Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan has said that Mali is “collateral damage” of the conflict in Libya:
Mali became, if I may put it this way, collateral damage of Libya. Quite a lot of the soldiers, Malian soldiers working and fighting for Gaddafi went back home with their heavy weapons and their training. There was already a revolution and rebellion in the north by the Tuareg group and of course Ansar Dine, the Islamist group, also joined in. When these people returned with their heavy weapons some of the Malian troops of the same tribe also teamed up with them.
The situation in Mali is only the latest lesson in unintended consequences of military interventions. NATO intervened in Libya to unseat Gaddafi, which contributed to Mali’s instability. The worsening situation in the northern Mali prompted France (with support from other nations) to intervene, which in turn has motivated terrorists to take hostages at an Algerian gas field.
As it stands the French and Malian militaries have been successful in pushing back the Al Qaeda-linked militants who had been advancing south. The Malian army has retaken the central town of Konna and the French remain confident that the intervention is going well. Nigerian troops are also joining the intervention, further adding to the catalogue of developments for the Al Qaeda-linked militants to worry about.
While it might well be the case that the French-led intervention in Mali will push Al Qaeda-linked militants out of northern Mali it is very difficult to predict what the effect of the conflict will be on Mali’s neighbors or mainland Europe. All military concerns aside, Mali’s neighbors will soon be dealing with hundreds of thousands of Malian refugees. In Europe, there are justified concerns over potential terrorist reprisals, a French judge warned of the possibility of terrorist attacks in France before the intervention began, and the Taliban has warned of “disastrous” consequences.
U.S. officials had said that support for the French-led intervention would be limited. However, the U.S. now looks increasingly likely to get more involved in the region due to the hostage situation at the gas field in Algeria, where Americans have been taken hostage. It was recently reported that the Al Qaeda-linked group responsible for taking the Algerian gas field is offering to free two America hostages if some terrorists jailed in the U.S. are freed.