Military Mission: Paris Pushing for Risky Intervention in Mali

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Raniah Salloum and Stefan Simons, Dec. 11, 2012 (Photo-Gallery).

Northern Mali is at risk of becoming a breeding ground for terrorists. But with a poorly trained Malian military and political chaos in the capital, few can agree on what should be done to bring peace and the rule of law to the region. France is in favor of quick action, but most of its allies are skeptical. 

As Modibo Diarra began to read his statement on state television, his nervousness was clearly visible. “I, Cheick Modibo Diarra, am resigning along with my entire government,” he said in the early hours of Tuesday. “I apologize before the entire population of Mali.”

It’s anything but a voluntary departure for the now ex-prime minister. The military junta had arrested him on Monday evening, accusing him of “no longer working in the interest of the country.”

Modibo Diarra’s downfall could intensify the political crisis in Bamako. Since the elected government was deposed by the military in March, the coup leaders have been sharing power with him and the president. Who exactly speaks for the country is a tug-of-war among the various parties.

More than anything else, it’s this political chaos that makes an international military mission in Mali extremely dangerous. There is no clear contact person for international allies. Despite this, the military mission in Mali has already been agreed upon. It is meant to be the next step in the war on terror. But the operational details are still being negotiated — who, when, what and with how many soldiers.

Fears of a New Terrorist Breeding Ground: … //

… Europe and the UN Hesitate

There have already been reports of French jihadists residing in Mali who could plan attacks in France. In the Sahel region, six French nationals are being held hostage by jihadist groups. And France is worried about Mali for more than just security reasons. In contrast to its allies, Paris has economic interests in the country too. Nuclear energy giant Areva, a large portion of which is owned by the French state, had plans to open up a uranium mine there. The company already has several similar mines operating in Niger, to the north, and the region is the most important source of uranium for the company.

France is already at work and has reportedly begun stationing surveillance drones in the country. The government in Paris is putting pressure on the UN Security Council to give the green light for a military mission before the end of the year. But the organization appears to have its doubts.

“A military operation may be required as a last resort to deal with the most hard-line extremist and criminal elements in the north,” wrote UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a report to the Security Council. First, he said, there must be a “broad-based political dialogue” that would address the “long-standing grievances” of communities in the north. That point, he added, has not yet been reached.

The main obstacle to that dialogue is the risks created by the political chaos in the capital Bamako. As long as there is no clear government, negotiations with separatists and Islamists in the north will be difficult. But they are necessary, at the very least to win over individual groups to Bamako’s side. Otherwise it will be impossible to achieve lasting peace to the north.

Malian Military Unprepared to Fight: … //

… (full text).


Al-Qaida Threat: EU Weighs Options for Helping Mali, on Spiegel Online International, by Horand Knaup, Gordon Repinski and Christoph Schult, Oct. 29, 2012

A Trip Through Hell: Daily Life in Islamist Northern Mali, on Spiegel Online International, by Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Oct. 29, 2012 (Photo-Gallery);

The sharpening struggle over Egypt’s future, on Socialisst, by Ahmed Shawki, December 12, 2012.

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