Mauritanians back to Mali

Mauritanian troops and aircraft are deploying back into Mali, in anticipation of an AQIM attack. News reports say that air and ground forces are moving out from Nema, with reinforcements as well. The operation comes after the government announced its intention to wage a “pre-emptive” war on AQIM last week. This is as the Malian Chief of Staff Gen. Gabriel Poudiougou is in Noukachott discussing coordination on counter-terrorism. Given recent tension between these countries and Algeria, especially over previous operations similar to this one, one can speculate that the Algerians are looking at this with pursed lips, even if one could reasonably look at this as Mali acting in its legitimate role as a part of the Tamanrasset process (Mali currently holds the rotating chair of that questionable body, but the failure of that process to increase trust and cooperation across the board strengthens an assumption that the Algerians will be irritated regardless; though this blog tries to avoid fortune telling). These measures could also be related to the French hostages currently held by AQIM; if they are accompanied by French troops, as in the past, the impact on overall regional cooperation would be impacted in important ways, especially if the Algerians have not been consulted. Little has been said in the Algerian press on either count as of yet.

Updates to come.

UPDATE: A little background on the deployment from Mauritanian sources: The Mauritanians attempted to reach a deal with AQIM, via various intermediaries, that looked like this: 1) the Mauritanians would release the Aleg killers under a presidential amnesty (they would also renounce terrorism) and see that AQIM got its ransom money (both AQIM’s terms); 2) AQIM would release the remaining hostages; 3) as a good faith measure, the Mauritanians withdrew their forces from the areas around Gao and Tassilit (where Mauritanian troops have been operating on a semi-permanent basis). It was set to go ahead, but Bin Laden’s dispatch from 26 October hardened attitudes and the deal was cut off. More to come.


17 thoughts on “Mauritanians back to Mali

  1. Thank Kal for this update. So, Mauritanians are doing like the Malians did previously, which made them and the Algerians upset to recall their ambassadors.

    First time to hear Usama video, but I think he is dead long ago if we can believe the late Benazir Butho in an interview with Al Jazeera before her death. Seing him speak and not only haring his voice would have proven the contrary.

    Moreover, if the Mauritanians are doing deals with AQIM, they are obviously doing it for the French. Otherwise, I don’t see why Ould Abdel Aziz has to lose his time with them. He should just hit them with whoever he wishes to collaborate with until those behind AQIM show their face and anger ..

  2. This is a very good read, in response to Keenan’s latest article on the recent message from Ussama and AQIM (Al Jazeera). But no AQIM emir yet from Mauritania, Mali or Niger: still the same chiefs and the same indians …

    My own new opinion is that some other entities, rather than DRS, are behind la nébuleuse AQIM. AQIM firing power and skills in the battle at Ras El Ma can’t be achieved without te help of military combat strategists …

  3. I’d also like to urge people to read the link Tidinit points to, a nice little takedown of conspiracy nut Jeremy Keenan. (And al-Wasat seems a very promising blog allround.)

    Tidinit 1 — “AQIM firing power and skills in the battle at Ras El Ma can’t be achieved without te help of military combat strategists …”

    Why not? Surely the vets of AQIM (ex-GSPC, ex-GIA), who have been engaged in guerrilla warfare without interruption for 18 years, could teach their guys some basic infantry tactics. I’d be more inclined to suspect foul play if they didn’t.

    Tidinit 2 — Actually, I heard from a credible source at SOAS that Bhutto is alive and hiding in bin Ladin’s old cave in Waziristan, from where she secretly controls the CIA through AQIM via DRS, in a fiendishly complex plot to assassinate Elvis. I’m expecting Menas Associates to publish the details any day now.

  4. Alle,

    Welcome back.

    Tidinit 1 stands firmly. You have to tell us who is behind, when supposed partners against war on terror increase the loss of supposed partners through the mouth of security services of a another key partner. You know what I am talking about.

    Tidinit 2 is a good joke and I laughed out loud.

  5. Tidinit — Thanks! I’m always lurking in the background, you know, but like the DRS it’s difficult to lure me out into the open.

    On T1: Sorry, I really didn’t get that.

    If you’re referring to the Algeria-Mali-Mauritania-Morocco etc spats over who is responsible for terrorism, or for not preventing it, I don’t see why dysfunctional regimes blaming outsiders for their own failures should be newsworthy, let alone evidence of a grand conspiracy.

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying there has never been any shady deals involving AQIM. Quite the contrary, I’m sure there must have been (even though I don’t have any details of any kind to back it up). Army or gov people in Algeria (or Libya, Mali or whoever) could at times have opted to aid the AQIM, or factions within it, to undermine a regional competitor, create rivalries within the group, or as part of a deal with it. There’s nothing conspiratorial about saying that’s a possibility.

    AQIM (or at least the Sahara katibas) wouldn’t be doing their job properly if they didn’t extract protection money or informal quid-pro-quo “ceasefires” from traders, smugglers, tribes, governments, etc. So, there are probably lots of shady contacts and friendships and relationships that have developed out of that, including with intelligence agencies and government people. Some governments may very well have decided to discreetly help AQIM attack their rivals at some point, whether directly or through intermediaries. Algeria could have done so, especially given its long history with the group. Libya is another prime suspect, given Qadhafis four-decade history of trying to buy mediating privileges in civil war situations, preferably after causing them in the first place. I’m sure the smaller states might also have cut deals of that sort, even if for no better reason than to direct AQIM’s attention elsewhere. To put it simply, AQIM is not cross-border because they enjoy collecting passport stamps, but because nomadic banditry thrives off of contested territory and state rivalries, and always has.

