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Sun Jan 27, 2013, 09:12 AM

French, Malians secure Timbuktu in rebel-held north

Source: Reuters

(Reuters) - French and Malian troops were on Sunday restoring government control over the fabled Saharan trading town of Timbuktu, the latest gain in a fast-moving French-led offensive against al Qaeda-allied fighters occupying northern Mali.

The Islamist militant rebels have pulled back northwards to avoid relentless French air strikes that have destroyed their bases, vehicles and weapons, allowing French and Malian troops to advance rapidly with air support and armored vehicles.

A Malian military source told Reuters the French and Malian forces reached "the gates of Timbuktu" late on Saturday without meeting resistance from the Islamist insurgents who had held the town since last year.

The advancing troops were working on securing the town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and labyrinth of ancient mosques and monuments and mud-brick homes, ready to flush out any Islamist fighters who might still be hiding among the population.


Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/27/us-mali-rebels-idUSBRE90O0C720130127



very good news... imo.

21 replies, 2671 views

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Arrow 21 replies Author Time Post
Reply French, Malians secure Timbuktu in rebel-held north (Original post)
DCBob Jan 2013 OP
malthaussen Jan 2013 #1
DCBob Jan 2013 #2
malthaussen Jan 2013 #3
Posteritatis Jan 2013 #13
Lasher Jan 2013 #18
leveymg Jan 2013 #4
Lucky Luciano Jan 2013 #5
alcibiades_mystery Jan 2013 #6
daleo Jan 2013 #7
dipsydoodle Jan 2013 #9
Odin2005 Jan 2013 #8
happyslug Jan 2013 #10
Odin2005 Jan 2013 #11
DCBob Jan 2013 #12
muriel_volestrangler Jan 2013 #14
happyslug Jan 2013 #15
muriel_volestrangler Jan 2013 #16
Lasher Jan 2013 #19
happyslug Jan 2013 #20
muriel_volestrangler Jan 2013 #21
Ash_F Jan 2013 #17

Response to DCBob (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 09:15 AM

1. So what the bad guys didn't destroy, the good guys will?

That collateral damage can get rough.

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #1)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 09:17 AM

2. This sounds like a fairly non-violent takeover.

I think the Islamist insurgents are in fast retreat.

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Response to DCBob (Reply #2)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 09:22 AM

3. So far.

It would be a tactical mistake for the Islamists to abandon Timbuktu without any resistance. If they want to deal serious damage to the French, a city is the place to do it.

-- Mal

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #3)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 07:57 PM

13. And yet. (nt)

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:54 AM

18. It doesn't look like the bad guys are leaving much for the good guys to destroy.

Mali rebels fleeing Timbuktu burn library full of ancient manuscripts

Town's mayor says Islamist insurgents torched two buildings containing priceless books as French-led troops approached

Islamist insurgents retreating from the ancient Saharan city of Timbuktu have set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless ancient manuscripts, some dating back to the 13th century, in what the town's mayor described as a "devastating blow" to world heritage.

HallÚ Ousmani CissÚ told the Guardian that al-Qaida-allied fighters on Saturday torched two buildings where the manuscripts were being kept. They also burned down the town hall and governor's office, and shot dead a man who was celebrating the arrival of the French military.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/28/mali-timbuktu-library-ancient-manuscripts

They also destroyed the shrines of more than 300 Sufi saints dotted around the city.

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Response to DCBob (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 09:28 AM

4. Great. Now they'll move into Syria where they can operate w/out western interference. Air lift?

Reduced fares. No excess baggage fees. No baggage inspection.

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Response to DCBob (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 09:41 AM

5. Yup good news.

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Response to DCBob (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:34 AM

6. I'll leave others to try to conjure up some negatives here

As it stands, the French appear to have developed a strong strategy and executed it rather flawlessly, after a few initial hiccups. Not only are the militants being pushed back, but Hollande may come out of this damn near impossible to defeat, which would be a good thing for the European left more generally. And, of course, the people of Mali benefit tremendously.

