Mali: June 2024 Update


June 16, 2024: The landlocked Mali continues to stumble forward without an elected or effective government. Mali is in northwest Africa just south of the Sahara desert. Its northeastern neighbor Algeria is where drug smugglers move their cargoes to from ports in Guinea or Ivory Coast north via Mali and Algeria and then to markets in Europe and the Middle East. Islamic terrorist groups handle the smuggling that passes through Mali.

In 2023 and 2024 the economic and political situation in Mali has gotten worse, with more Islamic terrorist violence and growing areas of northern and central Mali coming under the control of Islamic terrorist groups. The Mali army and a small number of Russian (Wagner Group) military contractors have been unable, or unwilling, to carry on with that effort or prevent the Islamic terror groups from crossing the Niger border and advancing into Mali. The terrorists include groups affiliated with al Qaeda, an alliance called JNIM (Jamâ’ah Nusrah al Islâm wal Muslimîn, or Group for the support of Islam and Moslems) and the more violent groups like ISGS (Islamic States in Greater Sahara), which is one of the two ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups in the region. When they showed up in 2018, ISGS operated mainly in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, especially the area where the three borders met. Until recently those Islamic terrorists were a problem but now, they are a real threat to the normally well defended capitals of all three countries. Islamic terrorist violence in northern Mali has left over a hundred dead each month the fighting continues as does the advance of the Islamic terrorists into Mali and its capital Bamako

In central Mali, the Mopti region, thousands of civilians have been blockaded by Islamic terrorist groups angry over the way locals have cooperated with the army against Islamic terrorists.

Back in September representatives from Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso met in the Mali capital Bamako to work out details for forming AES (Alliance of Sahel States). The alliance is meant to improve security for all these nations. Currently Islamic terror groups are attacking all AES members. Burkina Faso is the worst hit, with about 40 percent of its territory controlled by Islamic terrorists. Mali and Niger fear the same fate will befall them.

The government forced the French and African G5 peacekeepers out by the end of 2021. In 2017 Mali, Chad, Niger, the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso agreed to form a new G5 counter-terrorism force that would work in cooperation with the similar but larger and better equipped French force that had been operating in the Sahel since 2014. The Sahel is the semi-desert area south of the Sahara Desert that covers much of northern Africa.

Back then the French concluded that the Sahel was still troubled by thousands of Islamic terrorists and that this situation could not be taken care of quickly. In order to maintain pressure on the Islamic terrorists, France established a special force of 3,000 troops to fight Islamic terrorists throughout the Sahel. In practice this meant just part of the Sahel and included Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso. This French force grew to some 4,000 troops equipped with 200 armored vehicles, 20 transport and attack helicopters, six jet fighters and three large UAVs. There are also two twin engine C-160 air transports available for use within the Sahel. Supplies and reinforcements were regularly flown in using long-range transports like the C-17 belonging to NATO allies, especially the U.S. and Britain. From the beginning the French force included a thousand French troops in Mali and the rest dispersed to other Sahel bases and ready to quickly move anywhere in the region where Islamic terrorist activity had been detected. The G5 nations already cooperated by sharing intelligence and providing quick access to their territory by the French force. In addition, the Americans provided satellite and UAV surveillance and other intel services, especially analysis and access to nearly all American data on Islamic terrorist activities in the region. Each of the G5 member countries contribute from 500 to 2,000 personnel and consist largely of special operations troops. Many of these troops have already worked with their French counterparts or been trained by French or American special operations advisors.

All this was meant to keep the Islamic terrorists in the Sahel weak and disorganized. That worked until recently when the current Mali military regime ordered the French/G5 force out. AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), which has been around since 2007, was still in business as gangsters smuggling drugs and illegal migrants north and getting support from Islamic terrorists in Europe and the Persian Gulf. Islamic terrorists continue to carry out attacks in Mali, mainly the north and the G5 states to let the world know that Islamic terrorists are still present in the area.

Another reminder has been the high casualty rate among peacekeepers in Mali. UN peacekeepers in Mali suffered 26 dead during 2016, the highest number of any UN peacekeeping operation and 90 percent of the UN peacekeeper deaths in 2016, even though the Mali force comprises less than 15 percent of all UN peacekeepers. The Mali peacekeepers have been in this situation for three years in a row. Over a hundred peacekeepers (mostly UN, but some French) have died in Mali since they arrived in 2013. This is the highest casualty rate of all current UN peacekeeping operations.

The Mali population is now over 22 million and the economy is one of the worst in the world with millions of Malians barely surviving on foreign aid. There is less foreign aid because Mali has not been able to prevent gangsters or Islamic terrorists from stealing the aid to sell on the market for cash to finance their operations. There are other armed groups like, like tribal militias and rebellions soldiers that interfere with foreign aid distribution. This chaotic situation has been going on s ince 2012, when separatist rebellion in the north was defeated. Continued high levels of corruption, ethnic rivalries and Islamic terrorism kept Mali from achieving a lasting peace and much prosperity. In 2021 the situation got worse when there was another military coup, The Mali military has staged three government takeovers since 2012. May 2021one, in May 2021, was an internal dispute within the military. Since the May coup foreign donors have warned that most of the foreign aid will stop coming if Mali does not carry out a significant reduction in corruption, government ineffectiveness and overall instability. None of these three military takeovers were about corruption, but rather anger at the corrupt politicians stealing money meant to finance operations against Islamic terrorist and separatist minorities in the north. The colonels running the military government are unwilling to step down and are trying to make it on their own, despite the large number of UN peacekeepers and French troops dealing with the Islamic terrorist problem up north.

The May 2021 coup was led by the army colonel who had earlier been appointed deputy head of the CNT (National Transitional Council). The colonel replaced the civilian who originally held the job as CNT leader. After that the military-dominated CNT rapidly replaced many existing CNT officials with army officers or civilians known to be pro-military. When foreign donors, including France, criticized this, the army threatened to seek financial aid elsewhere. There was no elsewhere for the Mali coup leaders, at least not one they could afford. The Mali officers’ threats said a lot about their motives, which was mainly about maintaining their power and helping themselves to a portion of foreign aid. The coup leaders did have one source of wealth, the Mali gold mines. In late 2021 protestors tried to block access to one of the largest mines but that effort only lasted a few days before the security forces cleared the roads.

As of 2024 the chaos remains the same even though some military training detachments from the European Union and Russia operate. Russia is also involved in several economic development projects, like a solar power plant The 15,000 UN peacekeepers were gone by the end of 2023. The Mali government, run by rebellious army officers, doesn't want any UN personnel in the country to witness and record the crimes the military government continues to commit. The only thing keeping the Mali military government operating is taxes from the gold mines. These were developed and continue to be operated by foreign firms and recruit their own security personnel to guard the mines and the convoys taking the gold out of the country.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your 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.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close