WorldThe Sahel region in the footsteps of the Afghan scenario (Analysis)

The Sahel region in the footsteps of the Afghan scenario (Analysis)


AA / Istanbul

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban threatens to further inflame the Sahel region, concomitantly with the upsurge in armed attacks in the region, particularly in Mali, which the United Nations had warned of its possible collapse. , as soon as the situation has crossed the threshold of gravity.

Indeed, Iyad Ag Ghali, head of the “Support Group for Islam and Muslims” (GSIM), affiliated with al-Qaida in the Sahel region, congratulated, in a recorded video, broadcast for several weeks, the Taliban movement for its victories in Afghanistan.

Founder of the “Ansar Eddin” Movement – qualified by many observers as “Taliban of the Azawad” – Ag Ghali is one of the main leaders of the Tuaregs in Mali.

Former consul of the Malian state in Saudi Arabia, Iyad Ag Ghali is currently aiming to clone the experience of the Taliban, who have recovered power in Afghanistan, after the withdrawal of the American army.

Among the factors that encourage the Tuareg leader to repeat the same experience is the weakness of the Malian regime. Indeed, this country has been the scene of three putschs since 2012, as well as the recent French decision to end the military operation “Barkhane” in the Sahel and the total withdrawal from northern Mali, on the edge of the year 2022.

Ag Ghali indicates, in this context, that France has decided to withdraw from Mali and put an end to its military operation after failing to achieve the objectives it has set for itself, “contenting itself, according to him, after years of suffering, the status of cooperation, under the name of the International Coalition against Terrorism ”.

On June 10, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the end of the Barkhane military operation in the Sahel region, an operation launched by Paris in 2014.
Macron said French forces will gradually withdraw from the cities of Kidal, Timbuktu and Tessalit early next year.

The French withdrawal from northern Mali will logically lead to the security mission being assumed, first and foremost, by the UN forces, numbering 15,000, as well as the Malian army, which is present in smaller numbers in these areas. In addition, Algeria, a country bordering Mali (north), will also be concerned, especially since this country had already been the object of a large-scale attack launched by armed groups from Malian territory.

– A State threatened with dislocation

The precarious security situation, the resurgence of terrorist attacks, the absence of an elected and stable authority, the reduction in international support, global warming which generates fallout in terms of drought and unexpected floods, and tribal conflicts between farmers, are all crises which not only threaten the current regime of collapse but which could lead to the collapse or even the disappearance of the State.

The United Nations independent expert on the human rights situation in Mali, Alioune Tine, declared on August 6 that “the rapid spread of violence in Mali threatens the sustainability of the state in itself. The serious and lasting deterioration of the security situation has exceeded the threshold of seriousness ”.

At the end of an 11-day visit to Mali, the UN expert underlined that “The weak and powerless State faces great difficulty in assuming the role it deserves, particularly with regard to the protection of human rights. the civilian population against the danger posed by the armed groups which proliferate throughout the country ”.

On July 27, the GSIM claimed responsibility for eight armed operations committed against the UN forces, the Malian army and French units during the same month.

The GSIM is a coalition of terrorist organizations, in this case, the organization of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Mourabitoune regiment (which split from the AQIM), the Front de Liberation de Macina and the Ansar Eddine group.
In addition, the Daesh terrorist group (Sahara section) is operating in the Gao region, close to the borders with Niger, and its attacks are more bloodthirsty and more violent.

– A dangerous spiral of violence

Mali is not the only country in the region to suffer from the serious security threat. Indeed, Niger and Burkina Faso share the same risks, in particular, in the “border triangle” area.
During the month of August, the area of ​​the “Border Triangle” turned into “swamps of blood”, following armed attacks which left no less than 250 dead, including women and children.

On August 18, an attack by some 400 unidentified armed elements on a convoy in northern Burkina Faso left 120 people dead, including 65 civilians and 55 soldiers. Likewise, 58 assailants perished in the attack, according to local and media sources.

In Mali, 51 civilians were killed in an armed operation launched on August 8 against three villages located in the Gao region, near the borders with Niger. On the 19th of the same month, 15 Malian soldiers were victims of a similar operation in the center of the country.

Niger has also been hit hard by the bloodthirsty madness of the armed groups. Indeed, thirty-seven civilians, including sixteen children, were assassinated during an attack committed on August 14 in the region of Tillabéri, located in the famous “border triangle”.

On August 21, armed elements again attacked the leading area, killing 17 people, all civilians.

A few days earlier, on August 11, armed assailants killed fifteen civilians near Niger’s borders with Mali.

The armies of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, supported by 1,200 Chadian soldiers and Mauritania, as part of the G5 Sahel Coalition, in addition to 5,100 French soldiers and fifteen thousand UN soldiers, hundreds of elements of the forces special Europeans (Operation Takuba) and hundreds of members of the American forces deployed in the Sahel States, have not succeeded in stopping the bloodbath which shakes the region of the border triangle.

The situation is extremely dangerous and Mali, the scene of two coups d’état in 2020 and 2021, seems the weak link among the countries of the Sahel.

The al-Qaida Organization is, moreover, preparing to proclaim an “Islamic emirate” in northern Mali, like what is currently happening in Afghanistan, even before the completion of the French withdrawal from France. the region at the start of 2022.

This situation has prompted Algeria to express its “concern about the resumption and resurgence of the pace of serious terrorist attacks” in several Sahel states over the past weeks.

– The Tuaregs may hinder the al-Qaida project

With the exception of the Ag Ghali branch, the Tuareg (Amazigh) and Arab (Azawad) armed movements, deployed in northern Mali, are in a position to abort the plan of the al-Qaida organization aimed at proclaiming an “Islamic Emirate” which could extend to Darfur, in western Sudan.

Algeria could consider intervening to prevent the establishment of an alliance between the Tuareg and Azawad Movements on the one hand and the al-Qaida organization on the other, as happened in 2012. , counting in this on its fine knowledge of the tribes of the region, which constitute a human extension, beyond its borders, in sub-Saharan Africa.
This reality is fully understood by the United Nations in order to prevent the fall of northern Mali into the hands of al-Qaida or into the bosom of Daesh, after the withdrawal of the French army from the region.

The head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Mauritanian diplomat El-Ghassim Wane, stressed the vital importance of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement resulting from the process. of Algiers in 2015, “which has become inescapable to guarantee lasting stability in Mali”.

The UN official added that it was thanks to the application of the Algiers Accord that the signatory parties agreed, for the first time in Mali, to “silence the guns”.
However, what Wane does not clearly say is that the procrastination of Bamako to implement certain points of the Algiers Accord could encourage the Tuaregs to rebel again and why not ally with terrorist groups to separate from Mali.

However, this scenario is unlikely since the terrorist groups had already withdrawn from the agreements made with the rebel movements, Tuaregs and Azawad, after the expulsion of the Malian army from the cities of the north, in 2012, for s ‘take over the whole region on their own.

The repetition of the Afghan scenario in the Sahel region is not excluded, if the countries of the zone and their major tribal components do not act to counter this project with the help of neighboring countries. However, al-Qaida and Daesh differ in their philosophy of fighting the Taliban which remains a local group, while the other two organizations do not recognize the borders between Islamic countries.

* Translated from Arabic by Hatem Kattou

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