The threat comes after a weekend of French airstrikes on Islamist targets in Mali. On Jan. 11, France – which controlled Mali from the late 1800s to 1960 – announced that it had committed its forces to a military intervention to stop the Islamists' southern advance toward Bamako, which Malian troops have been unable to halt. AFP reports that the French have bombed Islamist bases across the country, killing scores of militants and reportedly driving them out of Gao, northern Mali's main city. Reuters reports, however, that the militants have launched a counterattack in the town of Diabaly in central Mali.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said today that the French military effort would last "a matter of weeks," and did not signal a long-term presence in the country. The Financial Times reports that he said France has "no intention of staying forever," though he did not rule out a later return as "back-up" for Mali. The Financial Times notes that although several hundred French troops have been deployed to Bamako and the city of Mopti, they are not expected to be part of a ground offensive. Rather, they are expected to provide support to a combination of Mali's army and a mixture of West African forces committed to help by the regional Economic Community Of West African States bloc.