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Malian Malady: Al-Qaeda in West Africa

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has traditionally lacked the capability to directly threaten American interests outside of the region, but its gains in northern Mali  could soon translate into the increasing provocation of Western strategic objectives in the region and abroad.  With AQIM-supported Ansar Dine’s recent insurgency in northern Mali, some assess AQIM’s capacity is now able affect worldwide American interests.

National Public Radio recently interviewed former Canadian diplomat and U.N. envoy Robert Fowler on the international security implications of the terrorist group’s insurgency in northern Mali and potential options for the international community to address the group’s expanding base.

Fowler argued that AQIM’s insurgency in northern Mali should be regarded as an “enormous threat” to Western interests, particularly because Mali lacks the military capability to address Al-Qaeda’s stronghold on its own.  He said letting a terrorist group “maintain [a] secure base, [AQIM] represents a significant threat to Western interests, most immediately to European interests but very soon after that, North American interests.”

According to Fowler, military force is the only way to address Al Qaeda in northern Mali.  In light of Mali’s March 2012 coup and AQIM’s experience in remote geography, the international community has been unable to reach a consensus on which actions should be taken.  While the international media has eyed the civil war in Syria and nuclear proliferation in Iran, the threat of an AQIM-run Mali has seemingly escaped the public conscious making Fowler’s call for military action unique in its severity and urgency.

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