Things are getting ugly, fast:
In the capital, Bamako, a political settlement between the military junta that overthrew the constitutional government and an interim civilian government supported by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is still elusive. The interim president has just returned after two months of hospitalization and recuperation in France following a beating by a mob in his own palace. Amnesty International has released a report documenting atrocities committed by junta forces in response to a failed counter coup. … And over the weekend, Ansar Dine stoned to death an unmarried couple in front of 300 witnesses, according to graphic and chilling reportage by the New York Times.
Apparently the US is considering military intervention, possibly because its Libya invervention helped arm the Tuareg secessionists. Harvey Glickman explains how Islamists have taken over the separatist movement:
In April 2012, Ansar Dine…supported by [al-Qaeda organisation in the Islamic Maghreb] AQIM, declared Shari’a the official law in three towns. At the same time, the [Tuareg rebel party "National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad," or MNLA] announced a new country, "Azawad" in Mali’s three northern administrative counties. (Ironically, it is possible that under international law MNLA has that "right," since at the time, no national Mali constitution was in effect.) Nevertheless, at this moment, August 2012, the radical Islamists, although divided, have managed to hijack the separatist movement, sidelining the MNLA; and they have created a safe haven for hundreds of jihadi fanatics.
Glickman argued a few months ago that the rise of al Qaeda-like militant groups could make Mali a hotbed of terrorism:
The new Mali government, with (or perhaps through) ECOWAS, the US, and its European allies, all need to co-operate to address the threat of AQIM and Ansar Dine. In addition today Mali faces a humanitarian crisis: cutbacks in trade and foreign assistance at the moment of incipient drought. Added to its internal political crisis in the southern part of the country and the forcible spread of Shari’a, terrorism and sheer lawlessness in the north, the Saharan-northern Mali area represents a new frontier for American and international counter-terrorism.
However, John Glaser cautions against what he sees as this worrying trend in US counterterrorism on the continent, with Somalia's al-Shabab the immediate target:
The Pentagon has already sent more than $82 million into counterterrorism assistance for six African countries so far this year. The top recipients are Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Djibouti – all key proxies for Washington’s covert war on al-Shabab in Somalia, where the most US interventions are concentrated…. Even the Obama administration has quietly acknowledged the fact that their military involvement in Somalia may create more problems than it solves, with one administration official telling the Washington Post in December there is a "concern that a broader campaign could turn al-Shabab from a regional menace into an adversary determined to carry out attacks on U.S. soil."