Washington Post joins Senator Coons' call for a better plan on al Qaeda takeover of northern Mali
In an editioral appearing in Monday's editions, The Washington Post joined Senator Coons' call for a better plan on al Qaeda's takeover of northern Mali. Senator Coons chaired a hearing on the situation there last week, noting that the space now controlled by al Qaeda is roughly the size of Texas and is the largest terrorist-controlled area in the world.
ACCORDING TO the Obama administration, northern Mali “has become a safe haven for extremist and terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and affiliates” — the same forces linked to the deadly Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. mission in Libya. Northern Mali, says Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, has become “the largest territory controlled by Islamic extremists in the world.” A Taliban-style rule of stonings and amputations has been imposed, and a dire emergency is unfolding: 400,000 civilians have fled their homes, and, the United Nations says, 600,000 children under the age of 5 are threatened by severe malnutrition.
Not to worry. U.N. officials say that the terrorists will be subdued by a military intervention — but not before the fall of 2013.
The Obama administration, for its part, is insisting that military action must be preceded by a multi-step political process, including democratic elections for a new Malian government and negotiations with groups in northern Mali that are not part of al-Qaeda. One, Ansar Dine, has imposed fundamentalist rule on Timbuktu and destroyed many of its priceless religious and cultural monuments, but the theory is that it can be detached from the transnational terrorists.
Negotiations, which began this month, are certainly worth a try. But it’s also worth bearing in mind what is happening while this process drags on. As a Malian minister told the Security Council, “there are floggings, amputation of limbs, summary executions, children forced to become soldiers, rapes, stoning, looting and the destruction of cultural and historical sites.” Perhaps the diplomats in Turtle Bay can conclude it’s prudent to allow such atrocities to continue for another 10 or 12 months. But morality as well as common sense suggests that intervention must come sooner.