Monday, November 19, 2012

Questions on military intervention in Mali

As the world gets spun up to send troops into Mali to defeat Islamists and others who established the state of Azawad in northern Mali I have a few concerns.

1.  Mali has been particular with what kind of military assistance it receives and in what manner, preferring to be re-equipped and financed to take care of the northern insurrection itself.  This seems to be inline with CPT Sanogo's original complaint that led to his accidental coup back in March (that the government of Mali wasn't providing enough support to fight northern rebels).

2.  The government situation in Mali still hasn't been sorted out with Sanogo retaining some control of the government.  Currently the US can not provide military assistance or funding to the government of Mali as Sanogo retains some power.  If the Malian army was resupplied, rearmed, and reequipped with Sanogo retaining some control of the military and government it would cement his power.

3.  Nigerian troops have been mentioned as providing a large part of the 3,300 ECOWAS troops intervening in Mali given their participation in past African Union, UN, and ECOWAS/ECOMOG actions.  However, Nigerian troops earned a bad reputation in Sierra Leone and Liberia for stealing and taking sides in the conflict.  Nigeria has also been fighting its own insurgency without great success against Boko Haram and its not likely they would have success against other Islamist insurgents either.

4.  There is no guarantee this will be a quick and easy fight, regardless of who is fighting.  Mali has been fighting insurgents for some time and when they took over Azawad they did it with heavy weapons and arms from Libya.  Even if the MNLA/Azawadian troops are defeated there will remain some support for the insurgency due to the need for development, ethnic conflict, and other past issues in northern Mali.  The need for development and investment in northern Mali is even greater after extremists have destroyed buildings, sites, and infrastructure deemed incompatible with their beliefs.

5.  By the way, when do coup leaders become recognized as legit leaders and start receiving US aid again? Just when we realize there is no going back and we can gain more from working with them than against them?

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