February 11, 2013
When French and Malian forces captured the town of Kidal last week, Islamist militants lost control of the last major town in northern Mali. Yet the battle continues despite France’s success at capturing the cities as the militants have moved to the vast, empty mountains in the north. African and French forces have begun to push forward to flush the Islamists out of their last desert strongholds, but they’re discovering that fighting in this inhospitable terrain is considerably more difficult than the urban combat they’ve seen so far. . . .
The fun part of the Mali war is over, but the war itself has only just begun. The bombing raids that wipe out enemy formations, the fall of cities, the parades with the kisses and flowers: All that is pretty much over and done with, but the enemy survives and will be heard from again.
The Malian government remains a pathetic shambles; the Malian armed forces make Italy look like Prussia, and the French lack the will and the capacity for successful desert warfare in the high desert. Trying to work out a political settlement that gets the Tuareg on board against the religious nutcases is the best strategy, but neither the Malian government nor its neighbors welcome that prospect.
Also, cut off their money. But for that, you’d have to go after some rich Saudis.