France's surprise intervention in Mali may well turn out to be more than French President François Hollande bargained for. The French have lost at least one airman, while Islamist rebels continued to advance, taking the government-controlled town of Diabaly. France's hope was that it could turn the tide using air power and a relatively small contingent of special forces on the ground but already it looks likely to commit more troops in the coming weeks. Yet this is an intervention worth supporting — and British Prime Minister David Cameron deserves credit for doing so, albeit in a modest way.
Mali's Islamist rebels are al Qaeda-affiliated and hard-line. The comparison should be to Afghanistan rather than Iraq or Libya: a well-armed jihadist army threatens to topple what had, until last year's army coup, been a functioning democracy. Without intervention there is a real risk of the whole country falling under the control of the Islamists and then becoming a base for anti-Western jihadists. France's intervention, now supported by the UN, must succeed — and be followed by a restoration of democracy in this poor and threatened African nation. It is an action that Britain is right to support.
London Evening Standard