Absolutely “nobody” could have possibly anticipated that the week old French incursion into Mali could already have such disastrous consequences: a botched hostage rescue attempt by French commandos while leaving behind one of their team, a downed pilot on the first day of the confrontation, revels that succeeded in capturing a strategic village and military post, and today, yet another hostage crisis in Algeria that has seen tens of hostages killed, potentially including Americans, following another botched rescue operation. Yet, in some ways, perhaps the stars have aligned just right for the US, which as Bloomberg reports, has wasted no time in sending not only drones in the air, but also boots on the ground.
- U.S. military trainers are expected to arrive in West Africa this weekend to train local military forces to fight Islamist insurgents including those now battling French and local government troops in Mali, State Dept. spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says in Washington.
- U.S. now providing intelligence, airlift to French troops fighting insurgents in Mali
- No U.S. troops to operate in Mali; U.S. barred from providing direct assistance to Mali military
So on one hand the US is barred from providing direct assistance, but on the other, US trainers are… providing direct assistance?
But why? Well, take a quick look at the map of French “military assets” in Mali.
What does this map show?
Mali is one of the most irrelevant countries in West Africa from a resource standpoint, and what happens inside of it is certainly irrelevant from a greater geopolitical standpoint.
What is more important is what this map doesn’t show, specifically the name of the country located a few hundred miles to the south: Nigeria.
Now Nigeria is important: very important. Or rather, Nigerian light sweet, one of the highest quality crudes in the world, is. And thanks to the “bungled” French peacemaking attempt, the US now has a critical foothold in what is the most strategically placed stretch of desert in Western Africa, a place where US “military trainers” will now be deployed at will.
Be on the lookout for curious escalations in violence around the capital Abuja, and key port city Lagos, in the coming months once the current Mali fracas is long forgotten.