On January 11, at the behest of the Malian government, the French military intervened to halt the advance of Islamist rebels in northern Mali toward the center of the country. The French troops were sent to Mali after months of ineffectual negotiations at the United Nations to send a multinational force. Upon France’s intervention, the Security Council called for an “emergency deployment” of an African-led force to Mali.
The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) joined this intervention alongside France. Several ECOWAS nations—Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, and Senegal—have committed to sending troops to Mali. Chad, a central African country not a member of ECOWAS, has also committed 2,000 troops to the conflict. As of yet, only troops from Togo and Nigeria have arrived in Mali, with troops from Niger and Chad preparing to deploy from Niger. Nigeria has pledged 1,200 troops to the Malian conflict—even as its own struggle with Boko Haram continues—calling the Malian conflict a “threat to the whole of the region.” Remaining African troops are set to arrive within the next few days.
France has 1,800 troops on the ground in Mali, with another 700 pledged in Operation Serval. The French are participating in both air raids and ground operations, while the majority of these troops are providing support for Malian brigades. The French have stated they intend to remain in Mali until “stability” is reestablished, but are actively pushing for African troops to take the reins in the operation. For its part, the European Union has approved a $16 million, fifteen-month training mission for Malian troops, based in Bamako.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced that the United States will send “about 100ish trainers” to Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Ghana.
The maps above show the countries directly involved in the conflict, and those Western nations offering logistical support to the intervening troops. (see larger map)
What to Watch
Military Progress: There are reports that the Malian army has retaken control of Konna and Diabaly, two strategic towns that have been bombed by French forces in the past few days. These reports are still unconfirmed. The rebel seizure of Konna, only 700 kilometers from Bamako, was the event that triggered French intervention in Mali.
Map by Benjamin Landy