By Lucky Gold, CNN
Despite repeated assurances by U.S. President Barack Obama that al-Qaeda is “on the run,” in the African nation of Mali, al-Qaeda linked rebels have gained control in the northern part of the country. Taking advantage of a failed state, they have imposed an extremist version of Sharia law, abolishing basic rights for women, destroying the local culture and building an international terror network.
Just how bad is it? Adam Nossiter, West Africa Bureau Chief for the New York Times, came out of Mali on Wednesday night, and speaking from neighboring Senegal, he painted a grim picture of the situation there.
“It is fair to say that the region controlled by al-Qaeda and its allies is suffering under one of the harshest regimes under the planet,” said Nossiter. “There are public whippings, there are amputations for theft, there has even been an execution by stoning. Women who dare to leave the house without a veil are arrested, and the Islamists are even compiling lists of unmarried pregnant women.”
Even more ominous, says Nossiter, “this area of Norther Mali is becoming a magnet for international jihadis, in somewhat the same way that Afghanistan was.”
He added, “We are hearing reports from people who live in that region that foreign fighters are coming into Northern Mali to help defend this quasi al-Qaeda state. They are coming from Western Sahara, they’re coming from Algeria, they’re coming from Nigeria and some are even reported to have come from Pakistan.”
Asked if the Malian army is capable of combating this influx of foreign jihadists, Nossiter was dubious: “They’re a very long way from doing it, judging by what I saw. There’s no organized chain of command. They lost a great deal of their material, their weapons, some officers have even sold weapons. They’re disorganized and they lack morale. They don’t have the fight for it… This is a job for the western allies who are determined to do something about this.”
Africans are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and against tyranny
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson is the man in charge of coordinating that alliance. He was asked what specifically the United States and its allies are willing to do to stem the jihadist tide in Mali. For instance, would they use drones or even boots on the ground?
Carson insisted that any action should be “led by African forces.” He added, “There is a need for international assistance and support, but that should not be in the form of individuals fighting on the ground. It is training, it is equipment and it is logistical support to Malian forces, to African forces - no need for American or western forces to participate in military activities.”
Asked if those African forces were up to the challenge, Carson said, “Yes, Africans have demonstrated after over the last two decades that they are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and against tyranny. They’ve done it in Somalia, and in West Africa, in efforts against Charles Taylor in Liberia. If they are given support from the international community, they can in fact be effective on the ground.”
CNN’s Claire Calzonetti produced this piece for television.