The simple fact that the United States’ recent experience of war is of the long, grinding, expensive and inconclusive messes of Iraq and Afghanistan doesn’t mean that other nations won’t step more nimbly and carefully in their own wars. And while I don’t know terribly much about Mali, I do know that the jihadis had nothing anywhere near either the number of fighters nor the powerful outside backers that the Viet Minh had at Dien Bien Phu and the Taliban, thanks to Pakistan’s assistance, have today.
So here’s one lesson we’ve learned so far: When the conditions are right, it’s easier for professional, well-armed soldiers to defeat jihadi insurgents. France’s war in Mali began on Jan. 11 and by Jan. 26 it was all but wrapped up.
Of course, a lot of the jihadis simply cut and ran, giving up the towns they’d held for months and in which, as they commonly do wherever they take control of the world, they’d alienated and antagonized the residents.
Could they come back? Sure. Mali’s Tuareg’s have had a bad relationship with the central government since the state was founded and while both the central government’s troops and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) are now eager to see the back of Al Qaeda-inspired groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Ansar al-Dine, they may find it hard to get along with each other for long.