Meanwhile, instead of fighting the insurgents, the Mali military converted its frustration into a coup in the capital Bamako, which further destabilized the country. Thanks to a diplomatic intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the military junta quickly agreed to a transition of power. By April, this led to the establishment of an interim government. However, despite the restoration of a level of constitutional order, the interim government continues to suffer from tensions among civilian politicians and the military, and does not have a strong grip on what is left of the country.
The international community is keen to prevent the emergence of an “Afghanistan in the Maghreb.” In Bamako, initial resistance against a foreign intervention has waned with international pressure and the opportunity to get access to different kinds of support, including military hardware and training.
Foreign military intervention in Mali, approved by the UN Security Council Oct. 12, should aim to stabilize the South, especially in Bamako, and set the stage for dialogue with different parties in the North. However, external political and military forces in a conflict zone don’t usually do well with multi-tasking. Local and regional civil society organizations should be involved to address the complexity of the situation.
It is expected that about 3,000 to 4,000 troops from ECOWAS countries will enter Mali soon, with logistical support from France, the US, and other countries. But what exactly are these troops going to do?
The situation in the North can never be resolved within the confines of the Malian state if the South is not stabilized. While the South is stabilized, the process of dialogue and negotiations with forces in the North cannot wait. The difficulty for the intervention is that it has to enable both simultaneously.