Tuareg rebels have declared their own state, Azawad, in the northern part of Mali, which has also been invaded by Ansar Dine, an Islamist group that works closely with an organization known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Entire swaths of land are ruled by gangs who make millions by taking hostages and smuggling drugs and weapons. It's often difficult to tell here exactly who are Tuaregs, who are terrorists or who are merely gangsters.
Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia has called the situation "very, very worrying." Mhand Berkouk, director of the Echaab Center for Strategic Studies, in Algiers, fears an "Afghanization of the entire Sahel region." Berkouk believes Azawad could become a base for terrorists from around the world.
As the article notes, neither ECOWAS, the regional organization, nor the rump Mali is capable of counter-attacking north.
America isn't even mentioned as a power that might intervene. We tried to bolster the Mali forces before the coup and collapse in the north (including dropping supplies to Mali forces besieged by the surging Tuaregs who fled Libya where they had been Khadaffi's mercenaries), but expect nothing more direct from us than a supporting role with special forces and drones.
So we are all waiting for France to act. As I've been waiting for a while, now.
This will be interesting. France's traditional interests in maintaining a sphere of influence in their old colonial stomping grounds argue for intervention yet the new socialist government is unlikely to want to embark on a foreign adventure so soon. Which impulse will win out in Hollande's mind when he assumes office in a few days?