Ray Locker @rlocker12, USA TODAY
USA TODAY - The Pentagon has issued a rush order for an instructor to teach the Tuareg language spoken by the nomadic people who live in the desolate northern regions of Mali, the west African nation that was the scene of an al-Qaeda-inspired rebellion in late 2012 and earlier this year, contract records show.
The solicitation, issued Friday by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in the Alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, seeks a Tuareg speaker to teach an intensive 12-week course in the language starting in September. "For the Tuareg course, there is expected to be only one student," the document said, although the course size could expand to eight students.
It's another signal of increasing U.S. interest in Mali, where Islamic rebels took over a wide swath of the northern part of the country last year. Much of northern Mali is dominated by the Tuareg, a nomadic tribe that has clashed for decades with the Malian government.
French troops, backed by limited U.S. air transport, drove out the rebels, but the region is the focal point of growing concern about al-Qaeda's spread in northern Africa. That concern is particularly acute in Africa, where terrorist groups have moved to take advantage of remote locations with little local government control.
In recent months, the Pentagon has stepped up its capabilities in the region. This spring it started rapid-reaction units in Spain and the east African nation of Djibouti to respond to crises in Africa.
Solicitations for instruction in languages spoken in remote areas of the world often signals increased U.S. involvement in the area, such as the surge in classes to speak Arabic or the Dari and Pashto languages used in Afghanistan.
In March, the U.S. government declared the group Ansar al-Dine, which operates in northern Mali, an international terrorist organization. The Air Force began flying unmanned drones from a base in neighboring Niger in February.
The Pentagon has sought Tuareg instructors in the past, most recently in 2008 and 2009, contract records show. But they were part of a larger solicitation for instructors for multiple languages and not the focused request filed Friday.