MS Risk Blog

Mali Security Update (22 February 2013)

Posted on in Mali, Region Specific Guidance title_rule

This past week has seen a number of suicide incidents and increased fighting occurring throughout Mali, with one French Legionnaire being killed in the fighting.  The continued string of suicide bombings in the previously occupied northern regions of the country are further indications that al-Qaeda-linked groups have resorted to hit and run attacks as a means of destabilizing the security in Mali.  Anyone remaining in Mali is advised to either leave the country immediately or relocate to Bamako as it is highly likely that suicide attacks and clashes will take place throughout the northern regions of the country.  Such attacks and bombings are likely to take place in the previous rebel-strongholds and will likely target military camps and foreigners.  Clashes between militants and soldiers are also likely too occur throughout northern Mali as rebels attempt to disrupt the security. In turn, their is a heightened risk that similar attacks may occur in neighbouring countries, especially those West African nations which have sent their troops to Mali.

On Friday, five people, including two suicide bombers, died in car bombings that occurred in northern Mali just one day after fierce urban battles amongst French-led forces and Islamists resulted in the deaths of at least twenty al-Qaeda-linked militants.  Security sources have confirmed that today’s incident involved two vehicles that were targeting civilians and members of the ethnic Tuareg rebel group, the MNLA.  The incident occurred in the town of Tessalit, which is known as the gateway into the mountainous regions of the country.  It is believed that a number of rebels have fled to this region in order to seek shelter and to regroup.  Although no group has claimed responsibility, it is widely believed that the al-Qaeda-linked Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which is one of Mali’s main Islamist groups, is behind today’s attack.  Furthermore, it is highly likely that any rebels in the mountainous regions, and nearby, will focus on hit and run attacks in the coming weeks as a means of preventing allied troops from gaining control of the region.

Today’s attack also comes after al-Qaeda-linked rebels claimed responsibility for another car bomb attack that occurred on Thursday near the city of Kidal.  The car blast occurred just 500 metres from the camp which is occupied by French and Chadian troops.  Although the vehicle was targeting the camp, it had exploded before it could reach the base.  At least two civilians were wounded in the incident.  MUJAO have claimed responsibility for this attack, stating that they had no difficulty getting into Kidal in order to blow up the vehicle as they had planned.  A spokesman for MUJAO, Abu Walid Sharoui also noted that “more explosions will happen across our territory.”

With an increase of attacks occurring this week, France announced its second military death since President Francois Hollande launched the unilateral military operation on 11 January 2013.  Military officials in Paris confirmed that Staff Sergeant Harold Vormeeele, an NCO and commando with the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, an elite unit of the French Foreign Legion, was killed during an operation launched on Monday which resulted in the deaths of more than twenty rebels in the mountainous Ifoghas region.  According to military sources, 150 French and malian soldiers were taking part in the operation which was aimed at rooting the rebels out of their hideaways.

Over the past few weeks, the French-led forces have been increasingly facing guerrilla-style tactics after initially having been met with little resistance in their drive to force Islamist groups out of the main northern towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu.  Although the large-scale military operations in the northern region of the country are beginning to wind down, sporadic fighting continues to erupt and may prove to be an issue once the French hand over their mission to the African Union forces.

Mali - Current

Terrorism and Oil

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

Islamic Terrorism and Oil

 

For over a decade, terrorist groups have focused particularly on the oil industry. In 2004, Osama bin Laden declared energy installations to be a legitimate target for militants, as the resultant increase in oil prices could damage Western economies. Yet the link between terrorism and oil is cyclical: in many cases, the money required to carry out these acts are derived from profits gained from oil sales to the West. In order to understand the cycle, it is necessary to understand the actors and the process.

Understanding Extreme Wahabism

 

Two centuries ago, a peaceful yet ultra-conservative reformist movement within Sunni Islam began in Saudi Arabia. Known amongst themselves ad dawa lil tawhid (Call to Unity), this faction is more commonly known by its more derogatory name “Wahabi”. The original goal of Wahabists was to abolish cultural practices that have permeated Islamic societies since the 3rd century.

Since the 1920s, Wahabists have established a new ideology, characterised by extreme views and interpretations of the Quran and Hadith. In the 1970s, the movement began to gather momentum with aid from wealthy benefactors. As the movement grew, factions mutated and splintered, some becoming radicalised in their beliefs. These factions became increasingly confrontational in attempting to impose their ideology around the world.

