Tuareg rebels and the Malian government have vowed to honor a peace deal devolving more power to northern communities
A coalition of Tuareg-led rebels signed a historic peace deal with the Malian government Saturday, after securing more autonomy from Bamako.
“Hand in hand, let us make Mali better, more brotherly, more united than ever,” said President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in an official ceremony in the Malian capital. Cheers erupted in the ceremony when the peace deal was signed by Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati, a representative of the predominantly Tuareg militia alliance, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA).
Under the peace deal, the Malian government agreed to allow the formation of democratically elected regional councils in the country’s war-torn north, and dropped arrest warrants for a number of militant leaders. The deal is a far cry from long-standing Tuareg demands for an independent state in the northern desert, but has already been hailed as a major step forward in resolving long standing tensions between the ethnic group and the central government.
A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the deal, but urged both sides to ensure its implementation.
“The ultimate responsibility for peace lies with Mali and the Malians,” they stated.
For decades Mali’s Tuareg minority has complained of marginalization, and accused the government of neglecting them and the country’s far north. The Malian ethnic group has repeatedly revolted against the government, with the latest insurrection taking place amid a 2012 coup in Bamako. For nearly 10 months vast swathes of the north were wrestled from government control.
A French-led military intervention was launched in 2013 amid allegations the uprising had been hijacked by al-Qaida linked militants, leading to the return of government rule in the fractured north. Since then, the region has been mired in instability, with many Tuareg remaining frustrated with the central government.
A version of the peace deal was rejected by Tauregs earlier this year.
One CMA spokesperson, Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, told AFP the peace deal was just the start of a long road towards ensuring the agreement with the government is honored. “We are for peace, but what we want is that the agreement is actually implemented on the ground,” he said.
With everyone’s attention focused on the European elections or President Barack Obama’s speech at West Point or the Ukraine, a story by Eric Schmitt in The New York Times on Tuesday may not have caught your attention. I believe, however, that it provides an insight into some of the major problems of American foreign policy.
What Mr. Schmitt reports is that the U.S. has set up covert programs to train and equip native teams patterned on their instructors, the U.S. Army Delta Force, in several African countries. The program was advocated by Michael A. Sheehan who formerly was in charge of special operations planning in the Department of Defense and is now, according to Mr. Schmitt, holder of the “distinguished chair at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.”
Mr. Schmitt quotes him as saying, “Training indigenous forces to go after threats in their own country is what we need to be doing.” So far allocated to this effort, Mr. Schmitt writes, is $70 million, and the initial efforts will be in Libya, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.
How to do this, according to the senior U.S. officer in Africa, Major General Patrick J. Donahue II, is complex: “You have to make sure of who you’re training. It can’t be the standard, ‘Has the guy been a terrorist or some sort of criminal?’ but also, what are his allegiances? Is he true to the country or is he still bound to his militia?”
So let me comment on these remarks, on the ideas behind the program, its justification and the history of such efforts. I begin with a few bits of history. (Disclosure: I am in the final stages of a book that aims to tell the whole history, but the whole history is of course much too long for this note.)
Without much of the rhetoric of Mr. Sheehan and General Donahue and on a broader scale, we have undertaken similar programs in a number of countries over the last half century. Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Guatemala, Egypt, Iraq, Thailand, Chad, Angola to name just a few. The results do not add up to a success almost anywhere.
Perhaps the worst (at least for America’s reputation) were Chad where the man we trained, equipped and supported, Hissène Habré, is reported to have killed about 40,000 of his fellow citizens. In Indonesia, General Suharto, with our blessing and with the special forces we also had trained and equipped, initially killed about 60,000 and ultimately caused the deaths of perhaps 200,000. In Mexico, the casualties have been smaller, but the graduates of our Special Forces program have become the most powerful drug cartel. They virtually hold the country at ransom.
