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article imageObama administration seeks more aid for French in Mali

By Ken Hanly     Jan 26, 2013 in World
Bamako - The Obama administration is weighing the benefits of helping to attack Islamic militants in Mali with concern about being drawn into a long conflict, as it is considering how much more aid to extend to French military forces there.
The Obama administration will be seeking another $32 million to help train African troops to fight Islamic extremists in Mali. The State Department spokesperson Viictoria Nuland informed reporters on Friday.
The US is considering whether and how it could supply US refueling planes. These planes would allow French jets to provide air-support to ground forces that are now entering into the northern territory held by rebels. Apparently French and US officials have been in discussion for days about these and other matters. A decision is expected soon.
One Defense Department official said:“The discussions center on cost, and the concern about whether this becomes an open-ended mission for the French in Mali. What does that mean about our commitment?”
The question of whether President Obama had the legal authority to engage in military operations in Mali was quickly resolved since the main targets are claimed to be linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The US is also considering to what degree it wants to commit to help France which already has 3,000 troops on the ground to stop northern Mali from becoming a terrorist sanctuary. Mali is a former French colony.
The model of what is happening in Mali with forces from neighbouring African countries shouldering most of the burden of battle eventually is what the US wants. However, some analysts fear that the French went into Mali too hastily without considering the possible consequences.
The US has already begun transporting a 600 member French mechanized battalion to Mali with all its gear. Two KC-130 Hercules transports based in Italy and other transport planes from the US are being used The US is also providing intelligence information that includes satellite imagery. This help so far has not been at any cost to the French. This decision is happening just as John Kerry is being nominated to be successor to Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Chuck Hagel has been nominated as Defense Secretary. Both have spoken out against intervening in conflicts which American allies can handle. Obama too spoke of ending permanent war.
French president Francois Hollande said that France would stay in Mali and the surrounding region for as long as needed to root out militants in the area. The White House said that Obama and Hollande talked on the phone Friday. They talked about the need to establish an African-led force in Mali and the need to establish a route to elections in Mali to restore democratic governance.
A French official said:“Our major commanders would feel much more comfortable if things are not going as planned or are more difficult, to very quickly have some support from the Americans.” .
The French goal as articulated by the Defense Minister is total elimination of militants in the area: “The goal is the total reconquest of Mali. We will not leave any pockets.”
General Carter Ham, head of the Pentagon Africa Command, set somewhat more limited goals:“We would all like to see the elimination of Al Qaeda and others from northern Mali. Realistically, probably the best you can get is containment and disruption so that Al Qaeda is no longer able to control territory.”
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