Media Review for January 15, 2013

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 01/15/2013

Please note: The following news items are presented here for informational purposes. The views expressed within them are those of the authors and/or individuals quoted, not those of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the National Defense University, or the Department of Defense.

Today’s News

French warplanes hit central Mali in fierce fighting between soldiers, Islamist guerrillas
French warplanes turned the fury of their bombing runs to central Mali on Monday after a column of Islamist guerrillas swept southward along the Mauritanian border and captured the town of Diably, in what was described as fierce fighting with Malian soldiers. The new push brought the desert fighters to within 250 miles northeast of Bamako, the capital. It also dramatized the extent to which the irregular Islamist forces, well-armed and mobile aboard speedy pickup trucks, remain a threat even after four days of French bombing and the deployment of more than 500 French soldiers to bolster the overwhelmed Malian army. The Washington Post

Mali rebels advance despite French airstrikes
Rebels have grabbed more territory in Mali, inching closer to the capital despite intensive aerial bombardments by French warplanes, French and Malian authorities have said. The al-Qaeda-linked rebels overran the garrison village of Diabaly in central Mali, France’s defence minister said in Paris on Monday. Al Jazeera

France to add Mali troops, speeding up Africa input
France plans to increase its troops in Mali to 2,500 in the days ahead and is working to speed up the deployment of West African troops for a campaign against Islamist rebels, the government said on Monday. A defense ministry spokesman told Reuters troops would be sent to bolster the 600 already deployed. Reuters

US Prepares to Help France in Mali – With Caution
Pentagon officials say the United States is preparing to offer logistical support to France as it continues to carry out air strikes against Islamist militants in northern Mali. The Pentagon has already begun to assist French forces with intelligence to help push back the militants’ advances, but the U.S. is warning against action that may bring further chaos to the region. [...] Analysts say there is a reason for Washington not to push for a more direct role in the conflict. Thomas Dempsey is a retired U.S. Army colonel who works with the Defense Department’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies. “We need to be careful, in a well-intentioned desire to counter violent extremists, that we do not fan the flames of civil conflict in northern Mali, that we don’t encourage local groups to take up arms against each other, and that we don’t make the violence worse,” he said. VOA

Leon Panetta Says U.S. Has Pledged to Help France in Mali
In a move that could draw the United States into another conflict in North Africa, the Obama administration has pledged to help the French in their fight against Islamist militants in Mali, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Monday. He said the assistance could include air and other logistical support. The United States was already sharing intelligence with the French when their warplanes struck camps, depots and other militant positions deep inside Islamist-held territory in northern Mali on Sunday. Defense officials said that no decisions had been made about whether the United States would also offer help with midflight refueling planes and air transport, but that those options were under review. The New York Times

Panetta: ‘No question’ US counterterrorism campaign in Africa led to Mali conflict
Washington’s increasingly aggressive counterterrorism campaign to crack down on al Qaeda-affiliated terror cells in Africa may have set the stage for the group’s resurgence in northern Mali, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted on Monday. “There’s no question, as you confront [Islamic extremists] in Yemen, in Somalia, in Libya, that they’re going to ultimately try to relocate. So, you know that certainly, I think, is a consequence,” Panetta said Monday. The Hill

U.S. military could be drawn into Mali fight
The U.S. military could be drawn into the intensifying fight in the African country of Mali, the latest overseas hotbed of rising terrorist activity. According to Associated Press reports, al Qaida-linked extremists this weekend took control of the village of Diabaly and scattered Malian military troops in the center of the country. French officials responded with intensive aerial bombardments, but failed to slow the Islamist extremists’ march toward the capital of Bamako. Stars and Stripes

France Seeks Arab Backing for Mali Campaign as Airstrikes Continue
French warplanes were reported 0n Tuesday to have carried out airstrike overnight against Islamist fighters who overran a strategic village and military post in central Mali on Monday, offering an indication that the war against extremists who have carved out a jihadist state in the nation’s north could be a long and difficult one. The assessment seemed to underpin a call by France on Tuesday for Arab support to bolster an African force to pursue the campaign against the insurgents. The New York Times

France wants Africans to take over Mali battle, says envoy
France wants to let African forces take over the offensive against Islamist guerrillas in Mali as soon as possible, a top envoy says as the UN Security Council started talks on the conflict. As France pursued a fourth day of airstrikes against al-Qa’ida linked forces, the UN said at least 30,000 people had fled the conflict zone and the militants were stopping people crossing into government territory. The Australian

France in Mali: the End of the Fairytale
[...] The intervention was necessary. The drama of the Islamist offensive should not be underestimated—a successful assault on Sevaré would have meant the loss of the only airstrip in Mali capable of handling heavy cargo planes, apart from that in Bamako. The fall of Sevaré would in turn have made any future military operation a nightmare for West African or other friendly forces, and it would have chased tens of thousands of civilians from their homes. These would only have been the most immediate effects. After Sevaré, nothing would have stopped an Islamist advance on Segu and Bamako, although it is unclear to me that the Islamists would have any strategic interest in investing Mali’s sprawling and densely populated capital. Africa is a Country

