Here we go again, as the West decides it can’t even wait for the UN to do its thing and roll out an ECOWAS intervention in Mali.
President Francois Hollande says French troops are taking part in operations against Islamists in northern Mali.
French troops “have brought support to the Malian army to fight against the terrorists”, Mr Hollande said.
He said the intervention was in line with international law, and had been agreed with Malian President Dioncounda Traore.
Armed groups, some linked to al-Qaeda, took control of northern Mali in April after a coup in the capital, Bamako.
The militants said this week that they had advanced further into government-controlled territory.
Mr Hollande said French military action had begun on Friday afternoon and would last “as long as necessary.
I’d say there was zero chance France did this without informing its NATO allies in advance and I wonder if there will soon be calls for those allies to get involved.
Update: Oh look. The EU is sending 200 troops to Mali too, to train the army there. If anyone knows which nations are providing trainers for this force, I’d appreciate a link in comments.
The UK’s Independent has a few more details:
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wrote on his Twitter account: “On the phone with (US Defense Secretary) Leon Panetta about the Malian crisis. This afternoon with my European counterparts.”
Residents who live near an airport about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the captured town of Konna reported hearing planes arrive throughout the night. They could not say who, or what the planes were bringing.
…A top French diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said that France is now able to deploy military assets — notably air power — over Mali “very quickly.”
Update 2: Hayes Brown at Think Progress writes that France sending forces to Mali may make it easier for the U.S. to decide on striking AQIM.
Update 3: The first French operation was an airstrike. Here’s a good backgrounder on the conflict from Andy Morgan.