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26 January 2013

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The Twisted Genius

Yep. That's how I see it playing out. Although the French are doing all the heavy lifting, they are keeping the Malian forces meaningfully in the fight. This accomplishes two things. It's on the job training for the woefully inadequate Malian units and it instills some morale and confidence in the Malian soldiers and leadership.

Let's hope the French can keep the Malian and other African units from engaging in too many summary executions. That's a tall order given the past performances of African armies. IMO that will be critical to long term success. I read a report that last Saturday residents of Gao lynched a prominent Islamist leader in retaliation for the killing of a local journalist earlier that day. I would expect some level of local retaliations and reprisals against the Islamists, but that kind of behavior from the non-local soldiers on the Tuaregs will set back the fight against the Islamists immensely.

The Twisted Genius

Sahara Media in Mauritainia announced that Colonel Kamou Ag Meinly, a former senior Malian army officer and the military commander of Ansar Dine, announced that he left to join the MNLA.

This is just a guess on my part, but I see a smart strategy in the fairly rapid push towards Gao and the MUJAO held areas and the slower push towards Timbuktu. This gives more elements of Ansar Dine the opportunity to abandon the Islamist cause like Colonel Meinly. I bet many in Ansar Dine are not diehard Salafists.

mbrenner

"A smart strategy" - when was the last time we heard that term applied - with validity - in regard to an episode in the 'war on terror?"

My greatest anxiety is that the French commanders will start holding daily press conferences and arranging tours for visiting members of the French National Assembly. Appointing an Admiral to be the main spokesperson for the Command (as we did in Baghdad and Kabul)would be the tip-off. I know one distinguished French admiral, now retired, who is very articulate and speaks fluent English. He assured me earlier today that he hasn't been sounded out and would refuse the position if offered.

turcopolier

mbrenner

Who else has told you they are not involved? I look forward to your critique of the campaign as it progresses. pl

Fred

Its interesting the changes happening. Isn't that just the type of political solution needed to defeat the Salafists, most of whom, if I recall correctly, are from outside Mali?

How large a role does the Niger River play in this? Gao being on the river and Tibubuktu North of it, as well as being on the edge of the desert? The road network doesn't seem too developed, but all I have to go with is google maps. The support of the people living in the region is still more important than logistics, isn't it? It doesn't seem they took to an imported version of sharia very well.

Fred

I had to look up the insignia: RĂ©giment de marche du Tchad. They have a rather storied history. I believe these would be exactly the kind of troops one would deploy for this operation.

Jackie

I heard you on NPR the other day and my simple thought was "oh, I know him" from this website.

The Twisted Genius

Fred,

Timbuktu is close enough to the Niger River to be considered a river city just like Gao. It is just downstream from the vast inland delta, a flat area characterized by seasonal flooding. You're right, roads are few and far between. The airports near Timbuktu, Gao and eventually Kidal will IMO be more important to operations than the road system.

Another factor in the region is the effect of military operations and intensified surveillance on smuggling and the drug trade. My guess is that South American and Asian drug lords are not pleased with the Islamists bringing all this militarized attention to the region. Perhaps a number of Salafist leaders may end up as just so many heads in a duffel bag.

Fred

Thanks TTG. I had forgotten about the drug trade. Maybe the Salafists will have some more enemies to worry about for a while, which would be a good thing.

Poul

Thankfully the Islamists have learned nothing from the fighting in Algeria where they brutal implementation of their version of Islam ended up alienating the population.

Let hope they never learn moderation and slow change of the moral values of a society.

Medicine Man

They are like the Central American communists of yesteryear in that aspect.

Medicine Man

Drug lords vs Islamists -- its hard to know how to feel about that. Root for injuries?

I suppose the Islamists are a greater strategic threat to the West.

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