This is a very important report by highly regarded scholar of the region, especially Algeria.
Region cannot be returned to Mali’s control militarily, says Hugh Roberts
By Hugh Roberts, Financial Times, January 24, 2013 6:03 pm
The writer is Edward Keller Professor of North African and Middle Eastern History at Tufts University
David Cameron’s vision of decades of global counter-terrorist struggle in north Africa sounded like the promise of doom to anyone who cares about the region. The Sahel’s terrorism problem dates back no further than 2003 – the west’s global war on terror gave birth to it; the west’s part in the destruction of Muammer Gaddafi’s Libya aggravated it; and France’s decision to pursue another war in Mali is expanding it.
In 2003, two drastic changes occurred. Washington launched its Pan-Sahel Initiative, soon renamed the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative; and a branch of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (known by its French acronym of GSPC) migrated from north-eastern Algeria to the far south of the Algerian Sahara, announcing its arrival with the abduction of 32 European tourists that year.
These developments were linked. In its drive to involve itself in the Sahel, where it blithely trespassed on France’s traditional sphere of influence, the Pentagon massively hyped the terrorist threat. But what really made the PSI feasible was Algeria’s involvement. Algiers had seized on the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 to align itself with US President George W. Bush’s war on terror. One reason for this was to avoid being marked for destruction, like Iraq. But the country also saw an opportunity to resume normal relations with its western partners, following a French-led boycott begun after a 1994 terrorist attack on an Air France flight.