Even when casualties were not the result, the military forces we helped to create and usually paid for carried out the more subtle mission of destroying public institutions. If our intention is to create stability, the promotion of a powerful military force is often not the way to do it. This is because the result of such emphasis on the military often renders it the only mobile, coherent and centrally directed organization in societies lacking in the balancing forces of an independent judiciary, reasonably open elections, a tradition of civil government and a more or less free press.
Our program in pre-1958 Iraq and in pre-1979 Iran certainly played a crucial role in the extension of authoritarian rule in those countries and in their violent reactions against us.
General Donahue suggests that we need to distinguish among the native soldiers we train and empower those who are “true to the country.” But how? We supported Hissène Habré so long that we must have known every detail of his life. He is now on trial as war criminal. General Suharto has never been charged (nor have those Americans who gave him a “green light”) for his brutal invasion of East Timor. Both probably believed that they met General Donahue’s definition of patriotism.
And in Mali, our carefully trained officers of the Special Forces answered what they thought was both patriotic and religious duty by joining the insurgency against the government we (and we thought they) supported. We have a poor record of defining other peoples’ patriotism.
And, in the interest of more urgent objectives, we have been willing to support and fund almost anyone as long as we think he might be of value. General Manuel Noriega, our man in Panama, went on to spend 22 years in an American prison after we invaded his country and fought the soldiers we had trained.
Indeed, we have a poor record of even knowing who the people we train are. After the Turkish army carried out one of its coups in the 1960s, when I was the member of the Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East, I asked the appropriate branch of the Defense Department who were the new leaders, all of whom had been trained in America, often several times during the years. The answer was that no one knew. Even in army records, they were just Americanized nicknames.
And, more generally, our sensitivity to the aspirations, hopes and fears of other people is notoriously crude or totally lacking. Growing out of the Cold War, we thought of many of them as simply our proxies or our enemies.
Thus, we found Chad not as a place with a certain population but just as a piece of the Libyan puzzle, and today we think of Mali in the same way. Now we are talking of training “carefully selected” Syrian insurgents to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Do we have any sense of what they will overthrow him for?
Beyond these, what might be considered “tactical” issues are “strategic,” legal and even moral considerations. I leave aside the legal and moral issues — such as what justification we have to determine the fate of other peoples — as they do not seem very persuasive among our leaders.
But just focus on the long-term or even middle-term results of the new policy: the most obvious is that we meddle in and take some responsibility for the politics of an array of countries in which we have little direct interest. And often with the obvious danger of a deeper, more expensive and more painful result. We are close to this commitment in Syria.
Less obvious is that our activities, no matter how carefully differentiated, will be seen to add up to an overall policy of militarism, support of oppressive dictatorships, and opposition to popular forces. They also meld into a policy of opposition to the religion of over a billion people, Islam. And they do so at great expense to our expressed desires to enable people everywhere, including at home, to live healthier, safer and decent lives.
I end with a prediction: in practically every country where Mr. Sheehan’s and General Donahue’s program is employed, it will later be seen to have led to a military coup d’etat.
William R. Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author and professor who taught Middle Eastern studies at Harvard. President John F. Kennedy appointed Polk to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council where he served during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His books include: Violent Politics: Insurgency and Terrorism; Understanding Iraq; Understanding Iran; Personal History: Living in Interesting Times; Distant Thunder: Reflections on the Dangers of Our Times; and Humpty Dumpty: The Fate of Regime Change.
LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande agreed Friday to beef up the two countries’ cooperation in defense, nuclear energy and climate policy.
Britain and France inked the cooperation deals at the UK-France Summit 2014 held in British royal air force station RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire of southeast England.
The two countries issued a communique setting out plans for joint investment in the procurement of defense equipment, joint training of armed forces and continued development of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, an Anglo-French joint military training and operation program.
“Britain and France are natural partners for defense cooperation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said, adding that the agreements reached at the summit would enhance the “interoperability” of British and French forces.
According to the agreements, the two countries are set to launch a two-year-long joint feasibility study program with an investment of 120 million pounds (about 197.4 million U.S. dollars) for a future Anglo-French combat air system.
