The Algerian government is turning to the terror group Ansar Eddine for help to save Bouteflika’s failed Sahel policy. Algiers’s overtures toward Ansar Eddine demonstrate the length to which the Algerian government will go to undermine any political settlement to the Malian conflict that may boost the influence of the more respected National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).
Algeria’s well-connected Military Intelligence Agency (DRS) knows that given the current circumstances in the Sahel, both a political solution and a Military one to end the crisis in Mali will benefit the MNLA and disadvantage Algerian interests.
Algeria’s calls for a political solution to the crisis hide Algerian fears that an international military intervention in Mali will obliterate terrorist groups in the North leaving the MNLA stronger militarily and politically; and thus emboldening the Malian and Algerian Touareg minorities. Sahel Experts agree that a just and durable political resolution to the Touareg problem in Mali must include the MNLA and exclude all terror groups including the Algeria courted Ansar Eddine.
In an attempt to draw a difference between Ansar Eddine and AQIM, the Algerian government has embarked on a media campaign to soften the image of Iyad Ag Ghali, the self-proclaimed Touareg terror leader and head of Ansar Eddine. The Algerian daily AL-watan quoted Algeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mourad Medelci and the Minister in charge of Maghreb and African Affairs Abdelkader Messahel describing Ansar Eddine as an AQIM “splinter group” and its leader Iyad Ag Ghali as an "essential character" in the search for a "negotiated political solution."
However, Iyad Ag Ghali , who was a host of President Bouteflika government on a couple of occasions since the beginning of the Malian crisis, turned against his handlers. In a stark rebuttal to Algeria’s foreign ministry statements, Ansar Eddine leaders reaffirmed their allegiance to AQIM and its Algerian Emirs according to the the reliable news website TSA-Algerie. Furthermore, Ansar Eddine has vowed to keep its close association with the Movement for the uniqueness and jihad in West Africa (Mujao), a terror group holding Algerian diplomats as hostages in Mali.
Rather than assisting the World community in finding a lasting resolution to the crisis in Northern Mali, the Algerian DRS is courting terror groups to counter-balance the MNLA. Unlike the Malian government and the rest of the countries in the Sahel, the Algerian government is willing to coexist with the armed groups in the North of Mali rather than find a political solution that would give the Touareg people self-ruling rights and the freedom to run their affairs within a unified Mali. For the international community terror groups are the enemy of peace and stability in Mali, but for Algeria, the aspiration of the Touareg people for more rights as represented by the MNLA is the true danger in the Sahel.