Mali: Let’s just see how bad this gets before we step in….

Mali Islamists

Although armed Islamist groups (some linked to al-Qaeda) took control of northern Mali back in April, French troops have only begun arriving today.

President Francois Hollande announced today that French troops “have brought support this afternoon to Malian units to fight against terrorist elements”. This is not surprising given the poor state of the Malian army, which abandoned the north without a fight in April.

Since April, things have been looking rough in Mali. Reports emanating from jihadist-controlled towns such as Timbuktu and Gao talk of rebels recruiting local children as fighters, imposing brutal punishments (including arbitrary killings, stonings, amputations, forced marriages, etc) in the name of a fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia and attracting militant allies from North Africa, the Middle East and Nigeria. Thousands of Malians have sought to flee the north in recent months.

What’s taken the international community so long to step in? For months the United Nations and Mali’s West African neighbours have been going back and forth debating how to retake the north.  Efforts to get an African led force together or to train the train wreck that is the Malian army have dragged on since the spring.

A major push south by the Islamists appears to have been the tipping point for French intervention. Over the last few days, clashes between the army and militants have resulted in the Islamists seizing the town of Konna, inching increasingly closer to the Malian military base. It only took 8 months and tons of pleading for French troops to arrive, but let’s hope they can do a better job than the Malian army. It shouldn’t be too difficult…should it?

Via: The Washington Times

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