(New York, N.Y.) — Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of State condemned the December 3 attack on a civilian bus in Mali that killed 31 individuals and wounded 17 others. Gunmen opened fire on the bus as it was traveling from the village of Songho to a market in Bandiagara. The attack occurred in the Mopti region, an area often targeted by insurgents from Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM)—an al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group—and ISIS.
Although the United States announced in January 2021 that it was considering reducing the number of U.S. troops in Mali, following the December 3 attack, Washington reaffirmed its commitment to its partnership with Mali “in their pursuit of a safe, prosperous, and democratic future.” More that 7,000 U.S. military personnel are deployed in Africa and have provided critical support to France’s regional anti-terror campaign, Operation Barkhane, in terms of intelligence and surveillance via drones. The French expect Operation Barkhane to end in the first quarter of 2022, which would involve the closure of French bases and a diminished troop presence.
Malian military personnel have received extensive military assistance from the United Nations as part of the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and training from the U.S. as part of the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program. Islamist groups including ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates, however, continue to control territory in northern Mali and to carry out attacks across the country.
Mali maintains some military and governance responsibilities in the north. However, Islamist militants have expanded their activities into the central and southern parts of the country. Given the ongoing insurgency, Mali is even more heavily dependent on foreign powers—particularly France—and the United Nations.
To read the Counter Extremism Project (CEP)’s resource Mali, please click here.