Jet fighters, armored vehicles and high-tech helicopters may have hogged the media spotlight, but in the two-week-old international campaign to recapture northern Mali from Islamic militants, secretive special operations forces are doing much of the heavy lifting.
French and British commandos are reportedly on the ground in Mali, leading Malian troops and calling in air strikes by French Mirage and Rafale fighters. Meanwhile Algerian special troops, on standby to rescue hostages in neighboring Mali, also pulled off the ballsy, and bloody, liberation of an Algerian oil facility seized by militants allegedly in retaliation for the intervention in Mali.
It’s less clear what, if any, role U.S. special operations forces are playing. Prior to last year’s political upheaval in southern Mali, which presaged the Islamists’ capture of the north, American commandos worked closely with the Malian military. Officially, the U.S. troops evacuated after a military coup in March, but a fatal accident occurred shortly after the official departure — raising questions about whether the U.S. Special Operations Command is really done with Mali.