Warfare and Diplomacy in the News, the War in Mali

Mali is a Western African country in the heart of the Sahara desert. Granted independence in 1960 from France it is a leading cotton producer (amongst other raw materials) who has struggled through years of poverty, disease, famine, military dictators, and rebellions.

Tuareg Rebels with the Azawad Flag

A breakaway state, Azawad, proclaimed its independence from Mali on April 6, 2012 with its capital in Timbukutu. This was initiated in Northern Mali by the Tuaregs, nomad peoples of the Sahara from Libya, Algeria, and the surrounding nations, who had fought previously in Libya, and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad or MNLA. Even more recently however as of last week, the MNLA appear to have been routed by the Ansar Dine. An Islamist guerrilla movement once allied with the MNLA and the Tuaregs, Ansar Dine is believed by many Western sources to be an Al-Qaeda allied Islamist fundamentalist terrorist movement.

As of JJuly 1st and 2nd 2012, the MNLA seem to be in retreat following their defeat from June 28-30, 2012 at the hands of Ansar Dine and their allied rebel factions. The Tuareg majority in the MNLA merely wanted independence for the Azawad state, now in grave jeopardy, which they consider theirs as a ancestral homeland, some by birth and others through similar culture.

Tuareg rebel at the start of the conflict between Mali and the MNLA

The Ansar Dine have now entered the conflict as a belligerent against the MNLA, the Malian Army (which has confirmed US training and non-intervention support), and with the support of the various allied rebel movements under Ansar Dine. After capturing Timbukutu after the recent defeat of the MNLA, the Ansar Dine has begun to destroy ancient religious sites, including mosques and graves in the historic city.

Ansar Dine insurgent

A series of events unfolded after the original Tuareg-MNLA rebellion of January-February 2012 which was aided by an influx of weapons from Libya following the Libyan Civil War and the UN intervention in 2011. Besides the Tuareg Rebellion and the recent Islamist insurgency, the March 2012 coup which ousted Mali's democratically elected president was another significant event in the growing conflict in Mali.

US Special Forces advisor checking a Malian army platoon sometime before the conflict. 
Note their outdated Cold War Era weapons

The coup was led by a number a relatively low ranking officers, with Captain Amadou Sanogo gaining de facto power as the head of the military junta and the psuedo political party upset with the way the Tuareg Rebellion was going, and alarmed at the growing insurgency campaign in the North of Mali, which brought about the creation of Azawad and intervention of Islamist extremists.

As stated previosuly the recent results in Northern Mali have put Azawad at risk of being defeated. Meanwhile the Military Junta of Mali and its Army are struggling to defeat both the MNLA and the Ansar Dine and reunite the country yet again.

Though internationally condemned, including by the US state department and President Obama, the Malian army is still supplied and has received training from the US military. Besides this there seems to be little press coverage here in the US and elsewhere on the conflict in Mali. This changed somewhat recently with the reports of the sacking of Timbuktu though the war remains under-reported in general throughout worldwide media coverage.

Update: As of January 2013, the French military has intervened in Mali, alongside American Special Forces officers they will help train, reinforce, and operate in the North of Mali where the insurgency and occupation of the country have been controlled by the Ansar Dine.

Military junta leader Captain Sanogo. Note his United States Marine Corps Eagle, Globe, & Anchor pin from when he lived in America and trained at Quantico and Fort Benning with the Marine Corps and US army respectively. 

Though he symbolically stepped down as President, he had the interim president arrested on Dec 10-11 2012. Few internationally dispute that he and junta have control over southern Mali.

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