Canada says will provide transport plane for anti-rebel campaign in Mali
Canada will send a military transport plane to provide temporary heavy-lift support for a French campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali, the government said on Monday. “While the Government of Canada is not, and will not be, considering a direct Canadian military mission in Mali, Canada is prepared … to provide limited and clearly defined logistical support to assist the forces that are intervening in Mali,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. Reuters

France wants Africans to take over Mali battle, says envoy
France wants to let African forces take over the offensive against Islamist guerrillas in Mali as soon as possible, a top envoy says as the UN Security Council started talks on the conflict. As France pursued a fourth day of airstrikes against al-Qa’ida linked forces, the UN said at least 30,000 people had fled the conflict zone and the militants were stopping people crossing into government territory. The Australian

Mali’s Rebels: A Look At A Mosaic Of Armed Groups
Al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels launched a counter-offensive on Monday in central Mali after four days of air strikes by French warplanes on their strongholds in the desert north. Here is a look at the main armed rebel groups in Mali.The Huffington Post

Mali Fighting: Tens Of Thousands Flee New Violence
Tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing the latest outbreak of fighting in Mali that has led to French air strikes against Islamist strongholds in the northern part of the country, the United Nations said on Monday. “An estimated 30,000 people may have been displaced as a direct result of the fighting in Central/Northern Mali,” U.N. spokesman Eduardo del Buey told reporters. The Huffigton Post

Crisis in Mali: Causes and Options
Once an apparent pillar of democracy in West Africa, Mali has drastically deteriorated in 2012, with a coup bringing down the elected government in March and a combination of armed groups taking over vast areas of the desert north soon thereafter. Those areas remain under the control of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine, MUJAO and the MNLA, while a shaky interim government in Bamako seems to make little progress. Discussions are underway for the intervention of a regional force that will assist the Malian army in retaking the north, but there are many unanswered questions about the emerging plan. This panel discussed the root causes of Mali’s instability and strategies for addressing those causes that can contribute to long-term peace and stability. United States Institute of Peace

Mali: al-Qaeda have numerous options for retaliation
When President Francois Hollande launched France’s military campaign in Mali, he immediately ordered tighter security in Paris and a failed bid to rescue a hostage as far away as Somalia. The Telegraph

Algerian Foreign Policy in the Context of the Arab Spring
The new geopolitical context in North Africa and the Sahel has created difficult questions for the Algerian regime. The burst of democracy and revolutionary instability have challenged the doctrines, principles and practices that drove the foreign policy choices of the government since independence in 1962. As a result, Algeria’s old foreign policy paradigm that stressed the sanctity of the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs has collided with the emerging pattern of international humanitarian intervention. Many in the Arab street, for example, saw the Algerian government’s hostility toward foreign intervention in Libya as a travesty. Since the onset of the Arab revolts in early 2011, Algerian state action has widely been viewed as driven by a desire to forestall or contain democratic contagion at its borders. Combating Terrorism Center

Opinion: Nigerians still waiting for their ‘African Spring’
Twelve months ago, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan gave his people a bizarre New Year present: he announced the immediate removal of fuel subsidies. The controversial measure meant that, quite suddenly, citizens were to pay as much as three times the usual price for gasoline. Nigerians were outraged. They filled the nation’s streets in protest. The coalition was broad: young and old, female and male, poor and (some) rich. Their action, often spontaneous but orchestrated by labor leaders, amounted to a fierce rebuke to Jonathan’s administration. CNN

Somalian al-Shabab claim French agent’s ‘fate’ decided
They claim the agent is still alive despite Paris claims that he was killed in a botched rescue operation. On its Twitter feed, the group said details of its “unanimous verdict”, as well as background describing the chain of events leading up to Saturday’s “failed rescue operation,” would be published “in the coming hours.” It did not give an exact time for the release. Paris holds it likely that Denis Allex died in the raid, but the al-Shabab claims – without having provided any proof – that he is still alive and that his fate remains in the group’s hands. Mail and Guardian

Al Shabaab tweets photos of slain French soldier
In a propaganda coup for al Shabaab and an embarrassment for France, the Somali militant group released photos Monday of what appeared to be a dead French soldier captured during Saturday’s failed French military raid in Somalia. France 24

The Ivory Wars: how poaching in Central Africa fuels the LRA and janjaweed
There are no final or totally verifiable figures for the numbers of elephants slaughtered for their ivory in 2012. However, reports from Cameroon, DR Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic suggest a massive and continuing rise in killings and, ominously, the involvement of military and criminal groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the Sudanese Janjaweed militia, Chadian poaching gangs and a ring of well-established Darfurian smugglers. African Argument

UN drones for DRC – Rwanda wants clarity
Rwanda will not support the UN plans to use surveillance drones against rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo unless legal and security questions around their deployment are answered, the country’s foreign minister said on Monday. The UN is currently looking to strengthen its peacekeeping mission in DRC, where army mutineers have launched a rebel movement in the east called the M23, taking control of large swathes of North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda. News 24

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso and Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the sons who have all the fun
Teodorin Nguema Obiang is following in the footsteps of his father, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in showing the people of Equatorial Guinea what oil money can do. He was appointed second vice-president for defence and security in May 2012, in part to avoid French prosecution claims he bought a property with illicit funds. Africa Report

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