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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.