Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Enduring Serval learn from Afghanistan to progress in Mali

Afghanistan and Mali have not much to see. However, in the course of some parts of these operations, lessons can be learned from the engagement in Afghanistan to avoid some errors in Mali.

The journey of the President of the Republic, Mali, February 2, symbolically marked the end of the end of the phase of reclaiming cities of the Niger River and split the French operation in both directions clearly separated: stabilization and fault better quality, against-terrorism, in two separate geographical frameworks. These two new operations involve specific risks and logics that can also be contradictory.

With more experience in Bosnia and Kosovo, where a long stabilization phase without enemy followed a short combat phase, the position is more like that of Afghanistan in early 2002 when the Americans, and some troops Allied continued fighting along the border with Pakistan was formed while the Kabul International Security Assistance Force and security. The situation then appeared also as a great American victory , at least partially, and the future looked positive until several strategic mistakes are made.

The first was to have confused the host and the parasite, ie the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and have continued to fight the former while the latter had left the country and continued to act as transnational network. The organization telluric Taliban, backed by Pakistan and the very presence of the Coalition, finally relocated in the Pashtun provinces to ensnare foreign forces. The second was to have started a very ambitious project processing country while doing rest on shaky foundations as initial alliance with warlords or the establishment of a constitution in American paralyzing . Economic aid, both mass and dispersed, then all enabled the development of corruption (and thus made ​​even more attractive offer administrative Taliban "honest") than in social services or education. The initial compensation of these errors then imposed an increasing commitment of resources to try to overcome the negative effects that the same headlong engendered. This spiral Afghanistan is currently in the minds of all, even if no one speaks openly for Mali.


The scenario in Mali is that of a rapid succession of French forces by four battalions of the International Mission of Support in Mali (MISMA) to ensure the safety of cities along the Niger River at least until the holding elections scheduled for July, the first step towards political normalization. This scenario presents many unknowns as the time of implementation and effectiveness of the MISMA then the Malian army, local capacity to develop institutions and a stable political culture and the possibility of a lasting peace with the Tuareg . This process is also to be considered in a regional tormented by old fault lines but also the effects of globalization (weakening of state and public services), climatic changes (desertification) and politico-ideological in the Arab world or growing importance of the drug trade. Stabilization of Mali and the wider Sahel is a long-term process, perhaps even a work of Sisyphus.

In this process, several types of armed opponents may occur. Faced with French forces or forces African coherent, that is to say probably aided by the French, jihadist organizations can hardly conduct conventional attacks without being destroyed. they may instead pursue a strategy of harassment against military objectives or civilians, using conventional processes such as asymmetric suicide attacks, improvised explosive devices, sniping or rocket or invent others . In the longer term, the persistence of the simultaneous presence of the French and disorder can generate antibodies nationalists as still influential captain Sanogo, organizer of the coup d'├ętat of 22 March, and between both the French presence and a local politicians the most corrupt in Africa. We can not exclude either that or djhadistes local Islamic radicals are not in support of the protesters to "black skin" to form new organizations telluric forces. Do not forget, finally armed organizations always quick Tuareg rebellion. The French response to these threats is likely to reduce the catch to local sources of hostility by a slight but real presence and a transnational network organization from our bases and points of regional support, our team of advisors and elements of intervention variable shape and size, civilian and military.

Meanwhile war "against terrorism" continues in the far north of Mali with victory vaguer criteria for the release of the cities the Niger bend. The fight will stop there when the hostages will be released? The Tuareg movements led to peace? Jihadist organizations destroyed? Nothing has been said and it is probably better because then it does not bind to ambitious non-fulfillment of which could pass for a loss. Yet less than embarking on a eternal war, it will have a positive justify one day stop this operation.

These two operations are now disjointed but they can not fail to influence. Strategy choking rebels in the North takes place at the moment with a remarkable "reconnaissance-strike complex" striking the necessary logistics nodes (fuel depots) and transmission while preventing significant movement. This paralysis of the sky, however, must be accompanied by a smothering ground, including partitioning Timetrine massive, very isolated, especially in the north of the Hoggar Algerian Ifoghas face, by occupying the valleys Azawak and Tilemsi. This is undoubtedly helped by counselors and French light forces, the role envisaged for 1800 Chadian soldiers arrived in Kidal but the real question is that of the alliance with the Tuareg.

The operational significance of this alliance is obvious since not confuse the host and the parasite, it does not launch in a difficult war. It would also further isolate and AQIM have MUJAO and auxiliary invaluable for cross border and help get the jihadists in the valleys and caves. Yet it would be back in the saddle even those that triggered the crisis at the beginning of 2012 and accepted the presence of jihadists in Mali. Of course such an alliance with the "blue men" and the exclusion of the Malian army in the northern region can only arouse strong resistance from all Malian government and much of the local populations and feed resentment.

The two operations in parallel are condemned to success, and success quickly if possible. That one of them fails or is slow to produce results and that is all that is likely to suffer. Victory in Mali plays in the coming months.

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