France still has 3,000 troops in Mali but plans to reduce that to 2,000 by the end of the year. A growing problem in the north is the corruption of the Mali police and government officials, which apparently even the Islamic terrorists can bribe to make possible more attacks. There is also a problem with the UN peacekeeping force (MINUSMA or Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) which is supposed to have 12,000 personnel but currently has only 5,200. African nations are unwilling or unable to come up with any more. This is one reason why France has agreed to keep 2,000 troops in Mali, rather than the 1,000 as it had previously planned. Foreign donors are also reluctant to provide as much aid money as Mali and the UN want. The problem here is the continued corruption in the Mali government. As before the 2012 rebellion in the north, the army, police, and government bureaucracy are inept and willing to be bought. Efforts to change this has so far failed.
There are also problems with MNLA (which means in French, “Liberation Army of Azawad”). The Tuareg term for their homeland in northern Mali is Azawad and until the June 18th agreement its capital was Kidal. The Mali government was upset that MNLA men controlled most of the rural (and very thinly populated) areas in the north for over a year. France is having a hard time convincing black African politicians from the more populous south that it’s worthwhile making concessions to MNLA. The French point out that the Tuareg rebels have been defeating black African troops from the south for generations and there’s no quick fix for that. The more immediate threat is the Islamic terrorists and Tuareg cooperation is essential for dealing with the likes of AQIM and Ansar Dine. The Islamic terrorists are largely Arab and Tuareg and their goal, for all intents and purposes, is to enslave the majority black African population of Mali by imposing a religious dictatorship. Black Africans in general do not want to be ruled by Arabs, who look down on black Africans and have been enslaving and exploiting them for over a thousand years. Many Malians understand what the Arab Islamic terrorists are up to here, but the Mali leadership is distracted by power struggles and getting rich (via corruption). It’s a sad situation with no easy solution.
October 30, 2013: Four French men held captive by al Qaeda in North Africa since 2010 were released yesterday and arrived in Paris today. A ransom of over $20 million was believed to have been paid. The French government denied that it paid a ransom but would not discuss the possibility that private sources provided a ransom.
While all Western governments admit that paying these ransoms only makes the terror groups stronger and encourages more kidnappings, local politics in Europe usually forces the payment to be made, often clandestinely. The terrorists use the money to buy weapons, bribe local officials, hire locals, and compensate their key employees. The ransom money usually ends up in getting more people killed.
October 23, 2013: Some 1,500 troops made up of French (600), Malian (600), and peacekeeper (300) troops launched raids in a northern area known as the Niger Loop. This is a curve of the Niger River between Timbuktu and Gao. The troops raided several locations near the river.
October 22, 2013: Two Chadian peacekeepers and a civilian were killed and six people wounded near the Algerian border (Tessalit) when a checkpoint was attacked by a suicide bomber and gunmen. Four of the Islamic terrorist attackers were killed.
October 12, 2013: In the north a French soldier was wounded while destroying a large cache of weapons and ammo recently discovered.