Rebellions, Refugees, and Resources: The Conflict In Mali
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03/01/2013 05:48 PM
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The United States
The US has its own personal interests in Mali, which is why they have been backing the French in the form of transportation assistance. The official line is that the main US concern is Al Qaeda, with the Congressional Research Service reporting that “The prospect of an expanded safe-haven for AQIM and other extremists and criminal actors in Mali is a principal concern for U.S. policymakers examining the situation in Mali and the wider region.”
However, the real problem that the US has isn’t Al Qaeda, but rather China. China’s economic power has grown greatly within the past two years.
China’s trade with Africa reached $166 billion in 2011, according to Chinese statistics, and African exports to China – primarily resources to fuel Chinese industries – rose to $93 billion from $5.6 billion over the past decade. In July 2012 China offered African countries $20 billion in loans over the next three years, double the amount pledged in the previous three-year period. (emphasis added)
Thus, we see not only the increasing economic influence of China via trade, but also their increasing political clout due to the economic aid that China is giving African countries.
This economic aid and investment definitely paid off it was noted by the New York Times in 2011 that China’s image in Africa trumped that of the United States.
A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of 10 sub-Saharan African countries found that Africans overwhelmingly viewed Chinese economic growth as beneficial. In virtually all countries surveyed, China’s involvement was viewed in a much more positive light than America’s; in Senegal, 86 percent said China’s role in their country helped make things better, compared with 56 percent who felt that way about America’s role. In Kenya, 91 percent of respondents said they believed China’s influence was positive, versus only 74 percent for the United States. (emphasis added)
The positive, albeit economically motivated, role that China was- and is- playing in Africa represents a threat to US interests. Thus, the US African Command (AFRICOM) is paying much attention to the current events in Mali. It was noted last year that AFRICOM was meeting with Mauritania to discuss military intervention in Africa, thus the command could become involved in Mali in the future.
Despite US government officials stating that AFRICOM isn’t meant to counter Chinese influence in the region, it is quite the opposite. The BBC reported in 2008 that two of the main reasons for the creation of AFRICOM was to “to secure oil supplies” and “counter China's growing influence on the continent,” noting China’s economic influence in the region.
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