In a significant development, the Malian military, supported by mercenaries from the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, successfully took control of the city of Kidal, a stronghold of rebellion for the past 11 years. As the last rebels evacuated the city, the victory raised immediate questions about the future course of action.
Militarily, the decisive factor in capturing Kidal was the use of air power, including drones and fighter jets. The Malian Armed Forces (Fama) entered Kidal without facing direct combat, compelling the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CSP) to relinquish its positions and stronghold after enduring intense bombardment.
However, the rebels have not disarmed and have declared an upcoming “new phase” in their struggle. With control now established, the Malian army must anticipate a new era of guerrilla warfare and sporadic attacks in an overall hostile environment.
The substantial resources invested over the past month and a half for the capture of Kidal are noteworthy, encompassing not only aerial assets but also over a hundred vehicles transporting troops and weaponry from Gao since early October. Sustaining this level of mobilization poses the risk of diminishing military presence elsewhere, particularly in the central regions where the jihadist threat remains unabated.
The symbolic significance of Bamako’s success cannot be overstated. Kidal represents the cradle of all independence movements that have shaped Mali’s history for decades. While the current victory is a source of pride for many Malians, it undermines eight years of painstaking attempts to implement the 2015 peace agreement and could reignite separatist aspirations that the accord aimed to definitively quell.
The pressing issue now revolves around the political strategy that Bamako will employ to offer a lasting solution for peace in the country. The capture of Kidal, while a triumph on one front, underscores the complex challenges that lie ahead in maintaining stability, both militarily and politically, across Mali.