Military Planners Prepare for War in Mali

November 8th, 2012 - by admin

Tiemoko Diallo / Reuters & Abayomi Azikiwe Editor / Pan-African News Wire – 2012-11-08 02:07:13

Military Planners Prepare for War in Mali
Tiemoko Diallo / News Daily & Reuters

BAMAKO (November 6, 2012) — Military experts from Africa, the United Nations and Europe have drafted plans to recapture northern Mali, officials said on Tuesday, as one faction of the Islamist rebels who occupy the territory called for talks. A source with knowledge of the plan said the plan would involve a force of more than 4,000 personnel, mostly from West African countries.

“Every military option will be used — ground and air,” the source said, asking not to be named.

The crisis in Mali has become a security concern for Western governments worried its vast desert could turn into a training ground for al Qaeda-linked militants. Once an example of African democracy, Mali fell into chaos after a coup in March in the capital Bamako that toppled the president, leaving a power vacuum exploited by rebels for their takeover of the north.

International military experts drew up the plan at a week-long meeting in Bamako and submitted it on Tuesday to the West African regional bloc ECOWAS for approval. The blueprint will be reviewed by the U.N. Security Council in mid-November, setting the stage for action.

“We need to respond in detail to the Security Council on the logistics, timing, size and funding for the deployment of this mission,” Desire Ouedraogo, president of the ECOWAS Commission, told military planners at the meeting’s closing ceremony. “So your conclusions will be crucial in the next step, of getting the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution authorizing deployment.”

The Security Council gave African leaders 45 days from October 12 to draw up a plan for military intervention to retake control of the north. Diplomats say that any such operation is months away, however. The source present at the planning meetings said a military headquarters for the mission would be set up in Koulikoro, about 60 km (45 miles) from Bamako.

U.S.-based risk consultancy Stratfor said an intervention would likely drive al Qaeda-linked fighters out of their strongholds — Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal — and into the mountain ranges of Mali and Niger where their influence could be contained.

Former colonial power France has been a vocal backer of military action. The United States, which spent years working with the Malian army against al Qaeda’s Sahara wing, has called for a more cautious approach, seeking elections first to strengthen the political leadership.

While regional and international efforts to deal with the situation have been hobbled by division over how far to proceed with negotiations with the rebels, a consensus is building that a military intervention is inevitable.

Ansar Dine, one of the Islamist groups occupying northern Mali, told regional mediator Blaise Compaore it was ready to open talks with the government of Mali to end the conflict. Ansar Dine has also sent delegates for talks with regional power Algeria in an apparent effort to head off an intervention.

“Ansar Dine reaffirms its availability to immediately engage in a political dialogue with the transition authorities in Mali, in order to reach a complete end to hostilities,” the group said in a statement after meeting President Compaore in Burkina Faso.

It said they were also ready to “respect fundamental freedoms, the return of displaced persons and refugees and the creation of an environment conducive for the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement that addresses all the root causes of the crisis in Mali.”

Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole said he hoped the Malian government would open direct contacts with the rebels, but added that the rebels would have to prove their good faith.

“The mediation took note and welcomed the statement from Ansar Dine. Beyond the declaration of intentions, we hope that this would be effectively translated to day-to-day actions and behavior on the ground,” Bassole said after the meeting.

Additional reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou in Ouagadougou; Writing by Richard Valdmanis and Bate Felix; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Robin Pomeroy)

Copyright Reuters 2008.

US-NATO Policies Lead to Coup in Mali
Abayomi Azikiwe Editor / Pan-African News Wire

(April 1, 2012) — A soldiers’ mutiny has led to a military coup in the West African state of Mali. Rebelling troops and forces loyal to President Amadou Toumani Touré exchanged fire near the presidential palace in Bamako, Mali’s capital, on March 21.

Rebel soldiers then seized the state radio and television station. On March 22, a group of soldiers appeared on national television identifying themselves as the National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State.

The committee’s spokesperson, Lt. Amadou Konaré, said that the soldiers had taken control of the state due to the inability of President Touré’s government to “fight terrorism.”

No images of the president were seen, and since March 21 there has only been one brief statement over Twitter attributed to Touré, saying there has been no coup but only a mutiny. Nonetheless, it is quite obvious that a change of power has taken place in Mali with Capt. Amadou Sanogo claiming to be in charge of the new military regime.

An ongoing conflict with the Tuareg people in the north of the country had accelerated over the last few months. The Tuareg, who are dispersed in several states in West and North Africa, have been politically marginalized since the post-independence period going back to the 1960s.

