US helping but hesitant on Mali intervention

Associated Press
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Malian teenagers watch a convoy of French military vehicles pass through Gao, northern Mali, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. A French soldier has been confirmed dead during a military operation in northern Mali, French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Al-Qaida's expanding foothold in Mali has the Obama administration declaring it cannot accept new terrorist sanctuaries and promising to support French and African efforts to restore security.

Yet after almost a year of disorder in the West African nation, Washington is still keeping the conflict at arm's length.

The ambivalence reflects several factors, foremost the U.S. government's desire to avoid being dragged into yet another war in a desolate, impoverished Islamic country.

That leaves the U.S. hoping France gets the job done in a place Washington has held back on drone strikes against members of al-Qaida's regional offshoot.

Last year's coup creates complex legal problems for U.S. military aid to Mali's government.

Washington also is concerned that greater U.S. involvement could make Mali a magnet for would-be jihadis from elsewhere.