Islamists Flee in Mali: France, Shadows and the Reality of Afghanistan and Somalia

Islamists Flee in Mali: France, Shadows and the Reality of Afghanistan and Somalia

Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


The military forces of France and Mali are now entering Kidal in greater numbers. This is the last town of any significance which still hadn’t fallen to the speedy advance of the French led military expedition against Islamists in Mali. However, while military and political leaders in France will be heartened by the speed of events, they will still be awaiting the Islamist terrorist shadows.

Likewise, after the recent Islamist terrorist hostage situation in Algeria then this nation will be worried about similar attacks in the near future. Also, political powers in the fragile and failed state of Libya will be worrying about the knock on effects. After all, the recent hostage crisis in Algeria happened near the border with Libya because this nation is awash with military hardware after the demise of Gaddafi. Therefore, the next few months will say more about the real reality of northern Mali.

It must be remembered that the Taliban melted away in Afghanistan once this movement was attacked by outside nations during the initial period. More recently, the al-Shabaab (al-Shabab) in Somalia fled a major military attack in Kismayo which was led by the armed forces of Kenya. In some ways, the situation in Somalia resembles certain features of what happened in northern Mali despite obvious ethnic and regional differences.

After all, Islamists in northern Mali and Somalia both introduced all the brutal realities of Islamic Sharia law in its entirety. In Somalia this applies to beheading Muslim converts to Christianity, stoning women to death, chopping hands and feet off and a host of other brutal realities. This methodology was also enforced in northern Mali alongside ruling by fear and enforcing indoctrination. Likewise, Islamist forces in northern Mali and Somalia also attacked and destroyed Sufi shrines and other aspects of indigenous Islamic architecture. Therefore, draconian Islamist thought patterns emanating from the Gulf were intent on spreading “a new colonial Islamist attempt” to crush indigenous Islam in both respective nations.

France knows full well that in both Afghanistan and Somalia that Islamist forces have often retreated into the shadows before springing fresh military operations alongside various forms of terrorist tactics.  The Taliban did have various factors in its favor and this applies to the harshness of the terrain, finding safety in parts of Pakistan, the ethnic angle within the Taliban movement which binds people throughout the region, the corruption of the Karzai government and other noticeable factors. The al-Shabaab meanwhile continues to make the most of the failed state reality of Somalia and the conflicting loyalties which ebb and flow in various parts of this country. Similarly, the chaos in Yemen, Somali refugee camps in northern Kenya, the Somali angle in Ethiopia and an array of jihadist organizations throughout the region; means that this movement can melt away in times of heightened pressure.

Also, no single power, or collective force, appears to be able to unite weaknesses within the failed structures of both Afghanistan and Somalia. Regional loyalty is also very powerful and the central state seems a million miles away from functioning correctly. Within all the competing forces you have Islamist indoctrination, poverty and a hostile geographic environment which benefits various Islamist movements in Afghanistan and Somalia.

It would appear that the numbers involved and the complexity of the Islamist forces in northern Mali are not fully operational to a major extent, when compared with the Taliban and the al-Shabaab. Also, major ethnic differences within Mali and the fact that the armed forces of this nation are playing their part once more after being backed by France bodes well. Also, many forces involved in the early events of northern Mali were not focused on Islamist ideology, terrorism and other negative realities. Instead, they fought based on genuine issues related to alienation and marginalization within the power structures of Mali. France and other nations must exploit this reality and listen to the genuine concerns of many people who feel disenfranchised based on ethnicity within the body politic of Mali.

Thomas Fessy from the BBC comments that …the Islamic Movement of Azawad (IMA), which recently split from Ansar Dine, says it is now in charge in Kidal…The IMA has said it rejects “extremism and terrorism” and wants a peaceful solution….another rebel group, the secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), is also influential in the area. It is ethnically driven, fighting mostly for the rights of Mali’s minority Tuareg community.”

Currently, it does appear that France must be very happy with events in Mali because military forces have found very little resistance. Also, strategists will be pleased that many political forces within the Tuareg community want to seek a solution to the crisis. However, events in Afghanistan and Somalia will also be in the back of the mind of many powerful planners within France and regional African nations. Therefore, for now France is more worried about the “shadows which may re-emerge” at a later stage. Also, regional nations will be keeping a watchful eye on events because of a possible chain reaction.



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