After Recent French Victories in Mali the Conflict Will Change, Not End

d9c33b8d8913e05b62a58fd9a92bce4b3328 After Recent French Victories in Mali the Conflict Will Change, Not End

French troops have entered the
town of Kidal
in northern Mali, the last stronghold of Islamic militants in the
region. It should come as no surprise that Malian forces with
French support have been able to dislodge Islamic militants from
most of the areas that they captured since the beginning of the
conflict. However, while the militants have been pushed back their
retreat is not a sign that the conflict in Mali is over, only that
it is about to change.It is impossible for the Islamic militants that have been
wrecking havoc in northern Mali to compete with the highly trained
and technologically superior French military that has been
supporting Malian forces. Yet, despite their technological and
military handicap the militants do have a few advantages.One of the most notable advantages that the militants can
exploit is their use of the terrain. Even before the French
intervention in Mali began militants were using bulldozers to
improve upon the natural defenses already provided by caves in the
desert.  An article from the
AP last month highlighted the size of some of the caves:
They have used the bulldozers, earth movers and Caterpillar
machines left behind by fleeing construction crews to dig what
residents and local officials describe as an elaborate network of
tunnels, trenches, shafts and ramparts. In just one case, inside a
cave large enough to drive trucks into, they have stored up to 100
drums of gasoline, guaranteeing their fuel supply in the face of a
foreign intervention, according to experts.
Removing militants from these caves would be a bloody and
time-consuming task.Another advantage that the militants have over their opponents
is that they can hide themselves in local populations and engage in
guerilla warfare, thereby overcoming the superior technology and
firepower of their enemies. Stratfor, a global intelligence
company, recently released
an article that highlighted the sort of tactics we should
expect from militants in Mali: 
It is very likely that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its
jihadist rebels in Mali will soon be forced to abandon their
objective of comprehensive territorial control as well as its
conventional warfare strategy. As the French and other intervention
forces drive back the jihadists and consolidate security in central
Mali, and then gradually push into northern Mali to deny that
region as a sanctuary for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the
jihadists will have an opportunity to use their superior knowledge
of the terrain, local indigenous militia relationships, and
guerrilla tactics to inflict casualties on their enemies. Their
fighting conduct will transition to a more dispersed insurgency
that relies on ambushes, improvised explosive devices, and
small-scale hit-and-run attacks.
This is the sort of guerilla fighting conventional militaries
are going to have to get used to if governments continue to execute
or support interventions against terrorist groups. How well Malian
government forces react to the changing nature of the conflict in
Mali remains to be seen. The French might yet avoid a guerilla war
if French troops
manage to withdraw quickly, as was recently suggested by
France’s foreign minister. 

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After Recent French Victories in Mali the Conflict Will Change, Not End


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