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Response to alcibiades_mystery (Reply #6)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:48 AM

7. The French are supporting a government installed by a military coup

That overthrew an elected government. Some people might consider that a negative, especially considering France's long association with democratic ideals.

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Response to alcibiades_mystery (Reply #6)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 12:36 PM

9. Hollande may come out of this damn near impossible ?

Unlikely. Kicking out the jihadists don't change the fact that's Tuareg country which has sought independence from the south for donkeys years.

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Response to DCBob (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 12:11 PM

8. Good! That was quick.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #8)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 12:42 PM

10. And in this type of war, quick and meaningless

The Islamists seem to have the support of the locals, they appear to accept the fact the can NOT hold any one point against the combined air and ground attacks, but you can not hold ground without boots on the ground and in that regard the French are weak, relying on the Mail military which is untrustworthy at best (Two Mali Unit defected the to rebels early in this conflicts, units trained by the US, so the men in those units know the tactics being used against them.

Do the French have enough men to occupy all of Mali? The answer is no, thus they are places the rebels can retreat to and regroup. Mali is awash with weapons from Libya, thus weapons are NOT a problem at the present time for the rebels (Ammunition is, but ammunition can be produced locally, actual firearms require more then a man with access to electricity, which is all you need to make decent, not great, but decent ammunition, ammunition an AK can handle, but that a M16 can not).

This type of war is won or loss on the Political front, what is the Government of Mali doing to end the support for the rebels from the Northern part of Mali? Right now, Mali is doing NOTHING, and thus these victories are meaningless. In many ways this is a fight over the water resources of Mali, in the North the traditional tribes want to maintain their right to use of the water in that area. On the other hand, the Government is support French corporations that want the water for their own use (And why the French are involved). In many ways the rebels have won a huge victory, in that they show they concerns can not be ignored, the real fight is what will the Government of Mali do, give in to the rebels as to the use of water, or refuse to do so at the expense of their French Support? Right now it looks like the Government is saying it will support the French, which means the locals in the North of Mali will continue to support the Rebels and thus this fight will fester on and one like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sooner or later the desire of the locals have to be addressed OR suppressed, and total suppression will require a lot more troops, troops Mali does not have and France will want to avoid sending. Much like Iraq and Afghanistan (and Vietnam). We know how Vietnam went, Iraq went (The US withdrew after the Present Iraqi Government refuse to give the US what it wanted) and why the US is losing Afghanistan. In this type of Civil War, you have to address the desires of the area in rebellion. If you do not, the war will fester, and in the case of Mali, the problem is water and who gets it.

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Response to happyslug (Reply #10)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 12:49 PM

11. Most Malians are moderate (Sufi, IIRC) Muslims and don't support crazies vandalizing...

...their historical sites. These Islamist nuts consider the locals to be heretics.

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Response to happyslug (Reply #10)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 05:57 PM

12. meaningless??.. the Islamist Rebels were knocking on the door of the capital.

This will set them back for quite some time. The folks in Bamako are breathing a huge sigh of relief.

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Response to happyslug (Reply #10)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 08:28 PM

14. "The Islamists seem to have the support of the locals" - source?

Note that the MNLA has fallen out with the Islamists:

The MNLA launched a rebellion in northern Mali early in 2012, wresting control of the region from government forces after a military coup in March which was prompted by the government's handling of the uprising.

The Tuareg uprising was quickly hijacked by an alliance of Islamist groups, which had initially fought alongside them but soon drove them from power in the main cities of the desert region the size of Texas, dubbed Azawad by the rebels.

With France's dramatic military intervention 10 days ago having reversed an Islamist advance southward, MNLA spokesman Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh said the movement's dispersed fighters could be recalled to support a U.N.-mandated intervention by forces from West African regional bloc ECOWAS.

