What to do about al Qaeda control of Mali

David Blair:
The strategy for how to prise northern Mali from al-Qaeda’s grip is slowly emerging. By the end of this year, the Security Council will probably decide to authorise the deployment of an African force consisting of 6,000 troops, funded and supported by the West. Half the soldiers will come from Mali’s national army and half from other African countries. America, France and Britain will supply logistics and intelligence. The force will probably be ready to go into action some time next year. But don’t expect the northern deserts of Mali, which “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM) and its local allies captured in March, to be freed any time soon. 
The first task of the new force will be to secure Mali’s capital, Bamako, and the south of the country. Only when that has been achieved will it move on the North. How much resistance are the African troops likely to face? Estimates vary, but it’s quite possible that AQIM are holding 300,000 sparsely populated square miles of Mali with only a few hundred trained fighters. If so, they might collapse quite quickly, or at least abandon the three cities in the area and retreat into the Saharan wastes.
... 
The Islamic religious bigots are now trying to impose Sharia law in the areas they control in all its barbaric brutality.  Sec. Clinton is visiting the region meeting with African leaders on how to deal with the situation in Mali.  It is not clear whether some of those responsible for the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi may have fled to Mali.  What should be clear is that those people are at war with us, regardless of what Obama decides.

The rebels, aka al Qaeda, threaten to attack the capital of Mali if international forces get involved.  Mali is a transit route for drugs from South America, via Venezuela.  Al Qaeda takes the drugs from West Africa to Europe.

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