'Mali is not another African war' ... US and Algerian covert activities sowed the seeds of the conflict.

Author:Keenan, Jeremy
Position:Mali
 
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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) resolved in November to send troops to northern Mali to deal with rebels who seized the north of the country last January from government control. But there is a shocking, sordid back story that most people do not know or have ignored. It involves Washington and the Algerian intelligence service creating a terrorist threat in northern Mali and in the neighbouring Sahel countries to serve their own strategic interests, as Professor Jeremy Keenan reveals.

ON 12 OCTOBER 2012, THE UN SECURITY Council voted unanimously in favour of a French-drafted resolution asking Mali's government to draw up plans for a military mission to re-establish control over the northern part of the country, an area of the Sahara bigger than France. Known as Azawad by local Tuareg people, northern Mali has been under the control of Islamist extremists following a Tuareg rebellion at the beginning of last year.

For several months, the international media have been referring to northern Mali as "Africa's Afghanistan", with calls for international military intervention becoming inexorable.

While the media have provided abundant descriptive coverage of the course of events and atrocities committed in Azawad since the outbreak in January 2012 of what was ostensibly just another Tuareg rebellion, some pretty basic questions have not been addressed.

No journalist has asked, or at least answered satisfactorily, how this latest Tuareg rebellion was hijacked, almost as soon as it started, by a few hundred Islamist extremists.

In short, the world's media have failed to explain the situation in Azawad. That is because the real story of what has been going on there borders on the incredible, taking us deep into the murky reaches of Western intelligence and its hook-up with Algeria's secret service.

Azawad's current nightmare is generally explained as the unintended outcome of the overthrow of Libya's Muammar Al Gathafi. That is true in so far as his downfall precipitated the return to the Sahel (Niger and Mali) of thousands of angry, disillusioned and well-armed fighters who had gone to seek their metaphorical fortunes by serving the Gathafi regime.

But this was merely the last straw in a decade of increasing exploitation, repression, and marginalisation that has underpinned an ongoing cycle of Tuareg protest, unrest and rebellion.

In that respect, Libya was the catalyst of the Azawad rebellion, not its underlying cause. Rather, the catastrophe now being played out in Mali is the inevitable outcome of the way in which the 'Global War On Terror' has been inserted into the Sahara-Sahel by the US, in concert with Algerian intelligence operatives, since 2002.

Why Algeria and the US needed terrorism

When Abdelaziz Bouteflika took over as Algeria's president in 1999, the country was faced with two major problems. One was its standing in the world. The role of the army and the DRS (the Algerian intelligence service) in a civil war sparked by the annulment of elections in 1992, which was about to be won by the Front Islamique du Salut [that war came to be known as the "Dirty War"].

The other was that the army, the core institution of the state, was lacking modern high-tech weaponry as a result of arms embargoes.

The solution to both these problems lay in Washington. During the Clinton era, relations between the US and Algeria had fallen to a particularly low level. However, with a Republican victory in the November 2000 election, Algeria's President Bouteflika, an experienced former foreign minister, quickly made his sentiments known to the new US administration and was invited in July 2001 to a summit meeting in Washington with President George W. Bush.

Bush listened sympathetically to Bouteflika's account of how his country had dealt with the...

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