Direct U.S. military aid to Mali not yet an option, says Nuland
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. cannot provide directly military assistance to Mali in the face of an onslaught of Al Qaeda-linked militants in the African country, according to the State Department.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday it is Washington’s policy to not deal with governments resulting from a coup, which was what happened in Mali. Democracy must first be restored and leaders are elected through an election in Mali before the U.S. can directly help Bamako deal with Islamist rebels trying to take over the country.
Washington is currently limited to supporting France’s military intervention in Mali aimed at helping Malian forces retake northern Mali from rebels and protect the capital Bamako from being overrun. Pentagon is sharing intelligence with the French and plans to deploy refueling tankers that will help French jets sustain airstrikes on rebel strongholds.
Nuland said the French also asked for airlifting French troops to Mali.
Meanwhile, Nuland revealed that the U.S. is offering training, airlift, equipment and even funding to West African troops that will be deployed to Mali in 10 days to reinforce the weak Malian army. She said actions assisting allies and partners in trying to restore security to a country do not violate U.S. law.
In Mali, French and Malian troops are fighting rebels from the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Dine group near the central towns of Diabaly and Konna on Wednesday, according to military and rebel sources. French forces also began shelling Diabaly to force out rebels occupying the town.
It was the first ground operation by French troops in Mali since Friday, when France sent warplanes to bomb rebel strongholds in northern Mali. The region was taken over by rebels in April last year following a coup d’etat the ousted the government in Bamako.