These extreme sub-sects of Wahabists believe that fundamental Islam can be implemented “by means of the sword”. Today, the Wahabist movement has manifested itself through armed terrorist attacks and insurrections, and has spread beyond Saudi Arabian borders through many parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

The majority of Muslims find the Wahabist use of the world “Islamic” grossly offensive, as these groups selectively misinterpret passages of the Quran and Hadith, and conveniently use the guise of Islamic faith to carry out actions such as fatwas (Islamic religious rulings), terror tactics, or legitimising the use of laundering, drug money, or ransoms to finance their activities.

Financing Wahabi Extremism

While a portion of Wahabi extremism is funded by illicit activities, Wahabi groups such as al-Qaeda have amassed millions of dollars through seemingly legitimate business ventures, including charitable organisations and non-governmental institutions. A great deal of the funding for these groups comes through profits from oil exports to the West.

A good example of this can be found in Saudi Arabia. The oil-rich nation is a rentier state, meaning a substantial portion of the governments profits are generated from the allowing international access to indigenous resources. In Saudi Arabia, 90-95% of total export earnings come from oil revenue. Oil also accounts for around 55% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Saudi Arabian citizens do not pay taxes; rather, they pay zakat, one of the five Islamic pillars, which requires that individuals to give to charity.

Each Saudi citizen is required to give at least 2.5% of his income in zakat. In most instances, the charitable organizations are genuinely dedicated to good causes. However a small portion of these charities are fronts with dubious undertones, serving as money laundering organizations which finance terrorist operations. While many citizens contribute to these charities in good faith, they may not realize that their money is not going toward their intended cause.

In most Islamic nations, the payment of zakat is voluntary, with the exceptions of Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. However, because it is an Islamic pillar, voluntary donations in other countries are high, which allows for similar charitable front organizations to crop up and receive funding from unwitting donors. In some instances however, individuals are fully aware of the funds ultimately land.

A 2010 WikiLeaks cable identified Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia as nations which are weak in preventing citizens from financing terrorist activities. Saudi Arabia received the harshest assessment, citing the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca that is a pillar of the Islamic faith, as a security loophole. Pilgrims travel with large amounts of cash, and cannot be refused entry for the Hajj. Following the release of the cable, a council of top Saudi clerics issued a fatwa against terrorist funding, and increased financial monitoring, however many terrorist supporters use other means to deliver funds, including Hawala transactions.

The ancient and common Arabic tradition of Hawala-transactions is a record-free system. Money is moved through an honour-system based on verbal agreements, and debts are settled on a personal level, rather than through a traditional banking system. The transactions rely on a password for funds to be delivered. Often, if a recipient has a password, no further information is necessary to receive the funds. Money has historically been distributed this way throughout the Arab world, and through these means, it becomes difficult to assess the initial sources of funding for terrorist activities.

The Cycle of Radicalism and Oil

Oil-rich regimes in the Middle East have historically been oppressive, resisting progress or power-sharing with emerging parties. As tensions increase from radicalised groups, some regimes have given a blind-eye to certain terrorist fundraising activities. In turn, radical organisations may focus on conducting activities away from domestic soil, sometimes targeting nations with weaker governments or lax security. The intention for the extremists is two-fold: to increase Wahabi influence, and disrupt profit sectors which benefit Western nations; specifically the oil and energy industries.

In war-weakened Libya, security analysts have issued elevated warnings about possible threats to oil installations, similar to those that occurred in Algeria. Libyan oil and natural gas makes up nearly all of the nation’s export revenues, and account for 80% of government revenues.

Despite Algeria’s strong government and security infrastructures, weakened security around the gas complex allowed an opportunity for the January attack at Ain Amenas gas complex. The normally secluded nation became victim to an international terrorist incident because the Algerian government granted airspace permissions to French forces as they fight separatists in Northern Mali. Algeria’s hydrocarbon sector accounts for 98% of the nation’s exports.

In rare instances, regimes may provide direct yet concealed assistance to these groups if there is an opportunity for profit. For instance, in January, French officials accused Qatar of providing material support to Islamists in northern Mali. If successful, Qatar would benefit from supporting separatist allies in Mail because the African nation has huge oil and gas potential, as well as gold and uranium deposits. A good relationship with an Islamist ruled Northern Mali would provide Qatar the opportunity to develop the infrastructure and gain profit. Analysts believe that the Qatari government is placing itself in a position to act as a mediator, and possible beneficiary, in future negotiations between the rebels and the Malian government. This positioning by Qatar is not unfamiliar to Western Intelligence; in 2012, Washington raised alarms that Qatari arms shipments were being redirected to Libyan Rebels. Should the rebels become installed in powerful political seats; Qatar would find itself in a prime position to negotiate the development of infrastructure for Libya’s newly discovered oil reserves in the Ghadames Basin, about 370 miles southwest of Tripoli.

