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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

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