Not even four minutes into the last presidential debate, Mitt Romney mentioned Mali as a terrorism hot spot. I was proud that I knew where Mali was, though  had no idea something bad had happened there. As it turns out, according to a post by Morgan Lorraine Roach, after Muammar Qadhafi’s defeat in Libya last October, Tuareg rebels, once loyal to the regime, left Libya and returned to their homelands in Mali and Niger. In Mali, fighters equipped with arms looted from Qadhafi’s stockpiles quickly organized the separatist group known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

Supported by the Islamist Tuareg-led group Ansar Dine, militants launched attacks on Malian military targets. In March 2011, the Malian military launched a coup, ousting the democratically elected president, Amadou Toumani Touré.

Weeks later, the MNLA declared northern Mali, known as “Azawad,” an independent state. This victory was short-lived, as the ties between the MNLA and Ansar Dine quickly deteriorated. Sidelining the MNLA, Ansar Dine partnered with regional Islamist militants and hundreds of fighters from from Sudan, Yemen, and even Pakistan. Together, these groups occupied Mali’s northern territory (an area the size of France), enforcing sharia law and meting out brutal punishments to those who resisted.

The Arab Spring has become Arab Winter in so many corners. What’s an American president to do? Who knows. I was glad that Romney seems to be less of a saber rattler than his Republican predecessor (at least this week), but is it realistic that America would ever be able to eradicate al-Qaeda? Unlikely. We Christians might say trust the Lord. But that’s unlikely too. More than 90 percent of the city’s roughly 300 Christians have fled, said Baptist Pastor Nock Ag Info Yattara back in April. He said not one of the 205 people in his congregation, which has worshipped in Timbuktu since the 1950s, has stayed behind. “We cannot live like that,” he said.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.-Psalm 138:7

According to Roach, the failure to contain the Malian threat could result in new terrorist havens that serve as launching pads for attacks against the U.S. and its allies. So now I have to worry about Mali? It’s all the way to Timbuktu.

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