Jack Goldsmith argues that the need for intervention in Mali was caused by intervention next door:
There are many causes, but the proximate one is the 2011 NATO invasion of Libya. A chunk of Qadaffi’s army consisted of Tuaregs – a nomadic group whose homeland includes Northern Mali, and who returned home with powerful weapons when Qadaffi was defeated. With assistance from their Islamist friends (including al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb and Ansar Dine), they took over cities in Northern Mali and declared independence. They are now on the move south, which is the occasion for the French military action.
Nasser Weddady shakes his head:
Sorry, but that does not even begin to explain the total collapse of Malian governance by the time [Tuaregs] Azawadis took to arms in early 2012. …By the time Qadhafi’s regime in Libya fell, northern Mali had been home to Jihadi elements that left Algeria a decade earlier after being thoroughly defeated in the civil war.
Bruce Whitehosue takes on other claims that US policy is to blame, specifically that the rebels had turned against the government once they had been trained by the Pentagon:
Pentagon-sponsored training was provided to a broad cross-section of officers and NCOs in the Malian military, of which the defectors (most of them Tuareg) made up a minority. US-trained personnel fought on both sides of the conflict: at best the effects of their training were canceled out, at worst they were negligible. The problem with the US military’s training program wasn’t that it benefited the wrong people, it’s that it didn’t work. Following exercises in 2009, detailed in Wikileaks, even one of the Malian army’s most elite units got poor evaluations despite lengthy collaboration with US trainers. Whatever “advantage” such collaboration may have provided, it was the last thing the Tuareg — experienced desert fighters — needed to defeat Malian government forces.