The Associated Press reports: “Mali’s authorities have arrested a Frenchman in the west African country who allegedly was trying to join radical Islamists controlling the north. French and Mali officials confirmed Friday that 24-year-old Ibrahim Ouattara was taken into custody there this week and charged in France with trying to reach radicals fighting in another country. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is among three extremist groups controlling northern Mali. It’s made up mainly of foreign fighters. Radical Islamists moved into the region after a military coup in March overthrew Mali’s president.” Indeed in late October there were reports that, much like Libya, jihadists had been flooding into the country. AFP reported:
Hundreds of jihadists poured into northern Mali over the weekend to help armed Islamist groups hang on to the territory as the country’s neighbors speeded up efforts to wrest control of the vast desert region from the Al-Qaeda linked militants.
Residents of the cities of Timbuktu and Gao, Malian security officials and Islamist commanders all confirmed that there had been a huge influx of foreign fighters over the past two days.
In sum, AQIM is on the rise throughout the Maghreb, opportunistically teaming up with other groups (like the violent, separatist Polisario) and setting up shop wherever the central government is in disarray. Jihadists have also moved into Syria amid the blood bath there. Al-Qaeda operates in more places and is destabilizing more countries than when President Obama took office in 2009.
What will Obama and his new secretary of state do about this? In the rush to push Benghazi off the front pages and out of oversight hearings we risk ignoring a region-wide phenomenon. The administration did not recognize the jihadist gains in Libya and risks finding itself similarly unprepared in Mali, Syria, the Western Sahara, Yemen and elsewhere. The administration desperately needs to stop avoiding conflicts, stop concealing misjudgment and focus on how to stem the rising tide of al-Qaeda. Without an election perhaps the president will finally get down to business.