Political and military observers around the world were taken by surprise on January 11, 2013 when the government of France decided there was no more time to wait and intervened to save the good people of Mali from the Islamist fanatics who are destroying the African nation. Joining forces with Senegal and Nigeria, France answered an appeal for military assistance from Mali’s President Dioncounda Traore after rebel forces began a push to take control of the southern half of the country.
While the rest of the free world hesitated, the citizen’s of Mali experienced a reign of terror by hyper-violent Islamist militias, armed with the latest in modern weapons, courtesy of Mali’s own military commanders who defected to the rebels. The Islamists burned the ancient treasures in the libraries of Timbuktu, desecrated graves of Muslim saints, and applied the harsh penalties of Sharia law without trial including public whippings for women who refused to wear a Niqab (full body covering with a slit for the eyes), stoning for adultery. and the brutal amputation of limbs for petty crimes.
Why France decided to intervene at this moment in time is still somewhat of a mystery, although some observers link the decision to the wave of recent kidnappings of French citizens by al Qaeda in the neighboring country of Niger. The French Minister of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, spoke about danger posed by the militants who are destroying Mali, inch by inch, person by person:
“The threat is a terrorist state at the doorstep of France and Europe.”
The United States took a hands off approach, offering to train Mali’s troops in counter terrorism techniques while refusing to intervene militarily. The plan backfired badly and many of the US trained officers helped to overthrow one of Africa’s only Democracies. The rebellion in Mali was a major blow to Obama’s policy for dealing with radical Islamists and highlighted the abysmal failure of Washington’s 600 million dollar investment in the region.
Col. Tom Davis, a command spokesman, addressed the failure in Mali:
“The coup in Mali progressed very rapidly and with very little warning. The spark that ignited it occurred within their junior military ranks, who ultimately overthrew the government, not at the senior leadership level where warning signs might have been more easily noticed.”
France decided to act without the help of NATO allies, sending hundreds of troops to push back the rebels. Fighter Jets are bombing and strafing rebel positions, and, so far, the campaign has been quite successful. While the French and two of Mali’s neighbors take the lead, other Western nations remain undecided on the next step. Only the United Kingdom has offered any assistance, making two Royal Air Force C-17 Globemasters available for transportation purposes.
At the moment, French soldiers and the troops of her two African allies are making progress in Mali due to the unexpected nature of their attack and their overwhelming air superiority. However, if the leaders of the free world continue their usual procrastination and the Islamist rebels are permitted to regroup and dig in, they could be facing another Afghanistan. Many of the rebels in Mali are from Libya and other nations with well armed terrorist militias. They would be quite happy to drag the conflict on for years and pour an endless stream of foreign fighters into the tiny African nation.
Military experts say a small window of opportunity exists to put an end to the Islamist rebellion in Mali if the United States, Great Britain and their allies join with France and form a unified front. Their goal would be to move swiftly to crush and disarm the rebels, drive the foreign militants out of the nation, and return the leadership of Mali to the duly elected government. Mali can be saved, she must be saved, and the time of her freedom from the tyranny of heavily armed militant religious fanatics is at hand.