- Iran touts new laser that bolsters missile accuracy
- Satanists petition for statue at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Deadly N.Y. train derailment leads to Senate call for cameras at tracks
- WWII vet, 90, en route to Pearl Harbor event booted from flight
- SWAT team at Phoenix hospital as armed man clears emergency room
- Kim Jong-un’s uncle dragged from political meeting, booted from party
- Big storm dumps snow on East Coast, travel dicey
- Thai prime minister dissolves Parliament, calls elections
- Hagel to meet with Pakistan’s prime minister
- Kiev: Riot police deployed near protest sites
Clinton: U.S. wants Algeria to play key role in Mali intervention
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed optimism Monday that Algeria could play a key role in a growing international push toward a military intervention in Mali, where recent months have seen an al Qaeda-linked extremist group seize control of an area roughly the size of California.
Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution giving leaders in North and West Africa 45 days to lay out a plan for such an intervention.
Specifics have yet to emerge, Mrs. Clinton said. She met Monday with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is committed to moving forward on discussion with the U.N. and other African leaders to “determine the most effective approaches that we should be taking.”
Algeria fought a civil war against various Islamist factions through the 1990s, and it remains to be seen how eagerly the Algerian president will be to commit troops to Mali, which borders Algeria to the south.
Algeria’s recent passage of several democratic reforms has forestalled the Arab Spring protests and revolution seen in nearby Tunisia and Libya, and the Algerian military-intelligence capabilities remain among the region’s most reliable.
Mr. Bouteflika embraced a cautious posture in meeting with Mrs. Clinton in Algiers, although the secretary of state said she “very much appreciated the president’s analysis based on his long experience to the many complicated factors that have to be addressed to deal with the internal insecurity in Mali and the terrorist and drug-trafficking threat that is posed to the region and beyond.”
Mali stumbled toward instability in March, when military operatives overthrew the nation’s president. The coup leaders have since handed control in the capital city of Bamako back to a civilian government.
But to the north, Islamist militants and rebels from the Tuareg ethnic group worked quickly to exploit last spring’s instability and seize control of a large section of Mali. Subsequent months have seen hard-line Islamist factions take control from the Tuareg ethnic group.
The Obama administration and many Republicans in Washington have become increasingly eager to address the situation amid fears that northern Mali may be emerging as a haven for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The push for some kind of intervention has mounted in Washington, particularly in light of suspicions that AQIM may have played a role in the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney referred to Mali twice during a recent foreign policy debate with President Obama.
Mr. Romney lumped the Northwest African nation with unrest in the Middle East as he argued that the past four years under Mr. Obama have brought a “rising tide of violence, chaos [and] tumult” with al Qaeda and “other jihadist groups rushing in.”
Mali also has been on the Obama administration’s radar. Maria Otero, undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, was sent to Mali on Monday. She is the highest-ranking administration official to visit the country since the coup.
“Obviously, against the context of what happened in northern Mali when the government forces up there collapsed and the coup happened, Algeria’s importance in this realm has become ever more important,” one senior State Department official said. “We have an awful lot at stake here, an awful lot of common interests, and there’s a strong recognition that Algeria has to be a central part of the solution.”
“Our cooperation is going to be vital in terms of the restoration of order in northern Mali and reducing the space that AQIM has to operate in and the kinds of options it has available,” the official added.
A senior American diplomat in Africa, meanwhile, told The Associated Press that while the U.S. wants to see the rebels routed, it has no interest in active involvement in the military mission, unless Mali and West African states explicitly ask for such assistance.
The 15-nation regional bloc — the Economic Community of West African States — has discussed sending 3,000 troops to help oust the Islamist militants from northern Mali. There are, however, questions about the extent to which more troops may be needed.
U.S. officials seem wedded to the belief that a truly successful military intervention would require a major role from Algeria, whose reforms have headed off the Arab Spring tumult experienced by its neighbors and left it with the strongest military and best intelligence in the region.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Guy Taylor rejoined The Washington Times in 2011 as the State Department correspondent.
As a freelance journalist, Taylor’s work was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Fund For Investigative Journalism, and his stories appeared in a variety publications, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to Salon, Reason, Prospect Magazine of London, the Daily Star of Beirut, the ...
- Lawmakers see 'false narrative' of Obama as a terrorist fighter
- U.S., Chinese diplomats talk air defense zone ahead of Biden visit
- State mulling whether to invite Iran to upcoming Syria talks
- Election strengthens Honduran military's hand
- U.S. B-52 bombers buzz China's expanded airspace as dispute with Japan escalates
Latest Blog Entries
By Brahma Chellaney
Beijing's creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific
- CURL: Obama tells a whopper on IRS scandal
- Lawmakers see 'false narrative' of Obama as a terrorist fighter
- EDITORIAL: Health care hardball
- 'Dude, I'm dreading that I will have to go': Czech prime minister on Mandela funeral
- South Carolina sheriff refuses to lower American flag for Nelson Mandela
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
- FENNO: Mike Shanahan's empty words no salve to free-falling Redskins
- POWELL: The Fed's scandalous monetary policy
- As the unemployed wait, lawmakers debate about extended benefits
- Sen. Rand Paul: Supreme Court needs to re-examine Fourth Amendment
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Understanding economic events with a free market explanation
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up by Lisa King Dolloff and friends.
Al Maurer provides a common sense, conservatarian, Constitutional conservative perspective from the battleground state of Colorado
Let it snow
White House pets gone wild!