Sunday, February 03, 2013

What next in Mali?

Now that the French Army has driven the Islamists from Northern Mali the question is raised what to do next. Some people argue for extensive mopping up operations. I favor a slower approach.

One problem is that this is also an Tuareg uprising. As they are one of the tribes of Mali one needs to find a way to live with them.

Another problem is that this might draw the Western countries in an Afghanistan style unwinnable guerrilla war where the "collateral damage" turns off the population.

In my opinion the focus should be on making the battle unattractive: make banditry in the Sahara no longer profitable and chase those who cause trouble (much easier here than in Afghanistan). With less money many local people will leave the uprising and with less opportunity for glorious Jihadi fights many foreign fighters will go home and few new ones will arrive.

An interesting take on the uprising can be found at Mathaba, Gadaffi's old press organization. It claims that to counter a previous uprising an agreement had concluded that included a development plan for the north of Mali. When Gadaffi's assets were frozen there was no longer money for that plan...

Odd enough the Libyan connection isn't mentioned in the article Initiatives for Peace in Northern Mali in the 1990’s – Lessons Learned by a former USAid consultant who worked 4 years in Mali.

This NY Times article (French Strikes in Mali Supplant Caution of U.S. mentions that three of the four unit commanders of the army units that were trained by the US were Tuaregs. When the Tuareg uprising started (and Mali has a history of many previous Tuareg uprisings) they predictably joined it.

The Mali blowback: more to come? discusses how Mali had its own peaceful turn towards democracy in 1991.

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