Terrorist attacks in Algeria and French military operations in Mali have raised questions about the impact of ongoing unrest in West Africa on the United States. Al Qaeda’s affiliate there, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), appears to be taking advantage of the situation, and may be further bolstered by Islamist groups now operating out of northern Mali.
On January 11, the French unexpectedly began a military operation combating Islamist groups in northern Mali, which include AQIM, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), and Ansar al Din. Over two thousand French troops have been deployed under Operation Serval. France’s move accelerated the deployment of up to 3,300 regional African troops to Mali, a peacekeeping mission approved by the UN Security Council on December 20. As of yesterday, an estimated 700-800 African troops are in Mali, and many more are in the process of rapid deployment to support the Chapter VII mission.
Initial successes in rolling back the territory held by AQIM, MUJWA, and Ansar al Din since the start of the French military operation are heartening. But there are questions that need to be answered.
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