John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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French Enter Mali But How Will It End?

by John Campbell
January 14, 2013

People walk past the Grand Mosque of Djenne, a UNESCO World-Heritage listed site, in Djenne 17/09/2012. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)


According to the New York Times, the French intervention in Mali to halt the southern march of Islamist forces has gone well. Franco-Malian recovery of the fabled cities of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal can be foreseen, though the fighting may be very bloody. That will mean fewer amputations and stonings, but it will not resolve the fundamental issues: a detached and discredited government in Bamako, an alienated north, and a fierce popular anger that expresses itself in Islamic terms. All of this against a background of recurrent food insecurity related to desertification. As the earlier example of the Polisario shows, a desert based insurgency can last a long time, perhaps longer than a French commitment to a country that is marginal to its fundamental interests.

The Islamist regime in northern Mali has inherent instabilities: it includes Tuaregs as well as Arabs, who regard themselves as “white,” ruling over a population it regards as “black.” Political maneuverings among those calling the shots amounts to little more than warlordism. Especially if there was a credible government in Bamako–there is not, and no real immediate prospect of one–there is a chance the northern coalition could collapse under its own weight.

French intervention likely forestalls that option. A “crusader” attack on Islam may draw those disparate elements together, though the press is reporting an initial positive reaction from Malians. It remains to be seen whether this latest “crusader” episode will fuel Islamic violence elsewhere. What about the “al-Qaeda links?” Perhaps now it will become clearer how significant they are.

“African solutions for African problems” and the U.S. Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) also appear to be in tatters. The Economic Community of West African States, with UN Security Council authorization, was putting together an African intervention force, though progress was slow. While there may be a future role for such a force, it is bound to be different from what was originally envisaged. As for TSCTP, the core was U.S. military training of elite African units. In Mali, some of those trained were Tauregs, many of whom defected to the insurgents. The fact that the coup in Mali was led by an officer who had received TSCTP training should also be cause for concern.

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Lawrence Freeman

    France’s deployment into Mali will at best achieve very short term results, but no one knows the full consequences of yet another military intervention in Africa. Like the US, France has no long range strategy for Africa. The real crime is the refusal by the West to develop Africa. This large area that the Sahel encompasses is virtually barren, plagued by food insecurity for millions, due to the refusal by the West to assist in construction of infrastructure projects in water, energy, and rail transportation. With out a comprehensive strategic approach to economic development of the region and the continent wecan expecy more conflcits. I fear that France’s latest intervention, following its involvement (along with the US and UK) in the overthrow of President Kaddafi, which ignited the current crisis in Northern Mali, does not bode well for Africa. Lawrence Freeman, Africa Desk, EIR journal.

  • Posted by Donald Stowers

    I, for one, am thankful the French have decided to intervene militarily in Mali even though it had become clear that no other European nation would join them in committing troops. Nor was the U.S. able to do so because the American public has lost its appetite for foreign intervention after protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If, as the NY Times reports, the French have stopped the advance of the rebels in their tracks, this is good news for all of West Africa and a godsend to Malians, whom the insurgents had been terrorizing and treating as a subjugated people. I’m not as concerned as John Campbell is about the government in Bamako. The military coup appears to be an interim step that was essential to halting the advance of rebel forces, which admit their al-Qaeda connections. Call me naive if you will, but I believe that once the insurgents have been permanently checked, the fragile democracy of Mali will return to some semblance of normalcy. Meanwhile, Nigeria is committing 1200 troops to help the Malian cause, and other neighboring countries, such as Senegal, will send smaller troop contingents, with the U.S. and other countries providing logistical and financial support for the enterprise. Although I never subscribed to John Foster Dulles’ domino theory in Asia or elsewhere (which he applied to Communist expansion efforts), it seems to me that other West African countries would be at risk if the Islamist rebels were allowed to take over all of Mali due to Western inaction. Nigeria has become involved because the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria has been linked to the international al-Qaeda movement and there is evidence the groups terrorizing northern Nigeria were trained in Mali. No one wants Mali to become another Somalia, and no one wants the insurgents to export their particularly harsh and offensive brand of Islam to other West African states. In my view, the Socialist government in Paris is doing precisely what is necessary under the circumstances.

  • Posted by Miguel Garrido

    Here’s the result of the Western-backed Arab… Winter. It is a winter, a 4-year long, grey, grim, cold winter. The products of this are nation-wrecking, economic looting, sharia law, terrorism, civil war, ethnic-based genocide. One of the most disturbing trends in all this is, of course, the sudden empowerment of hardline Jihadis and their apparently “softline” ikhwan, the Muslim Brotherhood – a force for destabilization and wrecking in the region, ever since its inception as a fifth column phalanx by the British Foreign Office. The Muslim Brotherhood has not changed a bit since it was first established. If anything, time just made it more talented, resourceful, and terroristic. Never forget, these Ikhwan were the natural Middle Eastern allies of the Nazi Abwehr during WWII. And this is where al-Qaeda was created.

    This process can best be described, and understood, as the giant, all-encompassing wave of destabilization and destruction that puts an end to the Arab nation-state, and replaces it with underdeveloped feudal strongholds, microstates, ministates, city-states. The new feudal lords in this will be things like British Petroleum and finance credit firms (watch Tunisia or Egypt), and these new, vile barons, do not shy away from using legions of lunatic priests, jihadis, gangsters, as their henchmen to terrorize and contain the population during the looting. The same formula that was experienced by Europe during the 30s with the financier-run, mob-based, installation of Fascism. While Europe seems to be headed for that direction once again, the Arab world is already ahead of the curve.

    This is how civilization dies.

    Now, the NATO space will obviously have blowback – massive blowback – on this one. When you knock down a wall, watch out lest you be bitten by a snake. With the Arab revolutions, the wall is itself made of snakes. So, as things become progressively worse and bloodier, get ready for mass refugee migrations, from this “arc of crisis” into Southern Europe and Eastern Europe. With this, you’ll have the mass export of violence and terrorism into Europe, and more explosions of mass violence in the Balkans. Be prepared for piracy campaigns in the Mediterranean. This will all combine with Europe’s own economic and social decline, to give rise to waves of riots, ethnic-based chaos and terrorist violence – not just in far away, remote, border regions now. This will happen in Paris, London, Berlin.

    The real culprits of this are the financiers who unleashed the global economic depression with their mass derivative storm, and then, not content, went on to rape and pillage the nation-state everywhere, including the Middle East. But ultimately, everyone who keeps silent at this critical time, is to blame for the miserable future we’re reserving for our children.

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