Editors Notes: The French have an invested interest to re-establish a foothold in Mali/North Africa. Related Articles:French Special Forces operating in Libya and Mali and French, British, Italian and Spanish Special Military Units Established to Target Al-Qaeda in the Sahel
France has resumed military cooperation with Mali, a French diplomat said amid preparations for an operation by international troops to try to wrest the west African country’s north from Al-Qaeda linked Islamist militants.
“Insofar as the military question, the French government has indicated that it is available to cooperate with Mali in this area,” Jean Felix-Paganon, Paris’s special envoy for the Sahel, told AFP late Sunday.
France had halted military cooperation with Bamako following a March coup in its former colony that created the conditions for armed Islamists to take over the north of what had been considered one of Africa’s most stable democracies.
Fearful that the area could become the same type of sanctuary for radicals that Afghanistan was a decade ago, Mali’s neighbours and Western powers have begun preparing for international troops to try to reconquer the territory.
France has in the past said it would contribute logistical support to the operation.
“I was effectively charged with informing our Malian colleagues about this, to tell them that we were at their disposal,” Felix-Paganon said as he prepared to leave Bamako.
“In principle, the decision has been taken to respond to the needs of the Malian army in terms of what is necessary,” including sending military advisors, he said.
The regional ECOWAS bloc has assembled a force of some 3,000 troops to try to retake Mali’s desert north, an area roughly the size of France.
On October 13, the UN Security Council gave ECOWAS 45 days to come up with a detailed plan of how it intended to recapture the vast, sparsely populated terrain.
Hundreds of jihadist fighters poured into northern Mali at the weekend to help the Islamist groups hang on to the territory in any military confrontation, according to local residents, Malian security officials and Islamist commanders.