Washington / Morocco News Board ---While the African country of Mali teeters on the brink of political collapse turning the Sahel into a new Afghanistan, the United States and the European Union (EU) persist in their failed policy of subcontracting the responsibility of regional security to a futile and “absent” Algerian military. Whereas Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine and the Unity Movement for Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) have reportedly formed an alliance with the purpose of unseating the Government in Bamako, the African Union and the Western countries have yet to formulate a response on how to stop this new wave of terror.
In light of recent surge of insecurity in the Sahel, military success of AQIM and political deadlock in Bamako, the United States must review its military arrangement with the Algerian military on terms of Algeria’s security role in the region. With the operational “demise” of the Algeria backed regional military Committee of Joint Chiefs (CEMOC) and the breakdown of the Algerian diplomacy, the United States cannot afford to rely on a wobbly ally to perform such critical mission.
With the Malian President in Paris for medical treatment (for injuries he sustained during a recent attack) and the Malian Army in disarray, the AQIM alliance feels that the time is ripe for an expansion of terror activities into Southern Mali and eventually Niger and Mauritania.
Buoyant with a total absence of regional and international military presence in Mali, AQIM Algerian leader Abu Musab Abdul Wadud (AKA Abdelmalek Droukdel) made a “strategic” decision to coexist with the secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). In doing so, Droudkel has turned Northern Mali, not far from the Algerian border, into a vast, secure and well protected desert training camp for all terror groups, including Bako Haram and evantualy the Somali Al-Shabab, to converge and prepare for future operations in Algeria, Western Sahara, the Sahel, Horn of Africa and Nigeria.
Unfazed by these dangerous and unprecedented security developments, the Algerian Military establishment led by its Military Security Agency, known as DRS, persists to play a dangerous double game that is endangering the security and stability of several African nations and threatening the national security of the United States. The arrival of Pakistani “trainers’ to assist AQIM is a solemn sign that Algeria’s security efforts to contain the deteriorating security situation in Northern Mali is an utter failure.
While the Military backed Algerian Government continues to play the “no foreign intervention’’ card for the Algerian domestic audience portraying the Algerian army as the only military force capable of fending off terror groups, the DRS seems to lack a military plan to fight back extremists groups and restore law and order in areas currently controlled by AQIM. According to French intelligence, AQMI has reinforced its positions in the North and extended its recruitment efforts beyond the territories it controls.
The Algerian interests in Mali diverge from those of the AU, the United States and The EU. The Algerian Government aim in Mali is to discredit the MNLA rather than chase extremists from the Sahel. The emergence of new terror groups such as Ansar Din and MUJAO serves Algiers argument that the MNLA works closely with Al-Qaeda. Since the security status-quo supports the DRS policy of questioning the MNLA motives, the Algerian Government will continue to keep a high profile diplomatically but a much lower profile militarily in the Sahel.
Given the real possibility that Mali could join the list of failed states, it is time for the United States and France to take charge of security in the Sahel and the Sahara, regardless of the Algerian sensibilities. American and French military should put their military might behind the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) forces. On the diplomatic front, Paris and Washington should back the Burkina Faso President’s brave and ingenious efforts to mediate in the Malian conflict.
ECOWAS forces and President Blaise Compaore are the two key regional players aligned with American and European interests in the Sahel and the Sahara. Washington and Paris must offer them recognition and support before Bamako falls into the hands of Droukdel and his associates.