As France realizes the difficulty of a "short" campaign in Mali, one can't ignore the pattern of impotence and unintended consequences at the heart of the war on terror.
In the days following French President Francois Hollande's victory lap around the country, the U.N. declared Mali a humanitarian disaster. Literally weeks after Hollande said his own troops would leave in weeks, the U.N. said it is sending 6,000 of its own troops.
"As the situation evolves, attacks and reprisals risk driving Mali into a catastrophic spiral of violence," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay during a Security Council meeting Tuesday.
Meanwhile, undeterred by America's flying robots, Yemen's super-potent Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula put out a call for global jihadis to pilgrimage to Mali to wage Holy War on infidel occupiers (— exactly like Iraq, circa 2006, where Libyan fighters learned their craft).
Current reports are that the toughened Malian insurgents are chilling out in the mountains of Gao, where they plan and stage attacks with near impugnity — a scenario right out of Afghanistan in 2002. With an influx of weapons from Libya, and global jihadists joining the battle, the fighting could last for ...
That's just it, no one knows for how long. The two most recent counterinsurgency fights started a decade ago and are still going.
While Mali is Iraq-like, actual Iraq still suffers suicide bombers. Thailand just killed 19 militants fending off a truly ballsy assault. Syria has devolved into a stalemate between a hair-trigger dictator and the narrowly less-than preferable extremist element Jadhat al-Nusra. Lebanon is getting sucked into Syria's civil war, and al Shabaab in Somalia is receiving arms from Iran.
Folks are already pointing to an imminent fight with the Islamic Boko Haram and others in Mali's neighboring Niger, and fighting in Mali isn't even finished yet. Neither is fighting in Libya, according to the website SOFREP, whose recently published e-book claims that the Benghazi attacks were in part a reprisal for the U.S.'s continued targeted raids in the green mountains.
As Obama expands and equips the Pentagon's Africa Command with more operators, ramps up the African drone program and its secret strikes, and France's coalition fights to regain control in Mali, while the world considers a possible pivot toward Niger, instability seems to be increasing in several other places at once.
Indeed, the Global War on Terror (GWOT), if it wasn't at the start, has become a game of Global Whack-A-Mole — with SEALs, drones, and now French Legionnaires as hammers.
And let's hope the West's arm doesn't get tired. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Shabaab, and North Africa's Al Qaeda in the Islamic Meghrib didn't even exist until the insurgency in Iraq was at its most pitched — in 2006. Not to suggest causality, but the correlation is undeniable.
Now they seem to get stronger by the day.
Furthermore, Mali wouldn't be getting arms and fighters if Libya hadn't been "liberated" — and some of its prominent groups ignored by the American government. Not to mention Yemen: the more it's groups get whacked with that hammer, the more concerted their efforts become.
For every mole America takes out, two more rise up.
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