Mali Terrain May Give Islamist Rebels Upper Hand Against French Forces

Article ID: 598193

Released: 17-Jan-2013 1:00 PM EST

Source Newsroom: Cornell University

Expert Pitch

Nicolas van de Walle, professor of government at Cornell University and author of “African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis,” comments on the growing presence of Islamic extremists in northern Mali.

He says:

“The taking of dozens of hostages from a gas facility in Algeria, hundreds of miles from Mali, points to the particularly difficult security threat posed by the Islamist rebels in Northern Mali.

“The French military intervention is a success in the conventional sense that the main cities of northern Mali are soon likely to be under the control of the Malian government and French forces, but the rebels don't care. Their retreat into the vast expanses of the Sahara desert gives them tactical advantages, given their superior knowledge of this very difficult terrain, their ability to slip across foreign borders and their impressive mobility, which they demonstrated this week by striking so far from Mali. Today, France and its allies got a sense of how difficult and unconventional a war this will be.”

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