News / Africa

Timetable for Military Intervention in Northern Mali Uncertain

Anne Look
The international community meets Friday in Bamako to work on the strategy for military intervention in northern Mali. France's defense minister says the intervention could happen in a matter of weeks, while others say the operation is months, maybe even a year, away.

The United Nations Security Council has been calling for months on ECOWAS to provide a more detailed plan for its proposed military action in northern Mali against the al-Qaida linked Islamists who seized control in April.

The Security Council has approved a resolution urging West African countries to speed up preparations for the intervention. ECOWAS and the African Union now have 45 days to present a plan.

The Security Council would then need to hold a second vote to decide whether to green light the operation. And that is assuming that it approves the proposal as is, and does not request further details or revisions. This could take weeks, if not longer.  

And all of that is just to get the U.N. mandate for this internationally-backed, but African-led, operation.

So, why is the French defense minister saying the intervention could begin in a matter of weeks? Not months, he specified in a televised interview, weeks.  

It could be viewed as France prodding African players forward or tough-talking al-Qaida militants currently holding six French citizens hostage in the Sahel. However, analysts say this more hawkish rhetoric is also aimed at bringing armed groups in northern Mali to the negotiating table, still seen by many, including the U.N., as the optimal solution.

Paul Melly, francophone Africa specialist at London-based think tank, Chatham House, said a gradual ECOWAS deployment backed by the international community is a powerful bargaining chip.

"It makes sense to constantly remind people that this is happening. That this is serious. This isn't just rhetoric, while actually doing it in a rather phased, deliberate way...I think the only way you'll get negotiations, is if you put that military chess piece on the board," Melly said,

Meanwhile, ECOWAS and Malian mediators could continue trying to bargain with the more amenable armed groups in the North, in particular the Tuareg rebel movement, the MNLA, and perhaps Ansar Dine, an al-Qaida linked Islamist group founded from within the Malian Tuareg community.

That strategy, analysts say, could at least isolate the more extreme, and often foreign, elements in the North, like al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb, for whom force may be the only answer.

Still, David Zounmenou, a senior researcher on the region at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, said the post-coup political power struggle in Bamako could undermine negotiations.

"You don't have a political coherence back in Bamako after the coup d'etat that took place on the 22nd of March, so if you don't have a coherent political transition in Bamako, no effort in terms of mediation will produce [results]," Zounmenou said.

Kwesi Aning, Director of Research for the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Center in Accra, Ghana, said ECOWAS realistically needs at least four months to get boots on the ground in Mali once it has the go-ahead from the U.N.

The risk of acting too fast and failing, he said, is just as serious as the risk of not acting at all.

"There are practical, technical reasons for it to take that length of time to put a credible force of 3,000 on the ground. We don't have combat aircraft. We don't have the goggles against the sandstorms. We don't have the appropriate boots and the clothing. Everything that ECOWAS troops will need in Mali will have to be requisitioned right from the start. And don't forget that most of the countries that have pledged troops don't have troops that are used to fighting in desert environments," Aning said.

France says it will provide logistical support, and the European Union is working on a plan to send military advisers.

So far, Nigeria and Benin are among the ECOWAS nations that have pledged troops. Other countries, like Senegal, have kept a lower profile following a threat by Islamists to attack any country that contributes.

There is also concern that military action could push jihadists and more refugees into neighboring countries.

You May Like

Video VOA Exclusive: Poroshenko Wants Russia's UN Veto Stripped

Ukrainian president tells VOA's Myroslava Gongadze that global community would be safer if Russia's ability to play spoiler were ended More

Crime and Espionage Becoming Tangled Online

As the lines between cyber-crime and espionage blur, fighting hackers becomes harder More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
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.

VOA Blogs