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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs