UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said that Islamist extremists in North Africa pose a "large and existential threat" - a comment he made following the siege of a gas facility in Algeria, where dozens of people, nearly all of them foreigners, were killed.Making Sense of Mali from Foreign Affairs:
"It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months," Mr Cameron said.
"What we face is an extremist, Islamist, al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group. Just as we had to deal with that in Pakistan and in Afghanistan so the world needs to come together to deal with this threat in north Africa."
The group responsible for the incident in In Amenas in Algeria appears to have been led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a local jihadist-criminal who had been a commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Recent reports have oversimplified the conflict in Mali, hinting that the country hosts a coherent Tuareg separatist bloc and a popular radical Islamist movement. In fact, mainstream Malians love neither. Most of them just want a return to democracy with broader participation and more freedoms -- the precise opposite of what they fear the separatists and Islamists would bring. As long as French assistance helps hold those groups off, it will be welcome.Long wars require patience and then some more patience.