A man lives in his wife's tent: a house is a grave. -Tuareg proverb
Précis: as the first phase of the Mali conflict winds down, we see a partial recapitulation of other guerrilla wars in the Sahel. Expelled from Algeria, Ansar Dine has emerged as the major player, the hub around which MUJAO, AQIM and other Islamic groups have coalesced and merged into the local populations. As France withdraws troops, Algeria returns to geopolitical prominence in the region, a brute force (and largely counterproductive) bulwark against Islamism. America returns to its bad habits, having seemingly learned nothing from Afghanistan.
Does the USA have strategic interests in the Sahel? If so, how might we best serve those interests? Let Mali's fall from grace show what happens when the veneer of democracy is pasted onto rotten boards. The nations of the Sahel are going from bad to worse: their wretched poverty and malgovernance are of a piece, a vacuum into which jihaad has moved with a vengeance as it has moved into many other such vacuums.
Africa must save itself. Does America have a role to play in that salvation? I cannot say. This much I do know: the USA appears to be repeating previous mistakes. Therefore, I predict, with considerable anger and sadness, the tragedy of Afghanistan will be writ large in the Sahel, across many nations in an area larger than the United States.