France is sending drones to Mali while hundreds of Islamist fighters are coming in from across the Middle East, preparing to defend their safe haven.
According to the Associated Press, French drones will soon be patrolling the skies above the Malian desert:
A French defense official said Monday that France plans to move two surveillance drones to western Africa from Afghanistan by year-end, though he did not provide details.
Top-level American and French military leaders and diplomats, including U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs Johnnie Carson, began two days of talks in Paris on Monday on intelligence-gathering and security in Mali and the rest of the Sahel region, officials from both sides told the AP.
Meanwhile, according to Voice of America, the Islamist fighters are calling in reinforcements:
Hundreds of additional Islamist fighters have deployed in northern Mali. . .
According to witnesses, the fighters began deploying last week, after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution asking West African bloc ECOWAS to submit its plans for a Mali force.
Residents report seeing hundreds of Tunisian and Egyptian militants in the city of Gao, while many other militants went to the central town of Douentza, close to Malian army positions in Mopti.
African soldiers will likely lead the invasion force, with the U.S. and France supplying intelligence and operating behind the scenes.
Mali was first destabilized thanks to NATO’s intervention in Libya, which sent weapons and fighters streaming into the northern deserts, where they found little opposition from the government. Other Islamist fighters from the Middle East soon came flocking in to this sandy patch of ungoverned territory. Their ranks are reportedly bolstered by thousands of local child soldiers.
The Libyan afterparty—the unintended consequences of NATO’s little Libya misadventure—sadly drags on well into the night.