The United States shares the goal of France and others in the international community of denying terrorists a safe haven in Mali.
French forces have begun to combat al Qaeda-linked insurgents who have captured and imposed harsh rule over wide areas in northern Mali. Responding to a request from the Malian government, France began targeted air stikes and troop deployments to the troubled West African nation on January 11 to help counter a drive south by armed rebel groups and extremist forces.
Nor are the French alone in coming to the aid of their former colony. Defense chiefs from the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, are meeting to finalize plans for an African force of as many as 3,300 soldiers from countries as diverse as Nigeria and Burkina Faso.
The United States shares the goal of France and others in the international community of denying terrorists a safe haven in Mali. We are working with France, the United Nations, and African nations to support their deployment to Mali, and are prepared to use our African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program to get military trainers to those nations to help them prepare to deploy their troops.
As a result of the coup d’état, the United States is prohibited by law from providing assistance to the Malian military until democratic rule there has been restored by way of free and fair elections. This political progress is necessary to ensure that the security gains made by the intervention forces can be sustained.
As we have maintained humanitarian aid to the Malian people, we continue to call on all stakeholders to commit to and prepare to hold elections by April 2013. The threat posed by armed groups is intertwined with the political challenges facing the country.
There is no purely security solution to Mali’s many problems. Democracy must be restored, stakeholders who are willing to renounce terrorism must be included in talks on political settlement, and an economic program must be established to address the needs of those in the north who have felt ignored by the nation’s leaders.
We are committed to helping confront al Qaeda and terrorists wherever they may be. To prevent their ability to use Mali as a safe haven, we are committed to helping Mali and its neighbors successfully meet the challenges of restoring stability and security.