April 26, 2013: Strategy Page
The cause of the rebellion in northern Mali (corrupt southern officials running the north in a corrupt and inept fashion) has not been dealt with. The Tuareg rebels still want autonomy (self-rule) and the black African majority (90 percent of the population) in the south does not want to allow it. But the Mali Army, dominated by black Africans, is still a corrupt bunch of ill-trained poorly equipped and ineptly led gunmen who tend to serve whoever pays them. This army is still incapable of defeating the MNLA (Tuareg rebels) and not sure if they can persuade the peacekeepers to do it for them. The MNLA expects the July elections (the 7 th for the president the 21 st for parliament) to bring another group of corrupt southerners to power.
Fixing the corruption in the Mali government and military is seen as the solution to the problems with the Tuareg north. But that corruption, fueled by tribal ties and tradition, has proved extremely difficult to eliminate or even just tone down. One thing there is no shortage of in Mali is challenges.
Speaking of corruption, the decision by Chad to withdraw its 2,250 troops from Mali was, as many expected, just a negotiating ploy. Chad leaders want more money and no criticism if a lot of it disappears into their pockets.
In Europe, Africa and the Middle East police are detecting, and increasingly arresting, Islamic terrorists who have fled Mali. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had members from all over North Africa, but mostly from Algeria and while defeated in Mali it was not destroyed there. Hundreds of experienced Islamic terrorists have scattered and are reorganizing via email, cell phones and hand-carried documents. Recruiting has taken a hit, as the operations in Mali this year showed once more that Islamic radicals cannot stand up to professional soldiers and their governing methods tend to turn the population against them. This caused over a thousand AQIM members to desert, while nearly 500 were killed in the Mali fighting. Hundreds of local Islamic terrorists (Tuaregs and black Africans from countries in the region) have stayed in northern Mali and are carrying out a terrorism campaign. There are a few larger groups of these Islamic terrorists still wandering around the far north but they are being hunted by French aircraft and hit with smart bombs. Some of these Islamic terrorists have renounced their alliance with al Qaeda and are trying to evade attack by just being another group of Tuareg separatists.
French troops continue to search for and attack Islamic terrorist groups in the north. French intelligence has identified dozens of camps and equipment storage sites al Qaeda constructed in the north during the last year and, in the far northern mountains near the Algerian border, over the last decade. France is using its warplanes and smart bombs to attack these bases and supply dumps. Sending in ground troops is a less attractive option because of the al Qaeda use of landmines and the possibility of ambush by nearby terrorists. The French troops can go in on foot, but there are more targets to be hit than there are infantry to hit all of them. It takes time and manpower to clear the mines.
April 25, 2013: The UN approved a Mali peacekeeping force of 12,600 soldiers and police. Most of the troops would be from Africa and include the 6,000 African peacekeepers already in Mali and at least a thousand French troops.
April 24, 2013: The MNLA means (in French) “Liberation Army of Azawad” and the Mali government is upset that MNLA men control most of the rural (and very thinly populated) areas in the north. These rebels like to approve documents (like passes) with rubber stamps that say “State of Azawad”. That is the Tuareg term for their homeland in northern Mali. MNLA refuses to disarm but is willing to negotiate their role in the north. After invading in January France tolerated the MNLA as long as the rebels cooperated and did not fight the Mali army or government officials. Several hundred Tuareg Malian soldiers work directly for the French as scouts and translators. These men help the French determine which Tuareg rebels can be trusted and which are Islamic terrorists (usually members of MUJAO or Ansar Dine.)
April 23, 2013: The French transferred responsibility for security to a battalion (650 troops) of peacekeepers from Burkina Faso.
April 22, 2013: France officially agreed to keep 2,000 troops in Mali through July and at least a thousand by the end of the year.
April 21, 2013: MNLA (Tuareg rebels) took control of Ber, a town of 9,000 some 50 kilometers east of Timbuktu. The town had been taken over by an Islamic radical group that had arrived to protect Arabs living there. The Tuareg and Arabs are ethnically similar and sometimes unite against the black Africans who live in the north. But after months of harsh rule by Islamic terrorists, even the Tuareg are hostile to “Arabs” and locals will still try and drive them out. The only defenders of the local Arabs (who have often been there for generations) are the remaining Islamic radicals or the French troops. Local leaders in Ber called on the MNLA for help in keeping the peace.
April 18, 2013: Mauritania has agreed to send 1,800 peacekeepers to Mali. Mauritanian troops are particularly valuable because they have years of experience chasing down Islamic terrorists and bandits in the desert. Mauritania borders Mali and sees this peacekeeping duty as self-defense. One of the groups Mauritanian troops will be fighting is MOJWA (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, largely composed of black African Islamic radicals and led by Mauritanians). MOJWA is unique among Islamic terrorist groups because its leadership is black African. Mauritanian security forces have made it very difficult for MOJWA to operate in Mauritania and that’s why so many MOJWA members moved to Mali in the last year. Many are still there and not looking forward to the arrival of Mauritanian troops.
April 16, 2013: Algerian soldiers and police continue to intercept arms smugglers from Libya trying to get to northern Mali. It’s unclear if these weapons were headed for the Islamic terrorists still operating their or tribesmen. Both are regular customers for weapons dealers.