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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
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 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 ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid