Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Mali, a new Afghanistan?

Northern Mali extends to pretty much on the same area as Afghanistan (650,000 km2). Like him, is a landlocked country, an area with no outlet to the sea The main difference: the population is sparse with less than a million and a half inhabitants per km2 or two ... There are only three cities: Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu famous. This is a huge area and empty in the heart of Africa. Refuge territory fell under cutting radical Islamists, the African equivalent of the Afghan Taliban. They are not numerous: a few thousand fighters at most, probably less for the hard core.

Following the fall of Gaddafi in Libya and political unrest in Bamako, Mali's capital, three armed groups (AQIM Mujao and Ansar al-Din) took control of this vast territory and they impose, force the Sharia.Accused of being places of idolatry, religious sites of traditional Islam are destroyed, the adulterous couples are, literally, stoned with stones until death ensues, music and alcohol are strictly prohibited.Mullah Omar could feel at him. Eleven years after Western intervention in Afghanistan, with the success that we know we are with a new front at 3000 kilometers from Paris.

For years, this scenario evoked concern in policy circles and military schools: it is now done! And what do we do? Nothing. A large part of diplomatic reels, failing to change the situation on the ground, hold the media and at least give the illusion of action.

September 25, from the rostrum of the United Nations, President François Hollande, for example, describes the situation in Mali as "unbearable, unacceptable, unacceptable," adding that "we have a duty to act, and act together act quickly because there is an emergency. " It looks like an Italian opera, when the brass ring and on stage, leaving the troops to battle valiantly but ... walking on the spot!

What is, in fact, the real situation? On the eve of the annual session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Malian government - or what takes place since the military uprising of March and the de facto partition of the country - called lip intervention outside to help against the Islamists. The voice of François Hollande, French diplomacy has not failed to ride this horse kindly provided, but for now, appears to be rather a hack.

Before acting, we must still wait a resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations under Chapter VII, which authorizes the use of military force. Unlike Syria, Russia and China should not block the adoption of such a text when it is filed. When? We do not know.

Second stage and not least the establishment of the force. We found his name but that's about it ... It will be called the Micema, the acronym of the ECOWAS Mission in Mali. It will be an African force of about three thousand men. It will be implemented by ECOWAS, the Economic Community of the States of West Africa, which includes 15 countries in the region, the most powerful of them, Nigeria. Micema This will be supported by some Western sponsors, primarily France, which provide logistical support, training and resources information.

France's military presence is already there, so discreet. Few dozen men of Special Operations Command (SOC) are hard at work with planes and helicopters, as part of Operation Sabre - which lasts for three years. Means additional air information are being deployed in neighboring countries.

Paris still hopes other European countries embark on this new adventure African and spends lavishly to try to convince partners unmotivated. African countries are not actually much more. First and foremost the Mali itself. François Hollande acknowledged in his speech to the United Nations when he said: "I know that there may be still the temptation to negotiate" with "terrorist groups." Because, in Paris, everyone knows that Mali accommodated well and long for the presence of these "terrorist groups" in its territory, unlike neighboring Mauritania, which itself without the stalk thank you.

Another thorn in: Algeria. Its neighbor is not unhappy to have "exported" terrorists, often of Algerian origin, outside the national territory ... And past colonial forces, it takes a very dim view of any military intervention of France in this Algiers sees as its backyard. A recent spy novel "Katiba" (Flammarion, 2010), written by a very knowledgeable former ambassador, Jean-Christophe Rufin, illuminates the reality of complex terrain and dirty tricks that can result ...

"Negotiating with terrorist groups, there can be no question" ensures the head of the French state.Really? But then discussing with, or attempt to do so, the French emissaries in this area? For these "terrorist groups" hold six French hostages, including four of them began in mid-September, the third year of detention. Their captors, members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), did not fail to recall, in a video on September 19: French military action in Mali lead to "the death of the hostages."

France and its president are now on the razor's edge: it is impossible to leave Al-Qaeda moved to a new sanctuary in Africa as it is equally impossible to sacrifice the lives of six French hostages. The statecraft and diplomatic posturing be enough to overcome this difficult choice? For now, impotence prevails. And this is good news for anyone.

The opinion of the author does not necessarily coincide with the position of writing.

(1) Jean-Dominique Merchet "European Defence: the great illusion" Larousse 2009.

* Jean-Dominique Merchet journalist specializing in business defense. French author of the most widely read blog on these issues, created in 2007. Former Institute of Higher Studies for National Defence. Author of many books including: "Dying for Afghanistan" (2008), "European defense: the great illusion" (2009), "A History of Special Forces" (2010), "The death of bin Laden" (2012)

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