Daily Archives: January 17, 2013

Roula Khalaf

Islamist militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar. (AFP/Getty)

A breach of the security at gas and oil installations was the Algerian regime’s nightmare back in the 1990s, when the country was wracked by an Islamist insurgency.

Under intense financial pressure at the time, and desperate to attract foreign investment into its energy sector, installations in the southern part of the country were heavily guarded exclusion zones that seemed a world apart from the heavily populated north.

There are two Algerias, people would say at the time, one soaked in blood, the other peaceful and bursting with oil and gas. Read more

Algeria, Pakistan, pollution, and Vogue magazine – the world desk’s recommended reads  Read more

James Blitz

A French army officer stands guard on January 16, 2013 while Malian president welcomes service at the military airbase in Bamako (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

A French army officer stands guard on January 16, 2013 at the military airbase in Bamako (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

How justified was France’s decision to intervene in Mali and seek to thwart the advance of the Islamist militants inside the country?

Nearly one week after President François Hollande ordered military action, the question is one which is beginning to reverberate in media commentary. The French have been clear that they need to go into Mali to stop the spread of an al-Qaeda linked movement that has a significant foothold in the country and might ultimately threaten the west. But some figures in the US administration clearly have doubts about the wisdom of the move.

The biggest concerns have been raised in an article in Thursday’s New York Times. The NYT says US officials have only an “impressionistic understanding” of the militant groups that have established a safe haven in Mali. It suggests that some US officials wonder how much of an external threat they pose. The NYT quotes Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, who last June played down the terrorist threat to the United States from Mali. He said that the al-Qaeda affiliate operating there “has not demonstrated the capability to threaten U.S. interests outside of West or North Africa, and it has not threatened to attack the U.S. homeland.” Read more