FRANCE’S NATIONAL Assembly and Senate have voted to extend the country’s military intervention in Mali. A resolution passed both houses of parliament on April 22. Not a single vote was cast in opposition.
Three days later, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 2100, creating a policing mission beginning July 1, 2013. The mission is called by its French acronym MINUSMA. Its projected size is 11,200 soldiers and 1,440 police.
France invaded the north of Mali with fighter aircraft and 4,000 soldiers on January 11. The Mali government and its French benefactor had lost control of the area in 2012 to Tuareg and other national groups fighting for autonomy and independence. Rightist Islamist forces that oppose the sovereignty aspirations of the national minorities then briefly rose to military dominance in the region. It is their presence that served as the key pretext for the French intervention and now for a foreign, military and police occupation of undeclared duration.
Presently, there are some 6,000 soldiers from African countries serving in a “peacekeeping” role in the south of Mali, while French soldiers are engaged in combat with Islamists in the north. Also, what’s called a military training mission by the European Union has some 200 soldiers on the ground and hundreds more providing supplies and equipment.
The U.S. is a key backer of the French intervention. It has significantly boosted its military presence in West Africa during the past decade and recently opened a drone airbase in neighboring Niger.