Mali Is Neither Afghanistan Nor Somalia

Afghanistan Topography

Afghanistan is the size of Texas and half the area is above 5,000′. Opium poppies are a major cash crop and the terrain consumes any empire that makes the mistake of wandering into this land.

Somalia Topography

Somalia is also the size of Texas but at 1,800 miles its coastline is longer than that of all the U.S. states on the Gulf of Mexico. The largest cash crop here seems to be pirates.

Mali Topography

Mali is about the size of Aghanistan and Somalia combined. There isn’t an easily transportable cash crop like the Afghan opium, there isn’t a busy shipping lane in the area like the Gulf of Aden.

Mali Land

The unrecognized state of Azawad is the area north of the thin blue line on the map, which is the Niger river. This is the Sahara, fairly flat and almost devoid of vegetation.

Mali Population

The area is almost devoid of people as well. Azawad has about the same geographic area as Texas, but it has fewer people than the city of San Antonio.

There isn’t anything to grow or mine, there aren’t any trade routes to pillage. There aren’t any mountain hideouts, there isn’t even a forest canopy to conceal comings and goings, and the population is tiny. Mali’s breakdown is a problem in the country itself, for its immediate neighbors, and for the region in general, but it lacks any of the features required to make it as much of a headache as Somalia or Afghanistan.

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5 thoughts on “Mali Is Neither Afghanistan Nor Somalia

    1. Neal Rauhauser Post author

      Fox News, the National Enquirer TV affiliate. There are many objective studies regarding their inaccuracy, their bias, and I recall one that demonstrated their viewership is the least informed of all who get news from cable TV.

      al-Qaeda has became a GWOT buzzword, it’s a short, simple, recognized name that permits sound bite media to provide factoids. If you search my site you’ll find I’ve written about sixty posts focused on climate, energy, food and water security, and geopolitical issues affecting the Muslim world. The word ‘al-Qaeda’ appears twice – once in an oped by Congressman Keith Ellison, which I reproduced verbatim, and once in my recent post on Algeria, where I used the slightly less unspecific “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb”. This troubles me because AQIM seems to be more a notional than operational group in the Maghreb region of North Africa.

      The AQIM link to Mali is vanishingly thin – one of the more senior Islamist leaders in the north has a cousin who is allegedly a member. The general populace doesn’t have the level of interest required to follow the infighting between Islamist Ansar Dine (defenders of faith) and the Taureg independence movement MNLA. al-Qaeda proper is a Saudi construct, and the funding for much of the trouble in North Africa purportedly flows for Qatar.

      This report from Fox News is both dated and simplified. The French have intervened in the south and other forces are at work in the north. Ansar Dine was not well received and some actor has picked up MNLA, dusted them off, and re-equipped them. There is a popular local group interested in self determination and if handled deftly we may arrive at something like a Taureg autonomous area. I have my doubts about that long term, but those are based on the climate issues they’ll face, rather than any friction with the government in Bamako.

      More than you wanted to know, eh?

      Reply
      1. Nebris

        Actually, that was quite splendid. Thank you.

        I have thought when reading about this that the Taureg deserve their own country, so I suppose I’m rooting for the MNLA.

      2. Neal Rauhauser Post author

        Stateless people have long been a problem. Consider the following groups and interactions with the nations in which they live.

        1. Palestinians – Israel

        2. Kurds – Turkey, Iraq

        3. Hazara – Afghanistan

        4. Royhingya – Myanmar

        These are just the ones that have been in the news in the last week. The Taureg have a situation similar to the Kurds in that they straddle a handful of countries, all of which repress them to some degree. Long term climate change and peak oil are going to degrade all governments. We are used to the Central African Republic’s perpetual disorder and twenty years of Somalia lacking a functional government. Over the next twenty years we should see a number of additional states falling into disorder, with ethnic groups such as these facing ethnic cleansing or obtaining autonomy.

        This conversation inspires me to write a bit about these issues. Might not get it done till the weekend, work is kinda nutsy this week.

  1. Pingback: Funding The Syrian Insurgency | Neal Rauhauser

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