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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More