Procurement: France Backs An Old Enemy

Archives

July 1, 2011: France recently admitted that it had been supplying (via parachute) tons of weapons to Libyan rebels. Most were sent to the defenders of the city of Misarata and the Berber rebels in the mountains south of Tripoli. About fifty tons have been delivered so far, almost entirely rifles, RPGs, machine-guns and ammunition. Also included were radios, GPS devices and medical supplies. The basic idea was to put the rebels in touch with NATO so that warplanes could locate the rebels, and get target information. As was demonstrated in Afghanistan in late 2001, smart bombs from above can make lightly armed forces on the ground much more effective.

NATO has apparently taken the Afghan experience to heart, and tuned its intelligence and bombing activities to do the most damage to Libyan government forces. This allows the lightly armed, and poorly trained, rebel forces to advance. It doesn’t take much armed resistance to stop the rebels. But a few smart bombs will often eliminate the opposition, and allow the rebels to advance again.

France seems to believe that the Berbers may be the rebel force most likely to reach Tripoli first. The Berbers, and their southern cousins, the nomadic Tuareg, were the original inhabitants of North Africa (west of Egypt). The Berbers and Tuareg are related to the ancient Egyptians. The Romans knew the Berber Tuareg as the Numidians, who formed the core of Hannibal's Carthaginian army that ravaged Italy during the First Punic War. France found the Tuaregs their most formidable opponents during their 19th century colonial wars in North Africa. The Berbers and Tuareg provided some of the most difficult opposition the conquering Arab armies encountered in the 7th century sweep across North Africa. The Berbers eventually accepted Islam, but not Arab rule. They have maintained their culture, and language, ever since the Arab conquest. The Berber and Tuareg word for themselves is translated as "the free people."

Back in the 7th century, one of the most troublesome Berber armies was led by a woman (the Kahina). Then, and now, Berbers and Tuareg cultures show much more respect for women, who have traditionally been tribal leaders (as the Kahina was). In Tuareg culture, it's the men who cover their faces, not the women and inheritance is through the female, not the male, line. Since the Arab conquest 1,400 years ago, the Berbers have largely retreated to the mountains south of the coastal plain, while the Tuareg cousins remained the principal nomadic inhabitants of the Sahara. So it should be no surprise that the French are betting on the Berbers.

 


Article Archive

Procurement: Current 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close