AROUND AFRICA Update: Mali, Meth in West Africa

February 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm Leave a comment

Mostly Mali

Fierce fighting continues in northern Mali as French troops and their allies from Mali and Chad battle to clear violent Islamist extremists from mountain strongholds.

French troops supported Malin forces battling insurgents in Gao [see map below]Copyright Ministry of Defense

French troops supported Malian forces battling insurgents in Gao [see map below]
Copyright French Ministry of Defense

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said today (Feb. 26) that the fighting in the Ifoghas region – near the Algerian border – is targeting an area where the “most radical terrorist groups” have gone, according to the Voice of America.

Because of that, Le Drian says says it’s too soon to talk about withdrawing troops from the former French colony in West Africa, although costs of the nearly two-month intervention are growing.

The defense minister told France’s RTL radio that the French intervention in Mali has cost more than €100 million ($133 million), the Associated Press reported.

Mali [click on image to enlarge]CIA World Factbook

Mali [click on image to enlarge]
CIA World Factbook

France began airstrikes Jan. 11 against insurgents that have seized control of almost half of Mali and were threatening Bamako, Mali’s capital. There are now about 4,000 French troops in Mali and Paris has said it wanted to pull them out as soon as the threat diminished — perhaps as soon as March.

Late last week, officials in Chad announced 13 of their soldiers had been killed and five wounded in fighting with the militants in northern Mali. Officials said 65 insurgents were also killed.

To see some striking Aljazeera photos of the fighting and its aftermath in the northern Mali town of Gao, click here.

Meanwhile, Ivory Coast Foreign Minister Charles Koffy Diby says it will cost more than 700 million euros to pay for a multi-national West African military force to replace the French in Mali. The military option was approved in December by the United Nations Security Council and organized by the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which includes Mali and Ivory Coast.

The peacekeeping force is supposed to consist of 6,000 troops from ECOWAS countries and another 2,000 from Chad, which is not an ECOWAS member but borders Mali. More than 1,000 Chadian troops are already on the ground in Mali, as are contingents from Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal.

According to the South African Press Association, Diby, whose country holds the ECOWAS chairmanship this year, estimated it would cost 715 million euros – more than twice the amount pledged by donor nations in January. Diby said the sum he had in mind took into account “the demands of an asymetrical war or a drawn-out conflict that the narco-terrorists … could bring about.”

Transnational Crime Threat

A United Nations report released today (Feb. 25) warns that the production of methamphetamine is on the rise in West Africa.

Powder meth in foil packet.(Justice Dept. photo)

Powder meth in foil packet.
(Justice Dept. photo)

While cocaine trafficking is the most lucrative criminal activity of transnational crime groups operating in the region, one “worrying development” is the emergence of meth production and related trafficking, according to the report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The main market for West African-produced meth is East Asia, although it is also going to South Africa.  Income from West African-made meth “is remarkably high” for a product that’s new to the market, the report said, adding that competition from drug rings in East Asia is likely to cut into those profits in coming years.

Pierre Lapaque, the West and Central Africa representative for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime says meth is an attractive product for West African criminals because it is easy to make, the Voice of America reported.  “You can do that in your kitchen, if you wish,” he said, adding: “You go on the internet, you get the recipe and you cook.”

Although the flow of cocaine out of West Africa peaked at 47 tons in 2007, officials believe cocaine trafficking is back up to 30 to 35 tons a year.

Much of that cocaine comes from Brazil where Nigerian crime groups are exporting the drug.  the report said, adding that those crime groups have been using containerized consignments and maritime shipping to smuggle the drugs. The small country of Benin on the West Coast of Africa is seeing more use as a departure point for air couriers headed for Europe, the report said.

The report also noted that while human trafficking between West Africa and Europe had declined in recent years, there are still problems with pirates off the coasts of Nigeria and Benin as well as trafficking in firearms and fraudulent medicines.

“The recent flood of 10,000 to 20,000 firearms from Libya does represent a serious threat to stability in the region, a threat that appears to have been realized in northern Mali,” the report said.

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Entry filed under: Africa, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, International Crime, National Security and Defense, Unconventional Warfare. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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