This page was archived on October 2020.



4 - Mali and the Sahel

Grade: B-
Unity 4/5
Resources 3/5
Strategy 3/5
Impact 2/5
Total 12/20
Scorecard 2013: C+ (10/20)
Scorecard 2014: B (13/20)
Scorecard 2015: C+ (9/20)

European countries boosted their presence in Mali, but have not yet rooted out Islamist terrorist threats in the Sahel

Mali was a source of ongoing concern to European governments in 2015, both as a haven for terrorists and as a potential conduit for migrants travelling to Europe. The north of the country remains unstable, although Algeria brokered a settlement between the government and Tuareg secessionists in June. Islamist extremists continued to operate in the north, and killed more than 40 UN peacekeepers in ambushes and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. In November, terrorists killed 20 in an attack on the capital, Bamako.

While French forces kept up counterterrorist missions across the Sahel, the Netherlands and Sweden deployed attack helicopters, intelligence officers, and special forces in Mali under UN command. European forces sometimes found it difficult to work with less well-resourced African peacekeepers, but the arrival of a Danish commander in mid-2015 improved their confidence. Denmark is increasing its presence, while Ireland offered troops after the Paris attacks to take pressure off France. Germany, which is normally wary of operations in Africa, pledged to send up to 600 troops to the UN mission in 2016.

The EU continued a separate mission training the Malian army (a growing range of EU members have become involved in this, including Germany and Spain). The Malian government, focused on asserting its sovereignty over the north, is often a difficult partner. Elsewhere in the region, France cultivated Francophone African governments to support its counterterrorist mission (Operation Barkhane) while collaborating with the US on intelligence gathering in Niger. Despite this growing military presence, al-Qaeda affiliates have been little affected, and there is disturbing evidence that large numbers of migrants have died trying to cross the Sahara, unnoticed by the international media.

Elsewhere in West Africa there was better news: the fight against Ebola, in which France and the UK were especially active, has largely succeeded. Côte d’Ivoire, where France still has a base, held smooth presidential elections just five years after a post-electoral dispute nearly precipitated a full-scale conflict.