Britain and France also agreed to invest in Britain’s major nuclear weapons base, the Atomic Weapons Establishment, to carry out safe testing of British and French stockpiles and achieve greater sharing of technical and scientific data for joint research.
The two nations pledged to join hands in tackling security issues, such as terrorism and drug and arms trafficking, in north and west Africa, as well as building on international peacekeeping missions in Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.
In addition, the two sides declared their commitment to developing safe nuclear energy, collaborating on new nuclear power stations, combating climate change and pushing for European Commission’s domestic emissions reduction agenda.
“We reiterated our resolve to work together towards achieving an ambitious and legally-binding agreement at the next COP (UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change) in Paris in 2015,” said Edward Davey, British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says the country is to expand its military presence in Africa’s Sahel region.
“This redeployment will cover about 3000 troops which we are about to reorganize and re-deploy all over the area,” Le Drian said in an address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. on Friday.
The Sahel spans 5,400 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east.
“I wanted to say all this to you because we think that the intervention in Mali is not enough. We have to go beyond,” he added.
France began a major military intervention in its former colony in January, citing concerns about the growing influence of militants in northern Mali and a rebellion by Tuareg separatists that threatened the French-backed Malian government.
“We have to protect ourselves against different risks, new risks and especially, tomorrow, against the risk of a Libyan chaos,” said the French minister.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has suggested the creation of a peacekeeping force in Mali that would include West African troops already operating in the country. He also said that a “parallel force” must be built to confront Islamist threats.
“Given the anticipated level and nature of the residual threat, there would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali alongside the UN mission in order to conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations,” Ban wrote in his report on Mali.
Such a force could be built on the French troops already active in Mali, some diplomats say.
Once the African nations’ soldiers become a UN peacekeeping force, most of their troops and police would operate in northern Mali, while there would be a “light presence” based in the country’s capital, Bamako, Ban suggested.
“The force would operate under robust rules of engagement, with a mandate to use all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, which would include protection of civilians,” he said.
The parallel force proposed by Ban Ki-moon would specifically target Islamist extremists, and could be based in Mali or elsewhere in West Africa. Diplomats expressed hope that the UN Security Council will vote on the peacekeeping proposal in mid-April.
France launched its military intervention in Mali in January to combat Islamist groups that had taken over the north of the country a year ago. The French army succeeded in driving the Islamists out Mali’s main northern cities and into desert and mountain hideouts. Still, Ban’s report said Mali suffered from a “crisis of governance” marked by “endemic corruption,” and a lack of state authority.
The 11,200 African troops converted into peacekeepers could only cover the main towns “assessed to be at highest risk,” Ban explained. The bulk of the contingent would come from a West African force known as AFISMA (African-led International Support Mission to Mali), comprised of armed forces from many African nations and already operational in Mali.
France said it would start withdrawing 4,000 of its troops in late April as part of a handover to the UN-backed African force. French President Francois Hollande has repeatedly vowed that the troops will remain in the region only until a legitimate government can take over.
The Mali intervention has cost France more than 100 million euros so far.
French officials say the country’s forces will remain in Mali until at least July amid reports of a serious humanitarian crisis in the northern areas of the country caused by the French-led war in the West African nation.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, made the announcement on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
Earlier this week, an unnamed French diplomat also said that it is unlikely that “the French presence will be over in six months.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on February 6 that the country would begin the withdrawal of its troops from Mali in March.
“We will continue to act in the north… I think that from March, if everything goes according to plan, the number of French troops should decrease,” Fabius said.
France launched its war on Mali on January 11 under the pretext of halting the advance of fighters in the country. The war has left thousands of Malians homeless.
The French-led war in Mali has also displaced thousands of people, who now live in deplorable conditions.
On February 1, Amnesty International said “serious human rights breaches” — including the killing of children — were occurring in the French war in Mali.
The rights organization said there was “evidence that at least five civilians, including three children, were killed in an airstrike” carried out by French forces against the local fighters.
