All eyes are now tilted towards Mali, after French President, Francois Hollande finally decided to pay attention to the cries of the people of Mali by backing the poorly paid, ill-equipped, feeble and vulnerable Mali’s armed forces weed out the ruthless, multifaceted Islamic jihadists or militants who have grabbed more than half of the country. The big fight has just started and might go on for ages before Mali can be wholly liberated again. However, the courage and concern of the French government to come to aid of Mali should be saluted. Although, their arrival can be considered late looking at the time frame from when the rebels have been occupying the territory, since January 2012, if the saying: it’s better to be late than never, is the way forward then the rest of the international community has to wake up, with all hands on deck and back up the French that have now taken the fight from the air to the Islamic militants in Sahara desert.
If you have not started a fight, you won’t know how strong or defiant your opponent is. If anyone underrated the militants, it’s evident that they aren’t just any pushover or greenhorn fighters, therefore, the French, and the yet-to-deploy West African joint forces are desperately in need of military and logistical supports. The resistance of these rebel groups should not be a surprise to any professional combatant as having or declaring dominance over a territory, means you must have the military capability to capture and control that territory. Since the Malian armed forces lost the battle or withdrew from the north, the militants did not just gained more towns and authority but imposed the practice of Islamic Sharia law, especially the unsympathetic type that discourages education or considers education as a Westernized ideology.
What went wrong!
First, in the early stage of the war, the Malian army was trying to fight back rather than understand their enemies, and when one group got to understand the weakness of the Malian forces, it was easy for the other rebel groups to trample on the local forces. As if that wasn’t enough, instead of the ousted Malian leader Amadou Toumani Touré to listen to his commanders on the ground and seek international support, he instead preferred his ill-equipped army to use its limited resources to flush out the rebellion. Unfortunately for him the army failing to defeat the rebels found it easier to oust the ‘supposed’ commander-in-chief, president who they blamed to be responsible for their failure to take on the militants. As the junior officers who orchestrated the coup dictate and debate on who should take over and manage the country, the rebel quickly took advantage of the lapses and tumultuous rule from Bamako and gained more ground and grip.
Secondly, negotiating with the militants to bring to a halt their advancement south, especially towards the capital city, Bamako seemed to have taken too long as no tangible agreement or ceasefire was ever reached. Instead of the Malian government to play for time, while waiting for the ECOWAS forces to arrive, it has recently taken the tactical approach to attack the rebels. Only time will tell, if the option was the best or worse. In modern warfare, starting a war seems easy but ending it is always a hard nut to crack. Afghanistan and Iraq are big lessons to many, especially to the NATO forces. Somali taught the West that African militants are very dangerous to defeat in their own fief and nobody want Mali to become another Somali or safe haven for runaway Islamist extremists and jihadists from the Middle East.
In any case, supporting the French operations in Mali at the moment is not only required but indispensable, especially as the French forces have been overstretched already with operations across the African continent from Côte d’Ivoire to Somalia to Central African Republic among others. Whether the French end up having a successful campaign in Mali or not is not only the worries of France and its European allies, but should be everyone’s problem. Do not ask me why? A stitch in time saves nine.