War in Mali Heats Up

So much for the so-called “war on terror” being over. (You didn’t really believe it was, did you?) A coalition of Salafist Al Qaeda militias is pouring out of the statelet they broke off in Northern Mali and heading south while French warplanes are bombing their positions in the city of Gao.

While no one really knows much, Andy Morgan seems to have a better idea what’s going on there than the rest of us do. His analysis is worth reading. Here’s a taste.

The UN Security Council met in emergency session to “express their grave concern over the reported military movements and attacks by terrorist and extremist groups in the north of Mali, in particular their capture of the city of Konna, near Mopti,” according to a Security Council press statement.  The Council called for a rapid deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) and the immediate issuance of an agreed political road map, which includes serious negotiations with non-extremist Malians in the north and presses for the full restoration of democratic governance. It seems that the EU, UN and USA’s preferred option of a slow careful build-up to an invasion of the north by a Malian lead force of ECOWAS, AU and French Special Forces, with D Day set sometime next September and plenty of negotiation in between, has proved to be all too leisurely and fantastical.

Granted, the world and his dog knows that the Malian are in no fit state to fight a war in the north of the country. A military establishment that was riddled with corruption and incompetence even before the current crisis began has been bought to a state of catastrophic unreadiness by the army’s defeat at the hands of the MNLA and the Islamist coalition last April. It must also be remembered that the Malian army hasn’t won a military victory in the north without the use of Arab and Touareg militia since the early 1960s. The idea that the Salafist coalition currently ruling northern Mali was going to patiently wait around until next September whilst the Malian army was rebuilt with funding and expertise from the European Union was wishful thinking. The last few months have felt like a phoney war. There’s been nothing phoney about the fighting in the last few days.

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