Magharebia (Washington DC)

Mali Action Plan in Final Stages

Nouakchott — Plans for military intervention in Mali, including a hike in troop numbers, are now being finalised in Bamako.

Army chiefs from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are meeting Tuesday (November 6th) in Bamako to plan military action in northern Mali.

The West African military officials need to approve the "strategic concept" devised during a week-long meeting of international experts that ended Monday in the Malian capital.

"It is about coming to a rapid agreement on an operational concept to help Mali quickly reconquer its north," AFP quoted General Soumaila Bakayoko of Mali as saying about the Bamako meeting.

The final plan accepted by the military leaders will be presented to the UN Security Council on November 26th.

Guinea's former transition leader, General Sekouba Konate, was charged by the African Union with leading the standby force, which could well exceed the 3,500 soldiers initially proposed.

"Mali can count on its friends, its partners from the standby force, to respect its territorial integrity," Konate said at the Bamako event Tuesday.

Prior to the military summit, experts from ECOWAS, the European Union, the African Union, the United Nations and Algeria discussed the intervention plan.

According to Malian Defence Minister Yamoussa Camara, the campaign targets "jihadist groups in the north of Mali".

"You cannot enter talks with drug smugglers," explained Aboudou Cheikh Touré, ECOWAS special representative to Mali. "You cannot enter talks with someone who takes people hostage! You cannot talk with people who deliberately choose to extinguish the Malian nation," he said.

The ECOWAS official specifically criticised MUJAO, Boko Haram and AQIM. "We mustn't forget that it's al-Qaeda which is behind all of this," he said.

As to the prospect of war, Touré said: "It's inevitable."

According to terrorism analyst Sidati Ould Cheikh, "operations will initially extend over a period of three months".

"The finishing touches are now being put to the strategic plan required by the UN Security Council resolution. That is the purpose of the meeting in Bamako, in which Algerian military experts have been involved, alongside their African, French, British and American counterparts," Ould Cheikh added.

On October 12th, the UN Security Council passed a resolution preparing the way for the deployment of an international military force to Mali. ECOWAS was given 45 days to set out its plan.

Meanwhile, a delegation from Malian Islamist group Ansar al-Din will meet Tuesday in Ouagadougou with Burkinabe President and lead ECOWAS mediator Blaise Compaore.

ECOWAS has demanded that Ansar al-Din end "terror and organised crime" in the region, break ties with AQIM, MUJAO and other Islamist factions, and enter into a political dialogue to re-establish the unity of Mali.

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