Roadside Bombings in Mali Signal Transition to Insurgency

Rebel Leaders Vanish Into Desert, Setting Stage for Long Fight

Most of the focus on the French war in Mali has been on officials patting themselves on the back for overwhelming rebel-held central cities with a combination of air strikes and ground operations. Yet that isn’t the whole story.

Rebel leaders in those central cities have gone missing by the dozens, and French and Malian troops have reported improvised explosive attacks along the roadsides between the towns, with at least five Mali soldiers slain.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reported that many of the rebel leaders have gone to Adrar des Ifoghas, a serious of caves and tunnels in the desert traditionally used by smugglers and now, by rebel troops transitioning from a ground war to an insurgency.

With so much of northern Mali a no-man’s land, small pockets of civilization interspersed with broad desert wastes, hunting down rebel leaders could well be even more complicated than it was in Afghanistan, and with nebulous borders leading to multiple other nations’ desert hinterlands, the same problems that have left Afghanistan mired in never-ending war can be said of Mali, only moreso.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of