U.S. Air Force Transports French Troops to Mali


French soldiers march to a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in Istres, France, Jan. 21, 2013. The United States agreed to airlift French troops and equipment into the African nation of Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Richardson)

Although temporarily off the U.S. front pages because of the Algerian hostage crisis, the French military intervention in Mali continues.

According to the BBC News, “Malian and French troops have retaken the town of Hombori…as they continue their campaign to regain control of northern Mali from rebels” and French aircraft “reportedly bombed rebel positions, fuel stores and ammunition dumps near Gao.” All this while “a big international troop build-up is continuing ahead of a probable French-led air and ground offensive on Gao and other desert cities.”

The New York Times also reports that French and Malian troops have retaken the central Malian town of Diabaly and claim to “have cleared Konna and Douentza.”

In the meantime, and apparently consistent with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s offer to”provide whatever assistance is necessary,” the U.S. Air Force began transporting French soldiers and military equipment Jan. 21 from Istres, France to Bamako, Mali, in support of French military operations, according to a United States Air Forces in Europe/Air Forces Africa Public Affairs press release.

In an operation that is expected to last at least two weeks, C-17 Globemaster aircraft operating under the control of U.S. Africa Command, are moving a French mechanized infantry battalion.

The first C-17 from Dover Air Force Base, Del., took off from Istres and landed in Bamako Jan. 21 to deliver more than 80,000 pounds of equipment and dozens of French soldiers.

France deployed its armed forces to the African country of Mali Jan. 11 and requested assistance from other nations to transport armored regiments and troops. In response, the U.S. deployed Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and multiple C-17 aircrews to Istres-Le Tubé Air Base in southern France.

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist