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13 January 2013


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Medicine Man


How much is the carnage in Azawad a consequence of events in Libya?

Alba Etie

Are Qatar & Saudia Arabia giving material support MOJWA the same way they appear to be al Nusra in Syria ? And the Turkish government was at one time trying to help the UN mission in Somalia rebuild - and some Islamist outfit in Mogadishu car bombed one of the Turk compounds there two years ago- was MOJWA involved in that attack too ? Does Boko Harum in Nigeria also have ties to MOJWA ? Wonder how much of the looted Qadafi arsenal has fallen into the hands of the MOJWA and other salifist affilates . It looks like the French may have have lost at least one Gazelle to hand held weapons .

William R. Cumming

Taught by bitter experience the French can be a factor in Africa in particular. Few understand the demographics or cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa but given its population and resources again American ignorance and lack of understanding makes US efforts almost a complete waste. Why not help the French with money and equipment?



I doubt if they want our support in other than transportation (fixed wing) and national level intelligence. pl

The Twisted Genius

Tuareg fighters in Qathafi's army returned to Mali only after looting his well stocked armories. It was a major factor in the Tuareg rebellion last year, but it was only one in a series of unfortunate events that led to the situation today.



Thanks for the update. My initial thoughts on reading the prior posts and the latest news releases, especially concerning the equipment and capabilities of the Ansar Dine MOJWA was how much of these capabilities are due to the Tuaregs? Were the later not a part of Qathafi's military and thus very capable and after the collapse of the latter’s government reasonable well equipped? However it appears from your right-up that they may not be the main military force(s) of Ansar Dine and MOJWA. If not certainly your suggestion of including them in a Malian Government to include administration of Azawad (they live there after all) sounds very reasonable.

The question remains who is or was supporting Ansar Dine and MOJWA with training and equipment? Certainly not our allies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar (I would not be shocked, however). Doesn’t this continued jihadist expansion show the true failure of our continued overextension in Afghanistan and the very wrong approach we are taking in Syria?

On a tactical level is it possible that the Jihadist forces are over extended and can be further degraded in the next few days utilizing what air-power is available?

The Twisted Genius

MOJWA and Boko Haram share Salafist ideology and goals, but I don't know if they have any formal ties. I imagine they do share some of the same funding sources from sugar daddies in Saudi Arabia.

The Twisted Genius

Ansar Dine is very much Tuareg. Their leader, Iyad Ag Ghaly, was a leader of the 1990 Tuareg rebellion. Unlike the Tuareq MNLA, Ansar Dine is Salafist. All the Salafist groups in the region appear to be well funded. I strongly suspect Saudi and other Gulf Wahabist sympathizers are providing support, but I've seen no talk of this in the media.

The jihadist forces are not over extended. They are well equipped, well trained and well led. They will remain a formidable foe for quite some time. Although French air support will degrade and disrupt the jihadists, I strongly believe that if the Malian government does not make the non-Salafist inhabitants of Azawad part of the solution, they will become part of an increasingly intractable problem.

Bababk Makkinejad

The French bear direct responsibility in what transpired in Rwanda; and afterwards protected the mass-murderers. Why would you want to help them?

Bababk Makkinejad


Why does it matter who rules Mali?

Why do the French care; it is largely a desert and Tuareg or any others can go up and down the Sahara and will have no bearing on Nancy or Paris?

Do you know why French are acting the way they are in this instance?


Thanks for the clarification and detailed analysis. Sounds like a bad situation needing some flexability and a holding to accound of the Gulf Wahabist supports sooner rather than later.


Sir: while the mood in France is almost entirely supportive of the war (it is actually being called a war), there are apprehensions. The main question is, "where's the exit door?"

There is a fear that even if we push the Islamists away from the towns, it might be impossible to decisively defeat them. Too much space, not enough resources. What then? Are we going to stay there for years, just to prevent them from simply taking over again when we leave?

A bit like another major power that has been fighting an Islamist insurgency in a faraway land for, what, 12 years now?

I suppose the objective is to just kick the Islamists out, then transfer authority to an international force composed of African troops ASAP. But the reason why France had to intervene is precisely that no such international force could be assembled, despite months of discussion. Hopefully, the turn of events will instill some urgency in the proceedings. For example, I understand that the Algerian authorities have switched to supporting the French intervention after the recent Islamist advance (though according to Le Monde the Algerian intellectual elite is still very much against it).

