Mali Grand Finale – The Fall of Kidal

French troops arrive in Mali.Photo: Commons.wikimedia.org/James Richardson

French troops arrive in Mali.
Photo: Commons.wikimedia.org/James Richardson

After three weeks of bitter struggle, jihadist terrorists in Mali have surrendered to French and Malian forces with the conquest of Kidal, a key city in the north of the country. The majority of rebels belonged to the groups MNLA and MIA (Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and Islamic Movement of Azawad, respectively) and had ties to Al-Qaeda. The Defenders of Islam held Kidal, headed by Iyad Ag Ghaly, an ex-Taureg rebel. These Islamic forces led the county under their reign of terror for approximately nine months. On Wednesday, January 30, 2013, those remaining fled the area, admitting defeat and avoiding any combat with the French-Malian army.

Wednesday, in the dark of night, the French-Malian forces traveled toward Kidal from Timbuktu, heading to the last standing Islamic stronghold in the north of the country. French forces reached the Kidal airport in the midst of a bitter sandstorm that prevented the troops from moving onward in its grainy onslaught. The troops then waited for African relief to arrive and officially secured the airport and city for their country. When asked about the status of the French troops stopped at the airport, French Minister of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian was optimistic. “The meteorological conditions made it so that it will take a bit longer for the rest of the forces to arrive, but that is just one of the risks of the desert,” he told French Inter.

The victory over jihadist forces in Mali is to be celebrated, but France is warning the country to take measures to maintain her freedom and to form a sense of national cohesion. It is necessary to come up with a political solution to prevent history from repeating itself, and leaders in Bamako have heeded that advice. On Tuesday, a vote was held to ensure a transition to democracy that would not tolerate autonomist groups such as MIA, MNLA or Defenders of Islam. The proposal passed unanimously. Deputies voted to implement a “political roadmap” to outline discussions on the topic of “national reconciliation.” Officials in Paris have appealed to Malian authorities to “engage in discussions with legitimate representatives in Northern Mali without delay.” In the past, it has proven difficult to establish programs for aid and development, as much of Mali is made up of nomadic tribes.

Tensions have continued to rise in some cities that have expelled Jihadists. French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, called for rapid deployment of international observers to Mali in order protect human rights, as Muslims are increasingly at risk for having violent crimes committed against them. Human Rights Watch already predicted elevated tensions in the North between Arabs and Tauregs, who are often allied with the Islamists (the minority) and the Blacks (the majority). More testimonials regarding the destruction of valuable religious Islamic manuscripts have surfaced, although an exact number cannot yet be placed upon the losses. On Tuesday, after the arrival of French and Malian forces in Timbuktu, hundreds of people attacked stores that were run by those involved with the Islamic armies and Al-Qaeda.

The past three weeks of struggle in Mali came at a price. When asked about the cost of the operation, Le Drian stated that it is still too early to say but explained that France has a budget for defense and a budget line (cap) called the “Opex.” The current amount available for external operations, such as the Mali operation, is 630 million euros. He estimated approximately fifty million euros have been used to fund the three-week engagement in Mali. Was it worth it? Le Drian thinks so. “The president of the Republic had these wishes: Firstly, to stop the offensive of the jihadists towards the south. Secondly, it was necessary to accompany the Malians and African forces, so they can regain autonomy and the integrity of the Malian territory. Thirdly, we are there to ensure that national reconciliation can be implemented in Mali so the conditions of both the African and European forces can be met.”

In the end, the French chief diplomat, Laurent Fabius, affirmed in an interview with the newspaper, Le Parisien, that French forces will leave the country rapidly. “Now, it’s a country for the Africans to hold.”

Trackbacks

  1. […] and the numerous kidnappings of international citizens in the region.  Though the French troops succeeded in driving the rebels out of Mali’s main northern cities, the fighting has intensified in the […]

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