Increasing Security

Trends from the International Energy Agency estimate that the international demand for oil will continue to grow through 2035. Although nations outside of the Middle East and North Africa have increased oil production, the world is still heavily reliant on oil from the region. Likewise, these oil-rich nations rely on this resource as a primary component of GDP.

Many oil companies are reviewing security arrangements, seeking to tighten restrictions and strengthen weak areas. Sonatrach, the Algerian national oil company has identified the lack of armed guards as a critical weakness which allowed terrorists access to the complex. In Libya, more guards and military personal had been deployed to oil sites, as security patrols intensified around the clock. Similar security estimates are being conducted in Nigeria, Egypt and other nations, however US intelligence has indicated that nations hosting Western companies with significant hydrocarbon reserves may be vulnerable to disruptions in North Africa and sub-Saharan operations. Among those listed are installations in Egypt, Libya, Angola, Nigeria, and DR Congo.

Mali Security Update (18 February 2013)

Posted on in Mali title_rule

Foreign ministers from the European Union (EU) on Monday formally approved the launch of a EU military mission that will be composed of 500 troops and which will be tasked with training the Malian army.  The mission has already begun work on the ground as a group comprising of seventy EU military personnel arrived in Mali ten days ago.  Today’s approval of the launch was the final stage in setting up the European Union Training Mission (EUTM), which has a fifteen-month mandate to train Mali’s military.

EU foreign policy chief has indicated that the mission “is going to be of enormous importance in support of the Malian army.”  In December 2012, twenty-seven EU nations first approved the the notion of a training mission in order to boost the army’s abilities to fight Islamist rebels in the northern regions of the country.  However the launch of the programme was accelerated after France’s unilateral military intervention which they surprisingly launched on January 11 in order to prevent insurgents from moving further south and threatening the capital city.  A total of sixteen EU countries have agreed to take part in the EUTM mission, which will have a €12.3 million (£10 million) with each contributing nation financing its own troops.  Half of the troops deployed to Mali will provide training while the other half are set to provide protection as well as administrative and medical backup.

Meanwhile any foreigners remaining in Mali should either leave the country immediately or  remain in the capital city of Bamako.  MS Risk advices those in the country to avoid all travel to the previously occupied towns, including Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu as well as the northern mountainous regions and the town of Tessalit.  With last week’s suicide bombing in Gao, it is highly likely that any Islamist rebels remaining in their previous strongholds will use such methods of attack in order to destabilise the security situation throughout the country.  Suicide bombings may therefore occur at any place and at any time.  There is also a heightened risk of kidnapping which will likely target foreigners, especially French nationals, and which may occur at sites owned by foreign companies.  All companies in Mali should have a heightened level of security measure as they maybe targeted by al-Qaeda linked rebels.

Mali - Current

MENA Update (16 February 2013)

Posted on in Algeria, Egypt, Iran-Israel, MENA, Tunisia title_rule

Algeria: Algeria and the US agreed to work together to preventAlgeria criminal access to black market nuclear materials, citing fears that supplies from Gaddafi’s stock are within reach of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Officials from both nations discussed security measures including border patrol, strategic trade controls and illicit transfer of conventional weapons, as well as constant monitoring of smuggling threats and trends.

Algerian Colonel Djamel Abdessalem Z’ghida announced that ground border surveillance in the southwest has been strengthened for the fight against trafficking and other criminal networks. Ground forces are supported by daily aerial surveillance.

The agreement between Algeria and the US is an unusual act of cooperation for Algeria, whose government prefers to conduct domestic security affairs unilaterally. US officials hope these efforts increase cooperation on a regional and international scale.

Internal reports by British Petroleum (BP) in 2011 and 2012 warned of risk of attack against gas plants in Africa. The reports anticipated the increasing likelihood of attacks in Africa following the killing of Osama bin Laden.

