Some of my Nigerian friends and I were discussing the situation in Mali and the apparent lack of good advice, intelligence, strategy, training, intelligence forecasting and threat analysis that led to the current situation there. Virtually everything required to make a government strong, secure the state and protect the populace was sorely lacking. (To the folks who asked me about Mali, www.beegeagle.wordpress.com will be able to offer a lot of insight into the current efforts in West Africa and Mali. My friend “Beegeagle” runs this very popular blog - 10 000 visits a day should give an idea of its popularity).
During these discussions, I suggested that it is time for African governments to begin asking some very hard questions, especially in terms of some of the “free” advice and training governments and their armed forces are given. After all, even the SANDF has “benefitted” from some of this advice and training.
But, back to Mali where a very simplistic background is as follows:
The geo-political, economical and threat changes, challenges and developments that have taken place since the so-called Arab Spring have impacted severely on both North and West Africa. The pre-coup Malian government was certainly not as pure as the driven snow. As early as 2003, the former President of Mali allegedly allowed extremist control of the North whilst allegedly raking in huge sums of money from narco-trafficking and ransom payments. Added to this was the issue of depleted land resources – one reason for Tuareg discontent with the Malian government - overgrazing of the semi-arid lands bordering Mali and Niger and the subsequent desertification of those lands. Then there was the steady rise of AQIM, MOJWA and others who had the potential to form hostile anti-government alliances. The collapse of Libya added to the flow of weapons and combat experience into the conflict areas. It appears that no-one was able to predict this or even noticed.
Initially the removal from power of President Amadou Toumani Touré by a coup may have appeared to be to the benefit of Mali and the region. This regime change took place a mere five weeks before a presidential election was to be held with the outgoing President stating that he was not interested in running for office again. But then, a poorly foreign-trained army’s discipline collapsed, opening the door to uncertainty, chaos and an offensive by the extremists in the North. Whilst the extremist offensive was being planned, we twice warned the new government of Mali of the threat build-up and the need to take immediate and drastic action to curb it before the extremist offensive could gain momentum. (To those who think this was an attempt to gain employment – don’t let your imagination run away with you). They were either advised not to listen to the warnings or to simply ignore our “disinformation”.
Poor governance resulted in Mali’s Vital Interests and National Interests becoming even more threatened as the country’s pillars of state came under increasing attack. Some of these interests happened to coincide with the Foreign Interests of France, who arguably had the courage to intervene to protect their interests and their citizens living in Mali.
Nigeria and its West African allies also committed men to the conflict as a successful takeover of Mali by the extremists will certainly pose a threat to West Africa. Extremist success in Mali would only embolden the enemy and provide other similar groups with a safe haven/springboard from where to plan and launch their operations into Europe and deeper into Africa. Additionally, success in Mali will give the extremists a new front from where to launch operations into Algeria. Perhaps they will do this under the guise of “democratic forces” and the international community will once again jump in to help “democratic extremists” as they did in Libya, Syria, Egypt and so forth.
Regardless of the situation, it is the development and escalation of the crisis in Mali that prompted us to beg whether questions should not be asked - and answered. These questions included inter alia the following:
1. Did the “free” advice given to Mali not indicate or even hint at the importance of threat analysis and intelligence forecasting? If so, why not?
2. What advice and support were the Malians given by their advisors during the development of their National Security Strategy?
3. What did the “free” military advice and training consist of?
4. Who trained the Malian armed forces?
5. What happened to the Mali intelligence effort?
6. Who trained the Malian intelligence services?
7. Was no one able to predict the proliferation of weapons into Mali after the collapse of Libya?
8. Why were Malian army units so rapidly overwhelmed by the extremists?
9. Where was the so-called Rapid Intervention Unit?
The list of questions goes on and on...
To anyone who doubts my comments – and concerns – about the level of training given to the Malian armed forces, take a look at the training of their “Rapid Intervention Force” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=01NBUiA3Tjs
I have witnessed the results of a lot of this so-called “free” advice and training that is given to African armed forces. In a nutshell, it is pathetic. A look at what happened and is still happening in CAR, DRC, S Sudan and other states is testimony to poor training, bad advice, incoherent doctrines, a lack of intelligence, a lack of strategy, poor discipline and a lack of motivation and will.
African armies have a choice in terms of training, advice and support: Accept the freebies and suffer the consequences or pay for it and have someone to hold to account.
But, the answers to many of these questions will be found in a line in Bob Dylan’s famous song: “The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind...”