Have the Gates of Hell in Mali Opened for France?
The dilemma for France in Mali now is time. France recently committed nearly 600 troops to help the 4000 man Mali army fight the al-Qaeda Mahgreb affiliated group. The al-Qaeda group has taken northern Mali, built military bases and now intend on bringing the war to the capital city, Bamako, in the south where 6000 French citizens live.
French Rafale\Mirage jets from Chad or Algeria heavily bombed the terrorist bases they built, dispersed and halted the frontal assault aimed at Konna and Mopti, forcing them to disperse into the desert bush as the Mali army battled them on the ground. In Gao, far to the north, French warplanes shattered much of the infrastructure used by the rebels. Local citizens praised the French. Oumar Ould Hamaha, an insurgent leader, told Europe 1 radio that the French have fallen into a quagmire that will be worse than Afghanistan or Irag.
This may be true. As the French Defense Minister was speaking about how successful the French intervention was, the al-Qaeda group struck from a side flank, seizing the Diabaly, a town within 150 miles of the capital. This was the furthest south and well behind Mopti. The town was undefended when the Mali army unit there fled and the rebels simply walked in and declared it was theirs. So far, 30,000 have been displaced.
France has enlisted the help from various NATO countries, including the US, but as logistical support not combat related. Originally, France stated the operation would last "weeks" citing objectives of stopping the advance and ousting the rebels from North Mali, which is twice the size of Germany. West African nations have promised 3,300 soldiers to bolster the Mali army, yet they are far off in coming because of difficulties. In the meantime. the al-Qaeda group and France are digging in.
This type of war burned France once before in Vietnam between 1946-1954 and in Algeria.