A May 2011 report, distributed immediately following bin Laden’s death, indicated that renewed terror activity could arise from within Algeria’s Al Qaeda franchise. The BP internal newsletter stated, “[Al Qaeda] affiliates and other groups will seek to fill the leadership and motivational void left by OBL.” However a report from January 2012 made no indication of threats to Algeria, rather focusing on other African and Middle Eastern nations, warning of a new brand of Islamic terrorism and “fostered by weak or nonexistent central governments, easily-crossed borders, ready availability of weapons and explosives, and simmering ethnic, religious and economic fissures.”

The militant group which conducted the terrorist storming of the Ain Amenas gas compound are led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a breakaway commander from AQIM. Both AQIM, and Belmokhtar’s group, called “Those Who Sign With Blood” originated in Algeria.

BP’s latest security assessment focuses on a standoff between Iran and the West, suggesting that Iran could use militia’s controlled by Irack to attack Western interests in Iran.

Bahrain: Rioters have blocked roads and clashed with security Saudi Arabiaforces following the death of a teenage boy during the protests for second anniversary of Bahrain’s uprising. The boy is reported to have died from “close range birdshot”. Hundreds of opposition demonstrators threw petrol bombs at police, who responded with tear gas.

On Saturday, police discovered a bomb on the Bahraini end of the King Fahd causeway, a 25km stretch which links Saudi Arabia to the island country. The route is used by thousands of people each day.

The protests occur in the midst of reconciliation talks between the predominantly Sunni government and Shi’ia opposition parties. The opposition wants to put an end to the Bahraini monarchy’s political domination and full power in parliament. The next round of talks is scheduled for Sunday, yet there is no word from either side whether the discussions will continue in the wake of the protests.

Egypt:  On Friday, Egyptian security officials seized two tons of explosives hidden in a truck carrying fruits and vegetables. TheEgypt explosives were confiscated in the main Suez Canal transport tunnel which connects Sinai to the rest of Egypt. The explosives were packed in 100 plastic bags, and are a type used for demolishing stones in quarries. The driver was been taken in for questioning, and said he was unaware he was transporting explosives. A businessman had asked him to take the goods to Sinai for collection.

Since the 2011, and particularly the Libyan revolution,  Egypt’s Interior Ministry has confiscated hundreds of weapons smuggled from Libya, some of which are meant to be delivered to Gaza. Sinai has increasingly become a haven for Islamist militants who have benefitted from lack of security in the area following the Egyptian Revolution.

The explosives designed for demolishing stones may be an indication that Egyptian attempts to block smuggling tunnels in the Sinai are being met with strong resistance. On Wednesday, Egyptian security forces began flooding smuggling tunnels between Sinai and the Gaza Strip, in an effort to shut them down. The network of tunnels provides an estimated 30% of all goods received into the region, circumventing a blockade imposed by Israel since 2007.

Hamas released a statement Saturday condemning the Egyptian government for the actions. Khalil El-Haya, a senior Hamas official, added that people in Gaza consider Egyptian actions equal to a renewal of the Israeli blockade.

Iran-Israel: Brigadier General Hassan Shateri (also known as Israel-IranHessam Khoshnevis), of Iran’s Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, was killed on Tuesday in Syria, while heading back to Lebanon. Shateri had been engaged in civilian reconstruction in Lebanon for the last seven years, and is the first Iranian general killed in Syria. The Iranian government has accused opponents of Syrian leader Bashar al Assad of the murder. Syrian rebels have accused Iran of sending forces to assist Assad in suppressing the uprising.

An Iranian envoy to Beirut has connected the killing with the Israeli government, stating that the killing had strengthened Iran’s resolve against Israel.  Ali Shirazi, a representative of Ayatollah Khomenei to the Guards’ elite Quds force, stated, “Our enemies should also know that we will quickly get revenge for (the death of) Haj Hassan (Shateri) from the Israelis, and the enemies cannot shut off the Iranian people with such stupid acts.”

The Israeli government has not commented on the killing; however Israel has considered military action against Tehran if the Iranian government continues with a nuclear program. Iran claims that the nuclear program is peaceful.

On Friday, the chief UN nuclear inspector announced hopes to reach an agreement with Iran in March which allows them to probe into Iranian nuclear research activities.

Tunisia: Thousands of Tunisians responded to a call by the rulingTunisia Islamist Ennahda party and poured into the streets to support the ruling party. Demonstrators denounced Prime Minister Jebaili’s plans for a temporary “technocratic” government and chanted against the secular opposition parties.

The rally was called by Ennahda to denounce Prime Minister Jebali’s suggestion following the assassination of opposition leader Shokri Belaid on 6 February, which resulted in bloody classes between government supporters and opposition.  Jebaili has threatedn to resign if he fails to gain support to form a new government.

