After months of intense diplomatic contacts, immense persuasion efforts at international forums and through all of its media channels, France, under the leadership of its new President Francois Hollande, unilaterally launched a vast military intervention in northern Mali on January 11th, 2013.
For over a year now, France has worked tirelessly to win international support to wage a military campaign in north Mali against Touareg rebels (Indigenous people of the north African desert also known as the Sahel), North Malian Islamists who bore arms against the French-backed Bamako government, and Terrorist groups who claim themselves as part of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
After introducing a resolution to the UN Security Council which was passed on December 20th, 2012 authorizing the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission (AFISMA. Resolution number 2085), France launched its first Airstrikes in north Mali (which are still on-going), then moved to deploy nearly 2000 heavily armed and equipped elite troops, backed by tanks and armored military vehicles to take back cities that had fallen into the hands of the rebellious groups and which were moving southward to take the country's capital; Bamako.
Before this conflict began however, France had attempted without success, to convince the Algerian government to take the lead and launch a war against the terrorist groups in north Mali, while France would provide a logistical support and diplomatic backing. The reasoning of the Algerian government was that if the foreign-terrorist groups could be isolated from the Malian and Touareg opposition groups (groups that are local and whom are in disagreement with their own government), Internal Malian forces, with the backing of West African troops of the CEDEAO or ECOWAS (The Economic Community of West African States) could indeed neutralize the remaining International terrorist groups who found refuge in north Mali, a little south from the Algerian border. The current Algerian government started negotiations with local north Malians and Touareg tribes to achieve just that, in an attempt to contain and suffocate the terrorists by limiting their movement in Mali, containing them in the north, and possibly annihilating them with the help of West African forces and Mali's military coming from the south while the Algerian border is closed to the north. All this was abruptly interrupted as France started its military operation.
But if one goes back to the early days of the revolt against the regime of Colonel Qaddafi in early 2011, which began as a series of protests in the now sadly known city of Benghazi (Where a terrorist attack against the US Consulate cost the lives of 4 Americans including US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens on September 11th, 2012), the Algerian government, through its Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci, had warned that arming Libyans and using NATO's firepower to abruptly bring down the regime of Colonel Qaddafi would inevitably lead to a chaos in which Jihadist groups would have access to heavy Weaponry belonging to Qaddafi's defeated army, and which would ultimately end up being used elsewhere in North Africa to destabilize already weak states, as it is the case today in Mali.
No one can reasonably argue that Qaddafi's disappearing is a bad thing, Algerians included. But the way the transition or the liquidation, one should say, was conducted, and the consequences on the region of such method (NATO's military operation and the heavy arming of civilians to topple a government of a sovereign nation) are possibly creating a counter effect, and more importantly; instability and terrorism.
The attack against the Algerian Gas Installation of In Amenas near the Libyan border (Little less than 60 miles from Libya's south western border) on January 16th, 2013 (barely 5 days after France's attack on Mali) proves and demonstrates the point that was made repeatedly by the Algerian government right before NATO's attack on Libya as then President Sarkozy of France was heavily arming Libyan guerrilla groups with the aim to topple the regime of Colonel Qaddafi (which Sarkozy ended up getting with one eye on his dwindling public opinion polls, and the other on the French Presidential election of May 2012), just as it is the case with France's President today; Francois Hollande conducting a vast military operation in Mali which the Algerian government also advised against and which has directly or indirectly caused a terrorist attack in neighboring Algeria over two weeks ago.
The Terrorist group led by a man named Mokhtar Ben Mokhtar has not only claimed responsibility for the attack and the execution of many innocent workers from all over the world (Algeria, the US, France, the UK, Japan, Romania, Malaysia, Norway), but also promised that it would carry out more attacks in Algeria and in France, and would target any nation that brings support to France's military operation in Mali.
