of the territory. The next six months will be crucial for the stability of Mali, Sahel and the entire West African region, as the risks are high and the lack of leadership at all levels of decision-making has so far been obvious.

The message from Crisis Group’s July 2012 report on Mali is still relevant. It is not a call against the principle of a military action in the north. Indeed, the use of force will probably be necessary to neutralise transnational armed groups that indulge in terrorism, jihadism and drug and arms trafficking and to restore Mali’s territorial integrity. But before resorting to force, a political and diplomatic effort is required to separate two sets of different issues: those related to intercommunal tensions within Malian society, political and economic governance of the north and management of religious diversity, and those related to collective security in the Sahel-Sahara region. The Malian army and ECOWAS’s forces will not be capable of tackling the influx of arms and combatants between a fragmented Libya and northern Mali through southern Algeria and/or northern Niger. Minimal and sustainable security in northern Mali cannot be reestablished without the clear involvement of the Algerian political and military authorities.

Following the high-level meeting on the security situation in Sahel scheduled for 26 September, on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York, Malian actors, their African and non-African partners and the UN will have to specify their course of action and clarify minimal objectives to be reached by March 2013.

The president and the prime minister should:

•constitute immediately a small informal group including Malian personalities, preferably retired from the political scene, who have specific skills and significant experience in the areas of internal security, governance and public administration, organisation of elections, decentralisation, inter-community mediation and international relations, in particular regional diplomacy, in order to help the government define a global strategy to resolve the crisis.
ECOWAS leaders should:

•recognise the limitations of the organisation in mediating the crisis and planning a military mission in Mali, and work closely with the African Union and above all with the UN, which are better equipped to respond to challenges posed by a crisis threatening international peace and security.
The UN Security Council and member states represented at the high-level meeting on the situation in Sahel should provide support to the Secretary-General to:

•appoint a special representative of the Secretary-General for the Sahel and provide him with the necessary means to achieve his mission, which must focus on reconciling the positions of ECOWAS member states, regional players (Algeria, Mauritania, Niger and Mali) and Western countries;
•boost the UN presence in Mali to help the transitional government withstand the economic and social crisis, produce a credible roadmap for the restoration of territorial integrity and the organisation of transparent elections as soon as possible, and uphold the rule of law by gathering detailed information on human rights violations committed in the south (in particular in Bamako and Kati) as well as in the north;
•begin, together with the AU and ECOWAS, a mission to facilitate reconciliation within the Malian army to prevent another military coup with unpredictable consequences.
Mali’s foreign partners, in particular the European Union and the U.S., should:

•support efforts to reestablish the Malian defence and security forces by enhancing their unity, discipline and efficacy in order to ensure security in the south, constitute a credible threat of the use of force in the north and be able to participate in operations against terrorist groups;
•contribute to the resilience of the Malian economy, and employment in particular, through a rapid resumption of foreign aid so as to prevent social unrest that risks deepening the political and humanitarian crisis;
•respond favourably to demands for urgent humanitarian assistance to the civilian population seriously affected by the crisis in Mali and the entire Sahel region, in accordance with what the UN has been advocating for several months without generating mobilisation adequate to the seriousness of the situation.
Dakar/Brussels, 24 September 2012
http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/region...mpaign=mremail
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Old 09-24-2012   #166
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Default Mali agrees to host anti-Islamist Ecowas force

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The West African state of Mali has agreed to host a regional military deployment aimed at dislodging radical Islamists in control in the north....Mali was initially opposed but has now agreed to host the 3,000-strong force in the capital, Bamako. After intense regional diplomatic efforts, the authorities have given the green light for a logistical base on the outskirts of the city
Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19699590

Slowly moving along, UNSC approval needed and then someone with deep pockets.
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Old 09-25-2012   #167
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Default Algeria in Mali:a 'dirty war'

We know that international politics and countering insurgency / terrorism can make for unlikely allies and situations - so with that caveat aside:
Quote:
The Islamist ‘terrorist’ groups that have taken over control of northern Mali are not only the creations of Algeria’s secret police, the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS), but they are being supplied, supported and orchestrated by the DRS.
Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/jeremy-...-northern-mali

