The Dutch government, meanwhile, made its entire air transport fleet of four C-130Hs, a DC-10 and two KDC-10s with air-refueling capability available to France through the European Air Transport Command in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Canada provided a C-17ER, while Sweden gave France its share of the NATO strategic airlift capability, dispatching a C-17 from Papa air base in Hungary.
The U.S. may also deploy the Global Hawk UAV from a base in Niger or Burkina Faso.
The first phase of Operation Serval is over. The second phase is murkier due to history, geography and culture.
Mali is about the same size and shape as a combined France, Benelux countries and Iberian peninsula, with the “France and Benelux” part being desert, home to the nomadic Tuaregs who used to trade in slaves and had large slaveholdings as recently as the mid-20th century. That fact still rankles Mali's black African majority, living in the fertile “Iberian peninsula” part. The Tuaregs want an independent state in northern Mali, which they call Azawad.
The unstable political situation of Mali in 2012 after a coup, and the radical Islamism of some of the formerly secular Tuareg independence movements, enabled three insurgent groups to gain control of Azawad, where they imposed Islamic law on a population cowed by guns that were bought with ransom money from hijackings and drug-trafficking. The Malian army, ill equipped and badly trained, could do nothing.
It became clear in January that the three principal insurgent groups, AQMI (Al-Qaida au Maghreb islamique), which originated in Algeria; Ansar Din, a radical Islamic offshoot of the secular Tuareg MNLA (Mouvement national de liberation de l'Azawad); and Mujao (Mouvement pour l'Unicite et le Jihad en Afrique occidentale) planned a coordinated mission to seize Bamako. In addition, they aimed to destroy the weakened Malian army prior to the deployment later in the year of Afisma and EUTM, extend their domination and destabilize the government.
Unable to control the situation, Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, asked France to intervene on Jan. 11.
–With Nicholas Fiorenza in Brussels.
Tap here in the tablet edition of AW&ST for more about equipment used in Operation Serval, or go to AviationWeek.com/serval