Thursday, April 4, 2013

After 3 Months, Are the French Finished in Mali?

Rumors are flying in Mali that the French are ready to begin the withdrawal of their troops after months of clashes with the Jihadist rebels in northern Mali in an attempt to take back major cities that have fallen to the rebels throughout the civil war. French President François Hollande has announced a tactical plan and schedule for French withdrawal from Mali is in the works. The main goal, claimed by the French, is to train the Malian army and then hand back control of the “peace enforcement” back to the Army. However, many are starting to express concerns over how the Jihadist groups of the north pushed over the borders of Algeria by the French army will begin to return to the Tuareg territory once the Malian army is fully in control of patrolling the borders; The city of Timbuktu, reclaimed early by the French, has been experiencing increased chaos in the past few days as small, radical rebels demonstrate their longevity and determination in the fight through small-scale but deadly attacks on the city. Chad has additionally increased its military presence in Mali to aid the French and Malian armies in the retaking of the north.

A French soldier in Timbuktu, Mali.
The Malian civil war has further drawn the attention of additional international actors in the past few months. The UN is pledging assistance for the Malian government by offering to send UN Peace Keepers to the region. The UN has also condemned the use of violence against the civilian population in the Tuareg north by a fragmented Malian army. The U.S. recently sent U.S. Congressmen into the war-torn nation to make observations and determine where and when the U.S. could input aid to the fight.
The international community is putting their full backing towards the Malian army and the former government to re-establish stability over the nation; yet, even if the French and Malian armies are successful at removing the terrorist threat from the country as the West encourages, they have not yet addressed the issue of the underlying ethnic tensions in the nation that led to the initial clashes, failure of communication, and the fall of the country into the hands of a military coup and rebel terrorist groups. The French have placed little attention on the issues stemming between the Malian majority groups and the Tuareg ethnic group. The U.S. is undoubtedly interested in Mali due to the comparisons of Mali’s disruption by the underground terrorist organization, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, to that of the issues we’ve fought for years in Afghanistan.

Reports of civil rights abuses by the Malian army against Tuareg citizens in the northern cities have re-incited the public expression of feelings of discrimination and frustration in the Tuareg people. Al-Jazeera notes that the Tuareg people are still expressing their desire for an independent ethnic state; many Tuaregs claim this is the only way they see to reach peace. The focus on removing al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb from the country has distracted many international observers from the underlying tensions that are increasingly building again. These disputes over access to land and resources will continue to plague Mali and the state long after the Jihadist groups are removed from Mali and the West has long gone home.

Vall, Mohamed. "Bracing for Chaos in Northern Mali." Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, 1 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Apr. 2013.
Crumley, Bruce. "Jihadi Strike in Timbuktu Reflects Altered Terrorism Threat in Mali." Time World. Time, 1 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Apr. 2013.
Ahmed, Baba. "US Senators McCain, Whitehouse Visit Mali." Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 02 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Apr. 2013.
"Mali's Ethnic Tuareg Accuse Army of Abuse." Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, 2 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Apr. 2013.


  1. Withdrawal by the French seems eminent, however the underlying problems have not been corrected. Whenever the French decide to leave, I think that Mali will fall back into conflict. The difference then would be that the Malian government won't have military aid.

    The withdrawal plan needs to include a sustainment plan that outlines how the Malian forces should continue to improve their forces in order to retain stability. The jihadists are being smart in leaving Mali and waiting it out until international forces leave, then they'll be able to return and continue their fight.

  2. Aside from the fact that this sounds, somewhat ironically, like the French's version of Iraq pullout problems, I think it's funny that the U.S. sent Congressmen to "observe" a war torn region to assess the tactical situation. I did a brief Google search, and I didn't unearth their findings/"tactical suggestions". Is there any reason to believe their visit would yield sound recommendations to the President/pertinent decision makers?