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Stopping Al Qaeda From Calling Mali Home

Mon, January 21, 2013

Unlike previous reminders of colonialism, Africans in Mali have welcome the help of the French, who have stepped to assist government forces from a takeover by Al Qaeda-linked Islamists that was quickly spiraling out of control.

See related article: Six Reasons Why Events in Mali Matter

With cover from the French air force, government troops in Mali retook control of the central town of Diabaly, pushing the Islamists into the regions forests. Battles were raging elsewhere between government forces and Islamists who had wrested control of Mali’s central region.

The crux of this battle lies in the fact that Mali has the potential to become Al Qaeda’s new home, with well-trained and equally well-armed Sharia-extremists being drawn to the country in the same way as Afghanistan drew the Taliban to it in recent decades. The difference with Mali, however, is that it is frighteningly easily accessible to Europe. Moreover, the country’s desert terrain makes it a prime drug smuggling route, through which Al Qaeda can be easily and amply funded and armed.

Mali’s own political instability (a tribal separatist movement in its northern territory and a May 2012 military coup left the country in political shambles). The open-season on arms from Libya’s post-revolution storehouses left Mali an easy and vulnerable to takeover by Islamist extremists.

Pushing out the indigenous tribesmen in the north after fighting alongside them, Al Qaeda insurgents quickly established an extreme Sharia government in Mali’s northern, an area larger than the size of Spain.