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As French forces hit rebels in Mali, Paris wants to avoid Europe's Afghanistan (+video)

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For weeks, Paris urged multilateral action through regional African groupings, the government of Algeria, and the UN – hoping to prevent the Sahel region from turning into what some French worry would be an Afghanistan for Europe.

Yet the poor showing by the Army at Konna this week, where Malian troops had been preparing to fight for months, apparently seized French attention, and today French president François Hollande swung into action, launching airstrikes and deploying troops for “as long as necessary” the head of state said, citing UN Security Council resolutions.

"French Army forces supported Malian units this afternoon to fight against terrorist elements," added Mr. Hollande. "We are faced with blatant aggression that is threatening Mali's very existence. France cannot accept this."

Konna is a small town just south of the de facto frontier between the Islamist-occupied north and the government held-south. While it is of minimal
strategic significance, many analysts view its capture as a troubling indicator of the broader ambitions of the Islamist rebels and the state of the Malian
Army.

“If the Islamists take over this region it would be a major, major blow to an already very weakened Mali,”said Rudy Atallah, who has extensive experience in the region and served as Africa Counterterrorism director in the office of the US Secretary of Defense. "Sévaré is home of the 62nd Motorized Regiment of the 6th Military Region. It is also home to Mali's elite fighting force."

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