French Increase Troops in Mali, African Force Ready in a Week
France has continued its air strikes against al Qaeda linked rebels in Northern Mali, and will deploy more troops to support the 750 already in the country.
French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday that overnight air-strikes had “achieved their goal”, and that more troops would be deployed soon.
“For now, we have 750 men and the number will increase. New strikes overnight achieved their goal,” he said, during a visit to the French regional military in Abu Dhabi. He also added that plans to deploy a regional force of West African soldiers would take “a good week” to put into action. Over the course of the next few weeks the French force in Mali is expected to grow to 2,500.
The United Nations Security Council gave their unanimous backing to the French intervention, which began last Friday, during a meeting late on Monday. A meeting of West African military leaders will take place in Mali on Tuesday, to discuss the details of a combined operations with France. France desperately needs a ground force of African troops to prevent its military campaign from losing momentum.
The African force, deployed under UN Security Council resolution 2085, will be comprised of some 3,000 troops from Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Nigeria is expected to make the largest contribution of 600 troops and will therefore lead the regional force.
Speaking to RFI radio Mr Holland said: “We are confident about the speed with which we will be able to stop the aggressors, the enemy, these terrorists.”
The Campaign So Far
French air strikes and Malian government troops have so far succeeded in pushing rebels out of Konna, Timbuktu and Gao. Approximately 100 militants are known to have been killed; 11 Malian soldiers and a French pilot have also died.
Yesterday we reported that Islamist rebels had re-taken the town of Diabali in the center of Mali, around 250 miles (400km) north-east of the capital Bamako. Today President Hollande claimed that the rebels had not taken control of the town, but where merely hiding there “to protect themselves”. In either case, heavy air strikes on Diabali continued overnight. If I where feeling sarcastic, I would say that the rebels have failed to grasp to concepts of either ‘hiding’ or ‘protecting themselves’ if Mr Hollande is to be believed.
Meanwhile a force of around 30 French tanks and armoured vehicles entered Mali from the Ivory Coast on Monday.