French urgency, U.S. caution collide in Mali intervention
Published: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 7:50 p.m.
WASHINGTON — France's military intervention in Mali has revived trans-Atlantic tensions over security issues, this time involving a key counterterrorism battlefield, along with dismay from critics who say President Obama is too reluctant to use military force.
According to interviews with officials, the French have privately complained about what they see as paltry and belated American military support for their troop deployment, aimed at stopping the advance of militants allied with al-Qaida.
The United States quickly responded to French requests for troop transport airlift and additional intelligence. But a two-week-old French call for U.S. refueling planes for French aircraft striking targets in Mali remains pending, American and French officials said.
“What we've been working through is not viewing Mali as a one-off but rather as part of a continuum of counterterrorism efforts and decisions that we're making to address the situation in northern Africa” over the medium and long term, a U.S. official told The Washington Post.
The Obama administration is seeking an additional $32 million to train African troops to fight the Islamists in Mali. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Friday the request had been made to Congress, The Associated Press reported.
When Hollande phoned Obama this month to tell him that France was about to mount a major operation in the north African country, the French president was in a hurry and called his U.S. counterpart to inform, not to consult, according to French and U.S. officials. France's ambassador to Mali had sent an urgent warning: If the city of Mopti fell to Islamists, there would be nothing to stop them.
“Had we not intervened, the whole region would have become a new ‘Sahelistan,'” said a senior French official, referring to the Sahel region of Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
American support has been “minimal” in practice, one U.S. official acknowledged on condition of anonymity. Washington, this official said, gave France a “hard time” when they asked for increased support, and the French will “remember us for that.”
The Americans question whether French President Francois Hollande's intervention, entering its third week, was coupled with an exit strategy.
Obama has shown himself to be cautious — too cautious, Republican critics say — about foreign interventions.
There are disagreements within the White House and Congress about support for the Mali mission, said GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
“We're seeing an ongoing debate about our participation level in Syria. We saw that same level of debate about our participation in Libya, and now we're having that exact same philosophical stalemate and debate on what we do with the French in Mali,” said Rogers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Western Pennsylvania engineer aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight
- Investigators chase ‘every angle’ in missing Malaysian jet
- Syrian rebels reportedly release nuns held since December
- Ukrainian leader will meet Obama in U.S.
- Ukrainian leader will meet Obama in U.S.
- Toronto mayor’s staff in dark on daylight saving
- Israel: Iranian shipment contained 40 rockets
- Libya says its forces near oil tanker
- ‘Dead’ Mexican drug kingpin Moreno likely killed in shootout, official says
- Suicide car bomb, attacks kill at least 42 in Iraq
- History may turn on a shilling