Although Malians won’t hear the crunch of U.S. military boots on their soil anytime soon, the United States has taken an interest in the fight to drive Islamist militants from Mali’s north and will be an integral part of the mission.
According to U.S. policy, America’s hands are tied when it comes to sending troops to Mali since its current government assumed power following a coup.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. would not send direct help until an election is held.
"We are not in a position to train the Malian military until we have democracy restored," she told reporters this week.
Instead, the U.S. intends to help assist the French-led mission in Mali by providing logistical and intelligence support. U.S. officials say they will pull out all the stops to help ensure the mission to root out the al-Qaeda linked militants is a successful one.
"We have a responsibility to go after al Qaeda wherever they are. And we've gone after them in the FATA (Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas). We're going after them in Yemen and Somalia. And we have a responsibility to make sure that al Qaeda does not establish a base for operations in North Africa and Mali," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said early this week according to CNN.
In addition to intelligence, reports say the U.S. is also considering sending fuel tankers to help French jets fly longer and drones are said to be “under construction.”
According to Panetta, U.S. support for the mission is couched in fear. Officials worry that if left unchecked, the militants could gain enough resources and intelligence to launch an attack on the United States.
At the start of the military campaign, Islamists remarked that France had “opened the gates of hell” by attacking their northern Mali strongholds.
French interior minister Manuel Valls says the country is steeling itself for future terrorist attacks in light of the comments.
"France is watching individuals who want to go to Afghanistan, Syria and the Sahel. We're watching those who could return here," Valls told the French television network BFM. "We're facing an exterior enemy and an interior enemy."
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