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There's gold up there, too - but no military? What is ATT thinking?
I think we have the answer in the contracts that were signed between the Malian and Algerian presidents for oil drilling in Taoudenni.
Algeria is seizing the moment and is planning to expand their interests in the region. They will fill the vacuum left by Khadaffi's departure. The winners will be the touaregs - and in return, they will promise not to start another rebellion. The loosers: Aqim Algeria eyes investment in northern Mali (Magharebia.com)
"It would be illogical that Algeria venture to invest in the less secure part of the basin, which links Mali, Algeria and Mauritania, without having first established a plan to deal with these challenges," he added.
According to regional analyst Hammadi Ag Ali, the security concerns are exaggerated.
"These are unjustified fears because Touaregs in the end are a group of people who have specific demands, some of which are related to a desire to secede, while others are related to demands for more development," he explained. "If we assume that the group demanding separation is dominating the scene, then there must be some sort of a rear support after the fall of Kadhafi. That support will certainly be the Algerian state."
"Algeria will venture to invest its money in the Taoudeni basin only after it gets guarantees from the actors in that area, who are primarily the Touaregs," he continued. "As for al-Qaeda, their threat will decrease as Touaregs' influence increases because the latter will tighten the noose on them if they threaten their interests."
I found this most interesting. Let's see how it pans out. Niger may be another story entirely - or not. Perhaps they will make a similar deal.
In Ezzane is about 240 km SE of Djanet - near the triple point of Libya, Niger and Algeria but within Algeria. I expect that the interception happened near the SW exit of Libya. They were probably skirting the NW part of the Djado plateau into Niger or far SE Algeria. You need a GPS to know which country you're actually in there. I drove down that way to Niger from Djanet some time ago. It is vast and empty.
Sounds like gun-running rush hour out in the Tenere these days.
I suppose Tumu is too obvious at the moment so they may have slipped down the right side of Akakus (left of Messak and Murzuk Erg) past Col d'Anai (the border) and from there its only a couple of hours across Algeria into Niger. But the Algies were on it.
In Ezzane is an 'unfriendly [Alg] army base' I've heard. Always wanted to explore that tri-border area. Google puts the well here, the base may be this? - there are tracks in the oued just to the NW.
You can kill hours on Google sat... Have a look at Tumu and follow the sandy track east, from where the tarmac ends past various compounds. Heaps of stuff lying around in neat piles - oil drums? Found this great image too of the airport there (west of the road, crosses the border) - a lot of PSP!
Now the malians desperately want their own oil (imports amount to 27% of the total) wonder what arrangements they've made with Bamako. Will that change now? Touareg situation is at the heart of it
This Feb 2010 wikicable offers some insight into the relationship between Algiers and Bamako. Cable Viewer
from the US embassy Bamako. GOM = Government Of Mali
"Algerian ambassador Ayadi said Algeria's
and Mali's fate were tied together by history and geography.
Unfortunately, the two countries have a very different
approach to dealing with the threat of AQIM, which has
installed itself in the North of Mali, and has proven itself
capable of doing a lot of harm not only in the region but
internationally. The GOM is not living up to its
international obligations with respect to countering
terrorism and has displayed a fair degree of laxity, if not
to say complicity in dealing with the terrorists. ...
He said paying ransom
will only make citizens of the ransom-paying nations targets
of future hostage taking attempts. If they stay out of the
North, the terrorists will only come down to Bamako to snatch
Ayadi said that when one's house is on fire, one
does not wait for the fire truck to do something. The GOM is
not operating in good faith. The summit is not a
pre-condition to action. We do not have the impression that
the GOM thinks of AQIM as the enemy. He said the release of
the information he was about to relate had not been cleared
by Algiers: the Algerian army had attempted to conduct an
operation against AQIM with the Malians on Malian soil, but
AQIM had been tipped off in advance and moved out of range.
He said that several months ago, Algeria had formally
requested the extradition of two high level detainees, but
the GOM responded that they were not in their custody. ....
Ayadi claimed that the Malian Army had shown
capability to take action against the Tuareg rebellion but
refuse to do anything about AQIM. Niger has fewer resources
but does more in the fight, and the proof is that AQIM has
been unable to establish a base in that country. It looks
worse than weakness on the part of the Malians, it looks like
willful complicity. ....
As it is easier, and feels more virtuous, to list problems than work toward
solutions, it seems likely that efforts to bring Mali and
Algeria closer to fight AQIM, though necessary, will continue
to be a very uphill battle. "
ALGERIA - Sonatrach returns to Taoudeni region - Maghreb Confidential
Sonatrach returns to Taoudeni region
"There’s been an improvement in the business climate between Mali and Algeria. With a delegation from the Garde Nationale Algerienne headed by colonel Moustapha Salmi currently spending a week in Mali to tighten security on the border between the two countries, Sonatrach is about to resume exploration on Mali’s side of the Taoudeni basin. SIPEX, an affiliate of Algeria’s national oil company, penned an agreement in Bamako in February, 2007, to explore and produce oil on block 20 in the basin. In 2009, it conducted a seismic campaign that reportedly came up with promising results but security problems in the region (where Al Qaida in Arab Maghreb operates) led the subsidiary to rein in operations.
In addition, to avoid having to meet its drilling commitments on its other concessions in the basin, Sonatrach handed back almost all of blocks 1,2,3,4 and 9 to the government, in conjunction with its partners ENI and Baraka Petroleum.
The fresh start to work on the Taoudeni comes on the heels of a visit to Algiers by Mali president Amadou Toumani Toure in October."
They can seal that border all they like, but will they operate inside Mali? If not, who will?
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