Destabilization of Mali

Destabilization of Mali

Destabilization of Mali by militant groups with spillover effects on neighboring areas


Recent Developments 

Due to recent attacks targeting foreigners, such as the November 2015 kidnapping and mass shooting at a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital, there are growing concerns that terrorist groups in Mali are growing in numbers and strength. Jihadist groups such as al-Mourabitoun, a branch of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb comprised primarily of ethnic Tuaregs, and Malians from the northern part of the country, may try to derail the peace agreement that was signed by the Coordination of Azawad Movements, a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups, and the Malian government in June 2015. As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the U.S. Department of State warned U.S. citizens in December 2015 against traveling to Mali and authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel from the U.S. embassy.


Militant groups in Mali continue to assert territorial claims in the north of the country, undermining the government and threatening to destabilize neighboring countries. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita began his term in September 2013, seventeen months after a military coup by the Malian army created a power vacuum allowing militant groups such as Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to gain territory in northern Mali. The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali and military missions led by G5 Sahel countries—Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger—were deployed to combat extremism in the region. However, some militant groups still maintain control of northern areas. Other militant groups have been driven across borders to territory outside of the G5 Sahel mission’s mandate. 


The United States has long supported economic and social programs in Mali, but funding to the central government was cut off after the 2012 coup. In support of the French-led mission to combat extremism, the United States established a drone base in neighboring Niger in March 2013 to provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to France and other partners in the region. The strengthening of militant groups in Mali or their spread to neighboring countries could allow AQIM to establish a safe haven and destabilize the region through militancy and terrorism.

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