Author Topic: Mali - Canada // Political - Military Status/updates.  (Read 17949 times)

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Mike Blais

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Re: Mali - Canada // Political - Military Status/updates.
« Reply #30 on: February 06, 2013, 10:12:49 AM »
Opinion / Editorial Opinion
Canada’s role in Mali: Little clarity, a lot of confusion
Harper government has failed to set clear goals for the military mission in Africa.

By: John McKay Published on Wed Feb 06 2013

Parliamentarians got their first public glimpse into the government’s thinking last week with a formal briefing by officials from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defence. It was instructive but possibly not in the way that the Harper government intended.

Maj.-Gen. Jonathan Vance was asked, “What is Canada’s military goal?” He replied that it was to support France. The follow-up question is, “What are France’s goals?” France has a long history in the region dating back to the colonial era and has specific national interests that it is pursuing. If we are going to hitch our wagon to theirs let’s hope that our goals are the same as theirs.

He then went on to say that “kinetic action” (military action) would have limited effect and passed the question off to Kerry Buck, the DFAIT representative. She responded that we need to see this as a “whole of government” approach. This is “bureaucrat speak” for everyone gets to have a finger in the pie — CIDA, DFAIT and DND. Unfortunately, if we have no stated goals of our own, we are stuck with the sometimes competing and conflicting goals of others.

It would have been useful had the government made a statement about its goals and then have the discipline to stick to them. The Islamist jihad across the Sahel has to be contained. It will likely never be defeated but its ability to inflict damage beyond the environs of the Sahel could be limited with swift and effective action. Therefore, it is in Canada’s security interests to support the French and Malian forces as they retake towns and villages in northern Mali.

Resist the temptation to be too ambitious. Mali is a bit of a mess. It became a democracy in 1991 but last year experienced a military coup and a counter-coup. The shadowy Capt. Amadou Sanogo, the self-appointed Chairman of National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State until acting President Dioncounda Traoré was installed, led the coup and commands an army that is poorly trained, lacks discipline and is prone to extra-judicial killings. The Tuareg people of the north don’t recognize government authority and at the first available opportunity have and will declare independence. They are a fierce Berber tribe who are well-armed thanks to the post-Gadhafi dispersal of Libya’s armaments. Having joined and then separated from the jihadists, some now support the French, but for how long is anyone’s guess.

The concept of time is not well understood by the West. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is a fundamentalist movement based upon a 7th century interpretation of Islam. The destruction of religious sites in and around Timbuktu and gratuitous amputations for minor infractions reflect a poorly educated and closed-minded religious viewpoint. They consider democracy to be anti-Islamic. These warriors fight to die while ours fight to go home. It should be easy for a 21st-century military to defeat a 7th-century mentality, but it is not. If you’re on Allah’s side you never lose. Therefore, this month’s or next year’s battlefield setback will be redeemed someday. We in the West, however, respond to time pressure. Our governments and our peoples will not support a long-term engagement and the AQIM know it.

It is instructive, therefore, to look at the Harper government’s response. Point one: state your goal and limit your intervention to that goal. We have yet to hear our government state its goal. Either Prime Minister Harper doesn’t know the mission goal or we have adopted France’s goals by default.

Point 2: resist the temptation to overreach. The announcement of $13 million from CIDA is instructive. Putting aside whether this is actually new money or merely reprofiled funding, why would you contribute aid to humanitarian initiatives (however worthy) while other nations contribute to African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA). Surely at this stage stabilizing security is the primary goal and handing it off to the African authorities as soon as possible is the priority. Humanitarian relief is an important secondary goal but can only become a primary goal once security has been established.

Third, understand the mentality of the enemy. Time is their luxury, not ours. Limit your aspirations to containing in as small a space as possible these murderous thugs and turn the operation over to the African authorities as soon as possible. Fund, train and develop African capability (AFISMA) now.

The confusion exhibited by the Harper government is a direct result of its decisions to pull out of Africa, turn its back on the UN and degrade our diplomatic capacity. The chickens are coming home to roost. Little clarity and a lot of confusion do not instill confidence.

John McKay, the Liberal party’s defence critic, is MP for Scarborough Guildwood.

Sylvain Chartrand CD

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Most Canadians against sending combat troops to Mali: poll
« Reply #31 on: February 09, 2013, 12:05:12 PM »
Most Canadians against sending combat troops to Mali: poll

OTTAWA — The Canadian Press

Published Saturday, Feb. 09 2013, 8:41 AM EST

Last updated Saturday, Feb. 09 2013, 10:35 AM EST

A new poll suggests most Canadians would oppose the deployment of combat troops to Mali to fight Islamist rebels.

