For personal reasons I was off the air for a few weeks. Events in Mali however continued to develop as fast as they did before. After the fall of Gao and Timbuktu, Kidal followed and the Islamists were pushed back to the north-eastern corner of the country, into the mountainous Adrar des Ifoghas region. This didn’t meant however that operations of the extremist in other parts of the country stopped. There the rebels of MUJAO, Ansar Dine and AQIM fell back on terrorist tactics by placing bombs and attacking soft targets.
French and Chadian troops seem to be quite successful in their operation in Adrar and they’ve reportedly killed two important AQIM-leaders, Abou Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokthar. But not surprisingly, the operation will take much longer than at first was predicted and could go on for months to follow. When will the operation be completed? When the extremists are driven from Mali’s territory? It is obvious they will not be stopped by a border drawn on a map. This war could go on for years, just like the war in Afghanistan. That’s the problem with this type of warfare, it will not be over until all who are willing to fight for their violent cause are neutralized, be it by force or by a change of mind.
I think the insurgency in Mali will eventually spill over into neighbouring countries where the fighting will continue for years to come, be it in quite a different manner. The shift from a somewhat conventional warfare to a mountainous insurgency combined with terrorist actions has already taken place. Open combat like we’ve seen in the first weeks after the French intervention is being replaced by an underground form of action which is much harder to stop unless big regional players and direct neighbours of Mali, like Algeria, will join the fray in full force and completely secure the borders (which is an almost impossible task by itself) and make sure there is no more support possible for the extremists.