In Mali, Islamic Militants Shelter from Drone Strikes Among Civilians

Clustered in urban areas, they're much less vulnerable


A recent article in the Wall Street Journal argues that the fact Islamist extremists in northern Mali do not enjoy the support of the local population, combined with the area's flat desert landscape, "suggest that an aggressive Pakistan-style drone campaign can have results".

With the French reported to be moving surveillance drones into the region, an intensive drone campaign supporting a relatively small number of ground troops may seem an attractive option for the intervention forces. But the reality is unlikely to be quite so simple.

Aerial reconnaissance and targeted drone strikes might have been effective a year ago when Islamist fighters were holed-up in the desert or camped in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains. But now they have moved into the villages, towns and cities across their region. And their number has reportedly been swelled due to the arrival of foreign fighters, recruitment of economically impoverished locals and the forced recruitment of children.