Mali, Algérie, sécurité au Sahel

Date:2008-05-30 13:03:00
Source:Embassy Bamako
DE RUEHBP #0485/01 1511303
R 301303Z MAY 08

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 07 BAMAKO 000485


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/30/2018


Classified By: Ambassador Terence P. McCulley for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1.(S) Summary: This cable analyzes Mali's approach to
security in the Sahel in advance of the interagency mission
to Algiers. Mali is a committed ally in the war on terror,
but its position as one of the poorest nations in the world
limits its capacity to counter the presence of AQIM in the
country's far north. Moreover, the mantra of Mali's
leadership is that AQIM is an Algerian problem, and that the
incipient Tuareg rebellion in the north presents a greater
threat to Mali's stability and sovereignty than the terrorist
presence. Since the GSPC re-branded itself as al Qaeda, we
have made headway in sensitizing President Amadou Toumani
Toure (ATT) to the danger posed by AQIM to both Mali and
western interests in the region, but work remains in this
regard. Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP)
programming in Mali reflects these generally congruent, but
at times conflicting, realities by balancing targeted
military assistance with a broad range of development,
humanitarian and public diplomacy initiatives designed to
reinforce the link between security and development. Since
TSCTP's inception, Mali has regarded U.S. military assistance
as a vehicle for addressing a variety of security concerns
ranging from AQIM to bandits and narco-traffickers to Tuareg
rebels. At the same time, ATT recognizes that his country's
poverty and geographic position force him to consider the
equities of powerful regional players. We do not believe
that Libya is Mali's preferred dance partner on regional
security issues, particularly on Tuareg questions, but
Qaddafi's deep pockets mean that ATT cannot resist if the
"frere guide" decides to engage (or meddle, depending on
one's point of view). Algeria, however, remains for Mali its
preferred diplomatic partner on trans-Saharan issues, and
while ATT can be by turns bitter and frustrated with the
Algerians, he recognizes Algiers holds the key to a peaceful
resolution of Mali's Tuareg insurgency. We believe that
President Toure is committed to a negotiated solution with
the Tuaregs, but there are many internal political
constraints that play into his handling of the crisis. For
ATT, the Algiers Accords remain the central basis for
negotiation with the insurgency, but application of aspects
of the agreement -- particularly the so-called "special
units" -- are politically delicate, but not impossible, to

2. (S) Summary continued: Mali remains a good partner on
security issues, and it is not impossible to reconcile Mali's
need for tranquillity in the north with what we understand to
be Algeria's goals, in order to advance U.S. peace, security
and counter-terrorism objectives in northern Mali. It is,
however, important to act quickly, as the situation in the
north is unraveling as we write. We hope the inter-agency
mission to Algeria will reassure the Algerians that our
military engagement with Mali is one part of a larger,
holistic program, and that our mil-mil training programs are
intended to build capacity to address the range of security
threats in the north, and not to launch the Malian military
in some quixotic anti-Tuareg campaign. It is important that
the Algerians understand that the Tuareg insurgency here
represents a threat to the security and stability of a
democratic and moderate regional ally, and that the
development we all seek for northern Mali is endangered by
ongoing acts of rebellion and banditry. Moreover, the Malian
military has a responsibility and an obligation to safeguard
Mali's territorial integrity and protect civilian populations
in the north (most of whom recognize that acts of rebellion
impede development). As for Mali, we need to continue to
engage with ATT in support of a peaceful resolution to the
northern crisis, to encourage him to more effectively
articulate his northern strategy (both to his northern
compatriots and to his majority and increasingly resentful
southern electorate), and to take the politically risky (but
necessary) steps toward involving northerners in the security
forces active in the northern zone. Key to this effort will
be our continued support for decentralization in Mali which
will answer the demand made by Northern populations for more
autonomy and control of their resources and future. In the
end, ATT needs to find a Malian solution to this internal
(and interminable) problem, but he needs an assist from
"Bouteflika the Malian", and the U.S. can play a helpful

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supporting role. Restoring the Algiers Accords process by
bringing the rebellion in from its mountain redoubt in the
Sahara will advance U.S. counter-terrorism goals by returning
the focus to the threat of AQIM in the Trans-Sahara region
and fostering conditions that help deny space to terrorists
active in northern Mali. End Summary.

