Reports now indicate that thousands of armed Tuareg tribesmen who previously served in Gadhafi's military have returned home to Mali. The influx of this large number of well-armed and well-trained fighters, led by a former Libyan army colonel, has re-energized the long-simmering Tuareg insurgency against the Malian government. These Tuareg insurgents have formed a new group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). In mid-January, they began a military campaign to free three northern Mali regions from Bamako's control.
The government of Mali has claimed that the MNLA is aligned with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). MNLA, however, has strongly denied any link to the group and said it will serve as a bulwark against AQIM. Given the U.S. and European interest in preventing the strengthening of AQIM, both sides have considerable incentive to take their respective positions. These developments make it an opportune time to examine the MNLA, their current offensive and the potential implications for Mali and the region. Read More »