Scheduling wars is a tricky matter, especially when so many international powers are involved. The Western African economic body ECOWAS had agreed to an invasion of Mali, with African Union troops doing the bulk of the fighting, but that was supposed to happen in September at the absolute earliest.
That timetable changed dramatically this weekend when French troops invaded the nation out of the blue and began pressing for the AU to get their troops in place immediately to back them up.
ECOWAS is now promising to have troops on the ground within one week, but Nigeria is cautioning that even if the troops arrive, lack of training is going to mean it will be quite some time before they are an effective fighting force. The AU had initially promised 3,300 troops, and with France planning to escalate its own force to 2,500 this is going to be a significant logistics problem for the desert north of Mali.
The French war is being couched as a reaction to international concern that the rebel held north of Mali is going to amount to an “al-Qaeda nation.” In practice, the sparsely populated desert, with impoverished towns far apart from one another and little infrastructure probably doesn’t have the makings of a terrorism coordination hub, and whether France manages to occupy it militarily or not, it is unlikely the Malian junta would ever be able to effectively keep Islamist factions from operating in the vast Saharan region, much as they continue to operate in other nations in the region.
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