To be frank the byzantine intrigues involved make me sceptical, but we do know that the Algerian insurgency was "dirty", so this reference may support the argument:
Quote:
.. John Schindler on July 10 (2012). In an article in The National Interest entitled ‘The Ugly truth about Algeria’, Schindler, a former high-ranking US intelligence officer and long-standing member of the US National Security Council (NSC) and currently Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, ‘blew the whistle’ on Algeria when he described how:

“the GIA (Armed Islamic Group) [of the 1990s] was the creation of the DRS; using proven Soviet methods of penetration and provocation, the agency assembled it to discredit the extremists. Much of GIA’s leadership consisted of DRS agents, who drove the group into the dead end of mass murder, a ruthless tactic that thoroughly discredited GIA Islamists among nearly all Algerians. Most of its major operations were the handiwork of the DRS, including the 1995 wave of bombings in France. Some of the most notorious massacres of civilians were perpetrated by military special units masquerading as mujahidin, or by GIA squads under DRS control.”
Sending Algerian SF into mali to protect AQIM is too hard to accept.
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Old 09-25-2012   #168
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The contrary viewpoint, from a more well-known analyst, George Joffe and he notes:
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What does this then mean for Algeria’s project of indirect control of its southern borders and the Sahelian regions abutting them? It seems clear that, if Algeria’s DRS had been exploiting its infiltration of the country’s extremist groups as a means of achieving such control and minimal cost, its project has failed.
Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/george-...chaos-in-sahel
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Old 09-25-2012   #169
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19699590

Slowly moving along, UNSC approval needed and then someone with deep pockets.
Passed along that link to my friend who is currently in Burkina Faso and she replied back a couple of hours or so ago that she had seen “loads of paratroopers today falling out of the sky with various AU-flag colored parachutes.” Not sure if she was in Ouaga or Bobo at the time. Or whether she was still on the Valium/cortisone drip.
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Old 09-26-2012   #170
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Default Drop or Drip?

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Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
Passed along that link to my friend who is currently in Burkina Faso and she replied back a couple of hours or so ago that she had seen “loads of paratroopers today falling out of the sky with various AU-flag colored parachutes.” Not sure if she was in Ouaga or Bobo at the time. Or whether she was still on the Valium/cortisone drip.
I have not heard of an African parachute operation ever, partly as the African nations have so few suitable transport aircraft. Note I exclude South Africa and Arab nations, which in the past have had a capability. Let alone a drop with AU-flag colored parachutes!
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Old 09-26-2012   #171
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Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
I have not heard of an African parachute operation ever, partly as the African nations have so few suitable transport aircraft. Note I exclude South Africa and Arab nations, which in the past have had a capability. Let alone a drop with AU-flag colored parachutes!
I saw a couple of guys being dropped over the base across the road where I was staying in Bobo in the summer of 2010. Given the size of the Burkinabé army—c. 6,000—their capability is certainly limited. Maybe a multi-national unit is being formed specifically for MICEMA? The jump Abbie spotted might also have been part of a training. [LINK]
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Old 09-27-2012   #172
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China offers support to Mali military in fight against Islamists

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China offered to support Mali’s military in its fight against Islamist rebels who have seized northern parts of the country, said Guo Xueli, charge d’affaires at the Chinese Embassy.

“China firmly supports the position of Mali,” Guo said in an interview on state television yesterday in the capital, Bamako. “We are going to bring our assistance to the extent possible, specifically in the military where we already have a very old cooperation.”

Mali’s government has been battling Islamist rebels in the north of the country since they took control of the area from separatist ethnic Touareg fighters in May. The rebels took advantage of a political crisis in the south triggered by the ouster of President Amadou Toure in a March 22 coup.
A decided lack of specifics, but interesting nonetheless. One wonders what is so valuable in Mali to trigger said assistance?
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Old 10-23-2012   #173
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The former missionary to the French and governor to the Massachusettians made mention of the situation in Mali during last night’s presidential debate (good thing he made it early or I would have missed it as the proceedings eventually put me to sleep).

