International Military Action in Mali

On Thursday, January 17th, French warplanes led multiple successful raids against Islamist militant targets in the African nation of Mali, marking the fourth consecutive day that airstrikes rocked the countryside. The strikes come in response to an international movement to aid Mali’s government in repelling rebel forces. The attacks have continued steadily since the initial airstrike, and many civilians are looking to flee from the northern region of the country, where the Islamist militants have their strongest hold. Mali was one of the most successful democracies in Africa until this past year, when a coup removed the current president of Mali, allowing militants to seize power in the country’s northern region. Reports indicate that the militants have enacted strict Sharia law in many locations, punishing all who break the strict Islamist code. The United Nations has also confirmed accounts of the flogging, execution, amputation, and stoning of citizens who break this strict interpretation of Sharia law, which bans such activities as listening to music, smoking, and drinking. There are strong international suspicions that Al Qaeda is involved with many members of the Islamist militants, though these reports are currently unconfirmed: it is known, however, that there are multiple terrorist factions involved, be it through direct support or through trafficking. The large-scale international support stems greatly from the concerns that, following the struggle in Syria, many terrorist groups are looking to establish a foothold in Mali in order to destabilize West Africa. France has also deployed approximately 1,400 troops to Mali. The European Union agreed Thursday to provide instructors, support staff, and force protection for the next 15 months. The U.S. has agreed to train troops in pre-deployment and to provide containment packages to the troops of African countries willing to help the Mali government, and Germany, Canada, and Belgium are offering transport planes. In addition, the U.S. is aiding France with intelligence gathering and airlift operations, using U.S. military security forces to escort French forces into a neighboring country, from which the troops can enter Mali from the ground.

Source: Jake Depew, Assistant Editor