"The MNLA wants to fight the terrorists, alongside ECOWAS and the international community," he told Reuters television in an interview in Niamey, the capital of neighboring Niger.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/20/us-mali-tuaregs-idUSBRE90J0G420130120

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #14)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:50 AM

15. Whole bunch of infighting occurring in Northern Mali

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuareg_rebellion_(2012)#Capture_of_Timbuktu_and_Douentza

The big force is the MNLA, the "National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad" is the main opposition in most of Northern Mali. The Islamists, Ansar Dine, only joined in the revolt around March 2012 and then as a Sunni radical group that had access to weapons, it is believe to be from Libya.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Movement_for_the_Liberation_of_Azawad

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansar_Dine

Ansar Dine took Timbuktu from the MNLA in November 2012, thus the recent attack was against Ansar Dine not the MNLA.

Part of the confusion is both the MNLA and Ansar Dine seems to be Tuareg dominated and given that the Tuareg are spread through four countries of African (and have greater loyalty to their tribe then what ever "Country" they are in), they can do do expect help from other tribesmen from other countries.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuareg

Thus the MNLA seems to be dominated by Tuareg who live in Northern Mali, while the Ansar Dine have Tuareq members from all of Tuareq dominated areas. The MNLA seems to be willing to cut a deal with the French, while the Ansar Dine do not want to UNLESS it includes all of Tuareq lands in all four countries, Libya, Algeria, Niger Morocco and Burkina Faso. To the French what the MNLA wants is something they can live with, what Ansar Dine wants is unacceptable for it would divide up what was known as "French North Africa" prior to the 1950s.

Surprising the Tuareq are a matrilineal Tribe (i.e. trace they ancestry through their mothers), even through they embraced Islam after the Arab Conquest of the 700s.

The problem of African Borders (Otto von Bismark plan to divide up Africa so it would cause wars is still working):
http://mycontinent.co/AfricaBorders.php

Please note the Tuareq is a tribe within the larger Berber group:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_people



Non-Tuareq Berbers tend to have more intermixing with other groups (mostly Arab) but many still retain loyally to the Concept of being a Berber over what ever citizenship they have (and why the Call of Religion is more important then that of Nationality, it permits unity with people other then their relatives). Thus it appears many of the "Islamists" are Berbers of tribes other then the Tuareq and are fighting for a greater "Berber" unity tied in with Islam (Thus including the Local Arab population also). Thus the make up to the Ansar Dine is heavily united based on religion while the MNLA is more a product of tribal unity.

Another way to look at this is the MNLA is willing to cut a deal if they are given more rights within Mali, but the Answer Dine wants more power through out North Africa,not just in Tuareq land.

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Response to happyslug (Reply #15)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 06:35 AM

16. All of which seems to say the Islamists don't have the support of the locals

The Islamists being the group from a wider area, who chucked out the MNLA, which is just from northern Mali, from Timbuktu.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #16)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:59 AM

19. I think that's accurate.

Locals have been calling in to help the French identify airstrike targets.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1014376319

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #16)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 10:12 AM

20. But my point is the key is the Support of the locals, and the Government does NOT have that support

The MNLA seems to have that support AND it also seems the Islamists have some of that support and that is the real fight, between the MNLA and the Islamist with the Government (and the French) on the sidelines. Yes, the Government and the French can retake any town or city in Mali, but can they hold it and for how long? Furthermore can they get economic advantage of holding the town, or have the rebels enough support that actually holding the town become meaningless i.e. people trade and pay off the Rebels not the Government who technically controls their town (a huge problem in Afghanistan, where even US supply convoys end up paying off the Rebels so the supplies for the US forces can get through. Technically the supply line is in US hands, but in reality the Rebels get the benefit of people actually taking the route).

I remember Vietnam and the reports that the News report of the Support of the people of South Vietnamese for the Government of South Vietnam. After the war it came out that as early as the 1950s the majority of the people of Vietnam would have voted for unity with North Vietnam even of that meant Communist rule. A higher percentage would have voted for Ho Chin Mind. It was against this support the whole weight of the US military was thrown against, and after 20 years the US lost (Even doing the first Indo-China war of 1946-1954, 90% of the costs were paid for by the US, even while France was doing the actual fighting, this continued till 1964 when it became clear that the Viet Cong was strong enough to form up Battalion size units in South Vietnam, and the prevent those units from winning the War the US Sent in Troops).

