How Mali became a failed state
The Washington Post has a good analysis of Mali's rapid descent into a virtual failed state following a military coup d'Etat three months ago that overturned 20 years of democracy.
Mali was hardly a paragon prior to the coup that brought to power a junta headed by Capt. Amadou Sanogo to power. The government was increasingly corrupt and ineffectual. The military was poorly armed in the face of a combined insurgency of Tuaregs who wanted a separate state in the north and of Islamists who wanted all of Mali united under a harsh form of Sharia.
However the coup rapidly accelerated, rather than halted, Mali's slide into chaos. The junior officers couldn't decide if they wanted power or not, though they did decide to help themselves to government laptops and other office equipment as part of their looting 'strategy.' The rebel groups took advantage of the indecision to seize most of northern Mali, including the culturally significant city of Timbuktu, where the Islamists have blown up ancient statues and started imposing Taliban-esque punishments.
Meanwhile, the military leaders have certainly gotten comfortable with the lavish perks of power (even as the regional body ECOWAS doesn't recognize the coup) as their country burns. The Post articles concludes: Businessmen are still waiting in front of [Sanogo]'s office to see him, with the customary suitcase of cash, a sign of his enduring influence.
Update: The Post ran another article a few days ago on a mysterious crash in Mali that killed three US Army commandos. The soldiers were engaged in anti-terrorism operations in the Sahara against the Islamists. The crash occurred *after* the US suspended military cooperation with Mali following the coup,