CLIFFORD F. THIES
French President Francois Hollande is assembling a kind of multi-national force to support his county's intervention in Mali.
From Canada, he has received one C-17 cargo plane for one week. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper emphasized the limited duration of the loan, and that the plane will only ferry supplies to the capital of Mali, not any where near rebel-held territory. And, if that isn't already enough "shock and awe," the minister of defense of Denmark is pledging one C-130 cargo plane, subject to the approval of the Danish parliament. Great Britain and the United States are expected to provided additional logistical support, and, in the case of the United States, intelligence support, spokespersons for each country indicating that there will not be providing any boots on the ground.
At this time, France has about 600 troops in country, mostly two companies of Marines and an armored platoon of the French Foreign Legion (equipped with the AMX 10 armored wheeled vehicle shown in the accompanying image), along with a ground operations unit to support an airhead at the capital airport. These troops have been moved to Mali from neighboring Ivory Coast (remnants of a force that numbered as many as 4,000 as part of a U.N. peacekeeping force there, during its recent civil war). Two other companies of the Foreign Legion are in the process of being deployed from France to Mali (hence the need for air transportation). It is stated that France will "gradually" build up a force of about 3,000 in the country.
Neighboring African nations are indicated as pledging about 3,000, although when these forces will arrive is anybody's guess. It is also quite obvious that France's original idea of merely organizing and supporting indigenous ground forces is not realistic. It will have to take the battle to the enemy and any forces provided by other countries will be used for supporting operations in already secured area.
Such is the pathetic state of the defense capabilities of the democratic countries of the world in this, the Obama era.