Flogging Mali Again (and the Attack in Algeria too)
Published on: January 18, 2013
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  • Larry, San Francisco

    Our only real interest is to keep the crazy Islamists out. Why can’t a deal be reached with the Tuareg giving them their own country if they keep Al Qaeda types from moving in. The territorial integrity of Mali is not worth either treasure of blood. My guess is most of the Tuareg don’t really like the fanatics anyway.

    • Adam Garfinkle

      I agree, but it’s not so easy or simple.

  • Anthony

    “But we just don’t know yet” tends to sum up Malian/Algerian predicament – I might add we’re looking at a very dynamic configuration (anything can happen).

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  • I might add we’re looking at a very dynamic configuration (anything can happen).thank

  • Dave from Boston


    Assuming that this does not represent a strategic threat to the USA, isn’t it in our long term interests to let these regions re-form along ethnic lines and develop into real nation states?

    And shouldn’t our policy be more directed to minimizing outside interference (other than our outside interference) and internal violence, (saving lives)?

    Thank you for explaining the situation.

    • Adam Garfinkle

      Not necessarily. Reforming along ethnic lines may lead to stronger states, but also to more violence from populist nationalisms. Once you start unwinding a few borders, there’s no obvious place it stops. This is why the independent African states have generally been reluctant to mess with their borders, and they get frightened when things happen like an independent Eritrea and Southern Sudan and now Mali.

      • Dave from Boston

        The proverbial can of worms, thank you.

  • K2K

    When will the African Union finally drop their insistence on maintaining colonial borders? Seems so archaic when the civil wars never seem to end, and yet they never stop complaining about the evils of that same colonialism.

    Do not the Tuaregs and Berbers merit self-determination? Of course they do. Somaliland should have gained UN member state status by now, yet the AU refuses to allow secession from the failed state of Somalia!

    • Adam Garfinkle

      I have explained above the reticence to tamper with borders. And by in large, while civil strife is a reality, these borders have prevented virtually all cases of interstate war in sub-Saharan Africa since the early 1960s. Self-determination is not a limitless concept, and there can be good reasons to make exceptions.

  • Pave Low John

    The U.S. military actually has a fair amount of military transport capability in Africa, they just keep it quiet (or tried to keep it quiet) by using civilian aircraft instead of C-130s and C-17s. That became public knowledge a couple of years ago when an AFSOC crew ran their DHC-8 out of gas and crashed trying to fly into Bamako, Mali. No one was killed, but it threw a big spotlight on our use of civilian transports in that corner of the globe. Hopefully, this link will work:


    I suspect those particular aircraft are quite busy these days, keeping the French and who knows what else supplied with beans and bullets during this new activity in Mali…

    • Adam Garfinkle

      You are right, of course, but better not to talk about this too much.

  • AMac

    > But the most serious question concerns the extent to which the attackers were or were not a functional part of a larger al-Qaeda network… My guess is that [the attackers are weak and essentially independent groups of fanatics], but my mind is open to reliable intelligence suggesting otherwise.

    In the past week, Bill Roggio and Thomas Jocelyn have written numerous articles on this subject at The Long War Journal. They present evidence that the assault team was launched by an Al Qaeda franchise, with the approval of (and possibly under instructions from) AQ’s senior leadership.

    Al Qaeda-linked group claims credit for kidnappings in Algeria, January 16, 2013

    “Analysis: Al Qaeda central tightened control over hostage operations,” January 17, 2013

    “Report: Al Qaeda group demands release of 2 well-known jihadists,” January 18, 2013

    “Nigerien jihadist identified as commander of Algerian hostage operation,” January 18, 2013

    “Belmokhtar claims Algerian raid, slaying of hostages for al Qaeda,” January 20, 2013

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