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The reconquest of northern Mali, a foreseeable failure?


In a co-signed article in Le Figaro, Laurent Fabius and Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, prepared the opinion to the need to “face the Malian challenge regarding terrorism and fanaticism.” One can but agree with this goal. But the reconquest of northern Mali in the configuration that has been announced _that is with the Malian army in the lead, supported by ECOWAS forces, themselves supported by France_ is a political construction that suits the sensibilities of African actors of the crisis but which cannot have the required operational efficiency. This military campaign is doomed to failure if it is carried out according to this setup.


Historically, as largely demonstrated by the wars in Chad, Confederate armies have never managed to beat the desert fighters on their own land. In addition, the rout of the Malian Army in spring 2012 revealed that its management did not have the minimum values required to win a military battle: Malian officers, with few exceptions, were particularly cowardly, abandoning their men against the enemy. But a defeated and badly supervised army cannot become victorious simply by being trained and equipped. It is a long process that involves the selection and training of new management.

The Malian Army, which is supposed to be the main actor of the reconquest after being reorganized, reequipped and trained by French instructors from Dakar, will not be able recover the cities of the Niger bend from terrorist forces and Tuareg rebels who occupy them unless ECOWAS units take up the fight, backed by accurate air strikes.

Indeed, these need to be highly selective, meaning to say guided from the ground to avoid collateral damage to civilians. Let us recall that Gao and Timbuktu are both cities of approximately 50 000 inhabitants. This leads to putting French advanced guiding teams in the front line and a Libyan type intervention which Algerians do not want. France, indeed, cannot accept to see its planes be guided by African teams who do not have the same desire to protect civilians, and thus take the risk of being an accomplice in the massacre of the civilian population.

Unwilling to endorse a ground intervention by French or American forces in what is considered to be their sphere of influence, the Algerian authorities rightly feel that only negotiations with the MNLA and Ansar Dine on a special status of Azawad within the Republic of Mali can lead to a restoration of security in Mali.

The French President and diplomacy must quickly put an end to the illusions that the provisional authorities of Mali and the population of Bamako are under and that give France and the United States the credit for their wish to repeat the Libyan campaign in the Sahel. They need to understand that only a political negotiation with MNLA and Ansar Dine Tuaregs can preserve the unity of Mali.

Indeed, target and enemy should not be mistaken. As Laurent Fabius and Guido Westerwelle stated in Le Figaro, we must intervene in the Sahel to prevent the perpetuation of a terrorist sanctuary that is threatening the stability of the Sahel and even ultimately our country. The enemy is in fact not the MNLA and Ansar Dine Tuaregs whose values make them less open to radical Islam, but the two radical Islamic and mafia-like organizations that are AQIM and MUJAO.

General (2S) Jean-Bernard PINATEL