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Mali - Military Doctrine

Mali's sparsely populated northern regions (Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal) have long served as a haven for terrorist groups and smugglers. Mali's small security apparatus is unable to control the country's long and porous borders. Mali has weathered two earlier Tuareg rebellions (one from 1962-1964 and a second from 1990-1996).

Mali continues to face significant political and security challenges amidst slow implementation of a peace agreement signed in 2015 that aims to resolve the ongoing conflict in northern Mali. A disparate group of political armed groups, militias, bandits, and extremist groups continue to exert influence in wide swathes of Mali north of the Niger river. The Malian government is generally not present in those areas outside of major cities. Furthermore, terrorist groups have increased the frequency and range of their attacks - particularly against the base camps of the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal - in an effort to destabilize the country.

Terrorist groups with varying degrees of allegiance to al-Qa'ida and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) operate in Mali, and often pursue local agendas complementary to these global jihadist movements. Groups such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al-Murabitoun, Ansar al-Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) continued to conduct terrorist attacks throughout 2016, primarily targeting international and Malian military forces. These groups have claimed responsibility for recent gun and improvised explosives attacks, kidnappings, and other violent actions in northern and central Mali.

In March, 2017, four of these Al-Qaida-linked groups AQIM, Ansar al-Dine, MLF and MUJAO - merged under the banner of Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims). Terrorist groups are likely to continue, if not escalate, attacks on Western targets throughout the Sahel (including Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger).

Extremist groups have attacked UN peacekeepers northern base camps in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal throughout 2016 and early 2017. Since 2015, attacks by violent Islamist extremist groups have moved beyond the traditional conflict zone in the north to the center and south of the country. The entire area along the border with Burkina Faso, and some remote parts of southern Mali, are increasingly under threat of attack.

In Bamako, there are ongoing threats against hotels, restaurants, and other areas where Westerners congregate. On November 20, 2015, heavily armed assailants stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako using gunfire and grenades. AQIM and al-Murabitoun claimed responsibility for this attack, in which one U.S. citizen and 19 other foreigners were murdered. In March 2016 the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) headquarters building, locally referred to as the Azali Nord-Sud Hotel, was attacked.

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