From the BBC News:
Quote:
Two weeks ago, the UN Security Council gave the regional bloc Ecowas 45 days to draw up a plan with the details of its offer to send 3,000 troops to the vast desert region.
Having gotten an aerial view of northern Mali I am indeed curious as to what those 3,000 troops are going to be doing. Securing urban areas and select villages while drones and units which do not officially exist do nightwork?

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Last edited by ganulv; 10-23-2012 at 08:01 PM. Reason: added the map
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Old 10-23-2012   #174
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Quote:
vast desert region
Sigh.
As if it wasn't obvious that in a country with such a geography most of the action would be focused along the Niger river.
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Old 10-23-2012   #175
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Sigh.
As if it wasn't obvious that in a country with such a geography most of the action would be focused along the Niger river.
Running the insurgents out of that area is one thing. Running them down in the desert afterwards is another. The Tuaregs have been known to make do there.
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Old 10-23-2012   #176
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Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
Running the insurgents out of that area is one thing. Running them down in the desert afterwards is another. The Tuaregs have been known to make do there.
Maybe, but right now the topic is that the government has lost half of the densely-populated area to an uprising in Mao' third stage.
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Old 10-24-2012   #177
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Maybe, but right now the topic is that the government has lost half of the densely-populated area to an uprising in Mao' third stage.
The fact that there wasn’t much in the way of the first two stages beforehand says a lot about the Malian government’s “hold” on things previous to that. And suggests bad things to come for people in the streets of Bamako after the operation gets underway.

Just spitballin’ here, but maybe someone could offer the MNLA a federated, semi-autonomous state in exchange for their aid in running Ansar Dine and the MUJAO to ground?
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Old 10-24-2012   #178
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Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
Sigh.
As if it wasn't obvious that in a country with such a geography most of the action would be focused along the Niger river.
So am I off base in thinking maybe the force will headquarter in Mopti and send one battalion up RN15 and another towards Timbuktu? And that it won’t happen until harmattan season is over at the earliest?

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Old 10-24-2012   #179
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Hmm, trying to win with geography details?

Look, "vast desert region" communicates to me a difficulty to exercise control and to find the opposition. That's not leading to what's really relevant there imo.

No matter what hold the government's opponents have on isolated settlements; the country is really about the Niger river and its green belt.
An intervention force would hardly focus on some outlier settlements - even if they are epicentres of the opposition - and meanwhile ignore the green belt where most of the population under 'control' of the opposition lives at.
An intervention force would hardly have the manpower to occupy much with 3,000 men (likely less than 50% teeth) and the government of Mali is no doubt more interested in high-pay-off control of Niger green belt settlements than in low pay-off occupation of unfriendly outlier settlements.

So yes, I expect that intervention forces would focus on driving the opposition forces out at the Niger river, possibly with two hook movements to set up checkpoints against fleeing opposition forces.
I doubt that they would go for lesser settlements first, and I even doubt that foreigners would attempt to solve this fundamental conflict themselves or to suppress it in the long term.
The French are more known for assistance or raid-like missions (even outright punitive expeditions as in Cote d'Ivoire and with the bombing of a Libyan airbase in the 80's). To rout the opposition forces along the river would fit into their pattern imo.


This whole "vast desert region" thing reminded me a lot about the talk of "battle-hardened Iraqi desert army" in 1990, when even a superficial look at maps showed that the Iraqi army had "fought" for eight years in hills, swamps and little desert.
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Old 10-24-2012   #180
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I doubt that they would go for lesser settlements first, and I even doubt that foreigners would attempt to solve this fundamental conflict themselves or to suppress it in the long term.
The muddle is that there are two things going on—a secular separatist movement in the form of the MNLA and an Islamist insurgency in the form of Ansar Dine and the MUJAO. I don’t think foreigners would or should care about Malian–Tuareg issues, either, but there seems to be a real possibility that the GWoT paradigm is going to be applied here.
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