Hillary Clinton has made a visit to Algeria in attempts to sway the government to support the intervention. Sources say that Clinton is also urging Algeria to tighten up its border with Mali. The 1,376km (855 mi.) Saharan border that Algeria shares with Mali is remarkably porous. It is through this porous border that Algerian rebels first came over a decade ago; and it is these porous Saharan borders between Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, Morocco, and Mali that AQIM and rebel factions have been using to elude governments, and continue their illicit trades.
However, tightening of the border will have the side effect of further crippling the northern Malian civilian population. The population depends on the cheap supply of goods that flow down through the Sahara: rice, pastas, tea, sugar, dates, biscuits etc. With the northern economy stalled to almost standstill, the meager rations have been essential for keeping the population going (if supplies were sent up from Bamako, they would be twice as expensive). If the government is intent on closing this border as the first step towards tackling the rebels, it should assess means for helping the civilians survive their occupation.
Although there were thousands of northerners that initially fled when the MNLA first took over the north, there has been a movement of northerners returning back. Many northerners weighed their options and decided it would be better for them to be back home where they have basic means to support themselves (ie: agriculture and animals) vs. struggling and unsupported as a refugee in the south. Despite western criticism of Ansar Dine and MUJAO’s infliction of Sharia, the rebel groups have created more of a sense of normalcy for citizens in their day-to-day life, lowering food prices, restoring water and electricity to areas that had it before vs. the chaos, looting, and near-anarchy of the MNLA. Northern citizens of course would rather have the rebels go, but lack the means to do anything about it themselves.