Religious and political tensions have risen over several months in what was a “proudly secular” Muslim nation. Talks regarding a new administration have been rescheduled for Monday. A previous deadline for a new administration had been cancelled with no new date scheduled as of yet.

France’s “Mission Accomplished”: Why Peace in Mali is Still Far Away

Posted on in Mali title_rule

“Mission Accomplished” – two words made famous by United States President George W. Bush when he proclaimed on 1 May 2003, after just six weeks of fighting, that the U.S. had successfully completed major combat in Iraq.  These two words would over time haunt the Bush administration as “mission accomplished” inevitably transformed into a guerrilla warfare on the streets of Baghdad and throughout the entire country.  Nearly a decade later, French President François Hollande used these exact words when on 2 February 2013, he proclaimed that France’s unilateral military intervention was successful and that French troops would begin to withdrawal from Mali in March.  While the scale of France’s “Operation Serval” is far smaller in comparison to the operations that took place in Iraq, there may be a number of parallels that can create comparisons amongst these two missions.

As the first suicide bomber struck in the town of Gao, and with the Islamist militants believed to be regrouping in Mali’s northern mountainous regions, restoring complete order in a country which for the past ten months has been chaotic, will prove to be a much tougher and complicated mission.  The second phase of France’s campaign, which will primarily focus on restoring territorial integrity throughout Mali, is already proving to be a far more complex challenge than bombing the hideouts of al-Qaeda-linked militants.  In order for this stage to be deemed “mission accomplished,” a more intricate process, composed of political, social and economic aspects, is necessary in order to reintegrate the north and the south and to bridge the cultural divides.

Amongst the issues that are necessary to take into account are the minimal credibilities and discipline within the Malian army, which has already proven to be a factor with the surfacing of allegations of human rights abuses.  In turn, political institutions throughout the country have atrophied, Tuareg separatism continues to pose a threat, there are continuing tensions between the north and south, which includes allegations of acts against human rights, there is a need to tackle a vast uninhibited area, which like in Afghanistan, could create a safe haven for these militants, and there is the rapidly growing refugee crisis that has not only impacted Mali, but its neighbouring countries as well.  Additionally, as France looks towards scaling back its operations within the country, officials in Paris will increasingly look towards the African security forces in order to replace them.  However it is highly unlikely that this new contingent will be fully prepared to take over from the French by March of this year.  Of the estimated 5,000 troops that are set to arrive in Mali, a contingent of only 2,500 soldiers, composed of troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, is currently on the ground.  This contingent is composed of English and French-speaking troops, all of which come from different military cultures and which hold different levels of experience.  This has sparked fears that the force may not have the capabilities that are necessary in order to root out the Islamist militants from their hideaways.  France has already suggested that a United Nations peacekeeping force be deployed to Mali in April, a sign that the French are well aware of the limitations of the African forces.

On a much larger scale, there is a need to tackle the fundamental regional issues that remain to be deep-seated.  A senior national security official within the Obama Administration has stated that “what we’re seeing across North Africa and parts of the Middle East is an extremist threat that is fueled by the reality of porous borders, ungoverned territory, too readily available weapons, increasing collaboration among some of these groups, and, in many cases, a new government that lacks the capacity and sometimes the will to deal with the problem.”  In the case of Mali, all of these points will have to be tackled in order to ensure that such a situation does not occur again.

Over the following weeks and months, French and African Forces will have to deal with what has been called the “vanishing enemy” – the hundreds of Islamist fighters who previously occupied the towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu but which have now either disappeared into the vast desert territory or have blended in with either the general populations or the refugees that have been spilling into the neighboring countries.    There have already been  a number of reports that have indicated that some fighters have mixed in with the refugees who have been seeking safety in Mauritania.  In response to such reports, Algeria has reinforced its border security in an attempt to prevent militants from crossing over.  Chadian troops have also begun to withdrawal from Kidal, and have moved towards the mountainous regions which border Algeria, as intelligence reports have indicated that a number of Islamist militants have been regrouping in the region.

