Bottom Line: The Islamic insurgents (from three different groups) have demonstrated that they are capable of holding back French and Malian forces in Mali’s north. When the French gain ground, it’s only temporary, and the Islamists fight back with full force and terrorist tactics.
Analysis: The past two weeks have seen a suicide car bombing kill six Malian government allies in the city of Kidal and an attack on Gao (the northern capital). The target in Kidal was a checkpoint manned by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a secular Tuareg group that is at odds with the radical Islamist Tuareg movement cooperating with groups linked to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Mali will simmer for a while, as the US uses the conflict to boost the presence of AFRICOM (to counter China’s designs on Mali’s gold and Niger’s uranium). In Niger, the US is preparing to set up a Predator drone base (Niger is home to France’s massive uranium mines), and one should consider that a shadow war has already been launched across the Sahel. More important than following French military activities in Mali, is following AFRICOM activities, which will be decisive for the entire region and spark an equal reaction from the burgeoning transnational jihadist element.