In early December I wrote an article that gave a basic overview on what the situation in Mali looked like (Battle for Mali: Coming Soon, 2013) and what needed to be done in order for the Malian government to retake control of the North. The timeframe I estimated was “2-3 months” until some kind of offensive campaign would take place.

Well 1.5 months later, it’s refreshing to see that somebody stepped up to the plate.

We can assume all we want that U.S. and allied SOF are out there running and gunning, but the reality is this was initiated by the French – kudos to them. With strong interests in nearby Morocco and Algeria, it only makes sense that France was ready to make a move against AQIM and similar groups throughout Mali.

I’m a visual person and reading about battles in towns or cities really doesn’t do much for my understanding. It’s only been a couple of days since assault operations began, known as Operation Serval, and I wanted to show readers a more visual representation of the situation on the ground.

The extent of the Islamist's control over Northern Mali.
The extent of the Islamist’s control over Northern Mali.

As of January 13th, it is estimated that 400 French soldiers are on the ground in Mali.

  • 21st Marine Infantry Regiment – one company
  • 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment – one Armored platoon
  • 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment – one company
  • 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment (French equivalent of the 160th SOAR)
  • Miscellaneous ground Special Operations units
  • Two companies from the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (part of the French Foreign Legion) are being readied for deployment

Although fighting in Mali has been continuous for months now, the tipping point for French intervention occurred when Islamist forces took control over the strategic city of Konna from Mali forces on January 10th, 2013. An estimated 1,200 Islamist forces were now poised to strike the furthest South since the conflict began.

Seeing this as the first step of a conquest over the South, the French launched Operation Serval.

Lt. Damien Boiteux, 41
Killed in Action – Konna, Mali on January 12th, 2013
Operation Serval

On January 11th French and Mali troops with the support of attack helicopters and fighter jets retook Konna after fierce fighting. One French pilot was killed when his helicopter was engaged by small arms fire during the battle. An estimated 50-100 Islamists were killed while the rest retreated North.

French and Mali forces retake the city of Konna
French and Mali forces retake the city of Konna while battling 1,200 fighters. Enemy fighters were preparing to move South from Konna to assault Mali military garrisons in Mopti (due South of Konna).

Since the Battle of Konna French forces have conducted helicopter and fighter jet airstrikes against numerous targets including Goa, the outskirts of Konna, Léré, Kidal and Doeuntza. With many of their bases and camps left destroyed – enemy forces are currently in retreat to desert sanctuaries in the North. Without immediate French intervention it is possible that the 1,200 strong Islamist force could have been knocking on the door outside of the nation’s capital – Bamako.

Sites of airstrikes by French forces January 11th - January 13th
Sites of airstrikes by French forces January 11th – January 13th

On January 14th, Islamist forces who supposedly were retreating North from Konna counter-attacked and took control of the town of Diabaly. The fighters led by Abu Zeid of AQIM came in from the North out of Mauritania where his forces earlier fled to in order to avoid French airstrikes.

Diabaly, a mere 400 km Northeast of the capital Bamako was taken on January 14th by Islamist forces.






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