NATO IS tightening its grip on Africa with French forces directly intervening in Mali to defend a puppet regime from rebels branded as Islamic fundamentalists, while US imperialism plans to deploy 3,500 troops across the continent to deal with the “al Qaeda” threat.
The British government has pledged “limited support” for the French intervention in its former West African colony, while the Americans have reportedly offered to deploy drones in Mali to track rebel movements for the benefit of the French air force.
French warplanes and helicopter gunships are now pounding rebel positions in Mali to pave the way for a government offensive to drive the rebels out of the north of the country, which was seized by Tuareg tribal militias last year. And over 750 French troops are fighting alongside the forces of the puppet government, which is also hoping for military assistance from neighbouring Niger and Senegal.
At the moment British imperialism’s contribution appears to be limited to a loan to France of two RAF transport planes. But in a statement to the House of Commons the “Africa Minister”, Mark Simmonds, said: “The situation in Mali is a serious concern for the UK. It would not be in our interests to allow a terrorist haven to develop in northern Mali.”
There is undoubtedly a militant Islamic rebel movement in Mali. The Tuareg militias who control two-thirds of Mali are divided between nationalists fighting for an independent Tuareg state and others belonging to Islamic groups believed to be affiliated to Al Qaeda.
The British concern is not, of course, about the Malian Islamists’ reactionary philosophy. Al Qaeda and other Muslim Brotherhoods have been funded and armed when it suits imperialism — as it did in Afghanistan during the US-led campaign to bring down the Afghan people’s republic in the 1980s and as the imperialists continue to do in Syria in their efforts to oust the Baathist-led popular front government in Syria.
In fact the British concern is simply to continue to play ball with French imperialism in Africa to ensure that reciprocal help will be forthcoming if similar Nato assistance is required to preserve British imperialist interests in southern and central Africa.
Nato no longer pretends to be a “defensive organisation.” It intervened to bring down the Libyan government and it is openly supporting the reactionary forces in Syria trying to bring down the Assad government. Its mission statement openly speaks of out-of-area activities across the whole of Europe and it has a nuclear first-strike policy.
This week the Stop the War campaign issued a statement condemning British involvement in the Malian civil war and warning that as fighting intensifies Britain will get further drawn in to an intervention that has already been backed by the US government.
The anti-war movement says:
“It is extraordinary that the government has not learnt from the terrible legacy of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The experience of the last decade and more has been that foreign wars bring nothing but suffering, destruction and instability. Stop the War condemns the intervention in Mali, and calls on the government to withdraw all support immediately.”
Communists must support this call and take it up throughout the labour movement.
Peace remains the central issue of our time. The labour and peace movement must maintain the fight to bring about the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all British troops from Ireland and Afghanistan and ensure that they are never used to attack Syria. At the same time it must mobilise to stop the Government from spending more billions on the needless and useless replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system.