Thursday, January 17, 2013

Background on Mali

Do the US and French views of the situation coincide? The Times thinks not:
But the surprise French assault last Friday to blunt the Islamists’ advance upended those plans and set off a cascading series of events, culminating in a raid on Wednesday by militants on a foreign-run gas field in Algeria. That attack threatens to widen the violence in an impoverished region and drag Western governments deeper into combating an incipient insurgency.

And yet the rush of events has masked the fact that officials in Washington still have only an impressionistic understanding of the militant groups that have established a safe haven in Mali, and they are divided about whether some of these groups even pose a threat to the United States.

Moreover, the hostage situation in Algeria has only heightened concerns that a Western military intervention could transform militant groups that once had only a regional focus into avowed enemies of the United States — in other words, that the backlash might end up being worse than the original threat.

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