A French Rafale fighter jet lands after a bombing raid over Nortehrn Mali. Photograph Nicolas-Nelson Richard/AFP/Getty Images
It may be too early to tell whether Mali could be the next protracted war of attrition involving Western military forces.
But before considering such a dire forecast for Mali becoming the next Afghanistan, Iraq or Viet Nam, lets look at some of the recent developments catapulting that country into a war now with Western forces directly engaged in the fighting.
As we know five days ago French President Francois Hollande sent French war planes and attack helicopters into Mali to repel an Islamist militant advance moving toward the capital, Bamako.
Some hundreds of French ground forces, now numbering 800 have arrived from the Ivory Coast into the capital with that force expected to reach 2,500 troops. A Western African military force of some 3,300 soldiers is currently being assembled and is expected to be deployed in a week with the French in a "support role" only.
Mali, a former French colony, which gained its independence in 1960, now has some 6,000 French nationals in Bamako, which apparently prompted Hollande to take direct military action with the Islamist militants within days of reaching the capital.
In fact the Islamists were actually late comers into strife within Mali, had no part in the coup ousting Malian President Amedou Toumani Toure or the defection of many top military commanders and their troops to the other side, (reportedly in the heat of battle). This other side was composed mainly of secular, ethnic Tuaregs indigenous to Northern Mali (as well as Southern Nigeria, Southwestern Libya and Western Niger).
Tuareg fighters took part in the Libyan civil war on the side of Muammar Qaddafi and when he fell and that war ended these Tuaregs with guns, ammo and equipment returned to Mali. Soon thereafter these battle hardened Tuareg fighters, fresh from fighting in Libya, and along with local Tuareg insurgents (that had been rebelling against the Malian government for over 50 years) declared a separate country, Azawad, independent of Mali. This declaration created a crisis in Bamako and the subsequent coup ousting president Toure.
Significantly, Islamic militants which also took part in the Libyan civil war departed that country soon after the fall of Qaddafi and with internal strife gripping Mali joined with secular Tuaregs in Northern Mali in fighting against a demoralized Malian army particularly after the defections of many top Malian commanders.
However, this new "alliance" was short lived and soon disintegrated over strategic differences and ultimate aims of the new foes. The secular Tuaregs wanted independence from Mali but also a dialogue with the government. And they were no match against these more battle hardened Islamist militants. The Islamists had other ideas and quickly established Sharia Law in the towns and villages it captured, now capitalizing on the now weakened Malian army to stop their advance toward the South with the ultimate aim of overtaking Bamako.
So now enter the French into this Malian cauldron. And just where does the U.S. "fit" into this new Western military engagement?
The Obama administration has said it supports the French incursion into Mali and has offered only logistical support and aerial drones but no troops.
Yet, though less publicized in the U.S. corporate media, the U.S. over the last five years has been busily engaged in Mali. American Special Forces have been training the Malian military in "marksmanship, border patrol, ambush skills and counter-terrorism skills". Significantly, the commanders of the Malian military forces receiving this Special Forces training were predominantly Tuaregs the very commanders and their troops that defected and joined with the Tuareg fighters that returned from the Libyan civil war, now all together in opposition to the Malian army.
It was also an American trained Malian officer who initiated the coup of Malian President Toure which set the stage for the mutiny by the Tuareg commanders and their defection.
So it's not some wild assumption, considering American history in Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq and our not so secret wars in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, that whenever or wherever the U.S. gets enmeshed in foreign civil wars, where ethnic and sectarian divisions exist for which the U.S. is ignorant, has no understanding or historical perspective and certainly no respect for the indigenous populations of the country it is engaged in, the outcome of U.S. involvement won't be a success, but misery, horrendous civilian casualties that spark increased militancy and revenge by those indigenous populations and deep hatred of the U.S.
1 | 2