Is Mali The Next Afghanistan?

Is Mali the next Afghanistan? (McClatchy, Jan 18, 2013):

WASHINGTON — The war rages about cities with names such as Goa and Timbuktu, in a sparsely populated, mostly flat, dusty and landlocked country in northwest Africa.

The combatants include a nomadic Berber people known as Tuareg, the French Foreign Legion and a coalition of al Qaida affiliates who identify themselves with the Maghreb, the desert region of Northwestern Africa.

It sounds as if it could be the plot for a new Indiana Jones adventure. But those who study international terrorism say it would be a mistake for Americans to think of this conflict as anything but deadly serious. The war in Mali is the new front in the war on international terrorism.

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Mali Fighters Tougher Than France Anticipated

Mali Islamists tougher than France anticipated: envoys (Reuters, Jan 18, 2013)

French troops’ initial clashes with Islamist militants in Mali have shown that the desert fighters are better trained and equipped than France had anticipated before last week’s military intervention, French and other U.N. diplomats said.

The realization that the fighting could be bloodier than anticipated in the weeks — or months — ahead might make Western countries even more reluctant to get involved alongside France. French officials, however, hope it will rally their allies behind them, diplomats say.

“The cost of failure in Mali would be high for everyone, not just the people of Mali,” an African diplomat said on Thursday. Like the other diplomats, he spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military and diplomatic issues.

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Malgeria Crisis Update

Malgeria Crisis Update (ZeroHedge, Jan 17, 2013):

The situation in MalgeriaTM continues to remain uncertain but the following updates should provide some color as to where they stand currently (and a primer on the initial French intervention). Critically, Stratfor warns that the escalation in Algeria will possibly lead to further militants crossing the Mali border, further endangering Westerners and energy infrastructure (which is important as Algeria is one of the largest exports of light, sweet crude oil in the world and a significant natural gas exporter to Europe).

Stratfor 3-minute Primer:


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Update:

1) In general there is chaos as FranceTV put it “it is very confusing, with no official confirmation of any of the actions being reported on”
2) Up to 35 (of the 44) Hostages have apparently been killed in the Algerian rescue (retake) operation, with hostages freed (one Irishman);
2a) All 8 of the hostage-takers have apparently been killed

Who is Mokhtar Belmokhtar?


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3) A US Drone is now on site to take a look for the first time;

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France Steps Up Mali Operation, Africans Try To Catch Up

Related info:

French Military Embarrassments Continue As Insurgents Grab More Territory In Mali

France Launches Major Military Campaign In Mali, Bungles Hostage Rescue Attempt


France steps up Mali operation, Africans try to catch up (Reuters, Jan 15, 2013):

France hit Islamist rebels in Mali with fresh air strikes and deployed armored cars on Tuesday, stepping up its intervention in the West African state as regional allies struggled to accelerate their plans to send in troops.

Paris has poured hundreds of soldiers into Mali and carried out air raids since Friday in the northern half of the country, which was seized last year by an Islamist alliance combining al Qaeda’s north African wing AQIM with Mali’s home-grown MUJWA and Ansar Dine rebel groups.

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French Military Embarrassments Continue As Insurgents Grab More Territory In Mali

French Military Embarrassments Continue As Insurgents Grab More Territory In Mali (ZeroHedge, Jan 14, 2013):

As reported over the weekend, late on Friday French forces launched a military campaign, consisting primarily of airforce incursions, designed to crush the “Islamic extremists” in the country in order to protect “European interests” (it is unclear what these may be). Parallel with this came the first humiliation for French military forces as a French helicopter pilot was killed nearly at the same time as the offensive was launched. But even more embarrassing was the bungled attempt to rescue a hostage in Somalia, in which the hostage is said to have died (by France at least, not his captors), while at least one French commando is also reported to have been left behind. Moments ago, AP reported on the latest French military developments in Mali, which confirm that when it comes to the words “French military” and “success” will hardly ever be seen side by side.

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The 21st-century African land grab by rich countries facing global food and water shortages

Highly recommended article.


An Observer investigation reveals how rich countries faced by a global food shortage now farm an area double the size of the UK to guarantee supplies for their citizens

the-21st-century-african-land-grab-by-rich-countries-faced-by-global-food-and-water-shortages
A woman tends vegetables at a giant Saudi-financed farm in Ethiopia.

We turned off the main road to Awassa, talked our way past security guards and drove a mile across empty land before we found what will soon be Ethiopia’s largest greenhouse. Nestling below an escarpment of the Rift Valley, the development is far from finished, but the plastic and steel structure already stretches over 20 hectares – the size of 20 football pitches.

The farm manager shows us millions of tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables being grown in 500m rows in computer controlled conditions. Spanish engineers are building the steel structure, Dutch technology minimises water use from two bore-holes and 1,000 women pick and pack 50 tonnes of food a day. Within 24 hours, it has been driven 200 miles to Addis Ababa and flown 1,000 miles to the shops and restaurants of Dubai, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with more than 13 million people needing food aid, but paradoxically the government is offering at least 3m hectares of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world’s most wealthy individuals to export food for their own populations.

The 1,000 hectares of land which contain the Awassa greenhouses are leased for 99 years to a Saudi billionaire businessman, Ethiopian-born Sheikh Mohammed al-Amoudi, one of the 50 richest men in the world. His Saudi Star company plans to spend up to $2bn acquiring and developing 500,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia in the next few years. So far, it has bought four farms and is already growing wheat, rice, vegetables and flowers for the Saudi market. It expects eventually to employ more than 10,000 people.

But Ethiopia is only one of 20 or more African countries where land is being bought or leased for intensive agriculture on an immense scale in what may be the greatest change of ownership since the colonial era.

An Observer investigation estimates that up to 50m hectares of land – an area more than double the size of the UK – has been acquired in the last few years or is in the process of being negotiated by governments and wealthy investors working with state subsidies. The data used was collected by Grain, the International Institute for Environment and Development, the International Land Coalition, ActionAid and other non-governmental groups.

The land rush, which is still accelerating, has been triggered by the worldwide food shortages which followed the sharp oil price rises in 2008, growing water shortages and the European Union’s insistence that 10% of all transport fuel must come from plant-based biofuels by 2015.

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