TSCTP in Mali: No Security, No Development

3.(S) As one of the poorest nations in the world, Mali lacks
the ability to effectively combat terrorism or counter
terrorist influences. TSCTP programming in Mali takes this
reality into account by dividing TSCTP actives into two
categories: counter-terrorism and counter-extremism.
Counter-terrorism programs cover the "hard" side of TSCTP,
meaning direct military to military assistance. This
assistance is designed to bolster Mali's ability to provide
the level of security and stability, particularly in northern
Mali, upon which development depends. The primary vehicles
for this assistance are Joint Combined Exchange Training
events (JCETs). JCETs are not designed to help the Malian
military counter Tuareg insurgents. They are intended,
rather, to boost selected Malian military units' capacity to
control borders and respond to a broad range of security
threats ranging from terrorist activity to drug smuggling and
arms trafficking. Over the past year we have held successful
JCETs in Bamako, Tessalit and Kidal, and Malian units that
have participated in JCETs have shown a marked increase in
professionalism and operational capacity.

4.(S) The "soft" side of TSCTP in Mali includes Department
of Defense sponsored humanitarian assistance, USAID
development programs and public diplomacy outreach. Our
counter-extremism component of TSCTP is designed not only to
encourage the traditional tolerant nature of Malian Islam but
to also effectively address the critical interplay between
development and security. This effort is particularly key in
northern Mali where we are able to reach out to important
northern communities in ways that demonstrate USG friendship
and support. The DOD's humanitarian assistance and Civil
Military Support Element (CMSE) play a crucial role in
helping us meet this goal by building and rehabilitating
wells, schools and health clinics throughout Mali. Medical
and Veterinary Civic Action Programs (MEDCAP and VETCAP) that
normally accompany JCETs are also extremely well received and
enable local communities to derive benefits from military
training that would otherwise not extend beyond the perimeter
of military installations.

5.(U) USAID/Mali considers the northern region of Mali an
important area and has undertaken activities there in a
concerted effort since 1999. USAID/Mali implemented
approximately $3.7 million worth of activities in the north
during FY07, including support to 35 rural health centers,
the construction and reinforcement of 17 community radio
stations, the establishment of six community telecenters
offering Internet access, the conduct of conflict-mitigation
activities, support to rice and horticultural commodities,
the expansion of access to financial services, the provision
of scholarships and mentoring to 6,500 girls under the
Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Fund, and the creation of
teacher training and radio-based instruction for children of
nomadic populations. USAID/Mali received an additional $9.5
million in TSCTP funds and the majority of these resources
have been earmarked for activities in the North that aim to
expand economic opportunities for youth, construct additional
community radio stations, build capacity for local
government, and support madersas throughout the country. On
the Public Affairs side, we have used cultural preservation
grants to help Mali honor its Islamic heritage by protecting
thousands of ancient Islamic manuscripts in Djenne and
Timbuktu and helping to preserve an ancient mosque in Gao.
Additionally we recently celebrated the year anniversary of
the only American Corner in Mali. Located in Gao, it has
allowed us to quadruple our outreach to key contacts in the
region and to further promote mutual understanding between
Malians and Americans.

Malian View of the Situation in the North

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6.(S) Malians generally regarded the GSPC as an Algerian
extremist group composed of Algerian Salafists dedicated to
overthrowing the Algerian government. The GSPC was therefore
seen as an Algerian problem that posed a risk not to Malians
but to Algerians and the occasional western tourist naive
enough to venture deep into the Sahara. The GSPC-AQ merger
to form AQIM altered this perspective only slightly until the
December 2007 murders of the French tourists in Mauritania
and, to a lesser extent, the kidnapping of the Austrian
hostages in Tunisia, brought the dangers of terrorism in the
Sahel home to the Malian government.

7.(S) The brewing rebellion in northern Mali, however, has
displaced all other security concerns. President Toure has
made a concerted effort to handle the recent attacks by
Tuareg rebels (and the resultant deaths and capture of Malian
soldiers) through dialogue and restraint, but he is under
increasing pressure from the military, which is composed
predominantly of southern Malians, to respond with force and
severity. President Toure faces the very difficult challenge
of finding a way to sit down at a negotiating table with
rebels who have killed Malian soldiers, stolen government
arms, laid mines, disrupted badly-needed economic development
and still hold perhaps as many as 90 Malian soldiers as
"prisoners of war." President Toure's decision not to
respond militarily to such aggressions are increasingly
interpreted as signs of weakness by the media and the wider
Malian public. His recent decision to circumvent the regular
army by supporting ethnic Imghad Tuareg paramilitary groups
against Ibrahim Bahanga and the Alliance for Democracy and
Change (ADC) suggest President Toure's resolve for dialogue
has begun to wear thin.

