“AQIM was already planning to do bad things,” Mr. Shurkin said.
But the French raised their terrorism-threat level over the weekend, anticipating a response to their deployment that eventually will grow to 2,500 troops, officials in Paris have said.
In the U.S., there was some concern that the French are getting themselves — and by extension, their allies — into an operation that might last longer than they anticipate.
“This is likely to be a protracted operation,” said Air Force Maj. Robert Firman, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command.
Mr. Shurkin said that the French “are going to be much more involved on the ground than they want to be” and potentially for much longer.
“Aside from the terrorism risk [of allowing al Qaeda a safe haven], which is debatable, the regional risks of having a potent military force like that on the loose” were unacceptable, Mr. Shurkin said.
He predicted that the extremists in Mali would put up a tough fight against the French.
“They are prepared for a prolonged conflict,” he said. “They did their homework, and they have stood up well” so far to French air power.
Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, predicted more trouble in the region, and specifically in Mali.
“This is where jihadists from all over northern Africa and other places will come because they think they’re winning the fight,” Mr. Rogers told CNN.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
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