Sending 3,300 ECOWAS troops to Mali? The bulk of them Nigerians? Great idea! The Nigerian military has an excellent human rights record, and the foreign ECOWAS troops will easily conquer heavily armed rebels in the worlds largest desert! Lets not rush into half-baked solutions. The Wall Street article “Few to Take on Mali Militants” heeds a word of warning: “Even 3,300 battle-equipped soliders from West Africa would be too few…to secure a sweep of dune, boulders and mountains that the French themselves failed to thoroughly colonize.”
The US has also been playing naïve to the situation, as experts have noted, special forces have been sent on training missions in Northern Mali since 2003. If over 10 years of military assistance could not provide the solution for securing the north, why do some think rapid military training now from Europe or the US will prepare Malian troops to quell the situation? Moreover, why are nations so keen to go to war when worldwide only 7% of terrorist groups/movements are quelled by military force? Using negotiations and a constructive political process should be the prioritized method of action.
“The US is considering unilateral strikes in the region” say the White House Security Council. Does not the US suspect these sorts of attacks create the very fear they are trying to quell? Ansar Dine and MUJAO are completely enmeshed in the main towns in the north. Is it worth sacrificing civilians for the sake of ‘possibly’ killing some terrorists?
In fact, now that the crisis is in its seventh month, Malians from the north are even returning back to the northern rebel held areas. Some Northern Malians that left (there are many of course that are still there) are starting to feel that it is better to go back and be in their homes and with their families than to be refugees in the south with no support. Despite what the news might lead people assume, the rebels are not attacking the civilians. Northerners are allowed to go about their business and as long as they aren’t, for instance, caught raising the rebel-subsidized low bread prices, or smoking in the streets, Sharia punishment is kept at bay.