Ansar Dine fighters seized the central Mali town of Konna, located 435 miles from Bamako after engaging government troops on Wednesday, 9 January 2013. An Ansar Dine spokesman stated that their forces were going to continue their jihadsouthwards.
Azawad fighters have been gathering strength since their conquest of northern Mali and declaring the establishment of the state ofAzawad in April 2012, and it appears they feel strong enough to continue the expansion of their territory. The Malian government, on the other hand, has not yet gathered enough strength to start a campaign to liberate the north. The United Nations, African Union, and ECOWAS have all discussed intervention in Mali but Sanogo has refused to allow foreign fighters to fight on their behalf. Sanogo came to power in a March 2012 military coup while protesting the lack of government support for the counterinsurgent fight in northern Mali and has requested outside support but not foreign fighters.
Sanogo’s military coup debilitated the Malian army as soldiers fought their comrades and leaders loyal to the former president. The swiss-cheese remnants of the army now encounter a more significant enemy in Azawad but with fewer weapons and equipment as army posts were abandoned in their flight southward. Perhaps France and other allies have been resupplying the Malian army, but it will take significant effort to reorganize the army, train units to function in coordination, and direct the fight. Unless Sanogo has been saving his pennies and appropriating portions of the budget the challenge of equipping his force and the cost of training will remain a significant obstacle to retaking the north.
France has long been a loyal friend to their former colony in Mali and has intervened repeatedly in francophone Africa over the past 50 years. However, French President Francois Hollande declined to intervene on behalf of the government of CAR and only assigned troops to protect French citizens and interests. If this is a new French policy of non-interference in Africa then many francophone African countries should be worried.