Let's See: France says Mali is a major interest:
"This is actually a major threat — to French interests in the region, and to France itself," said Francois Heisbourg, an expert at the Foundation for Strategic Research, a partially state-funded think tank in Paris. "This is like Afghanistan 1996. This is like when Bin Laden found a place that was larger than France in which he could organize training camps, in which he could provide stable preparations for organizing far-flung terror attacks."
The French are pulling out of Afghanistan at a rapid pace.
The French have special forces around Mali.
The French have aircraft and hundreds of troops in West Africa.
The French are going to send more drones to the region.
The French have hired a private company to provide recon on Mali.
The French are talking to the US about Mali; and the French say we have agreed France has the lead on Mali.
The French keep saying that a counter-attack must take place in weeks, but the local Mali and ECOWAS forces aren't up to the task.
Mali jihadis continue to hold French hostages.
Which to me signals that France would like to commit troops to lead a counter-attack sooner rather than later, but that as long as the French hostages are being held by the jihadis.
So the French are likely preparing to rescue the hostages prior to shipping troops and aircraft to lead the counter-attack north, backed by US logistics and special forces.
I'll still guess that the French lead the counter-attack with a French Foreign Legion regiment.
UPDATE: Hey, no rush, guys:
Hundreds of additional Islamist fighters have deployed in northern Mali, as neighboring countries make plans to send troops to the troubled nation.
According to witnesses, the fighters began deploying last week, after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution asking West African bloc ECOWAS to submit its plans for a Mali force.
Residents report seeing hundreds of Tunisian and Egyptian militants in the city of Gao, while many other militants went to the central town of Douentza, close to Malian army positions in Mopti.
Will the world really wait until 2013?