Since January 2012, over 172,000 Malians have been displaced because of attacks by Tuareg fighters. Of those displaced, 90,000 are refugees in neighboring Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Amnesty International even declared this is the "worst human rights crisis" in 20 years for the region. Yet this is the surprising aftermath of U.S. foreign policy.
Throughout 2011, Tuareg forces went to Libya to help Col. Muammar Gathafi against the U.S. led "kinetic military action." According to the BBC, each Tuareg fighter received $10,000 to join Qaddafi. Some soldiers reportedly earned $1,000 a day to fight for this self-proclaimed "King of Kings" of Africa. (By comparison, Mali's GDP per capita was $1,200 in 2010.) Trained by Libya's military, these mercenaries obtained military-grade hardware more powerful than their usual weaponry. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Drew Hinshaw elaborates:
Tuareg militants have staged insurrections in the 1960s, 1990s, the mid-2000s. But they have rarely been so well armed. Rocket launchers, missiles and machine guns capable of downing aircraft are circulating in the desert region, say U.S. and West African defense officials, after mercenaries plundered Gadhafi's arsenal at the end of Libya's conflict.
After Kadafi was killed, these Tuareg soldiers returned to Mali where they formed the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, a rebel group that seeks independence from the rest of Mali. Thanks to their Libyan armaments, they have been able to take control of one of the largest military bases in northern Mali, and one of the few with an airport.
Now Mali could face its own foreign intervention. The head of the armed forces for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is considering an armed intervention to stabilize the region. Meanwhile, a top official in Nigeria's military believes there is "a need to send peacekeepers to Mali."
Just because a bad guy gets killed, it doesn't mean a region will become peaceful. Since the world's attention is turning to Joseph Kony, that's a lesson the Kony 2012 crowd should remember.