The Tuareg are tough nomads who live in the Sahara Desert, in Algeria, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and Mali. See the following Wikipedia map.
Map 1 The Tuareg Region
The Tuareg were traditionally financed by Muammar Gaddafi, the socialist dictator of Libya. As you can see from the map the Tuareg live in a very small part of Libya and they were no threat for the Libyan dictator. The Tuareg want to create an independent state, the Azawad. Azawad is the northern part of Mali, as you can see on the following Wikipedia map.
For Gaddafi the Tuareg were very useful, first because they were causing turmoil in a region that Gaddafi was confronting the French. France traditionally had great influence over West Africa. With red on the following map you can see the French colonies in Africa, and with blue the British. Libya has been traditionally under Italian control. France traditionally had stronger economic ties with Algeria and Italy with Libya.
Map 3 African Colonies in 1914
Muammar Gaddafi always claimed a part of the French influence in West and North Africa, and he trained terrorists that were against the French, or against governments friendly to France. The Tuareg were among the ones trained in the Gaddafi terrorist academy, the World Revolution Center at Benghazi. At Benghazi Gaddafi was training socialist terrorists from all over the world. See Metro “Revealed: Colonel Gaddafi’s school for scoundrels”, March 2011.
Map 4 Benghazi
I often say that the French rely on nuclear energy and they import 25% of their uranium from Niger, and Niger borders Libya, and is also home to a significant Tuareg population. See World Nuclear Association “Nuclear Power in France”, November 2015.
France uses some 12,400 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate (10,500 tonnes of U) per year for its electricity generation. Much of this comes from Areva in Canada (4500 tU/yr) and Niger (3200 tU/yr) together with other imports, principally from Australia, Kazakhstan and Russia, mostly under long-term contracts. Areva perceives the front end of the French fuel cycle as strategic, and invests accordingly.
Other than causing troubles for the French in Africa, the Tuareg were also useful to Gaddafi because they made difficult the construction of the Trans-Saharan Pipeline, which would connect Nigeria and Algeria through Niger, and which would hurt Libya’s economic interests. As you can read at the following Reuters article, the Trans-Saharan has been on the table since the 70s, and it was finally agreed on 2009. See Reuters “Nigeria, Algeria agree to build Sahara gas link”, July 2009
1st and 2nd Paragraphs
Nigeria, Algeria and Niger on Friday signed an agreement to build a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline across the Sahara that could send up to 30 billion cubic metres a year of supplies to Europe.
The idea of piping gas thousands of kilometres across the Sahara was first dreamt up more than 30 years ago, but the project remained on the drawing board pending a concrete agreement between neighbouring states and a clear funding plan.
Gazprom and NNPC agreed to invest at least $2.5 billion to explore and develop Africa’s biggest oil and gas sector, including building the first part of the Trans-Sahara pipeline. [ID:nLO549518]
Some analysts see Russia‘s keen interest in Nigeria as an attempt to maintain its grip on Europe’s natural gas supplies.
Map 5 Trans-Saharan Pipeline
The French Total, the Anglo-Dutch Shell and the Russian Gazprom offered to help Nigeria and Algeria with the construction of the Trans-Saharan, and the Europeans accused Gazprom for trying to control the European energy market. See “NATO VS Gaz;prom: The War for Europe”.
The Trans-Saharan also hurt the economic interests of the Arabs of the Gulf, the Iranians and the Turks, and as a result the Tuareg allied with the Jihadist organizations like Al-Qaeda. See “France urges talks with Mali rebels, unity against al Qaeda”, April 2012.
The above were definitely one of the reasons that the French grabbed the chance and attacked Gaddafi when the Arab Spring broke out. See “France VS Muammar Gaddafi”.
When the Arab Spring broke out, Gaddafi once more hired the Tuareg to defend him. But this time Gaddafi fell, and the Tuareg were left with the arms provided to them by Gaddafi. When they went back home they used their enhanced arsenal to claim independence in Mali, and the result were the Mali War of 2012.
Map 6 The Tuareg Rebellion
Tuareg rebellion (2012)
For the Tuareg funding by Gaddafi see also the following two articles from the BBC and the New York times.
“Gaddafi’s influence in Mali’s coup”, March 2012
The trouble began when hundreds of Malian combatants who had fought to defend the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, fled back home with weapons at the end of last year and formed the most powerful Tuareg-led rebel group the region has known – the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA).
“Qaddafi’s Weapons, Taken by Old Allies, Reinvigorate an Insurgent Army in Mali”, February 2012
2nd and 3rd Paragraph
Hundreds of Tuareg rebels, heavily armed courtesy of Colonel Qaddafi’s extensive arsenal, have stormed towns in Mali’s northern desert in recent weeks, in one of the most significant regional shock waves to emanate directly from the colonel’s fall.
After fighting for Colonel Qaddafi as he struggled to stay in power, the Tuaregs helped themselves to a considerable quantity of sophisticated weaponry before returning to Mali. When they got here, they reinvigorated a longstanding rebellion and blossomed into a major challenge for this impoverished desert nation, an important American ally against the regional Al Qaeda franchise.
19th and 20th Paragraph
In some ways, the aggressive new Tuareg campaign represents the kind of support the rebels had long sought from Colonel Qaddafi, who for years alternately aided and betrayed the desert warriors, according to a recent study by Mr. Boilley. After the great regional droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, young Tuaregs migrated north to the colonel’s military training camps, to later fight for him in places like Chad, while at the same time destabilizing the governments in Niger and Mali.