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U.S. Steps Up Aid To Mali

Malian soldiers inspect vehicles and arms recovered from Islamist militants during fighting to retake the town of Konna, at the Malian military base in Sevare, central Mali, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. The departure of the Islamists from the central town of

U.S. is increasing assistance to African-led operation against the militants.

The United States is stepping up its assistance to the African-led international operation against the militants who have taken control of much of Northern Mali. Along with others in the international community, we share in the goal of preventing terrorists from gaining a safe haven in the region.

As part of the effort, the U.S. military has begun airlifting French soldiers and equipment to Mali. We have also sent trainers to assist troops from neighboring counties preparing to deploy there and provide logistics support and some transport for West African forces.

Last month, the United Nations approved plans to send more than 3,000 troops from African countries to Mali to recapture territory held by the militants, who have imposed harsh rule on the region and destroyed many holy sites that do not conform to their strict Islamic beliefs. Chad is also sending soldiers to work in coordination with French and Malian troops who are now doing the bulk of the fighting.

At the request of the transitional Malian government, France responded to help the nation defend against southward advances by Islamist and terrorist groups threatening to capture more Malian territory. In turn, the French have requested our aid, which is taking the form of airlift, logistical support and information sharing.

We also are working to expedite the deployment of African forces to Mali, and are in close consultation with the UN to refine operational planning to respond to recent developments. We welcome the decision of the European Union to establish expeditiously a mission to Mali to train Malian Armed Forces.

Despite the increased international attention on the military aspect of Mali’s crisis, it remains a complex set of interwoven challenges. Military action alone will not be sustainable; political progress is needed to maximize and extend the gains of the current military intervention.

One result of the ongoing military situation has been unprecedented political unity among Malians, which presents an opportunity to make political gains to return a stable, democratically credible government to the country. We urge Malian authorities to adopt a political roadmap leading to elections, and to continue talks with northern groups that accept Mali’s unity, territorial integrity and secular traditions.