February 13, 2013

After Mali Comes Niger

This report on Niger makes no mention of a potential U.S. drone base in Niger, except in a negative context at the end, but also favors increased support to an admittedly corrupt government:
Last month, the French army's rapid advance into northern Mali and the timely deployment of troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) seemed to result in a swift victory over Islamist and Tuareg militants there. Equally important, however, was the Islamist and Tuareg militants' hasty withdrawal into northeastern Mali. With France planning to pull its troops out of the country as soon as March, Mali will almost certainly be turned into an ECOWAS trusteeship. The most likely upshot is not a neat end to the conflict but, rather, a migration of the problem into neighboring Niger.

Parts of the Tuareg leadership, which signed a power-sharing agreement in March 2012 with three jihadist militias -- al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine, and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa -- have already fled across the unguarded Nigerien border, where they will try to regroup. Given Niger's weak government structures, they also pose a serious security threat to the country as a whole.

Niger presents an appealingly easy target. For one, despite several attempts at reform by President Mahamadou Issoufou, who was elected in April 2011, Niger's secular political elite lacks legitimacy in the eyes of its largely illiterate, rural, and deeply religious population. Numerous failed attempts at democratization and rampant corruption by previous governments have plagued the country for over two decades. Among the population, this troubled legacy has fostered a general sense of alienation from the capital.

Large parts of the Nigerien army, meanwhile, are opposed to the notion of civilian rule. Ever since it was pushed out of power in 1991, the army leadership has cultivated a deep mistrust of the civilian elite among all military ranks. Consumed with hatred for the Tuareg following two major military campaigns against them (1990-1995 and 2007-2009, respectively), the Nigerien army has overthrown three civilian governments since 1993. Although recent coup attempts in 2011 and 2012 proved amateurish and lacked sufficient support among both the armed forces and the population, they indicate long-standing tensions between parts of the military and the civilian elites.
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  1. The most influential [Brain tank] in D.C.
    What the CFR promotes will happen.
    It is just a matter of time.
    Even Tim Geithner is now going to sit with them.
    I suspect he will be going to the World Bank shortly.

  2. Add up all the "small" footprints to come in North Africa and you get one big American boot.

  3. Well said.
    Africa is the abyss that will swallow the West.

    It looks like we will be going this year instead of next year.
    Perhaps as soon as May. I will be out in the country side along the West Sea looking for a simpler life trying to find Self.


  4. Glad to hear that you're following your instincts, and I hope you find what you're looking for. But geopolitics will always come looking for you, especially in this new world.

  5. It seems the same COIN conundrum, chicken and egg question 'which comes first, security or the political dividend?' will be rolled out again in these African countries. It has occurred to me in the last few years that it's a dilemma to which there is no answer, just like the chicken and egg question. My objection to Petraeus, and McChrystal before him, is not that they had no answer to this imponderable puzzle but that they pretended that they did. The pretence goes on.......