News / Africa

Former US Ambassador: Algeria Key to Stabilizing Mali

A man walks past the destroyed former customs building, which was used as a base by radical Islamists, in Gao, Mali, February 28, 2013.
A man walks past the destroyed former customs building, which was used as a base by radical Islamists, in Gao, Mali, February 28, 2013.
Pamela Dockins
The United Nations Security Council is considering a recommendation by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to create two forces in Mali -- one, a peacekeeping operation, and a separate military force to confront Islamist militants.

Former U.S. ambassador to Mali Vicki Huddleston says neighboring Algeria must play a key role in any long-term stabilization plan.

In an interview on VOA's Press Conference USA, Huddleston said Algeria is the only country in the region with the military capacity and the air and land mobility to take the lead in ridding Mali of Islamist militants.

She noted these particular militants have their roots in Algeria, and contributed to unrest there before becoming active in Mali.

Veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaks in this undated still image taken from a video released by Sahara Media, Algeria, Jan. 21, 2013.Veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaks in this undated still image taken from a video released by Sahara Media, Algeria, Jan. 21, 2013.
x
Veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaks in this undated still image taken from a video released by Sahara Media, Algeria, Jan. 21, 2013.
Veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaks in this undated still image taken from a video released by Sahara Media, Algeria, Jan. 21, 2013.
"Sooner or later Algeria will have to do what it takes. Algeria is responsible in that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, [Mokhtar] Belmokhtar, [Abdelhamid] Abou Zeid, [Abdelmalek] Droukdel, who is even now the leader, is in Algeria. This is an Algerian, Salafist, militant movement. So, they went in to Mali and restarted the Algerian civil war in Mali," said Huddleston.

Huddleston said Algeria has shown some "hesitancy" over its involvement in Mali's conflict. But she added, she does not believe Algeria can ignore the unrest at its southern border.

"United Nations [troops] generally don’t fight. They are peacekeepers, not peacemakers.  So if that is going to happen, then Algeria should be the lead because Algeria has the capacity to fight in that area, to bring Chad, and Niger, and Libya, and Mauritania together," said Huddleston.

x
Analysts say Algeria has been working in the background since the start of the French-led intervention in Mali in January. They say Algiers has opened its airspace, closed its border with Mali and helped with diplomatic efforts to reunite Malian factions and ethnic groups.

But Congressional Research Service Africa and Maghreb analyst Alexis Arieff said Algeria has also objected to a Western military presence in what it considers its backyard.

"I think that Algeria’s position is a bit ambiguous, and that is normal when you consider that Algeria’s senior decision-making apparatus is opaque and features apparent competition between various actors within the government and security apparatus," said Arieff.

Mali's crisis began last year when soldiers overthrew the president, a move that allowed Islamists to seize control of the country's north.

The crisis spilled over into Algeria in January when Islamist militants seized hostages at a remote desert natural gas complex. Dozens of foreign workers were killed during the siege. Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said the militants had planned the attack in neighboring Mali.

But despite the threat of a continued spillover, analyst Riccardo Fabiani of the Eurasia Group, a New York-based political risk assessment firm, said he does not think Algeria will step up to a prominent military role in securing Mali.

"I think the Algerians are completely reluctant to do this. This is part of their tradition of their foreign policy and there is really no discussion or debate within Algeria on this," said Fabiani.

He said there is also a problem of perception when it comes to the Malian crisis.

"For the French, this is basically just a terrorist/security problem in the region. For the Algerians, this is more of a social long-term economic problem that has happened before, that is recurrent and that the Algerians think needs to be addressed by political and diplomatic means rather than by military means," he said.

He said Algerians do think they can be effective at using their presence in the region to help broker a diplomatic agreement.

Meanwhile, former U.S. ambassador Huddleston said a three-pronged approach is needed to address Mali's turmoil. First, she said, defeat al-Qaida elements.  Second, address the grievances of northern Mali's population. And third, repair and mend Mali’s government.

"Algeria is absolutely essential to all three," said Huddleston.

Huddleston said the multinational effort to help stabilize Mali is off to a "good start."  She said France has done the right thing with its intervention. She also praised Chad and the other African countries that have assisted in the effort.

Huddleston said what Mali needs in the long run is a fully functioning military and a government that is representative of all of the people.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid