U. S. Admits Missteps as French Force in Mali Regroups
Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from GIN
Gen. Carter Ham of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom), at a talk at Howard University, admitted his forces had failed to train Malian troops on “values, ethics and a military ethos”.
“We were focusing our training almost exclusively on tactical or technical matters,” he told a recent forum at Howard’s Ralph Bunche Center. Not enough was done, he said, to convince Malian recruits that “when you put on the uniform of your nation, you agree to conduct yourselves according to the rule of law”.
Mali’s army overthrew the nation’s president in March 2012, unleashing chaos as Islamist militants and secular rebels with grievances occupied the country’s north. Foreign troops joined France this month in a military intervention aimed at rooting out the occupiers and protecting the historical cultural capital of Timbuktu.
Some priceless documents may have already been burned by the fleeing jihadists but over 24,000 documents had been shipped to the capitol Bamako for safekeeping. Some 700,000 manuscripts survive in public libraries and private collections.
At a meeting this week in Ethiopia to discuss the continuing French and African operation, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara put the cost at $950 million. However only $455.53 million was pledged by international donors. These ranged from a high of $120 million from France, to a low of $1 million from India, China and Sierra Leone. The U.S. pledged $96 million.
So far, just 2,000 African troops have been deployed, with the bulk of the fighting borne by 2,500 French troops.
Meanwhile, hundreds of French air strikes over 18 days have left a bloody trail of dead and dismembered jihadists and others caught in the flyover attacks. On the ground, youth gangs, like the Gao Patrolmen, have been reported hunting down suspected Islamic extremists and beating them. A rise in vigilantism is feared.
With the insurgents’ flight into areas of bush and desert and into the rugged mountains further to the northeast, a lingering guerrilla war “could make the Sahara a new Afghanistan,” according to a U.S. official.
The Pentagon is planning a drone base, possibly in Niger, to increase intelligence collection from northern Mali, as well as in other parts of the sub-Saharan region. But critics say it is “war by incrementalism” which could end up with U.S. based and full combat brigades.