The French government says its 2000 troops, plus the 500 who will be sent in the next few weeks, will stay in Mali as long as it takes, and until all the Islamists groups are defeated.
French troops are now conducting ground operations alongside their Malian counterparts in two fronts, in Diabaly (some 400 km of Bamako) and Dwenza, the defence ministry said yesterday. French and Malian troops also continue to deploy in Niono and Sevare, in central Mali, two strategic towns which will serve as launching pads for counter-attacks in the northern ‘occupied’ territories of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal regions.
But, reports from the capital Bamako suggest that Islamists have been seen leaving their bastions of Gao and Timbuktu, and moving towards Kidal, a hilly, hot and isolated northeastern region, where analysts believe they will concentrate their energy and resources to fight a do-or-die battle against French and Malian armies.
All African troops are yet to reach Bamako due to logistic problems. Ecowas has no money to transport its troops and have asked for help from Europe. The Mission to Mali (MISMA) operation is set to cost 500 million USD, according to Ecowas.
*Photo supplied by the French Army. Troops receive instructions before boarding a plane to Bamako, Mali.