Analysis

Mali: Guerrilla Attack Could Mean an Extended Stay for France
Malian soldiers stand guard on February 10 in the northern Mali city of Gao. Islamist rebels staged a surprise guerrilla-style attack on French and Malian troops in Gao yesterday after conducting two suicides bombings there since Friday. (PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)
February 11, 2013
| Security
| Africa
Summary
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Islamist insurgents staged a daring guerrilla-style attack in the northern Mali city of Gao yesterday, raising major questions about French plans to begin withdrawing its forces next month and the capabilities of Malian and regional African troops. Al-Qaeda-linked militants reportedly crossed the Niger River into the region’s most populous city using dugout canoes and other boats after two suicide bombings in the city over the two days prior.
While about 4,000 French ground troops staged a lightning-fast operation in Mali over the last four weeks that pushed al-Qaeda-linked radical Islamists out of their main strongholds in the north, Malian soldiers have been less impressive and the arrival of regional African troops is taking longer than planned. Malian and regional troops are beginning to have trouble securing larger cities and are vulnerable to rebel counterattacks that use guerrilla tactics such as suicide bombers, land mines, and coordinated raids. Meanwhile, details have yet to emerge about a broader plan for a political transition in Mali once the rebels have been defeated.
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