8.(S) Mali recognizes that Algeria is the only credible
mediator for the Tuareg crisis. Yet President Toure is
clearly frustrated with President Bouteflika and Algeria's
off-again on-again mediation efforts. Algerian allegations,
whether leveled by the Algerian press or through the
diplomatic rumor mill, that Mali is somehow intransigent in
the war on terror or willingly harboring terrorists have not
passed unnoticed in Bamako. President Toure is also
convinced that members of the Algerian security services in
southern Algeria are actively facilitating Tuareg rebels and
has told us on several occasions that he does not believe
President Bouteflika controls, or is even aware, of what his
security services are doing along the Mali-Algeria border.
Malians also posit that, if Algeria is serious about
combating AQIM, they should do so by controlling their own
borders instead of relying on unreliable and self-interested
Tuareg proxies.

9.(S) President Toure still respects President Bouteflika
(who bore the sobriquet of "the Malian" during his sojourn in
Gao at the time of the Algerian war for independence) and
seems to give him the benefit of the doubt by assuming that
his Algerian counterpart is unaware of what his own security
services are up to. President Toure would prefer to see
greater Algerian control of its borders and more Algerian
resources aimed at AQIM operatives coming from North Africa
than the arming of Malian Tuaregs who can easily turn such
training and equipment against the central Malian government.

What this Means to Us

10.(S) Deepening levels of impunity in northern Mali are
rapidly reducing our ability to advance key peace and
security goals. The only groups likely to benefit from a
northern Mali free-for-all akin to the one that occurred
during Mali's 1991-1996 rebellion are well-armed bandits and
AQIM. The humanitarian and political impacts of a third
rebellion in northern Mali will be enormous. Those who will
suffer most are not the minority of Tuareg rebels who have
taken up arms against the central government but the vast
majority of ethnic Tuareg and Arab northern Malians who
simply want to send their children to school and support
teir families. We have already begun to curtail cetain
USAID and DOD activities in the north due t a lack of
security and our sensitivity to beingperceived as taking

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sides in the conflict underway between Tuareg bandits and the
Malian military.

11.(S) The similarities between the start of the last
northern rebellion in 1991 and today are sobering. In
January 1991 Algeria brokered a peace agreement, the
Tamanrasset Accords, between Mali and northern rebel groups
led by Iyad ag Ghali that was never implemented. As security
in the north deteriorated, an alphabet soup of armed rebel
militias (the MFA, MFUA, FIAA, ARLA and FPLA among others)
representing disparate ethnic groups and Tuareg fractions
filled the void. A similar dynamic appears to be unfolding
now with the appearance of competing Tuareg rebel and
government sponsored militias and the 2006 Algiers Accords -
also negotiated by Algeria and Iyad ag Ghali - teetering on
the brink of collapse.

12.(S) In regards to our CT efforts in the region, we have
made some progress in convincing President Toure of the need
to zero in on AQIM by focusing on the changing nature of AQIM
and the fact that Mali, like neighboring Mauritania, is not
immune to AQIM attacks on its soil. We have also been more
aggressive on the intel side in terms of information sharing.
The Malians are significantly more open interlocutors now
than a few years ago, even though President Toure still sees
action against AQIM as counter to fundamental national
interests due to the inherent risks of further stirring up
trouble in the north. A third Tuareg rebellion will greatly
diminish our ability to discuss counter-terrorism with the
Malians and their willingness to listen.

Saving the Algiers Accords

13.(S) The Algiers Accords remain the only, and best, way to
prevent further unrest and provide an environment conducive
to stopping AQIM activity in the Sahel. President Toure's
commitment to a peaceful settlement to the ongoing rebellion
and Algeria's recent agreement to resume its mediation
represent two positive steps in getting the negotiations back
on track. That said, domestic political constraints and
opposition within the Malian military will pose significant
roadblocks and further deepen President Toure's frustration
of having to dedicate so much time, money and material
resources to Mali's most sparsely populated region.
Implementation will require more concessions and more
diplomatic pressure, but we remain confident that progress
can be mad if the potential road blocks can be overcome:

