Mali: Another long war?
After the US military heavily bombarded Iraq and crushed Saddam Hussain’s regime, then-President George W. Bush was quick to give his infamous “mission accomplished” speech in which he announced the end of major operations in Iraq.
But little did he know that his country’s army would be engaged in a war of attrition in Iraq for the next eight years, struggling to counteract a deadly sectarian insurgency.
Since superpowers are often overconfident about their military prowess, they stubbornly refuse to learn lessons from history. A decade after the Americans erroneously thought that their aerial offensive had won the war in Iraq, it seems like the French were also a bit too hasty to raise the victory banner following their military operation in Mali.
Even though the French-led operation has secured Northern Mali from the grip of the Islamists, the northern town of Gao has been recently struck by two suicide attacks — an ominous reminder of how the insurgency in Iraq initially began. And this is not it: the streets of Gao have transformed into a chaotic battlefield, where the militants and Malian troops are clashing fiercely. The skirmish began near a police station on Sunday, but has grown into full-fledge clashes since then. The militant organisation, Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack on Malian troops, as well as both the suicide bombings.
Amid these latest developments, the country’s future appears quite uncertain. The French troops are expected to leave Mali in March, and hand over the responsibility of crushing the remaining Islamists — apparently hiding the mountains located in the country’s northeast — to Afisma (African-led International Support Mission to Mali). But given that the rugged terrain in Mali’s northeast is a fugitive’s paradise, there is a strong possibility that the militants will start waging a guerrilla offensive against the troops. Considering they have already begun striking back with sporadic bombings and attacks, the total eradication of militancy from Mali appears to be a long shot. France and the African Union are now confronted with a rather discomfiting question: Will Mali become another Afghanistan or Iraq?