The French intervention in northern Mali has progressed rapidly. I hope to write more next week about medium- and long-term political and security challenges in Mali, but for now I want to record some dates and specifics, since I imagine I and others will be referring back to this period frequently in the months to come. So here’s a brief timeline of which Islamist-held cities in northern Mali fell to French and Malian governmental forces when. My focus is on the northern provincial capitals of Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal but I’ve included other towns and cities as well.
- January 11: Operation Serval begins with French airstrikes
- January 14: By this date, airstrikes have occurred in Konna, Lere, Douentza, Agharous Kayoune, and Gao
- January 16: French ground operations begin
- January 18: Konna recaptured (some sources say Malian troops retook the town on January 12)
- January 21: Diabaly recaptured (some sources also list January 18 as the date of the recapture of Diabaly)
- January 21: French and Malian forces enter Douentza
- January 24: Hombori captured; air raids on Ansongo
- January 26: Gao captured
- January 28: Timbuktu airport captured
- January 29: Timbuktu reconquered
- January 30: Kidal captured
Al Jazeera details movements of African troops from yesterday:
A group of Chadian soldiers left their temporary base in Niamey on Wednesday, as their convoy rolled through the town of Gorou, Niger and towards the country’s northern border to enter Mali.
The troops are part of a larger African force known as AFISMA, which is due to send more than 8,000 soldiers to Mali to aid in the country’s fight against Islamist militants.
The bulk of the planned African intervention force for Mali is still struggling to get into the country, hampered by shortages of kit and supplies and lack of airlift capacity.
Around 2,000 AFISMA troops are already on the ground to fight the Islamists, who have retreated to the rugged northeast mountains of the Adrar des Ifoghas range on the border with Algeria.
Looking at the timeline, the rapidity of the French/Malian advance is striking though not surprising. But with the first phase of the reconquest (retaking the provincial capitals and other towns) seemingly almost complete, and France already looking for the exits, the medium-term security questions and political challenges are starting to loom large.