How the U.S. Might Help France in Mali

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What exactly did White House Press Secretary Jay Carney mean when he said at his briefing Tuesday afternoon the U.S. is considering helping France with their assault against rebel forces in Mali? While immediately ruling out putting troops on the ground, Carney said the U.S. is considering a request from French President Francois Hollande for "logistical support" in their attacks against rebels in Mali. A conflict in the country has been brewing for a while now, so the Obama administration may have had time to mull its options. Mali's President Amadou Toure was overthrown in a coup in March 2012, and the interim replacement has struggled to find a foothold for not acting as terrorist-linked groups have strengthened and are now threatening to take over the region. France sent ground troops into the country on Friday to try and help maintain control. Rebels responded by taking over another town and threatening to invade France. 

So, if the U.S. chooses to help France here, how much help will we provide? Carney said the U.S. shares "the French goal of denying terrorists a safe haven in the region," but he also said implied they wouldn't send troops in. When asked if Americans would be put in harms way to help, Carney said: "We are not contemplating that kind of action." During a failed attempt earlier this year to rescue a French agent who had been held in Somalia for three years, the U.S. offered "limited technical support" that didn't include sending soldiers to help retrieve the French agent. Two U.S. planes briefly entered Somalian airspace, but that was the extent of our reported role in the operation. And the Mali war is a lot different than one missing man: Former U.S. ambassador to Mali Vicki Huddleston suggested in The New York Times on Tuesday that the U.S. provide "intelligence, equipment, financing and training," for a West Africa intervention force approved by the U.N.'s security council in December. The U.N. says 3,000 troops will be deployed this year if the two sides can't come to a negotiated agreement. 

Amazingly, Mitt Romney was actually made fun of for bringing up the Mali conflict as a foreign policy issue to watch during one of the presidential debates. He got his information from administration security briefings provided during the campaign. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.