While progress is being made to rid the country of such militants, it remains to be unknown just how well these groups have prepared for such a rapid retreat.  Specifically, it will be necessary to examine whether or not these groups established other bases and supply lines and whether these locations have been identified and targeted by the forces.  Over the coming weeks, it will be necessary to cut off all the supply lines, which will be helped by Algeria’s reinforcement of its border security.  However there remains to be thousands of miles of unmarked, un-patrolled frontiers across Mali where terrorist groups can retreat and utilize as a means of reorganizing themselves.  Furthermore, while Algeria has the ability to secure its borders, the ability of authorities in Libya and Niger to prevent militants from crossing into their countries is limited at best.  A factor which could also prove to be critical as militants may cross the borders for safety amidst France’s air and ground attacks.  If their are large groups of Islamist terrorists remaining in the unmonitored regions of northern Mali, the next stage of battle will undoubtedly involve asymmetrical warfare, therefore the use of IED’s, assassinations of military and political officials as well as the use of suicide bombings.  Mali’s first suicide bombing may have already provided the French and African troops with a glimpse of the type of warfare that such militant groups are capable of orchestrating.

A second factor will be the gathering of intelligence which may prove to be difficult as northern Mali is an area that is larger than Spain and although a majority of the territory is vast open land, the Adrar de Ifoghas mountains are composed of a network of caves and passes, similar to those found in the Afghan Tora Bora region.  Moktar Bemoktar, whose followers carried out the attack on a gas facility in Ain Amenas, Algeria in January of this year, as well as Iyad Ag Ghali, a Tuareg and leader of Ansar Dine, are known to have an intimate knowledge of this region.  Over the past several years, Belmoktar has used his knowledge of this region in order to smuggle products and kidnapped civilians across the border.  A business which has aided him in funding the purchasing of weapons and the recruitment of his soldiers.  It is also currently believed that seven French hostages are being held in the mountainous region by his group and MUJAO.  While the French military intervention may have disrupted the traditional routes used by these militant groups, regional analysts believe that they will now focus on their remaining routes within the mountainous regions as a source to continue not only smuggling weapons into Mali, but as a mechanism to regroup and begin staging hit and run attacks in their former strongholds.  The US recent agreement with Niger to station surveillance drones may be a sign of the need to monitor the mountainous regions on a more regular basis.

Finally, the grievances amongst the ethnic Tuaregs which led to the division of Mali will have to be addressed and the humanitarian crisis will have to be tackled.  Negotiations with the Tuaregs, which will involve a greater measure of autonomy as well as the long-promised economic aid for the region, are essential in restoring stability in the north.  Although such negotiations will not occur over night, there appears to be a window of opportunity which may aid in speeding up the process.  This opportunity came with the split of Ansar Dine, an Islamist group which was formed in 2011 and which is led by Iyad Ag Ghali.  Although his whereabouts are currently unknown, his deputy, Alghabass Ag Intallah, has formed a splinter group known as the Islamist Movement of Azawad, which is prepared for negotiations.  In recent days, similar movements have been coming from the MNLA, demonstrating that they too are ready for a negotiations to occur.  Before the July 2013 elections, political dialogue amongst the varying groups will have to take place in Mali.

Once Africa’s success story, Mali must now look inwards in an attempt to reunite the north and south, however its future looks uncertain. While at the moment, the military intervention in Mali seems far from being a “mission accomplished,” stability in the country is necessary not only for the region, but for the entire International community.  Although Mali is not a regional powerhouse, it is very large, nearly twice the size of France, and has seven neighbours, whose long, poorly guarded borders can inevitably provide militants with the supply and escape routes that are necessary for their survival.  In turn, many of these border countries have already bared witness to violence, extremism and instability and they are ill-equipped in order to deal with the fallout if Mali was to collapse.  In the past Mauritania has had problems with militants who have been liked to al-Qaeda.  Niger, like Mali, has also seen frequent rebellions by ethnic Tuareg separatists.  Algeria also has many problems with al-Qaeda.  During the 1990’s, an Islamist insurgency claimed at least 100,000 lives.  Furthermore, a number of militant cells are known to be active in the eastern mountains and in the desert that borders with Mali.  In the past, a number of troop convoys have been ambushed.  The recent attacks in Ain Amenas indicates that this militant issue continues to be a problem in Algeria.  Within Mali itself, the vast and inhospitable desert has allowed groups with the local knowledge of the region to gain vast quantities of money through trafficking drugs, people, or other contrabands.  Therefore as the military campaign moves forward, developing events will continue to be closely monitored by capitals throughout West Africa, Europe and the United States.  The collapse of Mali and a possible exportation of the jihadist vision would threaten not only the neighbouring countries but would be a direct security threat to Europe.