Newscast Media PARIS, France—In a surprise move that happened within the past 24 hours, French troops arrived in the northern Mali town of Kidal, driving Islamist rebels into the mountains. But the Malian general staff was not aware of the French plan, according to Radio France Internationale. French aircraft landed at Kidal’s airstrip on Tuesday, carrying French troops but no Malians. They faced no resistance, Tuareg
separatists having earlier declared that they supported the Franco-Malian offensive and thrown the Islamists out of town.
“The Malian and French forces have reversed the chain of events,” French chief of defence staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud said in Bamako on Wednesday after meeting Malian Prime Minister Diango Cissoko.
“The reestablishment of law and order in northern Mali has started. That’s good news and we will carry on.”
This was a smart move on behalf of French troops because as we’ve seen in places like Egypt, Libya and now Syria, loose lips sink ships, especially when the media gets involved. Foreign news agencies have perfected the art of propaganda, and French troops were fully aware that telegraphing their next move could work against them.
This could have caused media outlets that are sympathizers with Islamists to tip off Al Qaeda rebels, creating an ambush situation. The French decided to undertake this mission incognito for the sake of their safety.
In his book The Art of War, Sun Tzu said: “O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy’s fate in our hands.” page 32.
“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” page 39.
According Radio France Internationale, Mali’s military chiefs were not aware that the French were planning to enter Kidal, sources close to the general staff say and the presidency and communications ministry also said that they had not been in the loop.
Newscast Media ADDIS ABABA—African leaders met in the Ethiopian capital on Sunday for talks dominated by the conflict in Mali as well as lingering territorial issues between the two Sudans. The African Union says it will deploy a force in Mali, where French troops are helping the Malian army to push back militants whose rebellion threatens to divide the West African nation.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is attending the two-day summit in Addis Ababa, where Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn took over from President Yayi Boni of Benin as chairperson of the African Union.
With Mali at the top of the agenda, African leaders hope they can make quick progress in deploying a substantial number of African troops there. As the African leaders met, French special forces fighting alongside Malian troops were pushing farther north into the Malian desert in an offensive against rebels who took control of northern Mali more than nine months ago. Africa’s economic boom is threatened by violent conflicts across the continent, African Union officials said at the summit.
“While we are proud of the progress made in expanding and consolidating peace and security on the continent, we also acknowledge that much still needs to be done to resolve ongoing, renewed and new conflict situations in a number of countries,” said African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Dlamini-Zuma said the Peace and Security Council of the African Union will report to the summit on efforts to resolve conflicts in countries ranging from Mali to Madagascar.
The Peace and Security Council of the African Union said in a statement Saturday that it wanted “the early operationalization of the African Standby Force” in Mali. The council also said it fully supports Mali President Dioncounda Traore but urged him to put in place a roadmap to free and fair elections. It also said the African Union is committed to preserving the unity of Mali and would “spare no efforts” to safeguard the country’s territorial integrity.
A number of African countries have pledged to send troops to Mali, and on Tuesday the African Union will hold a conference of donors with hopes that money will be raised for the Mali force. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union urged member states to “seize the opportunity of the donors’ conference … to meaningfully contribute toward the mobilization of the necessary resources.”
Meanwhile, the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan met at the summit in Addis Ababa, although African Union officials said they did not expect them to make much headway. South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Sudan President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month agreed to “the unconditional and speedy” implementation of deals they had reached back in September. But a subsequent meeting of the two countries’ negotiating teams that should have outlined timetable for the deal’s implementation ended in disagreement.
Ban urged the two Sudans to resume direct talks and spoke of the “dangerous humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.”
“In Sudan and South Sudan the parties have taken positive steps to resolve outstanding issues,” Ban said. “But they should make more progress in meeting their agreements.”
Mediators led by former South African leader Thabo Mbeki have until July to push the two sides to agree on the status of the disputed Abyei region as well as other contested border areas.
Newscast Media PARIS—As neighboring countries finalize arrangements to send troops into Mali, continued French air strikes have put the Islamist rebels on the defensive. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Monday said the situation in Mali is “evolving favorably,” and the Islamist rebels were blocked in eastern Mali but “extremely armed men made the west a difficult point for French forces.”
“Our goal is to go back to implementation of Resolution 2085 as quickly as possible so that the African forces and the Malian forces take care of the problem and that there is a political agreement,” France’s UN Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters on Monday as the UN Security Council began talks on the conflict.
Resolution 2085, adopted by the 15-member Security Council in December,authorizes an African-led international military intervention to support Mali in its fight against armed rebels that took control of the country’s north following a coup in March.
During a visit to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande said French forces had kept up air strikes against rebels in Mali and pledged to send more troops to the conflict-torn country.
“We will continue the deployment of forces on the ground and in the air. We have 750 troops deployed at the moment and that will keep increasing so that as quickly as possible we can hand over responsibility to the Africans,” the president said.
Newscast Media ALGIERS—U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought Algeria’s assistance on Monday for any future military intervention in Mali, pressing the North African nation to provide intelligence — if not boots on the ground — to help rout the Al-Qaeda-linked militants across its southern border.
Clinton, on the first stop of a five-day trip overseas, met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as the United States and its allies ramped up preparations to fight northern Mali’s breakaway Islamist republic.
When Mali’s democratically elected leader was ousted in a military coup in March, Tuareg rebels seized on the power vacuum and within weeks took control of the north, aided by an Islamist faction. The Islamists then quickly ousted the Tuaregs and took control of half the country.
The UN Security Council has unanimously approved the idea of an African-led military force to help the Malian army oust Islamic militants, but its details are still unclear. One plan would see Mali’s embattled government in the south and its West African neighbors taking the military lead to battle with the militants, with the United States and European countries in support.
Any military intervention would likely require Algeria, whose reforms have headed off the Arab Spring tumult experienced by neighbors such as Libya and Tunisia and left it with the strongest military and best intelligence in the region.
Clinton said she and Bouteflika spoke at length about Mali, with the Algerian leader appearing to caution against any rash action.
“I very much appreciated the president’s analysis based on his long experience as to the many complicated factors that have to be addressed to deal with the internal insecurity in Mali and the terrorist and drug trafficking threat that is posed to the region and beyond,” Clinton told reporters.
She said they agreed to continue discussions with the UN and African nations “to determine the most effective approaches that we should be taking.”
Washington is keen to eliminate northern Mali as a haven for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which may have been involved in September’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi. Mali even came up in the U.S. election campaign, with Republican challenger Mitt Romney citing the African nation’s instability in a foreign policy debate with President Barack Obama.
As further evidence of the U.S. intensifying its diplomatic work in Mali, Maria Otero, an undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, was to travel to Mali on Monday.
The 15-nation West African regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has discussed sending 3,000 troops to help oust the Islamist militants from the north. Many, though, question how Mali’s weak military could take the lead on such an intervention and analysts believe more ECOWAS soldiers would be needed to take and hold the France-sized desert area now controlled by the militants.
While the U.S. wants to see the rebels routed, it has no interest in active involvement in the military mission, unless Mali and West African states explicitly ask for such assistance, a senior American diplomat in Africa said. The official demanded anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. From Algeria, Clinton left for three days of talks in the Balkans, arriving Monday night in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.