‘French troops helping Malian Army in fight against Islamists’
Washington: French troops have entered Mali to help the country’s sagging Malian Army in its battle against advancing Islamist fighters.
French President Francois Hollande, who announced the surprise deployment, did not reveal how many French soldiers were on the ground or exactly what their mission is.
But officials close to the matter said Hollande promised that France’s participation in the fighting would “last as long as necessary” to guarantee that Mali’s government and army can maintain control of the former French colony in northwest Africa, the Washington Post reports.
According to the paper, Hollande’s decision to intervene dramatized European and U.S. concerns over rapid military gains in recent days by the half-dozen Islamist and Tuareg militias that have controlled the northern two-thirds of the country for more than seven months.
Ruling over 250,000 square miles, they have scattered Malian soldiers southward, imposed strict Muslim laws on the civilian population and created a vast new haven for North African terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the paper said.
France’s decision to send ground troops, even if they are restricted to small groups of specialized forces, marks a departure from Western powers’ efforts in recent years to avoid direct involvement on the ground in foreign conflicts, after scarring experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, the paper added.