A US general nominated to lead the American military’s Africa Command has called for a 15-fold surge in US spying missions in Africa amid reports of Pentagon’s plans to further expand its growing military presence in the continent.
Army General David Rodriguez estimated in a written statement submitted to the US Senate Arms Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Thursday that the American military needs to boost its “intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa by nearly 15-fold,” The Washington Post reports Friday.
“I believe additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities are necessary to protect American interests and assist our close allies and partners,” said the four-star general who has previously commanded US-led intervention forces in Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The recent crises in North Africa demonstrate the volatility of the African security environment,” he added.
Rodrigues further emphasized during the hearing that Africa Command requires additional drones, other spying aircraft and more satellite imagery, adding that the US command currently gets only half of its “stated need” for North Africa and just seven percent of its total “requirements” for the entire continent, the report says.
The surging US military involvement in Africa has emerged despite earlier instructions by the Obama administration for the Pentagon to “pivot its forces and reorient its strategy toward fast-growing Asia,” the daily underlines.
The development comes as the American military has intervened over the past two years in internal conflicts in African nations of Somalia, Libya and Mali, as well as central Africa.
This is while the US Air Force is building its fourth assassination and spying drone base in the poor African state of Niger as American Navy warships are expanding their missions along the coastlines of East and West Africa, according to the report.
Despite insistence by US military authorities that they did not have plans to establish bases or move troops to Africa when they created the Africa Command in 2007, the Pentagon has since built a network of “staging bases,” including assassination drone facilities in Ethiopia and the Seychelles, and “a forward operating base for special operations forces in Kenya,” the report notes.
It further adds that the Pentagon has also expanded its military operations and construction at “the only permanent US base on the continent, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, which serves as a hub for ‘counterterrorism missions’ in Somalia and Yemen.”
Now, the daily emphasizes, there is a growing pressure to add even more bases in North and West Africa as the US military is set to build an assassination drone base in the West African country of Niger, which borders Mali, Libya and Nigeria, all nations that the Obama administration claims are threatened by an increasing influx of ‘al-Qaeda-linked’ Muslim militants.
The US Africa Command has been based in Stuttgart, Germany since it was established in 2007. Efforts to move the headquarters to an African country faced hurdles as numerous nations “expressed concern that the Pentagon was seeking to militarize US policy or infringe on their sovereignty,” according to the report.
- At Pentagon, ‘pivot to Asia’ becomes ‘shift to Africa’ (stripes.com)
- US plans military war games with African nations in ‘urgent’ mission (ethiotribune.net)
Summary executions and mass human rights abuses targeting innocent civilians in Mali are being perpetrated by soldiers loyal to the dubious Malian regime in a campaign supported by the United Nations, the new socialist French government, and the Obama administration. According to human rights groups and witnesses on the ground, the atrocities are increasing as the number of murdered victims continues to rise — eerily reminiscent of similar tragic interventions in Libya, Syria, and the Ivory Coast.
The regime ruling southern Mali out of the capital city of Bamako, which seized power in a military coup last year led by a U.S. government-trained officer, is currently attempting to recapture the northern regions of the country. The vast swath of territory in the north was declared independent last year by a group of historically oppressed nomadic Tuareg rebels armed with weapons obtained from the recent Western-backed war on Libya.
Islamic fighters with various loyalties joined the fight against the corrupt central government, too — providing a half-baked excuse for the UN, the French government, Obama, and various African despots to enter the fray on behalf of the illegitimate regime in the south. After the UN Security Council purported to “authorize” an international invasion on behalf of the coup-installed regime, forces from France openly began their military campaign earlier this month under the guise of fighting “Islamic extremism.”
Obama, the U.K. government, and a motley assortment of African tyrants — most of whom continue to be propped up with Western taxpayer money — quickly joined the battle as well. But within days of the military operation to crush rebels in the north, disturbing reports of gross human rights violations perpetrated by Western-backed forces began to emerge from across the region.
