Sahel

Russian mercenaries to Mali?

France, now in the process of drawing down its military presence in West Africa's Sahel nations, has criticized plans that could see Russian mercenaries brought to Mali, where jihadist groups tied to ISIS or al-Qaeda operate in large parts of the country. Reports suggest that Mali's transitional government is considering a deal with the Wagner Group, which has close links to Vladimir Putin and is also active in Central African Republic. The Coordinating Body of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups that signed a peace deal with the Malian government in 2015, likewise expressed its "firm opposition" to any agreement to bring in the Wagner Group. (TNH)

Podcast: 9-11 and the GWOT at 20

In Episode 88 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits his predictions from 20 years ago and from a month ago about what the world would look like on the 20th anniversary of 9-11. The attack, and Dubya Bush's Global War on Terrorism, did not lead to a wave of new attacks within the US, as the jihad has proved more concerned with the struggle within Islam. But this has meant an invisible catastrophe for the Muslim world. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen get at least some international media attention. There are many more nearly forgotten wars and genocides: the serial massacres in Pakistan, the insurgency in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, the Boko Haram war in Nigeria that is now spilling into Cameroon, the mounting massacres in the Sahel nations. Even the insurgency in Somalia, where the US has had a military footprint, wins little coverage—despite the fact that it is spilling into Kenya. The insurgency in Mozambique has now prompted an African-led multinational military intervention. The insurgency on the Philippine island of Mindanao has been met with air-strikes. All waged by entities claiming loyalty to either al-Qaeda or ISIS. The new imperial doctrine appears to be that this violence is acceptable as long as it is not visited upon the West—as now admitted to by the elite global management.

Mounting massacres across Africa's Sahel nations

The tri-border region where the Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali come together is the scene of fast-mounting massacres by presumed Islamist militants. At least 80 people were killed in an ambush in Burkina Faso on Aug. 18. The target was a  convoy near the town of Arbinda, but scores of civilians were slain along with 17 soldiers and members of a pro-government militia. On Aug. 4, presumed militants killed 30 civilians, soldiers and militiamen in an attack near the town of Markoye. The assailants first attacked civilian villagers, and then fired on soldiers responding to the raid. State media reported that government troops killed 16 of the attackers. (The Hill, Al Jazeera, AP, France24, Reuters)

France announces Sahel drawdown

France is to reduce its forces battling jihadists in the Sahel—a seven-year deployment that has failed to stem the violence, and which has proved increasingly unpopular both in the region and domestically. President Emmanuel Macron said on June 10 there would be a "profound transformation" of its Operation Barkhane, with France relying more on special forces, air power, and cooperation with allies. The details of the plan will be finalized by the end of June, he added. France has suffered a recent setback in the Sahel with the death of its close ally, Chadian leader Idriss Déby, and an increasingly complicated relationship with Mali—the focus of Barkhane's 5,100-strong intervention. Earlier this month, Paris suspended joint military operations with Malian forces after a second coup. Macron has also refused to support moves by some Sahelian countries to open negotiations with jihadists, and has suggested that African partners have not pulled their weight in the counter-insurgency fight—a conflict widely seen as militarily unwinnable.

Chad: president killed as rebels advance

President Idriss Déby of Chad died following injuries sustained in fighting against rebels in the country's north, authorities announced April 20. The president's son, Gen. Mahamat Kaka, is said to be serving as interim president. Déby had just been declared provisional winner of another presidential term, with nearly 80% of the vote in the April 11 election. He had been in power for three decades. The rebel Front for Change & Concord in Chad (FACT) invaded the country from its bases across the border in Libya, in an attempt to disrupt the elections. Both sides are claiming victory after clashes in the northern region of Kanem, and FACT says that its forces are advancing on the capital, N'Djamena.

Outrage over French air-strike in Mali

A French airstrike killed 19 civilians attending a wedding celebration in a remote central Malian village, according to an investigation by the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSMA. The report based its findings on hundreds of interviews, satellite images, and evidence gathered from a trip to Bounti, the village hit by the Jan. 3 strike. The French defense ministry rejected the report, maintaining the casualties were Islamist militants. French troops were hailed as heroes by many Malians when they drove out militant groups from major towns in the country's desert north in 2013. But criticism has grown as a more than 5,000-strong regional counter-insurgency force—called Operation Barkhane—has failed to prevent the militants from regrouping and expanding across West Africa's Sahel. Despite some recent battlefield gains, the operation is drawing increasing comparisons to the US war in Afghanistan.

US steps up drone ops as Sahel violence flares

In the latest outbreak of fast-escalating violence across Africa's Sahel, gunmen in southwestern Niger on March 15 killed at least 58 people when they intercepted a convoy of four commercial transport vehicles carrying local civilian residents from a weekly market, and attacked nearby villages. The passengers were summarily executed, and homes and granaries put to the torch in the villages. The attacks took place in the Tillabéri region, near the flashpoint "tri-border area" where Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso come together. Militant groups linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda cross back and forth between all three countries.

UN to investigate 'crimes against humanity' in Mali

UN investigators into political violence in Mali reported to the Security Council that they found evidence that government forces have committed "war crimes," while jihadists and other armed groups perpetrated "crimes against humanity." The allegations are made in a 338-page report compiled by the International Commission of Inquiry, a three-member panel examining events in Mali over the six years after it spiralled into conflict in 2012. The Commission was created in January 2018 as part of the Agreement for Peace & Reconciliation between rebels and the government, which was signed in 2015 after years of fighting. The report, which has not yet been made public, recommends establishing a special court to try accused perpetrators. (France24, Dec. 23)

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