US providing intelligence support to French forces in Mali

Mali and the Independent State of AzawadBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The United States is providing intelligence support to hundreds of French troops that entered the West African nation of Mali last week, according to American and French officials. On January 11, at least 400 French soldiers entered Mali from French military bases in neighboring Burkina Faso and Chad, in what the French Ministry of National Defense has codenamed Opération SERVAL. The French intervention was sparked by the conflict in northern Mali, which erupted in 2012. In January of that year, Tuareg tribesmen formerly employed by the late Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi teamed up with a host of local Islamist groups, including the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith). Guided by members of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), these groups rapidly seized Mali’s massive northern region (which they call ‘the Independent State of Azawad’), where they are said to have imposed a strict version of Islamic sharia law. Last week’s intervention by the French military came to many as a surprise, though not to intelNews leaders, who have known for a while that Paris had been lobbying Western officials to help it launch a military intervention in the West African country. It now appears that Western countries are indeed helping France’s military operations in Mali. Outgoing US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters on Monday that the Pentagon is gathering intelligence for the benefit of French forces. The US, said Panetta, has “a responsibility to go after al-Qaida wherever they are” and ensure that its members do not “establish a base of operations” in West Africa. He added that Washington is considering widening its support to Paris by providing “logistics, surveillance and airlift capability”. Read more of this post

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France pressing for Western military intervention in Mali, claim sources

Mali and the Independent State of AzawadBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of France is holding secret talks with American and other Western officials to explore options for a concerted military intervention in Mali, according to diplomatic sources. A Tuareg rebellion in the northern part of Mali, which began earlier this year, culminated in the unilateral declaration of the Independent State of Azawad. The new state, which borders Algeria, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, is controlled by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA). The NMLA is partially staffed by former members of the Libyan Army during the rule of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. But it is also said to incorporate armed members of Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), all of which claim to have links with al-Qaeda. Many French observers view the Independent State of Azawad as the African version of mid-1990s Afghanistan, which eventually served as the base for Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. But even though the French government has come out in favor of armed intervention in northern Mali, it has denied persistent rumors that it is contemplating sending French troops in the West African country. Instead, Paris officially favors intervention by the Malian Army backed by African Union troops and using logistical support provided by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). However, in an article published yesterday, The Associated Press claimed that, behind the scenes, the French government is trying to convince the US and other Western countries to participate in a military intervention in Mali. Read more of this post