I remember the stories out of Vietnam of the men avoiding serving in the Viet Cong by living in urban centers at night, but during the day returning to their homes and farms. This was shown to show how little support the Viet Cong had, but in any war you have people willing to support some invader, no matter how unpopular that invader is. THus having such people named in News Report is like having someone say "Bush is the Greatest President the US ever had", you can always find someone to support something, but those examples prove nothing. The Ansar Dine has to have some support to get as far as they did, it seems to be Tuareg based and it is

Thus I can NOT give much weight to these reports that the MNLN or the Ansar Dine do NOT have that much support, they have done enough to show they have a good bit of support, so much that the Army of Mali had to call in the French to reverse the tide (And then it took the French six months to set themselves up for this offensive). If the Ansar Dine did NOT have the support of something close to 50% of the population, it could NOT have done as well as it did for the Majority would have resisted their takeover (and could be the reason the MNLA is presently opposed to them). On the other hand a quick takeover of a town by superior forces means nothing. Guerrillas quickly learn you can NOT defeat such operations and do not even try (They have better uses for their resources, namely protecting their safe areas and to prevent any act that undermine their support among the people).

Thus actions like what the French taking Timbuktu, was done by the French in Indo China between 1946 and 1954, by the US in Vietnam between 1964 and 1973, but the US Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002. Such actions are often meaningless for all it is showing is the occupying power has the force to send its troops anywhere in a country, not to hold that country but enter it and show its flag. The people living in those areas continue to do as they had, including supporting any rebels they support.

I might be wrong and the rebels do not have the support they claim, but they attack was a ground based attack that relied on use of the roads in the area, which implies support from the locals. Such an attack with little "Tail" (ie. lack of supplies to support the attack except what one can pick up during the attack) implies support from the locals (I.e. the locals feed the troops, thus the attacking rebels do NOT to bring in food with them for the attack. just fuel and ammunition and that can be pre-preposition if you have local support to protect such supplies till they are needed).

That the French had to opt for an air assault implies they do NOT have the support of the locals and thus had to by pass them (In Vietnam one US Army day time operation went over 100 miles out of its way, so the locals could not tell the Viet Cong which way the US forces was coming from, such attacks are possible given today's technology but does NOT imply support or lack of support for the other side, just that one can bypass choke-points).

Just some reading between the lines, that this is NOT the final part of this war, but just a maneuver between the parties as they work they way to some agreement (Or the Rebels retreating in front of Superior Firepower, knowing that once the French have taken over the disputed areas, it is the French who will have a supply problem not them).

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Response to happyslug (Reply #20)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 10:42 AM

21. You still claim "it also seems the Islamists have some of that support"

but have shown nothing to back that up.

You think "Ansar Dine has to have some support to get as far as they did". Why? This seems an unwarranted assumption on your part. Many fighters are able to take control of an area without support. The savagery of Ansar Dine - imposing sharia law, with gruesome punishments and oppression of women - has cause many inhabitants to flee. They control it through violence. If you have any evidence that the inhabitants welcome the punishments, we should be able to see it.

"Thus I can NOT give much weight to these reports that the MNLN or the Ansar Dine do NOT have that much support, they have done enough to show they have a good bit of support". This seems to say you accept that the reports do say they don't have much support, but you are unable to believe them. This seems to be your pre-conceptions at work. I suggest you forget comparing this to Vietnam, several decades and thousand miles away. Vietnam did not involve a vicious religious movement that instils fear in civilians and uses brutal punishments.

The French used air support because they've got it. It works in war.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #14)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 06:45 AM

17. Bright news, assuming the French will allow northern Malians into the government.

That hasn't been the track record but I guess we'll see. Color me cynical.

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