“A Difficult Slog”

Today’s NYT, on the situation in Mali:

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, traveling in Spain, said that France faced a difficult task in taking on the extremists and that the Pentagon remained in talks with the French about what sort of aid was required.

“I can’t really give you a full analysis as to just exactly what they’re targeting and how successful or not successful they may be in that effort as of this moment,” Mr. Panetta said at a news conference with the Spanish defense minister, Pedro Morenés. But Mr. Panetta added that “any time you confront an enemy that is dispersed and that is not located necessarily in one area makes it challenging, and the ability to go after that enemy and be able to stop them from moving forward represents a difficult task.”

The implications of the nascent French deployment — and of the Islamist takeover of Diabaly, only about 220 miles from the capital here — seem clear: rooting out the few thousand insurgents could well be a slog.

When the French effort falters–as it did in Algeria, and later, in Vietnam–the calls for direct US intervention will escalate, and quickly.

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