France is finding itself bogged down in Mali, the once proud Colonial power is facing difficulties operating in the land locked African nation. France is now calling upon its NATO allies for assistance to push back Islamist terrorists, who have seized portions of Mali. The big question is should the United States get involved in another war on terror or should it leave this war to the French?

Northern Mali

So far France’s allies have balked at requests for assistance in the war. Canada and the United Kingdom have made token contributions of a few cargo planes for a few days, but have offered no further support. Other E.U. and NATO members have largely held the line that they cannot afford any contributions and that the war should be handled by an African force.

France has been most disappointed by the United States, and appears to have believed that the USA would be a major contributor to the war. So far, however, the Obama administration has not heeded requests for assistance outside of logistical help. With the USA trying to wind down its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. leaders are reluctant to get involved in yet another conflict.

France has asked its European Allies and the United States to help foot part of the bill for the Mali operation. According to France, the war in Mali is essential to stop the spread of Al Qaeda in Africa. And while the terrorist groups in Mali currently do not have the capacity to project power, should they gain control of a genuine safe haven, they might be able to develop that capacity, thus endangering Europe and the United States.

France’s European and North American Allies are more skeptical, however, and view the on-going Mali war as a regional issue with regional consequences. Accordingly, they have argued that an all African force should fight the insurgency underneath the guise of international institutes like the African Union and United Nations.

France is now asking the United States to at least contribute logistical support. Most importantly, France needs access to air tankers to refuel their jets flying over Mali. Without these air tankers, it will be difficult for France to maintain air superiority over Mali, which would seriously undermine France’s technological advantage over the insurgents.

Should the United States come to France’s rescue? That very question is being asked among top policy makers in the United States right now.

While the United States cannot afford to be drawn into another war, if Eastern Mali falls into the hands of Islamic extremists it could become the next Afghanistan and turn into a terrorist training hot bed. The United States and its allies have managed to severely constrict Al Queda’s ability to recruit and train new recruits if Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, and certainly extremist Islamic groups would love to gain a new training ground.

As such, providing fuel tankers and other logistical support to beleaguered France would go a long way to  support the battle against terrorism. The United States need not provide military support to the French, but should help provide the logistical infrastructure necessary for the French to carry out their mission. Spending trillions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan to combat terrorism (among other things), only to refuse to provide support for a strike against terrorist elsewhere all in the name of saving a few dollars and political points is short-sighted at best.

In a positive development, the Ansar Dine, a more moderate and ethnic based faction of the Mali insurgent groups, has split from the radical Al Quida led elements France is hoping to suppress. The Ansar Dine actually spearheaded the revolution in the beginning and led its war on ethnic grounds. The group is made up of  Tuareg rebels, who initially started the revolution on secular grounds.

On more than a few occasions, the Ansar Dine has come to blows with Islamic extremist factions of the revolution. Gaining the support of the Tuareg people would give the French and their allies troops with both large numbers and a solid knowledge of the local terrain.  If France is able to secure the support of the more moderate Ansar Dine, they could shift the balance of power solidly into their hands and would have to worry less about the logistical issues now plaguing their operations. Also, the support of the Ansar Dine could help create a sustainable peace.

The United States could help shift the balance in the favor of the Malian military, France, and potential moderate allies. This will require the commitment of logistical resources, however, which will cost the U.S. tax payer’s money. While the United States should not commit military forces, logistical support should be provided to the French in order to ensure a positive outcome and that extremist terrorists do not gain a safe haven in Africa.