U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, released the following statement Wednesday on the situation in Mali:
"The deplorable attacks that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and affiliated extremists have launched in Mali in the last week have been deeply troubling and must be stopped. The U.S. and international community cannot and will not sit back as these forces terrorize Mali and establish a regional safe haven and base of operations from which they could launch attacks throughout the Sahel. AQIM is a threat to U.S. interests in the region and around the world, and we will work with our allies to confront these terrorists.
"I join the Obama Administration in welcoming French military action in Mali and strongly support the immediate deployment of an African-led force in Mali. I applaud the Administration's decision to provide intelligence and logistical support to the French-led operation, and to help accelerate the deployment of African forces in theater by training and equipping regional militaries. This is consistent with the resolution unanimously passed by the U.N. Security Council last month authorizing an African-led international support mission in Mali.
"A military response alone will not solve the complex challenges facing Mali, however. In addition to addressing the security situation in the North, it is critical that the Malian interim government establishes a roadmap to restore democracy and conducts elections as soon as possible. Elections remain an essential step toward increasing the credibility and legitimacy of the government in Bamako, to restoring Mali's territorial integrity, protecting Malian democratic institutions, and resuming American and international aid to Mali. These goals were clearly articulated by U.S. officials at a hearing I chaired in the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs subcommittee last month, and they remain our goals today.
"With the State Department expected to ask Congress in the coming days for additional funding for the African-led international support mission, I look forward to working with my colleagues to closely examine, consider, and support U.S. funding for the mission. Together with French and African forces, the U.S. must continue to confront the growing threat posed by AQIM, encourage Mali to restore its democracy, and help Malians preserve and restore government control over the entire country."