Monday, September 17, 2018

Mali and Africa's Past, Now, and Next

The forever war has many fronts - the one in Mali, once OPERATION SERVAL now BARKHANE has France in the lead.

Mali has a historic ties to France, its former colonial ruler. Mali experienced the usual socialist led dysfunction following independence in the later-middle part of the 20th Century, but in the last decade or so has tried, in fits and starts, to become a modern, more-free nation. Sadly, they are right on the bleeding edge of Dar al Islam and all that comes with that. Combined with nightmarish demographics unimaginable to the Western mind - this will not be an easy fix even if they were not facing an aggressive internal threat.

Stability is the key, but due to the above and more factors, instability will be the expected norm for Mali for awhile. All France and her allies can do is to try to mitigate the negative effects, and nurture the positive developments in the country. The more they succeed there, not just in the Long War, the better for everyone from Cape Town in the south, to Bear Island in the north.

As old as human history, as it is now;
His door and iron-sheet roof were missing; his granary was a mound of rubble on the floor. In his hands, the 59-year-old held out a pile of charred groundnuts he had cultivated, before crumbling them into dust.

“It is painful to look at,” he said.

Besides one stoic village chief who sat sharpening his knife on a rock under the baking sun, there is nobody left in Kara. Everybody else fled the ethnic Dogon village one morning in May when armed men from the neighbouring village – populated by Fulani herdsman – climbed over a sand dune shooting wildly in the air.

Everything of value was stolen; the rest was burnt.

Kara is just one among dozens of villages looted and torched in the past few months as a conflict between armed members of Mali’s Dogon and Fulani communities ripples through the heart of the country, claiming hundreds of lives and displacing thousands of people.

Analysts say the conflict has been triggered by the increasing presence of jihadists linked to al-Qaeda in central Mali. They have recruited heavily among Fulani herders, fuelling distrust with other ethnic groups, including the Dogon, some of whom have organised into abusive new self-defence militias.

“Both sides are killing each other,” said Fatou Thiam, head of the Mopti office of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.

The conflict underscores Mali’s struggle to restore order three years after a peace deal was signed between the government and armed groups in the north, including separatist Tuareg rebels, who seized large parts of the country following a 2012 military coup in the capital, Bamako.

Islamist militants, who joined forces with the separatists before a French-led intervention pushed them back, have gradually expanded their sphere of influence from the desert north into Mali’s previously peaceful centre.

This year 5.2 million Malians are in need of humanitarian assistance, compared to 3.8 million in 2017. The number of internally displaced people has also doubled since January to 75,000, according to the UN’s emergency aid coordination office, OCHA, the majority in the central Mali.
I know, I know. I am the one who pushes back against getting involved in foreign adventures, but this is not quite like a full-on invasion of a nation with sketchy impact on USA or allied national security.

This is helping our oldest ally who is helping another nation fight our common enemy - radical Islam. Mali itself is a Muslim country, 90% Muslim - but Islam is not the enemy. Radical Islam is.

Africa will never join the rest of the world in a future of promise if its northern half is under the black flag of radical Islam.

Worse, the conflict and death that a Western defeat in Mali would bring would further drive the exodus of millions to Europe - further destabilizing European nations' hard-won democratic systems and social norms.

This is something we should help our French allies with. Not lead; not dominate - this is their backyard. There are things we can do to help.

One example; you know what the US Navy could do to help the French? They have a riverine challenge;
French desert troops recently took to boats to patrol the Niger River in Mali, the first time that the crafts have been used in the Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in the Sahel, the French armed forces said.

Anticipating the rainy season and river flooding, soldiers attached to the French army’s Desert Battle Group – Infantry (GTDI) deployed the boats which enable them to get to areas difficult to reach by land.
Just look at what they are trying to patrol the Niger with.

Remember my post from FEB 2005? France looks to be in a place we were at then.

We have units that would be perfect for this. Additionally, we should call our friends in Colombia who have exceptionally good kit and the best operational riverine experience in the West. Have them join us in an ongoing rotational deployment. This would be a good way to contribute to the good work France is doing in support of the Mali government.

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