Friday, January 11, 2013

Waiting for Mali to Get Bad Enough?

No plan survives contact with the enemy, the saying goes. Or as our military likes to say, the enemy gets a vote, too. Plan survival is even worse when the plan is telegraphed to the enemy well in advance giving them an early voting opportunity.

Jihadi advances south in Mali could lead France to rethink their lead-from-behind plan to eventually push a polyglot army north sometime in the fall to take on the jihadis. The French president declared that France could directly intervene in Mali:

"We are faced with blatant aggression that is threatening Mali's very existence. France cannot accept this," Hollande said in a New Year speech to diplomats and journalists. "We will be ready to stop the terrorists' offensive if it continues."

Hollande said that France, alongside African partners, would respond to Mali's request for military aid within the framework of U.N. Security Council resolutions. French diplomatic sources said existing U.N. resolutions would permit a French military intervention in Mali, if needed.

Yeah, better to intervene after al Qaeda has shattered the Mali army and after giving ECOWAS an excuse to stay out of the fight due to the changing circumstances.

If France has to intervene directly, it will take more than a Foreign Legion regiment to lead the lesser quality forces of ECOWAS and Mali north. Either the French will have to hold longer on their own while ECOWAS is coaxed back into the alliance and the Mali army is rebuilt from nearly scratch, or France will need a small division to mount the counter-attack sooner.

Or maybe the jihadis will think better of taking on France by advancing south to break up the Mali army, and frighten ECOWAS away; and instead simply wait in their northern territory for the counter-attack to build up a head of steam by the autumn and retake the northern cities from al Qaeda and their jihadi international brigade forming there.

It sucks when the enemy doesn't cooperate with "the plan."

UPDATE: It got bad enough:

France carried out air strikes against Islamist rebels in Mali on Friday as it began a military intervention intended to halt a drive southward by the militants who control the country's desert north.

It is unclear if French troops are on the move. They should be. I wouldn't want to count on Mali troops to hold Mopti the way they fled from their positions further north, abandoning equipment to get away faster.

UPDATE: Backed by French air power, Mali forces pushed back into Konna. I'm a bit shocked that the Mali army was able to recover and move north so fast. Are French special forces advisers stiffening the Mali troops?

With poorly trained forces, I have to wonder if this will be like the back-and-forth phase of the Libyan civil war along the coast road. The Islamists have a morale advantage. The government an equipment advantage--plus whatever direct help France provides. And probably a numbers advantage, too, for now.