If you want a depressing visual that shows the trouble brewing in Africa, check out the map sketched by Via Meadia in Walter Mead’s post War Plans for Mali Leaked.
That long green area in the north half of Mali stretching into center Niger is the area of influence for the jihadist group that controls northern Mali. That green area in the northern two-thirds of Nigeria is the area controlled by Boko Haram.
I was not aware of the width of the area controlled by the group in Mali and, I’m embarrassed to say, I had not studied a map to see how geographically close those two groups are. They aren’t very far apart. A momentary study of the low-detail map shows the Niger river is an easy connection between the two areas.
Mr. Mead points out an article in Reuters which outlines the plan being developed for an attack on the militants. The plan is due to the UN Security Council by the end of November.
The Reuters article is Foreign air power is crucial to Mali battle plan: sources.
The basic plan is 4,000 troops from Mali and other West African countries will take care of the ground combat with other countries providing air power and intelligence. The articles I’ve seen don’t say who the “other countries” are, but sure seems to me that will translate as France and the United States.
There is a serious problem brewing there. As Mr. Mead says:
Something must be done in Mali. Open sanctuaries for aggressive jihadis cannot be tolerated.
Take another look at Via Meadia’s map showing those two areas controlled by jihadists. That gives them a lot of area for training and planning.
If we continue playing whack-a-mole (Mr. Mead’s phrasing), where will the groups move to next? The short distance between those two areas and the presumed ease of transit on the Niger River would make it easy to migrate from one area to the other.