“This series of grave abuses confirms the concerns that we have been expressing for several weeks,” said President Souhayr Belhassen with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), a Paris-based umbrella group representing more than 160 organizations around the world. “These acts of revenge together with the extreme tensions that exists between the communities constitute an explosive cocktail leading us to fear that the worst could happen, especially in the context of the reconquering the North.”
According to FIDH, which said it is “very alarmed by the increasing number of summary executions and other human rights violations committed by Malian soldiers,” an immediate investigation is needed. The umbrella organization said an independent commission should be established to assess the scope of the crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice. The group said it had already confirmed dozens of reports of extrajudicial murders in various towns, and that other reported atrocities were still being investigated.
Even in Bamako, where the corrupt regime styling itself the “government” of Mali is based, ethnic Tuaregs who have nothing to do with the secession movement in the north are being brutalized. According to reports, their homes are being invaded and plundered. Simply failing to produce valid identification documents is apparently justification enough to brutalize or even murder the victims.
“These abuses undermine the legitimacy of the operation to restore territorial integrity and must be prosecuted by the national justice, and if required, by the International Criminal Court which opened an investigation on the situation in Mali on 16 January,” FIDH Honorary President Sidiki Kaba said in a statement, urging French and Malian authorities to investigate the lawlessness and criminal terrorization of victims. […]
While the press has been largely barred from conflict areas by the French government, even establishment journalists have documented the slaughter by UN-backed forces. A Reuters reporter, for example, “saw at least six bodies in two areas of the Walirdi district of Sevare. Three of them were lying, partly covered in sand, near a bus station and showed signs of having been burned. Three more had been thrown into a nearby well.”
Witnesses who spoke to the Associated Press but asked to remain anonymous gave vivid accounts of the atrocities being perpetrated by the Malian regime, which, again, has the full force of the Obama administration, the UN, and the socialist government in France behind it. According to the sources, Malian soldiers were massacring anyone suspected of having ties to the rebels in the north.
“They gathered all the people who didn’t have national identity cards and the people they suspected of being close to the Islamists to execute them and put them in two different wells near the bus station,” one of the witnesses was quoted as saying by the AP. After being dumped in the wells, Malian troops poured gasoline on the bodies and set them ablaze, probably to conceal the evidence of their crimes.
The coup regime in Bamako has denied the accusations, saying it ordered its officers to “respect human rights.” However, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, when asked about whether he knew of the abuses being perpetrated by the “government” his forces are supporting in Mali, said: “There’s a risk” that the atrocities are occurring, but that it was up to the Malian regime to stop it. … Full article
Human rights groups and journalists have complained that they have not been permitted access to Malian war zones. They have also not been given information on civilian and military casualties. After being contacted by Press TV, France’s Ministry of Defense said that there have been no civilian casualties, thanks to the precision of their air strikes. This claim of military perfection has been trumpeted since the beginning of the invasion. But the mayor of the Malian town of Konna recently declared that 11 civilians died as a result of French air strikes, including women and children. No one knows if there have been similar deaths in other areas of conflict, because since the war started Mali’s government has not issued a single figure about the war’s human casualties. Malian soldiers have been accused of summarily executing dozens of people, some only because of their ethnicity or for lacking identity papers.
Paris – Within the next few days, France will have deployed some 2,500 troops to Mali. That’s as large a commitment as France made to what became a profoundly unpopular war in Afghanistan. No one knows how long the troops will be there, but the price tag will surely be tens if not hundreds of millions [or billions rather] of Euros, this to born by a French economy already in woeful shape.
The danger is that President Francois Holland and the French state, may shortly find themselves in the disastrous situation of the hapless coyote in the cartoon, Roadrunner, so intent on chasing his prey that he scurries right over a cliff and suddenly finds himself flailing in mid air, about to plunge to the desert below.
President Holland said the menace of a radical Islamic takeover was so imminent that he had no choice but to intervene—to save not just Mali, but all of Western Africa, and, the French now imply, Europe as well.
