What We're Watching: The outgoing Liz Cheney, trouble in Kosovo, France out of Mali

US Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) during a Jan. 6 committee hearing.

USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

Liz Cheney’s next move

Liz Cheney, a three-term Republican US congresswoman from Wyoming, suffered a stinging defeat Tuesday night at the hands of well-funded primary opponent Harriet Hageman, enthusiastically backed by former president Donald Trump. Sarah Palin — the former vice presidential candidate and governor, also supported by Trump — won the Alaska primary to run for Congress. Cheney’s defeat marks a remarkable political fall for a nationally known conservative politician who is the daughter of former VP Dick Cheney, the previous generation of Republicans’ best-known Washington powerbroker. Her political future and her potential impact on American politics will be defined by her central role on the congressional committee investigating the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and Trump’s role in it. Trump, according to Cheney, is “guilty of the most serious dereliction of duty of any president in our nation’s history.” Cheney raised some $13 million for her now-failed House campaign. She can still spend that money on a future race. Next up: speculation that Cheney will run for president in 2024 in a campaign defined by opposition to Trump, who is still the Republican presidential frontrunner.


NATO tries to calm Balkan tensions

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will meet Wednesday (separately) with Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti for EU talks in Brussels to try to avoid a new conflict in the Balkans. Two weeks ago, mass protests erupted across Kosovo after local ethnic Serbs were told they'd be forced to replace their Serbian-issued IDs and license plates with new documents and tags issued by Pristina, Kosovo’s government. Implementation of the law was then delayed by a month, but the announcement had already kick-started tensions in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 following a bloody war in the late 1990s. Tens of thousands of ethnic Serbs who live in Kosovo refuse to recognize the country, which Serbia still claims as its province. With the alliance now preoccupied with Russia’s war in Ukraine, NATO is especially on edge over the risk of new fighting in the Balkans, where the organization’s peacekeepers have been deployed since 1999. Kurti says there’s a connection between the two conflicts. He claims Vladimir Putin is egging on the pro-Moscow Vučić to spread what Putin sees as Russia's war with NATO to other parts of Europe — a charge which Vučić has denied. Vučić and Kurti are expected to hold a rare face-to-face meeting on Thursday.

Au revoir, Mali

The last French troops left Mali on Monday, ending nine years of French military presence in this country in the Sahel region of West Africa. Paris decided to withdraw in February, a year and a half after Mali’s military took over in consecutive coups in 2020 and 2021. Relations with the new government tanked after French President Emmanuel Macron demanded a swift return to democracy. France deployed forces in Mali in 2013 at Bamako's request to help fight jihadists allied with Tuareg rebels, but frustrated locals came to view the French as ineffective and unwanted. In addition, Mali's ruling junta has lately warmed toward Russia, which has deployed mercenaries from the shadowy Wagner Group to help local forces beat back the Islamist insurgency. So far, the main result has been controversy: human rights groups accuse Mali's military and the Russian mercs of carrying out civilian massacres, and French air strikes of targeting civilians. Meanwhile, the 2,500-strong French contingent in the Sahel has shifted its hub to neighboring Niger and will coordinate from there its troops in Chad and Burkina Faso as part of its wider mission to defeat jihadism in one of sub-Saharan Africa's most conflict-ridden regions.
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