The Next Bundeswehr Mission
Last Monday, German Chancellor Merkel declared that it is "not acceptable" that "the international terrorism" will have "a secure safe haven" in northern Mali. The Malian military, according to the chancellor, is "too weak" to put down the insurgency, "it needs support" - that the Bundeswehr could provide. Yesterday, both the foreign minister and the minister for development associated themselves with the idea. "The Africans" must be "helped," "to make Mali's stabilization possible," said Foreign Minister Westerwelle, troops from Mali and other African countries could be trained. The Development Minister, Niebel declared that Mali is "a country teetering on the brink" and threatens to become "a new Afghanistan." He also expressed his support for the Bundeswehr training indigenous soldiers for the war in the north of that West African country. Even members of the opposition approve of a Bundeswehr mission. According to Rainer Arnold, the SPD Bundestag group's spokesperson on defense policy "the international community" cannot just "sit back and watch the north of Mali become a safe haven for terrorists." The Bundeswehr should participate in a multi-national mission.
The Consequences of Intervention
On the one hand, these declarations are reactions to the desolate situation in northern Mali, where. in the course of a Tuareg rebellion, militant Islamist forces took power last spring. They apparently carry out corporal punishment more often and more excessively than in Saudi Arabia and are brutally enforcing their moral codes like the Afghan Taliban. The fact that they were able to take control of northern Mali is a direct consequence of the war on Libya and its escalation, which would hardly have happened, without the West's arming of anti-government Libyan militias and the massive NATO bombardments aimed at overthrowing the government. When, in the aftermath of their victory, it became clear that the insurgents were brutally persecuting Tuareg, loyal to the Libyan government and serving in its armed forces, many fled to northern Mali - taking a large assortment of weapons with them. Therefore it was foreseeable that the persisting social upheavals of the war would destroy the extremely fragile equilibrium of the precarious economies of the desert-bordering areas. This was soon confirmed by observers. At the beginning of the year, a Tuareg rebellion swept away the state structures in northern Mali, and subsequent upheavals put militant Islamists in power.
On the other hand, the German government's declarations make explicit, how Berlin seeks to gain influence in this desolate situation, created by western intervention - through another intervention. The plans follow a pattern that can be discerned throughout Germany's Africa policy: Rebellions and wars in the southern poverty-stricken zones, including those that had been caused by the West - like the rebellion in northern Mali - are supposed to be fought by indigenous forces. Western troops stay out of the combat - to avoid casualties - and limit themselves to missions training the African troops, and, if necessary, supplying arms. Using this pattern, the West has sought to pacify Somalia, where troops from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and a few other African countries, supported by a number of Somali troops being trained by the Bundeswehr at a distance of the combat zones are fighting militant Somali Islamists. Selected western special forces - but mainly drones - are available for special military operations. The western combat strategy in Afghanistan is very similar. The German government is considering applying this same pattern in northern Mali. France - in collaboration with the USA - has already announced its willingness to make its special forces and drones available that may become necessary beyond the level of training and arming stages of engagement, in which Berlin wants to also participate.
No 'Afrika Korps'
With its announcement of its willingness to send troops to Mali, Berlin is correcting its policy toward Africa. Since the 1990s, the German government has, as a matter of principle, refused military interventions in French-speaking Africa, where France still wields strong influence. In 1994, the Minister of Defense, at the time, Volker Rühe, when asked about French plans of intervention in Africa, declared that "the Eurocorps is not the 'Afrika Korps'." Berlin was unable to prevent either of the EU's - 2003 or 2006 - Congo missions, but these were strictly limited in scope and punctually terminated, unlike all other interventions with German participation, including in non-francophone Sudan. Germany successfully blocked the EU's intervention in Chad - called for by France. Berlin tried to prevent the Libyan war as well, when it became clear that it would serve Paris' interests in North Africa. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.)
A Correction of Course
Retrospectively, Berlin's initial abstention in the case of Libya is considered to have been a mistake, because, up against the Paris, Washington, London alliance, it was Berlin that came out on the short end of the stick. Since an alliance of the three NATO powers appears to be again in the making, for an intervention in northern Mali, Berlin is now acquiescing. German-French power struggles are therefore to be expected in the concrete structuring phase of the Mali operation. Hence, the German press demands in anticipation that French President François Hollande finally "renounce the 'Françafrique'"