Strange thing though, despite the supposed urgency of the situation, France has had precious little luck so far in convincing its European partners to contribute their own troops to the intervention. Indeed, the last thing those countries want, after the traumatic experience of Iraq, Libya and the Afghan crusade, is to become enmeshed in what risks to be an open-ended conflict, on behalf of an unelected Malian government, against a vague assortment of ethnic rebels and jihadis in the desert wilds of North Africa. Thus, so far there have been a lot of pats on the back from France’s allies, offers of logistic support, intelligence, a few troop transports, drones, but that’s it.
“You say, ‘We’ll give you nurses and you go get yourselves killed,’” said French deputy Daniel Cohn-Bendit, railing at his fellow deputies in the European Parliament. “We [Europe] will only be credible if French soldiers are not the only ones getting killed.”
Actually, it was surprising to learn that France, still considered a major military power, doesn’t have the capability to transport a couple of thousand troops and their equipment to North Africa. France even had to rely on an offer from the Italians for tankers to handle in-flight refueling of French fighter jets.
Despite the tepid response from France’s allies, French government spokesman are still reassuring the public that French troops are not going to play the major combat role in the coming ground battles.
The fact is, that even if they wanted to play a major role, there are nowhere near enough French boots on the ground. It’s instructive to speculate on France’s combat strength, using what is known as the “tooth to tail” ratio, that is, the number of support troops in the rear needed to support each combat soldier at the front. For the U.S. military that ratio is about three to one. If we use the same figure for France, that means that out of 2500 French troops deployed to Mali, probably about 600-700—a thousand at best–would actually see front-line combat.
And Mali, don’t forget, is twice the size of France, or Afghanistan or Texas.
The actual down-and-dirty fighting, we are told, is to be done by troops from West Africa, some of whom have finally begun arriving in Mali. But all the reports about those contingents indicate a woeful lack of equipment, morale, and training, particularly in being able to fight a guerrilla war in the desert reaches of the Sahel.
After months of discussion, this week—in the wake of the hostage crisis in Algeria– France’s European allies finally agreed to dispatch 250 troops to help train the Malian army and perhaps other African units. But—unless the fallout from the Algerian disaster changes things–it’s already determined that those European trainers are to be non- combatants. They will not even be advising the Malian soldiers in battle. As one senior EU official made very clear. “We will not go north. We will stay in the training areas,”
By the way, one thing I can never figure out—whether it be Mali or Afghanistan–we‘re always hearing about how the forces being backed by the U.S. and its allies, like France in this case, invariably seem to be poorly trained and equipped and demoralized, despite hundreds of millions of dollars and years of training. [Think Afghanistan where only one out of 23 battalions is able to function independently of U.S. support.]
Meanwhile, the ragtag rebels they’re combating, usually from those same third world countries, like the Taliban in Afghanistan or the Tuareg in Mali are portrayed as dedicated, fierce, battle-hardened warriors, who wreak havoc on their opponents with often the most primitive improvised weapons or suicide bombs. Reports are that it will take many weeks, probably months, before the various African troops will be ready to do any serious fighting. And there are other problems to deal with apart from training and equipment: the danger, for instance, of unleashing Christian soldiers from Nigeria to suppress Islamic rebels in Northern Mali.
Ironically, as I’ve pointed out in a previous blog, while France’s allies are hanging back, the Chinese, who have huge economic interests and construction projects underway in every one of Mali’s neighbors, continue to go about their business, apparently still content to leave the police work to France and Europe and the West African states.
The French, for the record, insist that the groups they are battling in Mali –and now in Algeria–are all lumped together as “terrorists”, linked to al-Qaeda. There is no recognition of the fact that most of the different rebel groups, are mostly driven by strong ethnic and nationalist aspirations, as much as by religion–not that different perhaps, from the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In that case, it’s obvious that the only way this conflict will ultimately be settled is not by somehow eradicating the “terrorists”, but by sitting down to negotiate a deal, as will probably be the case in Afghanistan.
