JCS Chairman Martin Dempsey, as quoted in Stars & Stripes in December 2012:
Meanwhile, when it comes to operating in hot spots in Africa such as Mali, which in the past year has become a haven for terrorist groups, the U.S. will work with partners in the region on security concerns, he said.
While there are times where threats to U.S. interests are so great that the U.S. must act on its own, “Mali is probably not one of them,” he said.
And the NYT today, after the latest military defeats suffered by the US-trained Malian government forces:
Responding to an urgent plea for help from the Malian government, French troops carried out airstrikes against Islamist fighters, blunting an advance by hundreds of heavily armed extremists, according to French officials and Gen. Carter F. Ham, the top American military commander in Africa. One French helicopter had apparently been downed in the fighting, he said.
The Pentagon is now weighing a broad range of options to support the French effort, including enhanced intelligence sharing and logistics support, but it is not considering sending American troops, General Ham said.
This is exactly how it begins: first, logistical and intelligence support. Then, when the ally/client state’s military proves unable to defeat the insurgents, the calls for a direct US combat role begin and quickly mount. Prediction: US military or paramilitary (read CIA) forces will be in combat in Mali before the spring is over.