The current crisis in northern Mali is part of a larger historical process that has taken place in the region, explained Carnegie's Anouar Boukhars at a talk hosted by the Atlantic Council. Since the 1990s, Algeria has attempted to convince the world that it has stamped out its own problems with violent Islamist groups. However, noted Boukhars, “in reality, Algeria only regionalized its problem with Islamists.” While Algerian forces successfully chased militants out of the country, it pushed these groups into Mali and other neighboring countries, he explained. Eventually these groups integrated into Malian society, building ties with Arab communities and Tuareg rebel groups. By the 2000s, these militant violent groups had carved out an enclave in northern Mali. “In Mali, Algeria had hoped to stay on the sidelines,” said Boukhars. Ultimately, he explained, any resolution to the violence and turmoil in the Sahel will not just require Western support, but an assertive Algeria willing to exert its influence and military strength.
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