Despite French officials continuing to insist that the invasion of Mali is on track and that there is a possibility of a drawdown near the end of March, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian today termed it a “real war with significant losses,”
Le Drian was discussing fierce fighting with Islamist forces around Gao, a town which France nominally captured over a week ago but which Islamists continue to contest. The French DM declined to discuss the particulars of losses in the area, insisting specifics amounted to little more than “an accounting exercise.”
Locals however, reported that Malian junta forces came under attack from rebel rocket fire, and French helicopters bombarded the area around which the rebels were believed to be.
Despite the public confidence of French officials, the government continues to press the UN Security Council to deploy international troops into the nation to allow France to follow through on promised drawdowns.
The Islamists may only be part of the problem, however. As they have moved out of the cities and into the desert to conduct a more straightforward insurgency, Tuareg secessionists have cropped back up to retake towns for themselves. France has downplayed the seriousness of this, and simply demands the Tuaregs abandon secession plans, but the Malian junta sees them as a threat, particularly after the Tuaregs routed them across the northern half of the country before the Islamists showed up and took over the region.
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