Fewer than one in five respondents to the Canadian Press-Harris/Decima survey favour sending troops to the landlocked African country to fight a violent insurgency.

Just over one third of respondents said Canada should offer humanitarian aid without military involvement, while another 28 per cent supported sending Canadian non-combat trainers, equipment and support personnel.

Another 11 per cent of respondents said Canada should not get involved in Mali at all.

The telephone poll of just over 1,000 Canadians was conducted between Jan. 31 and Feb. 4 and is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The survey results come as French and African troops routed militants from major cities in Mali’s north this week.

A military coup in March, 2012 created a power vacuum that allowed al-Qaeda affiliated groups to take over the country’s north, an area of land the size of France.

Harris/Decima chairman Allan Gregg says the poll suggests many Canadians, weary after a decade of war in Afghanistan, aren’t anxious to get involved in another conflict.

“While Canadians believe Canada has a role to play in the world — even in parts of the world where a direct, vested interest might not be readily apparent — few see that role as a military one,” Gregg said in a release.

“The notion that Canadians are ‘peacekeepers’ and moral leaders — as opposed to a combat nation — seems to run very deep and clearly applies to the current conflict in Mali.”

Mike Blais

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Islamic extremists stage surprise attack in Mali town
« Reply #32 on: February 10, 2013, 06:32:53 PM »
Islamic extremists stage surprise attack in Mali town
The Associated Press
Posted: Feb 10, 2013 7:48 AM ET
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2013 3:17 PM ET

French soldiers secure the area where a suicide bomber attacked in Gao, northern Mali. Fighters from a radical Islamic sect are thought to have infiltrated the city. (Jerome Delay)

Black-robed Islamic extremists armed with AK-47 automatic rifles snuck into the city of Gao in canoes Sunday to launch a surprise attack on the Malian army in the most populous city in northern Mali, two weeks after French and Malian troops ousted the jihadists.

The combat started at about 2 p.m. in downtown Gao and the fighting was continuing as night fell. Later the sound of gunfire was replaced by the clattering of French military helicopters overhead.

The attack in Gao shows the Islamic fighters, many of them well-armed and with combat experience, are determined and daring and it foreshadows a protracted campaign by France and other nations to restore government control in this vast Saharan nation in northwest Africa.

The Islamic radicals fought against the Malian army throughout the afternoon and were seen roaming the streets and on rooftops in the centre of Gao, which has a population of 90,000. Gunfire echoed across the city.

Families hid in their homes. One family handed plastic cups of water through the locked iron gate to others hiding on their patio. Piles of onions lay unattended where market women fled when the Islamists arrived. There were no signs of civilian casualties.

The fighting appeared to centre near the police headquarters, where Malian soldiers with rocket propelled grenades traded fire with the combatants believed to be from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO. The only sound in the city was gunfire and the bleating of goats. Soldiers were positioned at every corner in the neighbourhood of mud-walled buildings.

Ever since French forces took Gao on Jan. 26, the Islamic rebels had clashed with security forces on the city's outskirts. This was the first time they succeeded in entering the strategic city.

The Islamic fighters used canoes to cross the Niger River to penetrate Gao, according to French Gen. Bernard Barera, who cited Malian officials.

The Islamic radicals had already tried to spread violence into Gao. On Saturday night, a suicide bomber detonated himself at a checkpoint at the entrance to the city, killing himself and injuring one Malian soldier. An earlier suicide bomber on a motorcycle also blew himself up at the same security spot on Friday, killing only himself.

Besides Gao, French and Malian forces have also retaken the fabled city of Timbuktu and other northern towns, pushing the Islamic extremists back into the desert, where they pose a constant threat to Malian and allied forces. But the Islamic fighters made strategic retreats and are dug into desert hideouts, from where they are expected to continue challenging the control of the cities by French, Malian and allied forces.

Several African nations have contributed troops to battle the extremists, who imposed their harsh version of Islamic Shariah law when they controlled the northern cities.

The armed Islamic fighters seized the northern half of Mali in April 2012, sending poorly disciplined and equipped Malian forces retreating in disarray. France launched its military intervention in its former colony on Jan. 11 when the Islamic radicals, many of whom had fought for ex-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, began encroaching on the south, threatening the capital Bamako which lies deep in southern Mali, 1,200 kilometres from Gao.

France has said that it wants to hand over responsibility to the Malian military and other African nations who have contributed troops and has raised with the United Nations Security Council the possibility of establishing a UN peacekeeping operation in Mali. .
© The Associated Press, 2013
The Canadian Press