-- The absence of a point person on either the Malian or
Tuareg side. In July 2006 Minister of Territorial
Administration, General Kafougouna Kone, negotiated the
Algiers Accords on Mali's behalf. Alliance for Democracy and
Change (ADC) leader Iyad ag Ghali and his deputy Ahmada ag
Bibi represented the Tuareg rebels. Two years later, General
Kone has faded from view and Iyad ag Ghali has moved to Saudi
Arabia. President Toure could re-energize the peace process
and significantly alter the dynamics of the current crisis by
appointing a lead interlocutor. General Kone is the most
obvious choice. Fifteen years of democratic success in Mali
has, however, produced two other leaders - former President
Alpha Oumar Konare and former Prime Minister and opposition
leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita - who were central figures
during the second northern rebellion of the 1990s and could
lend a needed sense of gravitas to peace negotiations.
Nominating either Konare or Keita as his special envoy to the
north would require a significant amount of political courage
on President Toure's part given that his relations with both
men are not the best. On the Tuareg side there is no one
capable of replacing ag Ghali. While there are a number of
well-respected Tuareg politicians, none of these have the
ability to control, or even influence, current rebel leaders.

-- Juxtaposed with the absence of Malian and Tuareg
interlocutors is a multiplicity of mediators. President
Toure apparently turned to Libya not to send a signal to
Algiers but in hopes of securing the release of the military
hostages still held by Bahanga. Re-introducing Libyan cash
and influence to northern Mali was clearly ill-advised.
Mali's request for Algeria to return as the key facilitator
on this issue indicates President Toure's recognition that
Algiers holds the key to a peaceful resolution of Mali's

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Tuareg insurgency.

-- The reduction of Malian military's footprint in northern
Mali during an ongoing period of hostilities. The
signatories of the Algiers Accords pledged to facilitate a
return to pre-2006 troop levels in northern Mali. This has
subsequently been interpreted by some Tuareg rebels as a
complete withdrawal of the Malian military from northern
Mali. The Malians would like to reduce their troop numbers
in northern Mali, both to respect the Accords and reduce
costs, but this is ultimately a question of national
sovereignty and one cannot reasonably expect the Malians to
withdraw from a zone of instability. Rather than reducing
troop levels in the north, Mali is in the process of
augmenting its security presence, and will continue to do so
as long as Tuaregs rebels continue to attack military bases
and convoys and hold Malian soldiers hostage.

-- The relocation of military bases. Both the 1991
Tamanrasset Accords and 1992 National Pact called for
military bases located within urban areas to be relocated to
less inhabited areas. Fifteen years later, Mali still lacks
the financial resources to construct new military posts in
order to fulfill this requirement.

-- Economic development for the north. The Algiers Accords
outline an extensive, yet vague, plan for the development of
northern Mali. The only portion of this agenda so far
implemented was the March 2007 Kidal Forum. The Forum was
intended as a pledge-a-thon for northern Mali but served as
an accounting of all the projects and initiatives for the
north already undertaken by the Malian government and
international donor community. Many of the specific
development projects identified in the Algiers Accords - such
as paving the road to Kidal, repairing the airports in Kidal
and Tessalit, extending electrical grids and providing Kidal
with access to national television and radio - are feasible
yet well beyond the financial means of the Malian government
or any single international donor. Banditry and Tuareg
unrest further complicate any development efforts in the
north as most foreign development partners are unable to work
in such a hostile and unstable environment.

-- The creation of special military units. This is the most
important aspect of the Accords for Tuareg rebels and the one
where Mali may have to make the most concessions. We have
spent the last 18 months pushing for Mali to make these units
operational and integrate them into security operations in
the north. Were Mali to agree, we could likely incorporate
the special units into our JCET program. President Toure and
other Malian leaders maintain that Mali already created these
units and that they were subsequently sabotaged by Tuareg
desertions. There is some truth to this as the Malian
government did make a substantial concession by agreeing to
appoint Hassan Fagaga as the commander of the special unit in
Kidal. On the other hand, there is some substance to the
Tuareg argument that the units existed on paper only and
never received equipment, vehicles, fuel or other required
supplies. Explanations for continued Malian foot-dragging on
this issue include: fierce opposition within the Malian
military to the reintegration of Tuareg deserters responsible
for attacking and killing fellow Malian soldiers; concern
that Tuareg special unit members would simply turn the
training and equipment provided to them against the regular
army; suspicion that Algeria intends to use the special units
to advance Algerian rather than Malian interests. There is
also the unresolved question of the fate of chronic deserters
like Bahanga and Fagaga. Minister of Internal Security,
General Sadio Gassama, is vehemently opposed to the concept
of special units. Since the units would fall under the
Security Ministry's purview, this is a problem. In short,
President Toure could stand up these units, but has hesitated
due to internal political constraints.

