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29 January 2013


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May I hazard a guess and say that the Tuaregs will be outmaneuvered from Bamako. Reason being, that's where the cash of $400M plus cash of military aid will go from the donor countries. The refusal to allow national forces (ie Malian) into Kidal will be met with force, if only to secure a political stability which the territorial integrity of the state confers on Malian forces. Once that is done, the Tuaregs can start battling for their autonomy. I understand that Bamako intends to disarm all groups once operations have ended.
I am puzzled as to why the French, British and others would mobilize their forces to intervene in Mali, rapidly rout the militants, then allow Tuaregs to finish the job off in the mountains ? I'm pretty sure Malian forces and coalition partners will actively pursue the militants into the mountains and 'defeat in detail'. The risks of not doing so are too great. With your knowledge of the ppl and place, what makes a pursuit into the mountains so difficult given they're already on the run ?


Mountains are generally ugly places if you're on the receiving end of guerilla warfare. Its the equivalent of chasing a bear into its cave, in some ways. Regardless, you're likely to take some nasty casualties.

The French got a double taste of this experience, first in Algeria, then in Vietnam (mountains AND jungle!). Its not surprising they'd have the Foreign Legion deal with the Salafists in the desert & towns and the Tuaregs can handle their one time allies.



I think it is worth noting that you are located in central Nigeria. pl

Charles I

I saw reporting on reprisal looting of alleged Tuareg-owned rebel-supporting businesses, as well as mob detention of alleged rebel supporters.

You say the French are helping Bamako make the right decision. Will this liberation reaction be an obstacle to the MNLA co-operating or the revolt in toto precluding Bamako discerning between the MNLA and the Salafists and accepting their help against the latter?

The Twisted Genius

Charles I,

The Tuareg have been in open revolt against the Bamako government several times since the 60s. Each time they were put down violently and subject to reprisals. The Tuaregs have always been treated shabbily by Bamako and they expect no change. That's why they sought independence. In spite of this history, both sides have managed to coexist and cooperate to some small degree in the past. The French don't have a dog in that fight.

Only in this last go around have the Tuaregs had the military strength to successfully challenge Bamako. Unfortunately, the Salafists, with more money and arms, hijacked the rebellion. Even so, the Tuaregs still possess considerable military strength. If both sides are smart, they will come to some kind of agreement in the face of a common Salafist enemy.


I believe from the prior background write-ups by TTG here and the info on wiki the Malian armies rank and file don't take well either to the desert or mountain terrain and have been beaten repeatedly the the Tuaregs since the '60s.

Charles I

If both sides are smart. . .let us hope. I have seen reporting that A) gonna be a long war and b) French are leaving ASAP, tho more overt cash & material coming.

Can the MNLA and the Malian govt get along w/o the French, and will distribution/shrinkage of international aid disadvantage/piss off the MNLA, embolden posturing previously powerless government swells and a million other ifs? And the dogfight for aid?

Our minister of International lolly Julain Fantino just announced $13M, none directly to Malian, er, government, but rather to World Vision and like NGO's, as we digest news that Canada's "special forces", fresh from training neighbours in Niger and providing actionable border intel, pop up and are espied guarding our virtually empty Embassy.

"And AQIM, according to Niger’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum has — until recently — been working hand in glove with Mali’s government.

In November, Bazoum told the foreign affairs commission of France’s National Assembly that Mali’s former president, deposed last year by the army, had given AQIM free rein in the north in exchange for a share of the terror group’s lucrative kidnapping revenues."


Canadian initial commitment was One C-17 Globemaster for one week, no troops.

I suppose a big part of the problem is that the capable western powers can't overtly support the likes of the Malian government and intervention on its behalf before the Salafists have come and had a go. This is the lament of former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, kidnapped by Isalmic Maghreg in Niger. Le Merde has already been fanned, and now the fanners slip into desert and mountains.


Long term project, short term odds, ghonna take a lot of smarts.

The Twisted Genius


Bamako certainly wants to militarily control all of Mali but IMO they cannot, even with the ECOWAS military aid coming in. A sizable portion of the Salafist forces are still out there. Their biggest losses are due to defections to the MNLA rather than French airstrikes. That leaves the MNLA in a strong, albeit more humbled, position. The reconquest of Timbuktu, Gao and the rest of the Niger River area was militarily easy compared to taking on mobile and capable local forces in the mountains of far northern and western Mali.

I do have some questions for you, Tunde. How do the Nigerians see the situation? Is the sizable Nigerian military contribution to the fight in Mali seen as another front in the fight against Boko Haram?

Alba Etie

A related question - is there any known operational links between Boko Haram & Salafist forces in Mali or anywhere else ?


Colonel Lang,

I read that elements of the Foreign Legion
jumped into Mali. It was of course elements of
one of the REPs but I have not been able to determine
which one.
Do you or any of our correspondents know?

Je Ne Regrete Rien.

USMC 1965-1972
FBI 1972-1996

The Twisted Genius

If it was definitely the Foreign Legion that jumped, it had to be the 2d REP. That's the only parachute regiment left in the Legion. I know the 2d REP was in Mali, but I have no confirmation it was them that jumped outside Timbuktu. Damn, that'd be a hell of a thing to be able to tell your grandkids... I did a combat jump into Timbuktu.


Nigerians see this from two sides. Diplomatically, Nigeria needs to be present to maintain it's inflated sense of being relevant in the African continent, esp the Sub-Sahel region. Militarily, Mali is regarded as being a strategic buffer from the Magreb region (in terms of the GWOT) and is thus an important mission to part take in.
Boko Haram is a strange phenomenom in that whilst it apes the salafi-jihadi style of haranguing video broadcasts and targeted violence towards xtians in Northern Nigeria, operationally it seems a little in a rut. We hav'nt seen them progress to IEDs or anything near approaching sophisticated attacks like those seen in the AfPak region or even the Magreb. In many ways BH's continued attacks on the Nigerian police particularly are as a result of what they allege was the open murder of their leader upon capture. There has been a cursory trial of the officers involved and nothing more. The justice system has been caught completely unprepared to accommodate the complexities of high profile terrorism cases.


Apologies, was'nt trying to be a smart Alec. Honestly have no idea and wanted to know from TTG why Bamako, riding a wave of triumphalism, would'nt want to reassertion their authority throughout Mali whilst still seeking and destroying the militants. I know I certainly would in their position.
Maybe a strange question but, would Mali progressing in the AFCON tournament have any effect on unifying the country ? It seems about the only thing here in Nigeria that gets ppl to think they're one country. Similar in Mali ?
Alba Etie,
Yes. Apparently awhile back, French and Mauritanians raided a western Mali camp of AQIM and allegedly Nigerian passports were found amongst retrieved documents. Also, we have had militants who have gone to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The govt in Nigeria have been loudly reporting that the leader/propagandist of BH has been wounded and sought refuge in Mali, somehow providing (thin) justification for Nigeria's Malian adventure.


Re the jump, spot on sir !

Alba Etie

Thank you .


The Euphoria has evaporated away. Nigeria won the match @ AFCON. Now this.



Yes. real life is messy. pl

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