Note: The French term for "quagmire", both materially and figuratively, is "bourbier" (a stronger term is the self-explanatory "merdier"). Hopefully that's a piece of vocabulary that won't be needed too much in the near future.

Charles I

CBC radio news reported this a.m. that Britain had sent planes to assist, and that the U.S. was assisting with some transport, communications.

Charles I

Wars in one's former colonial bailiwick have an annoying domestic potential across the spectrum. France has a colonial history conditioning current responses, as well as a new government.

Charles I

Presumably the exit door is the commencement of the ECOWAS mission under more favourable circumstances with some Western support.

Charles I

Labas TTG,. Thanks for your very detailed reporting on this area. Tremendous.

Charles I

Alarming News from the front confirming Salafist strength and organization.

BAMAKO, MALI—Despite intensive aerial bombardments by French warplanes, Islamist insurgents grabbed more territory in Mali on Monday and got much closer to the capital, French and Malian authorities said.

More countries join battle against Mali Islamists

In the latest setback, the Al Qaeda-linked extremists overran the garrison village of Diabaly in central Mali, France's defence minister said in Paris. Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday the rebels “took Diabaly after fierce fighting and resistance from the Malian army that couldn't hold them back.”

The Malian military is in disarray and has let many towns fall with barely a shot fired since the insurgency began almost a year ago in the northwest African nation. The Islamist fighters control the north and had been blocked in Mali's narrow waist in the central part of the country. But they appeared to have now done a flanking move in the 300-kilometre long belt, opening a second front in the broad southern section of the country, knifing in from the west on government forces.

Mauritania lies to the west of Mali and its armed forces have been put on high alert, said a military official there who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters. To the south, the nation of Burkina Faso has sent military reinforcements to its border and set up roadblocks.

The French military, which began battling in Mali on Friday, expanded its aerial bombing campaign of northern Mali, launching airstrikes for the first time in central Mali to combat the new threat. But it failed to halt the advance of the rebels, who now are only 400 kilometres from the capital Bamako, in the far south. Before France sent its forces in on Friday, the closest known spot the Islamists were to the capital was 680 kilometres away near the central belt, though they might have infiltrated closer than that.



The most sobering news is news only in its sudden revelation: the principal supplier of training, and equipment to the Mali rebels was U.S. Special forces. We spent 5 years moulding a number of elite units (as well as training the Mailian army senior officer corps). Apparently, nearly all of those elite units defected several months ago - taking their equipment and skills with them.

Our grand strategy for making the Southwest Sahara a terrorist-feee, Salafist free zone is in tatters. What other magic bullets are left in our arsenal for establishing an American friendly environment across the wastelands of the world?


Please explain how the French are directly responsible for what happend in Rwanda?

Bababk Makkinejad

In India, the press is freer than in US or Canada or EU; they reported on the role of the French in the massacares of Rwanda.

Indian papers, in fact, had reported at that time that France had planned and organized the mass murders.

Ask any Indian.

Charles I

Now Canada is contributing, apparently at the request of the French:

Harper sends C-17s military cargo plane to Mali after request from France as campaign against Islamist insurgents intensifies


The Twisted Genius

Dr. Brenner,

That stuff about training elite units which later defected smells fishy to me. Do you have a creditable source for that info? I know what goes on in Special Forces JCETs ( Joint Combined Exchange Training) and in the Flintlock exercises. I've done both. Mali never had a number of elite units. On the other hand, Captain Sanogo, the leader of the last coup, was the recipient of several U.S. military training courses.



General Ham and some of his senior subordinates are quoted as declaring themsleves "shocked, shocked that such a thing could have occured." Unlike Captain Reynaud, they are not feigning ignorance. I know nothing of Special Forces methods, training, etc in Mali or elsewhere. But I do know tragic farce when I see it. After all, we've been given an intensive twelve year course in tragic farce. What justification exists for not sacking Ham et al? What justification exists for not hauling McRaven et al on the carpet? Are we so inured to incompetence and its consequences?

Where else in the few score countries where we are doing 'Malis' are we preparing the ground for similar fiascos/

The Twisted Genius

You're welcome. I've had an interest in the region since childhood when I read an old copy of "Jungle Ways" about William Seabrook's adventures. It sparked my interest in Anthropology. The professional connections developed much later.

Margaret Steinfels

Here a report in the NYTimes reporting that the U.S. counter-terrorism support of the Mali army wasn't looking very closely at what its proteges were up to.

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