French President Francois Hollande has sent French forces to stop an Islamic insurgency from taking over the West African nation of Mali. It is a bold step for Hollande, who faces rising discontent at home as well as fear that the intervention could become a quagmire.
Blowback has already become evident in the attempted takeover of an Algerian natural gas facility by Islamic sympathizers. Hollande must have thought that the danger of inaction was more compelling and that failure to stop the insurgents could produce another Afghanistan, a base for radical forces, this time in Africa.
While world attention has focused on the northern-most states of Africa as they struggle with the forces unleashed by the Arab Spring, politics to the south has been equally confused.
There is a very real fear that an insurgent victory in Mali could lead to another militant Islamic state and sanctuary for radical forces to launch attacks on enemies of Islam, especially in Europe.
The problem is that, as in Afghanistan, the Malian government is weak and divided.
The proper approach would have the French scale back their presence as African forces step up. If not Malian, then those of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-country group led by Nigeria, will do.
The Japan Times, Tokyo