The conflict between the Malian army and the CSP (Permanent Strategic Framework) persists, with the recent capture of Kidal, a rebel stronghold, by Malian soldiers and their Russian allies marking a significant victory for Bamako and a crucial development in the ongoing hostilities.
Despite the military setbacks, the CSP rebels have declared their intention to “continue the fight.” The key question now is how and with what objectives.
The war has entered a new phase, one that could extend well beyond Kidal. Over the past two months, since the resumption of hostilities, the CSP rebels had been primarily defending the territories under their control at the time of the signing of the 2015 peace agreement. However, the intense bombardments by the Malian army and the Wagner Group on Kidal forced the CSP rebels to withdraw from this iconic stronghold.
Now, the CSP intends to expand its campaign. Attaye Ag Mohamed, a political figure within the CSP responsible for diplomatic affairs, stated, “The CSP forces have withdrawn, not broken, destroyed, or annihilated. We will not lay down our arms. Our military struggle will aim to regain control of the entire Azawad territory, including the five regions of Kidal, Timbuktu, Gao, Ménaka, and Taoudeni.”
Crucially, the rebels are not currently advocating for the independence of the Northern regions, as was the case in 2012. However, the 2015 peace agreement, which quelled that demand, has now crumbled. Attaye Ag Mohamed of the CSP believes that the time for dialogue and political resolution has not yet arrived.
“We do not believe that the transitional authorities are in a posture of sincere discussion. So for us as well: no. We remain open to dialogue when it comes to us, but we do not seek it. The peace agreement has been buried by the government, so we do not discuss it anymore.”
As for the transitional authorities in Mali, they have already announced the continuation of their military operations “to defend the integrity of the territory.” The evolving situation underscores the complex and challenging dynamics facing Mali, with both military and political avenues presenting intricate paths forward.