France launched its intervention on Jan. 11 — a day after Islamic extremists captured the central town of Konna, threatening a possible advance toward Bamako. France has said its forces will stay as long as necessary in Mali, but wants other African countries to the lead in helping Mali. Hundreds of African forces have been pouring in.
The U.S. Air Force is keeping between eight and 10 people at the airport in Mali’s capital to help with the incoming and outgoing flights, the Pentagon said late Tuesday. The U.S. has already flown five C-17 flights into Bamako, delivering more than 80 French troops and 124 tons of equipment, it said.
The U.S. is not providing direct aid to the Malian military because the democratically elected government was overthrown last March in a coup.
French officials confirmed Tuesday that Malian forces, backed by French air power, retook the key towns of Diabaly and Douentza. Douentza had been held by Islamist rebels for four months and is located 195 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of Mopti, the previous line-of-control held by the Malian military in Mali’s narrow central belt. French and Malian troops arrived in Douentza on Monday to find that the Islamists had retreated from it.
Diabaly, 195 kilometers (120 miles) west of Mopti, was retaken Monday after Islamist fighters who had seized it a week earlier fled amid French air strikes.
Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten in Dakar, Senegal, and Hamza Hendawi in Cairo contributed to this report.