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Conditions In The Sahel Deteriorating

Militiaman from the Ansar Dine Islamic group sit on a vehicle in Gao in northeastern Mali.

Violent extremists in northern Mali roam uncontested; terrorist and criminal organizations exploit safe havens.

Conditions in the Sahel, which encompasses Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, and southern Algeria, are deteriorating, said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Conditions In Sahel Deteriorating
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Violent extremists in northern Mali roam uncontested; terrorist and criminal organizations exploit safe havens to plan and conduct attacks and traffic in weapons and other illicit materials. Moreover, the humanitarian situation remains dire as millions suffer from violence and a lack of food. These problems are linked, said Ambassador Rice, and they require a joint international response.

Mali was plunged into turmoil in March after a coup created a security vacuum. Prior to the coup, heavily armed Tuareg rebel groups launched a series of offensives in the north. The rebel groups took advantage of the post-coup chaos to capture northern towns and cities. Extremist groups joined forces with the rebels, but contention for territory ensued. The major urban areas in northern Mali are now in the hands of al-Qaida affiliated extremists, among others.

Mali’s many challenges are reinforced and exacerbated by a range of transnational and region-wide afflictions including negative ecological changes, underdevelopment, disaffected local populations, and organized criminal networks. That’s why the crisis there must be addressed in a manner which does not further destabilize the region. More than 150,000 Malian refugees have fled to neighboring countries and are living among communities already stressed by drought. Any military intervention, said Ambassador Rice, must be designed to minimize the operation’s humanitarian impact and the impact on human rights.

The rise of violent extremism and organized crime across the region is aggravating the situation in Mali. This threat demands better coordination of existing efforts across the Sahel to combat transnational crime and the proliferation of terror networks. The U.S. has expanded its counterterrorism partnerships in the region to help countries tackle growing threats to their own security.

In an effort to help the 18.7 million people in the region who don’t have enough food, the U.S. has committed more than $445 million in humanitarian assistance in 2012.

The only answer to peace and stability in the Sahel is for the international community to develop a comprehensive strategy to bring about political stability, sustainable development and to fight terrorism, organized crime, and the proliferation of weapons.