From today’s NYT:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is debating how much more aid it can give the French military forces who are battling Islamic militants in Mali, weighing the benefit of striking a major blow to Qaeda-linked fighters in Africa against concern about being drawn into a lengthy conflict there.
The immediate issue is whether and how to supply American aerial refueling planes that would allow French jets to provide close-air support to ground forces moving north into territory held by the extremists. French and American officials have been in discussions for days, according to American and European officials, and administration officials say they expect a decision soon.
First, it was a multi-year training mission with the Malian military that produced a force that melted away under real pressure from AQIM and Taureg rebels. Now, it’s intelligence support & the direct airlift of French troops to Mali in the hopes our NATO ally can stem the tide. Next up, aerial refueling to support a more intense air campaign and possible offensive ground operations into rebel-held territory. And if all of those steps fail, then what?