Mali-France: Last Friday, France began its direct intervention in the Malian civil war, at the request of the Bamako government after Islamists, terrorist and jihadis captured a key town on the road from the north to Bamako. The immediate French objective was to stop the jihadis at Konna and to deter them from moving farther south to capture Bamako. Konna had been the boundary between the Islamist and government held regions.
French Rafale fighter jets bombed Islamist rebel targets in central Mali for three days. With French Air Force support, Malian forces – almost certainly with French ground forces –recaptured Konna on Saturday, a day after it was seized by Islamist rebels.
A Malian rebel spokesman said the French also bombed targets in the towns of Gao, Lere and Douentz, over the weekend.
France's Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French intervention on Friday had prevented rebels from seizing Bamako itself. He said air raids would continue in the coming days. He also said that France has deployed about 550 soldiers to Mali, split between Bamako and the town of Mopti, 500 km northeast, as part of “Operation Serval” – named after an African wildcat.
The French foreign minister made it clear that France was now targeting Islamist bases in the north of Mali and said Algeria, which shares a long border with Mali, had given permission for its air space to be used for bombing raids “without limit”.
Islamist rebels reportedly were abandoning Timbuktu and other northern towns to try to escape the French air attacks for which they have no defense.
Comment: Understandably, French leaders have provided limited details about the size of the land and air forces committed to Operation Serval and the bases from which the air forces are operating. France has multiple staging options, from Senegal to Chad. At least one squadron each of Rafale and Mirage fighters and probably a regiment of French ground forces have been committed to defend Bamako and drive the Islamists from northern Mali.
The speed and apparent accuracy of the French Air Force attacks indicate French military intelligence has been following the situation closely and provided French Air Force targeteers with sufficiently detailed intelligence about Islamist activities to support a week of air attacks.
The French obviously also performed detailed contingency planning and were ready when the orders came from the President.
Another point is that President Hollande, a socialist, is not like ex-President Sarkozy who was reluctant to intervene in security problems in Franco-phone Africa. Hollande has ordered timely and strong military action to prevent the capture of Bamako. In this, he has received swift support from multiple former French colonial states, much faster than the UN or the African regional organizations were able to manage on their own.
The French government has ordered a general increase in vigilance by French citizens, including those in Africa, against a Muslim backlash.
Mali-France-UK: The first Royal Air Force C17 cargo aircraft arrived at a Paris today to help French military logistics in support of the effort to defeat the Islamist rebels in Mali.
The first of two C17s will load French armored vehicles and other equipment for delivery to Mali on Monday. A second C17 will be used to establish a logistics shuttle between Paris and Bamako to support French troops. No UK troops would be deployed in a combat role, A UK spokesperson said.
The US, Denmark and other NATO states also are supporting the French and Malians.
Comment: The BBC reported this help for France is part of the “pooling and sharing” arrangement for increasingly scarce military resources pursuant to a defense agreement signed by both countries. The French Air Force lacks the heavy lift and long range capability of the RAF's C17s.
Mali-African states: The following states have committed a battalion of ground troops to the effort to recapture northern Mali. Others may follow.
Phi Beta Iota: The US may have provided target data derived from satellites, being totally inept on the ground, but this appears to be a clear demonstration that the French and Africans are now moving to displace US from the continent. The US Special Forces operating anywhere other than Yemen and Somalia may be at greater risk of “accidents.” As usual, the West ignores all but the most obvious threats, for example, not connecting extreme food insecurity to a revival of Islamist rebel movements. The ignorance of the West is in its “analysis” of Africa cannot be under-stated. Just as there were once rice Christians in China, now there are rice Islamists in Africa. Duh.