Written by Matthew Harper.
After Islamic radicals began to push southward in Mali, France intervened with military force last Friday. The French defended the military action, claiming that they were worried the terrorists would march on Bamako, the capital of Mali, which could create a wide security threat for much of the region. Now, half a week after France’s initial involvement, the UN has come out in support, and it looks as though the United States might get involved as well.
The UN Security Council met Monday in New York to discuss the Mali situation and, according to BBC News, France’s ambassador to the UN stated that the French had full support from the other 14 members of the Security Council. Because of this support, a West African force will be deployed to help push the terrorists back. So, after days of French bombings in the region trying to combat the Islamic radicals, it seems as though they will have some help in the coming days.
With the threat still not under control, the Pentagon is mulling the situation over and trying to determine how best to respond. Possible options include offering intelligence the United States has acquired via aerial surveillance, sending cargo planes to help move in more French troops (as there were less than 500 on the ground as of Monday), and providing air refueling support for the French air combat patrols (Fox News). This possible action by the United States follows right on the heels of Canada’s decision to send a C-17, a massive military transport plane, to help the French in their efforts to resist the Islamic rebels. According to Fox News, though, the Canadians were quick to point out that they have no intentions of getting directly involved and are merely loaning their plane out for “one week.”
The Foreign Minister of France, Laurant Fabius, is on record as saying that the French involvement in Mali will last a “matter of weeks” (BBC News). With plans to increase the number of French troops from around 500 to 2,500 in the coming days, Fabius also pointed out that the West African forces being sent in would include around 2,900 troops. 600 will come from Nigeria, 500 each will come from Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo and Senegal, and 300 will come from Benin.
So far, over 100 of the radical Islamists have reportedly been killed, as well as 11 Malian soldiers and a French helicopter pilot. Amidst fears that the conflict could get more serious, Fox News reports that the French government “ordered the immediate evacuation of all French nationals living in the Malian town of Segou,” which is roughly 49 miles from Diabaly, the city most recently captured by the Islamic rebels.