-- Outstanding questions on the April 10 execution of two
Tuareg members of the ADC. In addition to demands for a
military withdrawal from northern Mali and the creation of
special units, Tuareg rebels are also demanding a credible
murder inquiry into this event. We will probably never know
who committed these killings or why. In October 2007 a
Malian army unit arrested and executed a Tuareg gendarme
within the confines of the military base in Gao. The
soldiers responsible for the Gao murder are known to the

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Malian military, yet no legal proceedings are underway.
Given this precedent, chances for a credible and transparent
inquiry into the April 10 executions are grim.

Overcoming Mutual Suspicions

14.(S) Encouraging Mali and Algeria to overcome the evident
distrust that divides them will pose a serious challenge. On
the Algerian side, we need to impress on Algeria the dangers
of using Tuareg rebel groups as surrogates against AQIM as
they did in 2006 by providing funds and fuel. By bankrolling
the ADC, Algeria provided support to a group that had
attacked a democratically elected government, circumvented
the sovereignty of the Malian state by attempting to create a
local militia, and further destabilized the north. Reftel's
description of Algeria's understanding of the special units -
Tuareg militias charged with eradicating AQIM - is
significantly different from the Malian reading of the
Algiers accords, which outlines a clear command structure
with defined missions assigned by Malian military leadership.

15.(S) Algerian concern that the United States is arming the
GOM to take on the Tuaregs is yet another indication of a
misunderstanding between neighbors - although this tracks
with statements made by Tuareg contacts. The nature of U.S.
military assistance to Mali has been constant for several
years and focuses on peace and security writ large. It is
also worth noting that the Malians have, up to this point,
launched only one operation against the Tuaregs and this
operation relied not on U.S. training but Bulgarian attack
helicopters and Ukrainian pilots. This offensive military
operation was done in response to Bahanga's blockade of the
vital, and only, road between Gao and Kidal.

Conclusion: What We Can Do

16.(S) USG counter-terrorism and development efforts in Mali
require a secure and stable northern region. Northern Mali's
slide into unrest and rebellion will seriously affect our
ability to advance key peace and security goals. We see the
need to use our good offices in both countries to encourage
deeper understanding and trust between the Algerians and the
Malians at the same time that we encourage movement forward
on the Algiers Accords. Because Malian, Algerian and American
security interests are not incompatible, there are ways for
the U.S. to work within the Algiers Accords framework without
challenging Algeria's role as primary mediator. It is
important that the Algerians understand that the Tuareg
insurgency here represents a threat to the security and
stability of a democratic and moderate regional ally, and
that the development we all seek for northern Mali is
endangered by ongoing acts of rebellion and banditry.
Moreover, the Malian military has a responsibility and an
obligation to safeguard Mali's territorial integrity and
protect civilian populations in the north (most of whom
recognize that acts of rebellion impede development).
Although Mali's confidence in Algeria's ability to control
Tuareg rebels is likely exaggerated, Algeria does have some
leverage with Tuareg rebel leaders and we need Algeria to use
this influence to, at the very least, secure a general
cease-fire. Mali will only be able to consider its
obligations regarding a return to pre-2006 troop levels in
the north once the fighting has stopped and Bahanga and the
ADC have released the prisoners they continue to hold.

17.(S) On the Malian side, we must convince President Toure
of the need to stand up special units despite the inherent
risks they pose to the Malian military. There are enough
loyalist Tuareg and Arab soldiers within the Malian army to
fill out one or two of these units and counter-balance any
less trustworthy former Tuareg rebel elements that also must
be included in the plan. If the Malians agree to stand up
one or two of these units, we could incorporate them into
JCET events. We are also pressuring President Toure to
formulate a public relations strategy for the north in order
to recapture the rhetorical battlefield from Ibrahim Bahanga
and the like and to assure the populations in the North that
the Malian government is actively finding ways to answer

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their developmental needs. We are also committed to
continuing our active and wide-ranging USAID program in the
North of Mali with a goal of helping Mali fulfill at least
some of the development components of the Algiers Accords.
Development in the North, including greater decentralization
which would place more local autonomy and control over
resources, is a critial component of responding to Bahanga's
grievancs at the same time that we create a stable and mor
secure environment that will be less hospitable o AQIM

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