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War in Mali is ‘Not Nearly Finished’ says Malian Commander – Insurgency Shift
by Ezra Van Auken
It’s obvious that what the French, British, United States, and other African states have started in Mali will not be coming to an end anytime soon. Making the situation in Mali even more grueling and prolonged are the tactics that rebels have transitioned into. From battling the Western and Malian junta head on, rebels have now moved away from the towns – restructuring their efforts to guerilla warfare.
Reuters reported over the weekend, “The top Tuareg officer in Mali’s army urged France on Friday to keep its forces in Mali for as long as it takes to drive out Islamist rebels for good.” Malian forces are hoping to keep a Western presence alongside them, fearing that if reinforcements are not nearby, rebels could easily retake territories. Adding the withdrawal of Western forces to the transition of guerilla warfare by rebels can end up proving to be a huge obstacle for Malian forces to combat.
El Hadj Ag Gamou, a Malian Colonel, told Reuters, “They (the French) have started something that is not close to being finished;” a thought process of the Malian war that many foreign policy analysts have agreed upon. Referring to the Adrar des Ifoghas Mountains, Gamou explained in the Reuters interview, “This is where they organized themselves … and that is where they can hide and resupply. They are protected by nature – there is water;” a strategic tool for conducting guerilla warfare operations and other attacks while remaining safe from Western airstrikes.
“The French have to continue their mission until the threat is neutralized…and Mali’s army is able to control the whole country,” reapplying pressure to the French for assistance. Colonel Gamou told Reuters that he believes rebel forces have an estimated 2,500 soldiers left in northern Mali.
David Axe of Wired.com remarked in relation to the recent suicide bombing, “Last Friday’s desultory blast was also a reminder of a recent military lesson. Speedy, high-tech, coalition-based military interventions, the kind increasingly favored by the U.S. after more than a decade of open-ended occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, can begin neatly and end messily — if they really end at all.”
After all, the U.S. is heavily involved with the Malian war – providing logistical assistance, transportation of French soldiers, supplying fuel missions, and even deploying troops to train African soldiers. Even more recently, President Obama signed a presidential memorandum that dumped $50 million onto the French for intervention in Mali. The White House reported, “I, therefore, direct the drawdown of up to $50 million in defense services of the Department of Defense for these purposes and under the authorities of section 506(a)(1) of the Act.”
The engagement of Western forces seems to have only escalated the overall image of war in Mali by moving and stretching around extremists who are now seeking revenge. Axe summarizes policies, saying, “Now more than ever, America wants neat, short conflicts. There’s no appetite for drawn-out operations, to say nothing of large-scale troop deployments. But Mali is likely to underscore an unpleasant truth. Today’s conflicts are usually anything but tidy or brief.”