Economist Article on Upcoming War in Mali...
....A force of 3,000-plus soldiers from Mali’s lousy and demoralised army plus another 3,000 or so from ECOWAS will be backed by a contingent of a few hundred Western specialists, mainly from France and the United States, to provide intelligence, logistics, aerial firepower and surveillance (including drones), and perhaps small contingents of special forces. . .
No one is confident of the outcome. The three main towns now in the hands of the Islamists—Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu—will probably be recaptured in due course. But whether the rebels can be completely expunged from the Sahara desert’s vast and rugged swathe of northern Mali is much less certain. . .
(discusses Ansar Dine's negotiations)
But some say Ag Ghali’s influence is waning—and that his defection from the jihadist front would not make much difference. He founded Ansar Dine only, it is said, after failing to win the leadership of the Tuaregs’ MNLA, which is relatively secular. He may also have been embittered by his failure to win the chieftaincy of the Kidal Tuareg tribal confederacy. And despite Ansar Dine’s brutal application of sharia law, doubt has been cast on Ag Ghali’s own piety. His current Salafist bent may date from a recent stint as a Malian diplomat in Saudi Arabia...
But whatever the sincerity of Ag Ghali and his comrades and the possibility of persuading them to come onside, it is clear that al-Qaeda itself has a growing presence in northern Mali—and that it can be contained only by a carefully designed military and political strategy. That cannot happen overnight.
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