Wednesday, January 16, 2013

French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Two - Geography as a Barrier to the Islamists


French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch One - The French Counterattack
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Two - Geography as a Barrier to the Islamists
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Three - French Advancing in the International War
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Four - Final French Drive to Victory and Cartoon Propaganda Maps


The Islamists who took over Azawad/northern Mali had two great advantages in terms of military geography: low population density and open desert terrain.  This allowed for lightening attacks and only required a limited amount of men to hold down large swaths of territory.

However, geography is against the Islamists as they try to take over the rest of Mali.  The southern half of Mali is much more densely populated and the terrain is a complex mix of grasslands, wetlands, hills, forests, and human-impacted land like agricultural fields.  The Islamist modern-day pickup truck cavalry's freedom of movement is denied by the changing terrain and the Islamist Tuareg are not use to having a large army capable of holding territory after initial victories.  Finally, the Tuareg are entering a ethnically mixed land which is unlikely to provide support and aid to mobile soldiers with weak supply lines.

Columbia University's map shows how southern Mali is much more dense than Azawad
USDA map shows that southern Mali terrain is much more diverse than the northern desert

The Atlas Jeune Afrique shows the Islamist Tuaregs are invading other ethnic groups' homelands unlike the Islamist conquering their own ethnic lands earlier this year

1 comment:

Evan said...

A couple of comments based on my own understanding of the situation:

1. The more complex terrain and vegetation in southern Mali may put the rebels outside of their comfort zone, but it could also give them an advantage in guerrilla warfare against the conventional forces of France, Mali, and other West African countries.

2. The rebels were already occupying ethnically diverse territory before. Tuaregs and Arabs are minorities in both Gao and Timbuktu, the two largest cities in the north, and the populations of those cities made it abundantly clear that the rebels (and especially the Tuareg-dominated MNLA) were not welcome there.