Mali: West Africa’s Afghanistan

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Jihadists from as far away as Afghanistan and Pakistan are flocking to northern Mali to train al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups and Islamist insurgents, turning the region — an area the size of Texas — into the next epicenter of international terror.

Terrorism in the African Sahel — the sub-Saharan stretch of desert that includes the West African nations of Mali, Niger, Burkino Faso and Mauritania — has been gathering in intensity since the collapse of Muammar Gadhafi’s Libyan regime in October 2011.

At that point an influx of mercenaries and looted weaponry, including missile launchers, armored vehicles and anti-aircraft missiles, have flooded into the Sahel and into the hands of a rogue’s gallery of al-Qaeda, Islamists, and criminals long engaged in rampant terrorist attacks, arms dealing, drug trafficking, and ransom kidnapping.

This collection of Islamist killers and gangsters has been able to move relatively unchallenged throughout the Sahel, and the recent seizure of northern Mali by both Islamist and separatist forces has opened the window for northern Mali to become a permanent training base and safe haven for terrorists operating throughout the region.

To that end, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has reportedly extended an invitation to jihadists from around the globe to come to northern Mali to help train its fighters, as well as those from two other al-Qaeda-linked groups: the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and Nigeria’s Boko Haram.

Those jihadist calls have been enough to make Mali, according to one American official, “a cool place for jihadists from the region,” while French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said their presence risks turning northern Mali into “a West African Afghanistan.”

That nightmare scenario is being facilitated by the ongoing battle over control of northern Mali between the Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith), an al-Qaeda-linked and AQIM-backed Islamist group, and the separatist Tuareg MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad).

The battle between the two groups began in April, shortly after Ansar Dine and MNLA forces — aided by a March military coup which ousted then-Mali President Amadou Toumani — seized control of nearly two-thirds of the country and declared the conquered territory the independent state of Azawad.

Specifically, Ansar Dine and MNLA broke ranks over questions of whether and how to implement Sharia law in Azawad, a development not terribly shocking given the disparate stated agendas of the two groups.

While the MNLA, which has vehemently denied any Islamist or al-Qaeda links, has maintained its only goal was the creation of an independent secular state in the north, Ansar Dine’s stated objective has been to turn all of Mali into an Islamic dictatorship under Sharia law.

Thus, when a statement at the end of May from the MNLA surprisingly announced its official merger with Ansar Dine and declared that the two groups had agreed to turn Azawad into an Islamist state, it came as little surprise when that joint declaration was almost immediately rejected by top MNLA officials.

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  • Schlomotion

    Someone ought to get Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and Paul Wolfowitz on the phone because this plan to knock over country after so.cialist arab country in order to remake the Middle East isn't panning out too well. Maybe the US shouldn't have granted that big windfall to BP by knocking over Qaddafi after all? As the oil lobbyists are fond of saying on here, there will be peace and stability in region now, and on top of that, cheaper oil? Right?


    I can't wait until the complaints roll in about how the post-Syrian power vacuum isn't good for Israel either.

  • Roger

    Wee wee, you small little man.

    This story on Al Qaida using Libyan weapons to seize power and commit acts of violence (leaving blood on obama's hands by the way) is important.

    Yet you come along like any typical muslim friendly troll and try to distract from that.

    Why? Can't you have one of your admitted parallel profiles come and explain that?

  • Roger

    So, can wee wee keep track of both of you?
    I hope he hasn't been hitting the mtn dew too hard today.

    I tried to explain there were meetings that could help him with that, but he never pays attention.

  • Roger

    Yes right after you call for jihad on a town of Christians probably.

    24 minutes ago @ – Soldier Found Guilty i… · 1 reply · +1 points
    "The whole town needs locked in the church and the church set on fire. IMO"

  • Roger

    You pretend the strangest things.

    Was your mom a pakistani rat child?

  • Roger

    Really? Did it take wee wee all this time to have you say that?

  • Roger

    Really, it's just as well anyhow.
    That gave me time to do four more comments.

    And you never did stop laughing at wee wee and his sex goats going missing, did you?