With French air strikes, has the war to retake northern Mali begun?

by ptinti

CS Monitor

Today’s expansion of the French air campaign beyond central Mali has left many wondering if the war has started – without much international coordination.

DAKAR, SENEGAL: France widened its military intervention in the African nation of Mali today beyond targets in the center of the country, sending fighter jets to the north to hammer training camps, infrastructure, and logistics depots used by Islamist rebels with ties to Al Qaeda.

“The president is totally determined that we must eradicate these terrorists who threaten the security of Mali, our own country, and Europe,” said France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on French television.

The French began air strikes on Friday to counter an ambitious rebel advance southward from their strongholds in the north. While France’s intervention appears to have the tacit support of the international community, the expansion of the French air campaign beyond central Mali has left many analysts wondering if a long-discussed war to retake northern Mali has begun in earnest – without much international coordination or planning.

“That’s the $64 billion question,” says François Heisbourg, special adviser at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research. “I think all of this has happened so quickly between Thursday and today that the immediate objective of stopping the two [Islamist] columns and preventing the replenishment of the frontline [Islamist] forces has been the beginning and the end all of what the French are trying to do.”

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