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Italy is Latest Nation to Join France in Mali Conflict

Italy announced Tuesday that it will be offering support to French and Malian troops battling Islamist rebels who threaten to take over the West African nation. France launched Opération Serval on Jan. 11, deploying 500 troops to Mali to defeat the militants, pledging to continue fighting “for as long as it takes to beat the terrorists.”

Italy will add a pair of C-130 transport planes, a 767 refueling plane, and up to two dozen instructors to help train Malian forces. Italian Foreign Minister Giulu Terzi said that the conflict in Mali is greater than those in Somalia and Afghanistan, making immediate foreign aid necessary.

“Mali is going through a serious crisis which renders necessary the support of the international community to avoid the country plunging for good into a situation… worse than in Somalia and Afghanistan,” he said Tuesday.

Italy is the latest country to offer aid to the French and Malian forces, joining other allies including Belgium, Canada, and the United Kingdom. France believes that it  will only take a matter of weeks to defeat the insurgents, and claims that the Malian community is supportive of the joint effort. Still, French leaders haven’t ruled out the possibility of a retaliatory attack from Islamic extremists in Europe.

“The Malian community in general supports the French intervention and the securing of the territory, and isn’t very responsive to the Salafi and jihadi arguments,” Pierre Jacquemot, an associate research fellow for the Institute for International and Strategic Relations, told The Christian Science Monitor.

Jacquemot theorized that the Malian insurgents have less support from foreign Islamist militants because of their criminal activities, including trafficking and smuggling. Europe1 news reported that French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said 700 troops have been patrolling potential terrorist targets in Paris and the surrounding areas in an effort to prevent any attacks domestically.

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