“We are not against the training of the Malian Army by the Americans,” says Fatoumata Maiga, a women’s rights activist in Mali’s capital, Bamako. “But we don’t want the American Army to be present here. We see that around the world, wherever the Americans are, there is a temptation for Al Qaeda to be there.”
Still, even Malians who doubt the presence of Al Qaeda admit that the vast terrain and the lack of resources mean that there is little Mali could do to defend itself.
“We have nothing but desert, and anybody who wants to come here can come here,” says Col. Adghaimar Ag Alhoussainy, a Malian military commander based in Timbuktu. “Mali is a very poor country. We need many things to fight Al Qaeda, and it is very difficult to fight Al Qaeda.”