The French “Mission Accomplished” moment in Mali is over. After fleeing the major cities in the north of the country, the insurgents have gone back on the offensive, repeatedly pounding the town of Gao for hours on end until French troops intervened to drive them away. The Wall Street Journal now warns that the insurgency could last for years.
The most alarming news, however, concerns the vast weapons stockpiles controlled by the militants, which are particularly striking when compared with the shoddy equipment of the Malian army:
Many Malian soldiers worry they are facing an enemy they aren’t equipped to handle. Several soldiers in Mali have complained in recent weeks that they don’t have enough guns or bullets. In Thursday’s attacks, several Malian soldiers were pinned for hours by the militants’ fire, saved only when the French intervened.
Diplomats, security experts and others familiar with the militants’ arsenal say it includes land mines, automatic weapons with ample ammunition, long-range rifles and missiles, and caches of high-powered plastic explosives such as Semtex.
Thanks in large part to poorly conceived NATO actions in Libya, the Islamists have the equipment they need to continue the fight.
Meanwhile, the Malian Army is a shambles. This is not a surprise. The government is a mess, and there is no higher cause to motivate underpaid, undertrained, badly led soldiers to fight and die.
The rebels, on the other hand, believe in what they are doing.