As the French-led military forces retake northern Mali, [AQIM emir Abdelmalek] Droukdel's eight month old letter should resonate as an ominous warning as it points to a long-term strategic plan to outlive the intervention and sets the stage for a potentially successful return. Clearly, under Droukdel's leadership, AQIM has no intention of relinquishing northern Mali.
Secretary John Kerry and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave these remarks before their meeting on February 14, 2013. They outlined the main issues they would discuss: North Korea's nuclear test and Six Party Talks, negotiations with Iran, the crisis in Syria, and France's intervention in Mali.
France says it will withdraw from Mali once an African peacekeeping force is in place. To keep Islamists at bay, the United States is considering increasing its military presence in the region. A better approach is to focus on fixing the governance issues that fuel radicalism to begin with, says John Campbell.
Jihadists were already finding it hard to operate in North Africa before the Arab Spring of 2011. Since then their problems have become almost insurmountable: they thrive only in countries where Islamists are in prison, not where they are in the ascendant or contesting elections. As for Europe, the last attacks instigated by al-Qaida date back to Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. Jihadism looks less like a rising phenomenon in the north of Mali than a force in retreat. The French intervention may well give them purpose and greater coherence.
The situation in Mali challenges U.S. goals of promoting stability, democracy, civilian control of the military, and effective counterterrorism in Africa, and raises questions regarding the strategic design and effectiveness of existing U.S. efforts to do so.
Weak governance and radical jihadists are at the heart of Mali's crisis, says CFR's John Campbell, who cautions that any intervention should focus on humanitarian aid and diplomacy, not the security threat.
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