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US Increases Aid to France for Mali Quagmire

As French forces move through former colony, Obama admin. continues to increase support for lethal conflict

Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

French soldiers check an aircraft at Bamako airport on Jan. 26, 2013.War in Mali (Source: Washington Post)

The U.S. has significantly increased its aid to France for its current military operations in Mali, the Pentagon announced Saturday night, including aerial refueling and more planes to transport soldiers from other African nations.

The Pentagon made the announcement after Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spoke to "his French counterpart" Jean-Yves Le Drian on Saturday about the conflict in Mali, the Washington Post reports.

The move comes as French forces attempt to violently regain power in the former French Colony and current 'trade partner', alongside the Mali military, for fear that Islamists will take over the West African nation.

Critics of U.S. support for French intervention have pointed out that U.S. law forbids foreign assistance funds to leaders that came to power through a coup, the Post reports. Mali’s military leaders, many of whom were trained by U.S. troops, seized power last year via military coup, causing an increase in conflict in the country—a hint towards the complex effects of U.S. foreign policy on Mali's internal politics, which, as many have argued, has largely been exasperated in the rifts created in the region by the recent U.S. and NATO intervention in Libya.

As the current conflict heightens, French forces reportedly move quickly through the country, and reports surface of innocent civilians being killed—including children—many commentators have shown that an imminent quagmire has already formed for the involved nations.

Victor Kotsev for WhoWhatWhy recently wrote:

The situation could easily spin out of control and become a West African quagmire for France and the neighboring countries which are participating in the UN-sanctioned intervention. The Islamists have threatened to turn Mali into a “French Afghanistan,” and this appears to be more than an empty threat. Mali is almost twice the size of Afghanistan, and with its desert and mountainous terrain in the north, somewhat resembles its Asian counterpart. Central authority was never very well established in that part of the country, if at all. [...]

The mixture of rugged terrain, a vast expanse populated sparsely with nomadic tribes, and the presence of numerous militias with diverging agendas suggests that the war will be long, brutal and asymmetric.

Thus, when at the start of the operation the French government said that the military was going into Mali merely for several weeks, a colleague who specializes in Russia giggled. “This is exactly what the Russians said before they invaded Afghanistan,” he said. Mere days later, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that his country would continue to be involved in the conflict for “as long as necessary.”

And Pepe Escobar for Asia Times adds today:

It's enlightening to regard all this under the perspective of President Obama 2.0 administration's foreign policy, as (vaguely) outlined in his inauguration. Obama promised to end US wars (shadow wars are much more cost-efficient). He promised multilateral cooperation with allies (while Washington effectively calls the shots), negotiation (as in our way or the highway) and no new war in the Middle East.

To take the president at his word, this translates into no US war against Syria (just the shadow variety); no Bomb, Bomb Iran (just murderous sanctions); and France gets the Mali prize. Or will it?

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