UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council on Thursday authorized military action to wrest northern Mali from the control of al-Qaida-linked extremists but demanded progress first on political reconciliation, elections and training African troops and police.
A resolution adopted unanimously by the U.N.’s most powerful body stressed that there must be a two-track plan – political and military – to reunify the country, which has been in turmoil since a coup in March.
The Security Council authorized an African-led force to support Malian authorities in recovering the north – an area the size of Texas – but set no timeline for military action. Instead, it set out benchmarks to be met before the start of offensive operations, beginning with progress on a political roadmap to restore constitutional order.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said recently he does not expect a military operation to begin until September or October of next year.
Mali was plunged into turmoil after a coup in March created a security vacuum. That allowed the secular Tuaregs, who have long felt marginalized by Mali’s government, to take half the north as a new homeland. But months later, the rebels were kicked out by Islamist groups allied with al-Qaida.