In Mali, such a deal may not be that different from the kind of settlement that was offered the Tuareg years ago after a series of rebellions, but which the Malian government ultimately reneged on.
So, how do the French feel about this?
Estimates are that anywhere from 400,000 to one million French took to the streets of Paris last weekend. A counter-protest, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of other militant French, is now being organized. Tempers are flaring.
What’s the issue?
Well, actually, no. It’s whether the French government should legalize gay marriage.
As for the intervention in Mali, at first the French, from all ends of the political spectrum, seemed to be solidly behind their government and their fighting men.
That consensus is already unraveling, and it’s certain that as the intervention drags on, the casualties and costs mount, and France’s European allies still drag their heels, the patriotic surge will flag
Which bring us back to the Roadrunner. At some point the French may suddenly look down to find that their president has taken them over a precipice, and they’re suspended there, gazing in horror at the chasm below.
- France Formally Requests US Military Aid for Mali Invasion (economicpolicyjournal.com)
British Prime Minister David Cameron called off his long-awaited speech on the relations with the European Union on Friday to deal with the hostage-taking in Algeria as his country actively assisted France in its military intervention in Algeria’s neighbor Mali.
Cameron was outraged by, what he described in an address to the MPs on Thursday, as the Algerian government’s “all guns blazing” tactic against the “terrorist” kidnappers at BP’s In Amenas gas plant because it could endanger British and other western lives.
“I won’t hide, of course I was… we were disappointed not to be informed of the assault in advance,” Cameron told the MPs.
In effect, Cameron was telling Algeria that they are not supposed to be fighting “terrorists” at the cost of British lives while he and his French allies were – and are — exactly killing innocent Malians for the alleged ‘greater good’ they tend to name fighting terrorism.
There are no precise figures on the number of Malian civilians killed in the French Britain-assisted airstrikes near the country’s borders with Algeria but Human Rights Watch said on the second day of the attacks last Sunday that 10 civilians including three children, were killed during airstrikes.
The situation has also been grave enough for international organizations to call for restraint.
“Forces involved in armed attacks should avoid indiscriminate shelling at all costs, and do their utmost to prevent civilian casualties,” said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International’s Africa deputy director.
However, there has been no such restr aint to the point that United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Melissa Fleming warned on Friday “that in the near future there could be up to 300,000 people additionally displaced inside Mali, and over 400,000 additionally displaced in the neighboring countries” many of them escaping indiscriminate attacks on Malian rebels and civilians.
Nor has Cameron advised French president Francois Hollande to hold back attacks to avoid collateral damage to women and children probably because their skins are not as white as the British hostages in Algeria.
This comes as Hollande said on Friday that the attack and hostage crisis in the remote desert gas plant show the French military intervention in Mali was justified.
However, one comes to think that matters are exactly the other way round, especially after the hostage-takers said their move was in response to the French intervention in Mali.
One should also note a report by Amnesty International on brutality on the part of the ally of Britain and France, the Malian government, against the Tuareg ethnic minority where rebels are rooted.
When the conflict originally exploded, Tuaregs were arrested, tortured, bombed and killed by the security forces, “apparently only on ethnic grounds”, Amnesty said in a report on December 21.
Meanwhile, last July, 80 inmates arrested by the Malian army were stripped to their underwear, jammed into a 5 sqm cell and cigarettes were burnt into their bodies.
Also, back in September 2012, 16 Muslim clerics were rounded up at a checkpoint and summarily executed by the Malian army, which is now Britain’s ally.
Indeed, Britain could apparently pat itself on the back for setting the stage for the kidnapping of its own nationals in Algeria by helping the Malian government.
Britain should also answer whether the “botched” Algerian operation to free hundreds of hostages that left a few western hostages killed would have been also botched if the hostages were not white westerners, or if the scenario was one of British forces and its allies pounding Malian targets with huge civilians casualties on people with darker skins.