We've heard before about US military personnel in West Africa – the story goes back several years and isn't denied. It just doesn't get much of airing. What are they actually doing? To get anecdotal chat about their presence in northern Mali, from this Kidal community website, is interesting. I think it probably tells you more about how resentment grows from idle chat – or is the opening remark below deliberately provocative? – to extremism and violence than any complex bird's eye analysis. For those who don't speak French, I'll try to summarise the conversation:
scipion (15 June 2007, 1.12pm) asks:
Sound of American boots in Kidal
What can we say about what the troops and the American tanks are doing in Kidal? Invasion? Colonisation? Training? Manouevres?
al-ansary (15 June 2007, 2.44pm) says:
they treat everybody who is against them or who asks questions about the purpose of these troops, that person is considered a terrorist or somebody giving support to terrorism. so, brothers on the ground, look out, and be aware that every word, each movement is noticed by uncle sam. He is always looking for excuses to plant himself on the ground. He even tries to provoke quarrels. The history of the usa abroad is full of that sort of thing.
diallo (15 June 2007, 4.46pm) doesn't agree:
Mali has agreements with the USA and they are here to train elite Malian troops. What's more, they don't have tanks or armoured vehicles. Let's not exaggerate.
scipion (15 June 2007, 7.03pm comes back:
Sorry Mr Diallo, but they certainly have come with armoured vehicles. I didn't say anything about tanks. And I'm not exaggerating.
Meanwhile, in a town not far away (Gao, down on the River Niger) a largely benign arm of American foreign policy, the Peace Corps, in the shape of one volunteer, is assisting in running the best travel website in Mali, and one of the country's poorest regions. Brilliant stuff from M. Kata Data Alhousseini Maïga and his team – more power to their keyboards!
6 hours ago