US-Backed African Troops Could Invade Mali ‘Within Weeks’
With Mali’s military dominated “interim” government hoping for international help in the reconquest of the northern two-thirds of their nation, Western diplomats say that the deal to finalize an African Union (AU) led invasion could have troops on the ground within a matter of weeks.
The Obama Administration and the French government have both been keen to start such a war, and have been petitioning the UN Security Council to quickly endorse any plan that would lead to an invasion, which they seem certain to do.
The US has been light on details of exactly what its role in the war will be, though it is likely to include funding and surveillance support. The European Union is now discussing sending 200 troops as “trainers” for the conflict.
The Malian government lost its northern region to Tuareg secessionists earlier this year, when fighters obtained large amounts of advanced weapons from Libya in the wake of the NATO-backed war there. The Tuaregs have since lost control of the region to a third faction, Ansar Dine, which is calling for a Salafist theocracy in the state. The Malian military held a coup in the south after their defeat in the north, and has since installed an “interim” government.
Tuaregs have long complained of persecution by the Malian government, which was the basis for their secessionist efforts. Today the Mali military launched an attack on the frontier, killing eight Tuaregs who they suspected of being “armed gunmen” but who later turned out to be innocent civilians.