Should the the international community undertake nation building after the military operations in Mali, Afghanistan and other countries are completed?

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)


Militarily, the French intervention has set in motion a series of actions that must be dealt with immediately. A robust regional force must be prepared for a mobile enemy who has better control of the terrain and chooses targets of opportunity to its advantage, hence the attack on the gas facility at In Amenas in Algeria. Anyone who believes that AQIM and its various terrorist and criminal allies in the Sahel can be easily defeated is in for a rude shock. The kind of bloody operation at In Amenas is very likely to be repeated elsewhere in a region where few states are able to control their borders or possess sufficient military capability to effectively prevent or resist such attacks.

Military actions will create a breathing space to do what is further needed: simultaneously address long-standing economic, political and cultural issues; negotiate with the Tuaregs and others on a realistic and credible autonomy in northern Mali; bolster foreign assistance programs focusing on nutrition/food supplies, healthcare and potable water; and expand the training programs for military and security personnel of the Malian government to give them technical and professional training. The region must also confront the enormous amount of narcotics arriving from South America and being smuggled through this vast under governed space in the Sahel, and are a source of revenue for terrorists.

We cannot say we will deny al-Qaeda a safe haven anywhere unless we are prepared to demonstrate in concrete terms what this commitment means. The Sahel is under attack and U.S. and regional allies must engage and support a long term multi-pronged campaign that will defeat the jihadists and create functioning regional institutions to prevent this from happening again.