Mali conflict exposes White House-Pentagon split
Some top Pentagon officials and military officers warn that without more aggressive U.S. action, Mali could become a haven for extremists, akin to Afghanistan before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001...
But many of Obama's top aides say it is unclear whether the Mali insurgents, who include members of the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, threaten the U.S. Those aides also worry about being drawn into a messy and possibly long-running conflict against an elusive enemy in Mali, a vast landlocked country abutting the Sahara desert, just as U.S. forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan...
The internal debate is one reason for a delay in U.S. support for the French, who airlifted hundreds of troops into Mali last weekend and launched airstrikes in an effort to halt the militants from pushing out of their northern stronghold toward Bamako, the Malian capital.
The Pentagon is planning to begin ferrying additional French troops and equipment to Mali in coming days aboard U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo jets, according to Air Force Maj. Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman... The U.S. is also providing France with surveillance and other intelligence on the militants.
But the administration has so far balked at a French request for tanker aircraft to provide in-air refueling of French fighter jets because the White House does not yet want to get directly involved in supporting French combat operations, officials said. U.S. officials have ruled out putting troops on the ground, except in small numbers and only to support the French.
[link to www.latimes.com