When we think of al-Qaeda, we picture men in caves in remote areas of the Middle East.  Since we’ve been going after them in the Middle East, many al-Qaeda operatives have fled the region for a place where they are less likely to get noticed: the projection room above the auditorium North Africa.

“AlQ’s” takeover of Mali was effectively completed with the forced resignation of the Prime Minister. That country (as well as large portions of Mauritania and Algeria) are almost too corrupt to function.  And to add insult to injury, the rebel leader received basic officer training in the United States. “Who does he think he is? I like invented him, you know?”

The Sahara is a large land area with extreme poverty and very low population density – meaning that al-Qaeda can do what it does, because governments in the region don’t have the resources to find it and stop it.  What happened in Benghazi is a symptom of this problem.  If we treat the symptom and ignore the cause, the condition will just get progressively worse.  (This isn’t just me philosophizing.  AQIM has publicly called for its followers to kill more U.S. ambassadors.)

AlQ has accomplished the mean girl trifecta by getting the U.S. wound into a complicated mess of secrets, confusing her about which of her friends she can trust, and even catching her in an embarrassing hookup. And just like in the movie – we have to stand up to the Mean Girl by articulating a clear strategy for doing the right thing. For now, here’s a look at the complete immaturity of all the actors in the region.

– The Obama administration said that it had withdrawn its troops and aid from Mali earlier this year.  A month after that announcement, three U.S. servicemen blew the cover when they crashed a car they were driving…a car that also happened to be carrying three Moroccan prostitutes.

– We also know that there have been secret White House meetings about al-Qaeda in North Africa, but we don’t know what was discussed or decided upon in those meetings.  That’s why the government is so big.  It’s full of secrets.

– As far as our allies go, an unnamed European official has been described as “concerned” about the collapse of Mali.  We don’t know who this official is, or which country he is from.  But the EU is about to start providing military training to resistance leaders. We have to hope that the EU trainers will be successful in arming the Malians against alQ.

– The UN is scheduled to discuss the situation in Mali later this week. I imagine that the discussion will go something like this:

“I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy…” – The UN

– Nigeria has sent troops to Mali, with the stated purpose of stopping the Islamic radicals from taking over the entire country.  Meanwhile, Nigeria’s got its own terrorist group – called Boko Haram – which is actively supporting alQ in Mali. I know it may look like Nigeria is a total backstabber, but that’s only because Nigeria is acting like a total backstabber.

When we ask for answers about Benghazi, the left wing thinks that we are asking for too much. Really, we aren’t asking for enough. “Oh my gosh, you can’t just ASK government HOW it’s going to deal with the rise of radical Islam in North Africa.”  But this is a valid question that the government better be able to answer – it’s a matter of our safety and security.

I have this theory, that if you cut off all the funding for Islamic radicals, the region would look like a peaceful and more prosperous place.  The U.S. has already given hundreds of millions of aid dollars to Nigeria, Mali, and Mauritania in the past few years alone.  We need to make sure that this money is going to people who need it and none for radical Islamists, bye!  We can use this money to spark real change: raising the low literacy rates, teaching sustainable farming practices, expanding access to electricity and clean water.

As entertaining as it may be to reduce alQ to a bratty teenage girl, I use this metaphor only because the true situation in North Africa is far too dire for me to comprehend.  I don’t know what famine looks like.  I can’t even begin to imagine being one of the hundreds of thousands of refugees forced out of their homes and into the desert.  But I do know that Janice, one of the heroes in the movie, got this right:  “There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil things and those who see evil things and don’t try to stop it.”  We have a moral imperative to stop alQ in north Africa.

Angela Morabito | Georgetown University | @_AngelaMorabito