By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
BAMAKO, Mali—As of this morning, Wednesday, January 23, 2013, the United States Air Force C-17 cargo jets have made about five different flights to Mali. The jets dropped off about 80 French troops and more than 124 tons of supplies to help in the fight against insurgents who are trying to take over the country.
The United States airlift began two days ago, on Monday, and is expected to continue for another few days. Pentagon press secretary George Little said, “We continue to consult with the French on further steps that we may take as United States government to support their (French) efforts in Mali.”
French military spokesman, Thierry Burkhard, noted that, “the priority is to move heavy, bulky things” such as armored vehicles.
But France and the United States are not the only Western countries involved in the aid. Canada is also expected to extend its own commitment to Mali, the decision, however is still pending some final consultations with other allies also involved in the conflict.
Last week, French President Francois Hollande made a direct request through a telephone call with Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking for an extension of Canada’s air transport commitment. This week Canada received another similar request. This time, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius asked the Canadian government to help deliver African troops to Mali’s capital. France, currently, has more than 2,000 troops on the ground in Mali. At the same time, troops from neighboring African countries have been arriving almost daily into Bamako.
Just last month, the United Nations approved plans to send in about 3,000 West African troops into Mali to recapture the desert region that had been taken over by Islamist insurgents. Now that France has intervened, the regional force, under Nigerian command, has begun its deployment.
On Monday, Malian forces were able to recapture the central towns of Diabaly and Douentza without any aid. Speaking on this, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, “This advance by the Malian army toward the cities held by their enemies constitutes a certain military success for the Bamako government and for French forces, who have intervened in support of these operations.”
He further stated his “total confidence” in French forces in a mission that “aims to restore sovereignty to Mali on its territory and to prevent the risk of the constitution of a terrorist sanctuary in the heart of Africa.”
For further information, please see:
BBC News – Mali Conflict: US Begins French Troop Airlifts – 22 January 2013
BBC News – UK to Consider Boosting French Mali Operation Support – 22 January 2013
CBC News – Canada Expected to Extend Mission in Mali – 22 January 2013
CNN News – United States, Italy Lend Support for French in Mali – 22 January 2013