Former colonial power France intervened militarily in Mali on 11 January to stop Islamist fighters from taking over any more of it. France was the only foreign country to take this action. The loosely trained and under-equipped army of Mali is deployed with the French but Western allies have been economical with their support, offering money and less costly diplomatic encouragement.
Paris was given clearance by Spain and Algeria to fly over them; a few countries offered to transport troops but not to send their own soldiers, and the US itself is reluctant to be drawn into a shooting war with the jihadists in Mali.
US Army Colonel Shawn Underwood said: “The United States is engaged in logistical and intelligence support of the French military. We are not, not doing any combat operations.”
There are 3,500 French troops on the ground in Mali with upwards of 2,000 African troops, according to the latest French Defence Ministry information.
France also has jet fighters and helicopters in action but its foreign minister has said: “Now it’s up to African countries to take over.”
Paris is keen to hand over to an African force, in spite of the uncertainty over its potential for protecting northern Mali’s cities against possible further moves by the Islamists. In any case, help from Mali’s regional allies is on its way.
Nigerian Army Colonel Soumaila Babayako said: “The Nigerian contingent will be followed immediately by Togo’s contingent, then Burkina Faso’s, Niger and so forth.”
In addition to those pledges – ranging from hundreds of men to one or two thousand – will come additional armed contributions from Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin and Chad.
The Nigerians began crossing into Mali on Monday.
The African-led International Support Mission to Mali is alternately referred to as AFISMA and MISMA – for International Support Mission for Mali.
This will amount to a total of nearly 9,000 troops, at a projected initial cost of 740 million euros.
So far the main AFISMA-destined pledges of cash have come from the United States, the EU, the African Union and the Economic Community Of West African States.
Other donors, such as Canada, preferred their aid boost to go through UN and non-government agencies for food, medical care and other basic needs.