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article imageOp-Ed: Canada to provide one transport plane for support in Mali

By Ken Hanly     Jan 14, 2013 in Politics
Ottawa - Canada has announced that it will provide one RCAF C-17 transport that will play a non-combat support role in the foreign military intervention in Mali against Islamist rebels in the north of the country
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said:"We are responding to a request from our French friends for logistical assistance in the form of heavy-lift [aircraft]. I have, in consultation with the minister of national defence and the minister of foreign affairs, granted that assistance for a period of one week We will obviously after a few days analyze how that is going and talk with our allies, but this is intended to be of a short duration. We think that is an appropriate role for Canada given our relative capacities and interests." The interim president of Mali, Dioncounda Traore, announced yesterday that the United States, Great Britain, and Canada would be announcing support and logistical assistance for the offensive against the rebels, led recently by French troops with air support.
Harper had said earlier that Canada was not considering any direct military mission in Mali:"Obviously we are very concerned about the situation. The development of essentially an entire terrorist region in the middle of Africa is obviously of great concern to everyone in the international community."
Canada is apparently responding to a request from France for "heavy-lift aircraft to assist in the transport of equipment into the Malian capital of Bamako, a location that is not part of any active combat zone." This will make it unlikely that the plane would be shot down as has happened with at least one helicopter in the battle zone.
Everyone wants everyone else to share in the expense and casualties bound to happen in this intervention. In particular, the west wants African nations to lead the mission, whereas African nations want western financial aid and military assistance. Harper said:"Ultimately, while I congratulate the French for their initiative, as I think the resolution [2085] of the United Nations Security Council itself has recognized, there really has to be significant African participation and African-led participation to make such a mission successful,."
As is the common refrain from almost everywhere this is represented as very much a multilateral affair as part of the war on terror. Apparently the whole world is in danger because of Ansr Dine in Mali the main rebel group. Harper noted: "Obviously we are very concerned about the situation. The development of essentially an entire terrorist region in the middle of Africa is obviously of great concern to everyone in the international community." While Canada is definitely not considering any military involvement at present, no doubt there may be further logistical and other support measures later.
In coverage of recent events two aspects in particular stand out. First there is no discussion of the peace talks scheduled just before the French intervention after the rebel advance south. Just why did the rebels decide to advance south when they claimed to want a peaceful resolution and peace talks had been schedule?. Most coverage does not even mention peace talks. The rebel offensive began on the eve of the talks: "At the beginning of week, when heavy fighting first broke out in central Mali, peace talks scheduled to begin on Thursday in nearby Burkina Faso were postponed until January 21. Now that the rebels have been emboldened by their newly conquered territory, it might be even more difficult to get them to make concessions." It hardly makes sense to move south just when peace talks are scheduled after months of relative peace along the front between the rebels and the central government. The reasons given both by Der Spiegel and on the Al Jazeera are hardly convincing IMHO.
Secondly, there is a completely uncritical linking of groups such as Ansar Dine to Al Qaeda even though there is some question about such linkages. For example: " In April 2012, Salma Belaala, a professor at Warwick University who does research on jihadism in North Africa said that this association was false, claiming Ansar Dine was opposed to Al Qaeda." The tendency now is to see some giant linkage of Al Qaeda groups under the loosely grouped Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magrhreb. This linkage is promoted by western commentators and to some extent by the groups themselves as adopting the Al Qaeda standard is taken by them as a plus. It will bring western intervention and the ability to recruit more to their cause and to Islamic radicals it is a sign of the groups bona fide radicalism. However, such identifications obscure the fact that the aims of the groups are often local or confined to a certain area.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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