Mali is a regional outlier for trying to combat Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb with not just force, but also an initiative to address societal problems seen as fostering extremism.
Mali is often seen, by analysts as well as its neighbors, as something of an outlier within the Sahel in terms of its government’s approach to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In February 2010, Mali effectively swapped hostages with AQIM, angering Algeria and Mauritania, who withdrew their ambassadors for a time (Algeria and Mauritania favor attempts to neutralize AQIM through force). Mali does not reject the use of force: it has attended regional counterterrorism summits, and recently participated in Mauritania’s campaign to clear militants out of the Wagadou Forest in the Mauritania-Mali border zone. In addition to force, however, Mali is moving forward with an initiative to address underdevelopment and marginalization, problems the government believes help drive AQIM.
Mali has launched a 32 billion CFA franc [$69 million] programme to try and restore the government’s authority in its desert north where a mix of rebels and criminals have fomented insecurity through kidnappings, smuggling and uprisings.
The government is hoping to develop the north, which is potentially rich in resources and was once frequented by foreign tourists but remains impoverished and awash with gunmen, including groups linked to al Qaeda.
Having lost some $110 million in revenues from tourism over the last two years, President Amadou Toumani Toure said the government would hit back by redeploying some administrative offices and providing infrastructure and development.