As reported over the weekend, late on Friday French forces launched a military campaign, consisting primarily of airforce incursions, designed to crush the "Islamic extremists" in the country in order to protect "European interests" (it is unclear what these may be). Parallel with this came the first humiliation for French military forces as a French helicopter pilot was killed nearly at the same time as the offensive was launched. But even more embarrassing was the bungled attempt to rescue a hostage in Somalia, in which the hostage is said to have died (by France at least, not his captors), while at least one French commando is also reported to have been left behind. Moments ago, AP reported on the latest French military developments in Mali, which confirm that when it comes to the words "French military" and "success" will hardly ever be seen side by side.
To wit: "Despite intensive aerial bombardments by French warplanes, Islamist insurgents grabbed more territory in Mali on Monday and got much closer to the capital, French and Malian authorities said. In the latest setback, the al-Qaida-linked extremists overran the garrison village of Diabaly in central Mali, France's defense minister said in Paris. Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday the rebels "took Diabaly after fierce fighting and resistance from the Malian army that couldn't hold them back." In other words, "before France sent its forces in on Friday, the closest known spot the Islamists were to the capital was 680 kilometers (420 miles) away"... while "by now sweeping in from the west, they are now only 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Mali's capital, Bamako, in southern Mali." Yet another French military campaign stupendously executed.
France is urging the "Africanization" of the conflict, encouraging African nations to send troops to fight the Islamic extremists. There have been promises, but no troops movements have yet been publicly announced.
Early Monday, an intelligence agent confirmed that shots rang out near the Diabaly military camp in what was still nominally government-held territory and that soon after, jets were heard overhead, followed by explosions. The agent insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
A Malian commander in the nearby town of Niono said the bombardments did not stop the Islamist fighters and that they occupied Alatona, and on Monday, they succeeded in reaching the north-south road which connects Diabaly to Segou, the administrative capital of central Mali.
The Islamist advance in central Mali came even after fighter jets late Sunday began dropping bombs in the rice-growing region of Alatona. At that point, a rebel convoy had been spotted 40 kilometers (24 miles) southeast of Diabaly, until recently the site of a major, U.S.-funded Millenium Challenger Corporation project.
French radio Europe 1 broadcast a telephone interview with Omar Ould Hamaha, a leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, which controls part of northern Mali. In it he dared the French to "come down on the ground if they're real men. We'll welcome them with open arms," he said. "France has opened the gates of hell ... it has fallen into a trap much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia."
One can only hope the tide doesn't turn so much on the French that the "insurgents" make their way to Paris where the French army surrenders post haste.