What’s behind the Coup?
The latest developments and rebel statements imply that the government’s failure to effectively contain or defeat the Tuareg rebellion in the north has created tremendous tensions within the military and the Malian society as a whole. President Touré was at the end of his term and would have voluntarily stepped down in a matter of weeks.

Why then did the lower-ranking military officers stage a coup at this point? Let’s examine the burgeoning Tuareg rebellion that is related to the US-NATO war against Libya that began in February 2011.

Several thousand Tuaregs from Mali and other countries in the region had lived for many years in Libya and maintained an alliance with the late Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s government. Many Tuaregs fought alongside the Libyan army in defense of the country from the US/NATO-backed National Transitional Council that overthrew that government and murdered Gadhafi in October 2011.

Following Gadhafi’s death, thousands of Tuaregs relocated from Libya to Mali. Unrest soon spread throughout the northern region, and an existing Tuareg rebellion was reconstituted as the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA).

The fighters who had returned from Libya were well-trained and armed. They began to reassert their influence, causing monumental problems for the Malian military and the central government based in the south of the country in Bamako.

MNLA fighters took over several important northern towns over a period of two months beginning in early 2012. Their advances on the battlefield also prompted desertions by the Malian army, creating panic in the capital and in the city of Gao.

According to Malian newspaper columnist Adam Thiam, “The Libyan crisis didn’t cause this coup but certainly revealed the malaise felt within the army.” (BBC News, March 22)

In the BBC interview an anonymous government official indicated that the military coup was probably planned in advance and was not totally a surprise. This official said that “nobody could now pretend they were not warned. Many within the government felt something could happen, we just didn’t know when and how. The anger was just too high.”

President Touré had himself staged a military coup in 1991 against another regime of soldiers. However, he turned over power to a civilian government in 1992 and won the 2002 and 2007 presidential elections.

The MNLA reacted favorably to the coup but pledged to continue its struggle for the emergence of what it calls an independent Tuareg state. The organization says it may benefit from the current situation in the capital.

In the BBC interview a spokesman for the MNLA in the Mauritanian capital of Nauakchott, Hamma Ag Mahmoud, said that the MNLA was “not interested in Bamako, but Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao. These mutineers will not have the firepower to resist against us.

They will have to sign a peace agreement at some point.” Mahmoud had previously served as a minister in the former military regime of Gen. Moussa Traoré, who was overthrown by President Touré in 2002.

Some Malian governmental officials have blamed NATO for the escalation of the crisis in the north. In neighboring Senegal, University of Dakar Prof. Abdul Aziz Kebe told the BBC, “Western powers have underestimated that getting rid of Gadhafi would have severe repercussions in the Sahel region.”

The Associated Press reported March 26, “Sources in Mali and neighboring Niger said Monday the rebels hope to take Kidal without a fight. The sources asked not to be named because the situation is dangerous.”

Imperialism’s Role in Mali
Mali’s civilization extends back at least 1,000 years. The area was colonized by France during the 19th century and in 1960 gained national independence.

During the first eight years of independence, Mali’s political direction was socialist-oriented. The first post-independence leader, President Modibo Keita, was a close ally of Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah and Guinean President Ahmed Sekou Touré. Keita was overthrown in a military coup in 1968.

Lately, Mali has been a partner in the so-called “war on terrorism” in West Africa. The Associated Press reported that “Mali is at the heart of a Western-backed initiative to fight al-Qaida’s thriving African wing.”

Mali has been a member of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative, which is an interagency plan by the US government that combines efforts by both civil and military agencies ostensibly designed to fight “terrorism.” The military component of TSCTI consist of the US-led “Operation Enduring Freedom — Trans Sahara.” Mali has held joint military exercises with the US Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, and receives arms from Washington.

Mali is the third largest producer of gold on the African continent. Companies such as the London-listed Randgold Resources are producing gold there, and have interests affected by recent developments in the north.

Nick Holland, the CEO of Gold Fields, the world’s fourth largest gold producer, said his firm would continue mining in Mali. (Reuters, March 26)

The current situation in Mali is developing rapidly. On March 26, demonstrations involving a thousand people in the capital opposed the coup.

These developments illustrate that the imperialist war in Libya is causing greater instability in North and West Africa. The escalating military intervention in Africa by the US and NATO is creating more uncertainty and greater resistance on the part of the African masses against foreign interference in their internal affairs.

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