BAMAKO, Mali — A military strike to recapture Mali’s Islamist-held north is growing more likely, according to Western powers, regional bodies and the United Nations — a pronounced shift after months of hesitation and hopes that negotiations might end what is now seen as a far-reaching jihadist threat.
In recent weeks, for the first time, a broad-based international consensus has formed that war could soon be waged in the vast desert and savanna of northern Mali, an area roughly the size of France. Planning for such an operation remains embryonic. Who would take part? When would it occur? Who would command it?
These basic details have yet to be worked out, officials conceded. Yet they emphasized that previously reluctant partners, including Mali itself, were convinced of the military imperative after months of inconclusive meetings and discussions. On Oct. 12, the United Nations Security Council, led by France, passed a resolution declaring its “readiness” to respond to Malian demands for an international force and asked that a detailed plan be submitted in 45 days. That resolve was reiterated at an international summit here last week.
“There is no alternative,” said Jack Christofides, a top official in the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which is playing a leading role in planning a possible operation. “For some of these more radical groups” occupying northern Mali, he added, “it’s going to take military force.”