Photo: AP Photo/File
Despite its brief mention during the U.S. presidential debates, it’s surprising how little attention the situation in Nor then Mali has received. After a coup brought down the Malian regime in March, Islamic extremists and Tuareg rebels took over the north and have imposed a barbaric form of sharia law, creating a new frontline against extremism.Reports out of the region are horrifying. Unmarried couples have been stoned to death for having children. Women are flogged women who were not “adequately covered up.” And they’ve cut off the hands of thieves as a form of punishment.
The world has watched with horror, but a response may be on the way much sooner than anyone anticipated.
Leaders from the 15-nation Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) have agreed upon a plan to send 3,300 foreign troops from the supra-national body in order to recapture the region from the extremists if diplomacy fails. Mali would add 5,000 of its own troops to the force as well.
A Malian army source told Reuters that the plan covers a six-month time frame, “with a preparatory phase for training and the establishment of bases in Mali’s south, followed by combat operations in the north.” The plan is contingent on U.N. approval, which observers say could come within the month.
“As soon as they say it’s OK, it won’t take 24 hours for us to go,” an anonymous official told the AP. “If the U.N. says go, we will move in immediately.”
Foreign jihadists have ‘poured’ into the region since ECOWAS began floating the idea of creating an international coalition to take back northern Mali. And the more time that passes, the stronger the rogue regime grows; leaders have developed a lucrative economy based on criminal activity, which in turn fuels the regimes existence.
But if the ECOWAS plan is approved by the U.N., the battle against the Malian extremists could be underway within the next 12 months.
The U.S. and France have agreed to offer logistical support once the plan is reviewed by the U.N. As far as sending in troops, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon has stated it would follow the lead of France.
THE FALL OF NORTHERN MALI: ‘Gangster-Jihadists’ in northern Mali built their empire off ransom and drug payments >
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