    Such things should be discussed and analyzed, since they’re part of the picture, and they’re part of what makes a Saharan AQ function. But Keenan’s conspiracy theories (and, no offense, yours) about AQIM being a simple proxy for some nefarious mega-plot are not that sort of reasonable discussion, nor do they bring new facts to the table. It just diverts attention from the real complexities, which are tough enough to disentangle, but which are most likely *not* a romantic cloak and dagger conspiracy.

    Kal — The blog looks weird. Have you done something to the design?

  6. Thanks Alle for your honest answer. The situation is indeed very complex. I am still lost as all explanations are in the domain of educated guesses, depending what we can believe or not. Fully agree with you that each of the stakeholders in this AQIM business add wood to the fire from time to time as “Some governments may very well have decided to discreetly help AQIM attack their rivals at some point, whether directly or through intermediaries”. I might say all, including those who say they are victims. I wonder sometimes what is the use of all the Flintlock exercises – Flintlock 10 had the US and all or most of the countries that participated in the G8 meeting in Bamako embedded in it, but Algeria – besides teaching Malian soldiers how to drive a Land-Rover!

    As Algeria kept saying, the problem of AQIM can only be solved by the countries themselves. What is then keeping Algeria not joining Mali and Mauritania in Timbuctu in the spirit of their agreements of Tamanrasset and Algiers? Not doing so very quickly will just push these two countries to become real proxies to foreign forces and “intelligences”. You don’t think so? Already the “air cocaine” of late cannot just be drug smugglers doing it alone. Some parties want to bring a real mess in the Sahara-Sahel region to justify outside military intervention just for the sake of keeping China and other entities out of this region.

    Good to read you Alle. Really from the bottom of my heart. The conspiracy theorists, like me, are not perfect. We are just guessing and sometimes we get it right.

    • Tidinit — Haha, you’re such a nice guy I feel bad whenever I disagree with you 🙂

      Let me be the first to admit I’m also working with educated guesses here, and I could definitely be wrong. I’m just arguing that we should make as few assumptions as possible, and not imagine any grand plots unless there’s actual evidence pointing that way. Things are interesting enough as they are.

      In other news, the protests in Western Sahara have apparently exploded. After the king’s Green March anniversary speech, Moroccan forces started dismantling the protest camps in Gdeim Izzeik (some 10,000 people mostly demanding jobs, better treatment etc), which led to clashes and rioting. Three Moroccans are said to have been killed during the last day (no word on any Sahrawi casualties). Molotov cocktails and tear gas popping off in the streets and smoke over central El Aaiun. See:

      From pictures and reports, it seems these are probably the biggest street protests in the history of the territory. They do not seem to be under Polisario control at all, even though nationalism is there as an implicit context (“Sahrawi natural resources for Sahrawis” is hardly an innocent non-political demand).

      My mini-analysis would be that this is what you should expect if you stalemate the peace process and weaken both Morocco and Polisario as credible local actors, without resolving the basic source of tension. Something will fill the vacuum, and it’s most likely going to be poor, angry, tribal, and not much to the liking of either side.

      • Interesting; do you think the Moroccans saw this coming? Their propaganda seems to suggest they see the situation as you describe and want to drive the messaging toward “violent extremism” or the “war on terror” if they need to, especially given the status of the “autonomy” proposal.

      • Thanks Alle. If there is no evidence to back-up conspiracy theories around the AQIM problem, I am then very happy.. Hope the other party (ies) will join Mauritania and Mali to stop AQIM whose intent then is to take power In Mauritania, that they cannot. Power these days is gotten through the ballot only. For Mali, I really don’t know anymore what is the real problem and how they can solve the Tuareg issue sustainably withot shooting ..

        Reading yout post on the protest. Amazing Morocco does this while they are negotiating with Polisario.

  7. MoorNextDoor,

    I was wondering what you thought about the independence of AQIM? I read this post and then posted about whether AQIM and AQAP are directing their own ops or doing things on behalf of AQ Central?
    I don’t know a lot about AQIM but wondered what you think from your research. Alle, if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.


  8. This below is from Jeune Afrique (Paris). For me and other conspiracy theorists, this is a good news. Hope the content of those Thuraya phone sets will be shared with all the Tamanrasset GWOT Team.

    It would have been easier to have done 2 things:

    1. know where AQIM is exactly while they communicate with their Thurayas in the open desert and everyone knows that is possible;

    2. do exactly what the Mauritanians have done: go where AQIM operates and camp the military there until they die of inactivity (no drug for traficquing, no hostages to ransom and their arms supply routes cut-off; and

    3. say some truth about who is trying to outsmart who in this bad business.

    I don’t think you need to be a great military strategist to figure out how to get them. 7 years (2003-2010) that people are suffering from these “pieds nickélés” who can’t even read a map without a trained military advisor and can’t be the ones strategizing all this alone ….

    Happy and Prosperous new Year.


    Sale temps pour Abou Zeid.

    Mois de décembre difficile pour Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, l’émir de la phalange la plus radicale d’Al-Qaïda au Maghreb islamique (Aqmi) et chef des ravisseurs des otages d’Areva.

    Il y a d’abord eu la désertion de plusieurs éléments mauritaniens de son groupe, puis la perte de sept combattants tués par l’armée algérienne, non loin de la frontière nigérienne.

    Après avoir démenti, sur plusieurs sites islamistes, la défection des Mauritaniens, il a été contraint de faire disparaître son communiqué de la Toile. Non seulement les redditions ont été confirmées à Nouakchott, mais d’autres ont eu lieu.

    Il s’agit de deux djihadistes algériens originaires d’El Oued et de Biskra qui se sont rendus aux autorités militaires de Tamanrasset. Avec armes et téléphone Thuraya (une mine d’informations).

    Toute reprise d’article ou extrait d’article devra inclure une référence à

    Source : Jeune Afrique

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