Rainy day reading
Interesting and fairly recent report here.
Haven't read every word but comes across as notably impartial.
A quotable footnote:
It took this writer approximately one minute to find his own car using the commercial satellite imagery available through “Google Earth”. Presumably the US military has the ability to find a large number of people and vehicles in an area as open and barren as the Sahara.
International Reporting Project - Fellows' Stories
From 2005 but with another (shortened) quotable quote:
Xavier Raufer, a terrorism expert at the University of Paris, told me that many GSPC fighters were essentially "bandits by day, jihadists by night." ... who operate within "melting pots of crime" that "blend religious fanaticism, famine, massacres, piracy at sea, or airline hijacking with [the] trafficking of human beings, drugs, arms, toxic substances, or gems." ...: Black-market activities like cigarette and gun smuggling fuel their operations, but those same black markets also serve as important sources of income for people who live in the most desolate and impoverished reaches of the Sahara. A netwar-type strike [ie: Pan Sahel Initiative, etc], that brings down the wrong militant, or even the right one, might curtail regional smuggling, but with no economic alternatives in place, it will likely strand and anger the very people the United States is trying to win over in the Muslim world.
The following para in that report is also worth reading and the last para rings true too.