ALGERIA'S INACTION, FEARS AND SUSPICIONS:
Now Algerians, while expressing great reserves about France's intervention in Mali, argued that the terrorist groups that France would have to fight there, are very likely to cross the northern Mali borders into Algeria and attack both French and Algerian interests in the Algerian desert where all kinds of Gas installations and Oil fields are located (Constituting Algeria's main source of revenue and the bulk of its GDP). But a much greater concern for the Algerian government is the proximity of the war to its southern border and all the implications that entails; the presence of foreign troops of the former colonial power at its southern border, the terrorist groups within Algeria with links to the Al Qaeda-linked groups in northern Mali attempting to mount operations on its soil that Algeria fears would precipitate it into a new era of bloodshed and political turmoil similar to the civil war of the 1990s, the violation of its sovereignty by the deployment of surveillance drones over its airspace to collect intelligence about terrorist groups and ultimately fighting them on Algerian soil (Bringing more instability to a nation still in the process of recovering from a decade long war). There is also a great fear of a youth uprising caused by years of very high unemployment, high prices of consumer goods, and the ever-widening gap between a rich elite and a poor citizenry.
Algerian journalists, analysts, and politicians alike, question the timing and the reasons behind France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius' declaration to the Press that Algeria had allegedly opened without any reserves or conditions, its airspace to French Bombers En-Route from France to Mali to conduct bombing operations. Many Algerians suspect that Mr. Fabius was not merely informing the french public about the progress and "Help" France was getting from its Algerian "Ally", but rather signaling to terrorists in Algeria and in the entire region that surrounds it, that the Algeria government does not care about the fate of fellow Malian Muslims by throwing them to the dogs (Allowing France to attack them). Some also wondered why Mr. Fabius did not let his Algerian counterpart; Foreign minister Medelci make such declaration on behalf of the Algerian government, speaking about an Algerian matter. This further accentuated Algeria's suspicions about France's real motivations to go to war; Geo-political aims rather than a genuine fight against terrorism.
It is clear however, that the inaction or actions (Secret negotiations with extremist groups in northern Mali) of Algeria is partly to blame for how the whole war situation has unraveled.
THE CREDIBILITY and DOUBLE STANDARD ISSUE
Some analysts also cited a double standard practiced by France in its fight against Islamist groups and whom it chooses to arm around the world. A stark example of this is how France heavily armed Libya's Islamists whom overthrew Colonel Qaddafi then declared Sharia Law to govern the country, then arming Syria's rebels (Many of whom are also Islamists) who are currently in a fierce fight with the Syrian Army, while on the other hand fighting Mali's Islamists in the name of preventing the country to fall into the hands of extremists.
PRACTICES OF THE PAST
Back in the early days of his campaign for the french Presidency, Mr. Hollande had made a pledge to end what is called "La FrançAfrique"; France's Neo-Colonialist relationship with its former colonies in Africa. The term "FrançAfrique" describes France's rather unconventional and sometimes violent ways to conduct business in Africa in order to maintain its interests through political or military means. An example of the horrific consequences of the "Françafrique" is the French government's military support to the Hutu militias against the Tutsis in Rwanda. By Arming Hutu militias, France directly contributed to the Rwanda genocide of 1994, which resulted in the killing of almost 1 million Tutsis (Mostly women, children, and elderly people) in the span of three months.
While Mali is considered one of the poorest nations on earth (Population wise at least; the average worker's annual salary is $1500), mainly because of a succession of corrupt governments (many of which were ironically backed by France), its underground is far from poor. Mali has important gold mines, tremendous underground oil reserves that remain unexploited, and great proximity to Niger's unmatched Uranium underground reserves. In other words, Mali most definitely represents a clear opportunity to many of Europe's embattled economies; France's included.
Ridding the region of Al Qaeda linked groups is of great importance of course, but it has to be done in a fashion that is credible for the people of the region. Fighting terrorism is not mere killing of lunatics wandering in the wilderness, it is also eradicating the very tools they use to recruit young minds desperate for a better life. Such tools are ignorance, lack of economic opportunity, and most important of all; the backing of corrupt governments whom the people see as part of the problem rather than the solution. If Lawmakers of industrialized nations could understand just that and back it by specific and sustained educational and economic actions; the world would be able to declare victory over terror a lot sooner, and save millions of innocent human lives.