On November 13, 2012, the African Union approved an ECOWAS plan for a military intervention in Mali that may eventually expand to include elements from the EU and UN. Though the plan still requires UN endorsement, it is increasingly clear that military operations are soon to commence in the West African nation, which has seen a deteriorating security environment since a March 2012 coup that overthrew its democratically-elected government. Mali’s North is now under the control of Islamist extremists, generating concerns for further instability and violence.
The current crisis has been driven and exacerbated by a confluence of factors at play throughout much of Africa. The proliferation of militant Islam as hardline groups are pushed out of their traditional safe havens in Somalia and Nigeria, the wide availability of arms from the recent Arab Spring, as well as social, economic, and environmental issues have contributed to the persistent instability now gripping Mali’s northern region.
This instability carries serious security implications on the regional and global scales, from the probability of a new ground war in Africa, to the potential for increased terrorist activity. The American Security Project has compiled this factsheet to trace the development of the crisis in Mali and understand the implications of the potential military intervention.