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 ALGIERS—As French soldiers make advances toward the North in Islamist-held territory, both Russia and Canada have offered to support France’s military intervention in the Mali crisis.
“The deployment towards the north… which began 24 hours ago, is on course with troops inside the towns of Niono and Sevare,” French army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Dosseur told reporters.
Niono is about 350 kilometres north-east of the Malian capital and 60 kilometers south of Diabaly, which was seized nearly a week ago by Islamists and then heavily bombed by French planes.
“There is transportation that will be partly by the Africans themselves, partly by the Europeans and partly by the Canadians…and the Russians have proposed to provide means of transport for the French, so it’s fairly diverse,” Fabius told radio station Europe 1.
Only about 100 soldiers from a planned 5,800- strong African force have so far reached Mali, while France said it has 2,000 soldiers already on the ground.