Thursday 28 March 2013

North Africa

Ban: UN Needs Tens of Thousands of Troops for Mali War

11,200 Seen as Bare Minimum for Protecting 'Key' Towns

27 March, 2013

Ever since French troops invaded Mali, the French government has been hoping to pawn the long-term occupation off on the United Nations. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon seems on board with that request, however, and has issued a report on the tens of thousands of troops he believes the UN needs for its war.

His recommendations include 11,200 troops as a bare minimum to control and protect certain “main” towns that are perceived to have the highest risk. He then calls for a “parallel force” at least as big to continue the offensive war against northern rebels.

As with most of the protracted international wars prosecuted in Africa, the UN envisions most of the troops being contributed from the other dirt-poor African nations in the surrounding area. Yet past wars, particularly in Somalia, have showed that while these nations can contribute troops for the right price, they are rarely combat-ready, setting the stage for even longer wars while they wait for those troops to get trained.

European nations have offered to send training units to Mali, but in a country this size with so many rebels and so much territory between towns for them to hide in, there is no reason to think the rebel factions will be easily uprooted, and to the contrary the deployments may encourage more insurgents from around the region.

US Sees ‘Al-Qaeda Threat’ in Tunisia

Islamists Increasingly Dominate Politics, But AQIM's Influence Unclear

27 March, 2013

Islamists of various sects are increasingly ruling the roost in post Arab Spring Tunisia, with the moderate Islamists dominating the parliament and Ansar al-Sharia, a banned Salafist faction, demanding the ouster of those seen as insufficiently conservative.

Secular opposition figure Shokri Belaid’s assassination earlier this year has set the stage for all kinds of political infighting, and a rushed schedule to hold new elections under the constitution.

The US African Command (AFRICOM) seems to be using this to push for more involvement in the country, arguing that this amounts to an attempt by al-Qaeda to establish a presence in the nation.

Yet the local flavor of al-Qaeda, which is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has so far seemed confined primarily to Algeria and northern Mali, and rhetoric aside there is no evidence they have serious influence in Tunisia. Since AQIM is itself just a re-branded version of the Algerian rebels, their interests have been primarily local, as have a number of other Islamist factions.

Many of these groups may have similar ideologies, but with their interests focused inside their own nations, they aren’t necessarily good recruitment targets for al-Qaeda’s global vision, and the AFRICOM warning seems more about reiterating that they perceive “threats” in virtually every nation than a realistic assessment of the situation.

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