01/19/2013 03:03 pm ET

Mali Intervention: U.S., West Reluctant To Join France

This is a translation of a piece from HuffPost France on the reluctance of the international community to intervene in Mali.

Eight days into the military intervention in Mali, France is still the only Western country with troops involved in active combat. Various countries, including Germany and the United States, have stressed the necessity and legitimacy of the French involvement. However, not a single Western country has sent, or even offered to send, soldiers to Mali. This comes as a blow to Paris, which has been labeled by some in the past as cowardly for refusing to send troops to Iraq and leaving the quagmire of Afghanistan prematurely.

It is true that France has close ties to Mali, owing to its colonial history. It is also true that France engaged unilaterally in the conflict, and never officially asked for anything beyond logistical assistance... But the French fighting forces are beginning to feel a sense of isolation.

Germany’s busy signal
Angela Merkel stated Wednesday that "terrorism in Mali" was "a threat to Europe" and to Germany.

Yet, one day earlier, the Chancellor dismissed the possibility of German participation in the fight against Islamic groups who seized control of Northern Mali in April 2012. "Germany is militarily very active in other areas, for example in Afghanistan (where Germany is the third largest provider of foreign troops with around 4,300 military personnel, editor's note) and in Kosovo, where other countries are not so active," she said. Still traumatized by its past, Germany sees itself first and foremost as a "civilian power," and a peaceful one, whereas France is less hesitant to intervene, with a faster decision-making process. On defense issues, the cooperation between the two countries is limited, as already illustrated by Germany's non-intervention in Libya. Furthermore, rumor has it that the German army is underfunded and breathless.

Support provided: Berlin has put at ECOWAS's disposal two Transall troop transport planes. In addition, the German Foreign Affairs Minister has announced 1 million euros in humanitarian aid to help refugees in neighboring countries.

Britain’s Red Herrings
Great Britain was the first country to officially voice its "support" for France after the launch of its operation in Mali. Prime Minister David Cameron then expressed "deep concern" about the recent Islamist rebel advances.

Great Britain is, aside from France, the only other European country capable of carrying out an intervention such as the one in Mali. Nevertheless, the British authorities have repeatedly stated that there are "absolutely no plans to deploy any ground forces to Mali," and provided no explanation for their decision.

Support provided: Two C-17 transport aircraft for transporting supplies and French vehicles.

The European Union Is Powerless
"We are directly impacted by the situation" in Mali because "terrorist groups based in northern Mali take advantage of the situation for all kind of drugs and arms trafficking. They have taken many hostages, a lot of them originating from European member states. We cannot be indifferent," stated EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton on Tuesday.

However, the EU cannot take any concrete actions: there is no European military force, and each decision requires the involvement of all 27 member States.

Support provided: Preparations for the EUTM, intended to train and advise the Malian army, have been fast-tracked. The member states are also "ready to examine" the possibility of providing financial aid for the AFISMA International Support Mission.

The United States? It's Complicated
Washington congratulated Paris for its "antiterrorist" actions and declared Friday that the United States shared France's goals in Mali. Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he didn’t think the military operation in Mali was "a French war," and there should be "an international effort," to be confirmed by the UN.

And yet, American officials have made it clear that there was no possibility for the Obama administration to become involved militarily in another conflict. The first reason is that Mali is not considered to be of great strategic interest for the United States, as Washington is only starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in Afghanistan. The second is because Washington has not forgotten its recent experiences in Mali: a number of Malian troops trained by Uncle Sam deserted, weapons and equipment in tow, to join the Islamist militants. And in March 2012, Captain Amadou Sanogo and his men--trained by Washington--headed up the military coup in Mali, forcing the Americans to cut off their support.

Support provided: Washington has promised to provide support by way of cargo planes, mid-air refueling and spy planes.

Other countries...
Italy, Denmark, and Belgium have offered France logistical support, including troop transport, supplies or training for the Malian army.

While NATO welcomed the French intervention, it expressed that it was a national intervention and that NATO had not received any requests for assistance from the French authorities. "There has been no discussion (within NATO) on the situation in Mali," spokesperson Oana Lungescu told reporters. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had already stated in October that the alliance did not foresee any involvement in Mali.

For now, only a few African ECOWAS member countries have announced they would send troops. This military force, created in conformity with a UN resolution, called AFISMA (African-led International Support Mission to Mali), and made up of some 3,300 men from a number of West African countries (Nigeria, Niger, Togo, Senegal, Benin, Guinea, Chad and Ghana), should arrive in Mali on Wednesday. Chad, which is not a member of ECOWAS, also announced Wednesday, through its Minister of Foreign Affairs Moussa Faki Mahamat, that it intended to send "an infantry regiment and two support battalions, which comes to around 2,000 men." Around 200 Chadian special forces soldiers left Wednesday evening for Niamey.



French Intervention In Mali