World View: France Sends Army, Air Force into Mali

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com:
  • France's president Hollande announces military action in Mali
  • United States remains 'deeply concerned' about Mali situation
  • U.S. will withdraw from Afghanistan earlier than expected
  • Britain faces decision whether to remain in the European Union

France's president Hollande announces military action in Mali

The President of Mali went on national TV on Friday and declared a national state of emergency, days after Ansar Dine Islamists took control of the central town of Konna, as we reported yesterday. At the same time, French and Malian soldiers, supported by French air strikes, launched a military attack on the Islamists, recapturing the town. France decided to take unilateral action after becoming impatient with the U.N. Security Council for dithering for months, allowing the Islamists to gain control of larger and larger areas of Mali. 

Although France's action was unilateral, France is insisting that its actions are legal because they were responding to a request from the government of Mali. France's president François Hollande also promised that France's military action would fall within the mandate of previous U.N. Security Council resolutions, though it's hard to see how that could be true, since previous resolutions only authorized troops from neighboring African streets.

The original UNSC plan was that Western forces would train the Malian army, and restore democracy in the Malian government in Bamako, after a coup overthrew the elected government a year ago. After that, the government would negotiate with the Islamists who control northern Mali. But it's now become clear that the Islamists have a shot at taking over the entire country before that plan could be put into effect. So the new plan is that the French army and air force will push back the Islamists, and then they can return to the previous plan. Reuters and CS Monitor

United States remains 'deeply concerned' about Mali situation

The U.S. State Department is refusing to clarify whether the U.S. stands ready to send American forces into Mali: 

Obviously we remain deeply concerned by the recent events in Mali. We echo the international community's condemnation of these recent aggressive acts.

I'm not going to get into hypotheticals about what France might need or requests that haven't yet come to us.

But US military officers are closely monitoring the "evolving" situation. AFP

U.S. will withdraw from Afghanistan earlier than expected

President Barack Obama announced on Friday, at a joint press conference in Washington with Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, that the U.S. is accelerating its withdrawal from Afghanistan, and that American troops will be moving to a supporting role within the next few months, and complete the withdrawal in 2014. The Administration plans to leave a small American force behind after the withdrawal, but is threatening to leave no troops behind unless the Afghan government grants American forces immunity from prosecution in Afghan courts. 

Karzai said that he plans to negotiate a peace process with the Taliban, so that the country will again become a tourist attraction. However, some analysts believe that the rapid withdrawal of American forces will leave allow Taliban insurgents to regain the territory that they lost. 

According to Said Jawad, the former Afghan ambassador to the U.S.: "Unfortunately we already see actually in some parts of Afghanistan continued presence of Taliban and relatively sustained activities of al-Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan already."

This highlights the flaw in the "Afghanistanization" of the war, that I've discussed many times. (For complete analysis, see "2-Sep-12 World View -- U.S. decision on Haqqani Network will affect Pakistan relations"

Afghanistan is on the cusp, just entering a generational Awakening era, so a "peace process" would be a plausible plan. The problem is that the Taliban are Islamist Pashtuns, and the Pashtuns are spread across southern Afghanistan tinto Pakistan's northwest. Pakistan is in a generational Crisis era, and the al-Qaeda linked Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistan branch of the Taliban, will never agree to a peace treaty. As Jawan points out, terrorist activities are increasing in eastern Afghanistan, on the border with Pakistan, and these activities are expected to increase, particularly as American troops pull back. VOA and AAP

Britain faces decision whether to remain in the European Union

Britain has never been comfortable in the 27-member European Union, and in particular has no intention of joining the 17-member eurozone, choosing instead to retain its own currency, the pound sterling. Although prime minister David Cameron has said that Britain should remain part of the EU, there is a growing wing of his Conservative Party that would prefer Britain to leave, and is demanding a nationwide referendum on the issue. Cameron will soon be giving a major speech to clarify his own position on the EU and the referendum, but so far he's taken the position that he wants Britain to remain in the EU, but only provided that the EU change several policies, including two major ones: 

  • EU immigration controls need to be changed to limit the possibility for "people to come and live in Britain and claim benefits.
  • Get rid of the EU's Working Time Directive, which Britain has bitterly opposed since it was first adopted in the 1980s. It forbids any workweek to be longer than 48 hours, and requires annual vacations at least 4 weeks long.

However, Cameron fears that if Britain leaves the EU, then Britain would suffer economically because of damaged business relationships with Europe. Spiegel

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