I’m so old I remember when military intervention in Libya helped to destabilize Mali (h/t):
Equipped with heavy weapons from Muammar Gaddafi’s looted arsenals, the Tuareg-led rebels who assaulted the town of Aguelhoc in northern Mali last month overwhelmed the remote garrison.
Fighters hardened by combat in Libya swelled the ranks of the desert insurgents who in their first attack on January 18 surrounded the local army base with machinegun-mounted four-wheel drive vehicles. They destroyed army communications, local cellphone towers and laid down a barrage of mortar fire.
After cutting off water supplies and ambushing resupply convoys, they came back a week later to overrun the base.
As the anniversary of the February 17 uprising against Gaddafi approaches, Mali and other states to the south are paying a price for the revolution by Western-backed insurgents in Libya.
The flood of weapons and fighters out of Libya has now added to an arc of insecurity across West Africa, stretching from Boko Haram Islamists behind a spate of lethal bombings in Nigeria to al Qaeda allies who have targeted Westerners and armed forces in the Sahel all the way to Mauritania in the north.
Mali is no stranger to rebellions – this is the fourth led by the Tuareg nomads of the north since independence from France in 1960. The last ended only in 2008.
But this time the turbaned rebels’ arsenal includes SA-7, SA-24 and Milan portable missile systems, according to the Malian soldier who faced them.
And rather than just melting back into the desert after an attack, the new firepower has emboldened them to take on the army on three fronts and resist helicopter gunships.
A Malian defense ministry official, who also asked not to be named, said the rebels were equipped “just like Libya’s army”, with heavy machine guns on four-wheel drive vehicles, anti-tank and anti-aircraft rockets as well as light weapons.
“In other rebellions, they have been under-equipped,” said Jeremy Keenan, a Sahara expert who has long studied the Tuareg.
“These guys back from Libya have heavier arms and they know how to use them,” he said of the MNLA, or National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.
Robert Caruso nails it:
@joshuafoust history isn’t real, Josh. It all happened these past few weeks. All of it.
— Robert Caruso (@robertcaruso) January 24, 2013
Interested in the one of the real structural things that enables frequent intervention w/out cost? Take a gander here: belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/27…
— Adam Elkus (@Aelkus) January 24, 2013