Canadian Minister Says Mali Potential Afghanistan Repeat as Obama Reaffirms Support For Campaign Against Al Qaeda


Credit: Magharebia / flickr

Canadian foreign affairs minister John Baird has warned against Canadian military trainers being sent to Mali, saying that such a mission could turn into a military quagmire like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Baird is right to suspect that the conflict in Mali will come to resemble the situation in Afghanistan. Since Islamic militants retreated from their strongholds they have begun a predictable guerrilla campaign. Such tactics recently forced French soldiers to go house-to-house in Gao, a city in northern Mali that was attacked by Islamic militants on Sunday.

A recent mutiny, call for jihad, suicide attack, as well as accusations of abuses all put more pressure on the French, who plan to leave Mali next month in what they hope will be a better state than how they found it.  

Although militants in Mali have withdrawn or been forced out of their previous strongholds this does not mean that the conflict in the region is close to being over. A recent NPR article highlighted the size of the Islamic militant force that could return to wreak havoc in northern Mali or Niger:

Given the weekend attack on Gao, are the Islamist militants vanquished? Probably not, suggests McClatchy reporter Alan Boswell. He finds "the strongest evidence yet that the quick advance by French troops against al Qaida-linked Islamist militants was less a military rout than an orderly and strategic withdrawal into terrain far more suitable for a gritty, drawn-out insurgency campaign."

"In other words, their retreat from northern Mali isn't game over, but game on."

Boswell describes how carefully militants appeared to pull out of towns they'd held: a convoy of vehicle drove out of the town of Diabaly one at a time, without headlights, over 12 hours. This way they weren't likely to attract much attention from French warplanes. Boswell suggests that in this manner, thousands of militants may have evaded French detection.

Last night Obama expressed a slightly different position on the situation in Mali than Baird, saying:

Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self.  Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa.  The threat these groups pose is evolving.  But to meet this threat, we don't need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations.  Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali.

Given that the situation in Mali could get increasingly more violent it will be interesting to see what form the "help" the president mentioned last night will take, especially since he rejected putting boots on the ground, a commitment that presumably does not preclude the use of drones.

NEXT: Ron Paul Angers Some Fans By Using the Law--International Law, No Less--to Try to Get Domain Name

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged ? from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa.

    Yeah but once those ones are gone we can end the War on Terriers and get our rights back, right?

    1. In light of this language:

      That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

      What justifies attacking “different AQ affiliates and extremist groups”? Note the use of past tense above, and the specific reference to the 9/11 attacks. How could an organization that didn’t exist on 9/11 have “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the 9/11 attacks? Are we saying these newer jihadis are somehow harboring those who did?

      1. Watch out, R C Dean… you’re treading very close to The Blowback Heresy.

        1. That’s odd. I was reaching for something more along the lines of illegal/unconstitutional war.

          1. How could an organization that didn’t exist on 9/11 have “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the 9/11 attacks?

            All the terrorists that are or ever will be must exist since 9/12/01. If any were created after that, America’s actions might have something to do with creating militants. It must never be suggested that America ever faces consequences for how it deals with the rest of the world.

  2. Cytotoxic wept.

      1. Canadian foreign affairs minister John Baird has warned against Canadian military trainers being sent to Mali


        1. I still don’t understand why I should be weeping.

          1. The general state of the Union (RIP), the economy and world conflict are enough to make me tear up.

            I you need more, I can provide it…

  3. This morning, I saw a Canadian military convoy driving down 495 in MA. They’re not sending the trainers to Mali. They’re sending them HERE! Oh my, what are those sneaky Canucks up to…

    1. I have seen a few hoser convoys and they all look like a hodge podge of beat up old mass market vehicles sprayed with flat paint. Cheap bastards.

      1. I almost wept for the Canadian Army folks I saw in 2004-2005 in Afghanistan – such good troops, such pathetic, worn out equipment. They need to lay off deployments for a while and get some new kit up and running. Oh, and keep an eye on those Newfies, or would that be the Navy’s job?

        1. All Canuck Snark and kidding aside, the Canadian Speial Forces people appear to be exceedingly well trained and competent. Let’s recall they bailed the US out in Iran back in 1979 when our hot shots were crashing helicopters in the desert.

          1. As I said, terrific troops, poorly equipped and supported.

            1. Canadian troops, the friendliest fire of them all.

              1. Ma’am, I am sorry to report that your son was killed by friendly fire – we believe it was Canadian in origin, as it was extremely polite.


            2. You mean surplus American M1 Garands aren’t the best weapons for Special Forces these days? They have to beat the Enfield Jungle Carbines.

  4. It’s kind of too bad that Dorner finally got it (apparently)- we could have lent him to the Canucks and Frogs to go all Rambo in Mali and clean the place up, thus saving valuable Canadian and French lives (Malis not so much).

    Ah well – send in the clowns!

    1. Dorner, American Berserker!

      We should have done that. Damn.

      “send in the clowns!”

      You mean the LAPD? They are good at shooting at any pickup trucks they see.

  5. “a military quagmire like Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    BREAKING NEWS!!!! Everyone left Iraq a while ago. Well, maybe not the remnants of the JAM or the IRGC around Basrah.

  6. OT: It’s not the teachers’ fault your kids are dumb, it’s the tests!…..l-teacher/

    1. What a freakin’ whine fest. Yeah, state schools were just cranking out teh awesome students until mean old Bush put standardized testing on them.

  7. Man you jsut gotta love those bought and paid for politicians.

    1. Hey Dr. G, looks like they pulled the plug on waamin.

      1. Ever since he stopped being TiggyFooo, he’s dead to me!

        1. I am a LimpoSimpo man, dammit!

  8. I confess to astonishment that a member of the Harper government would show such good sense when it comes to military action.

    1. Their Army is done worn out from years in Afghanistan. They need a breather.

    2. However since Hollande is a Socialist then Baird is being a neocon puppet.

    3. I’m making this on my calendar: the first time John Baird was right about anything.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.