Mark John: Mali is one African war France could not avoid
JUST as its leaders were defining a new "hands-off" strategy for Africa, France has been thrust onto the front line of one of the continent's riskiest battlefields deep in the desert of Mali.
President Francois Hollande's backing of air strikes to halt Islamist rebels advancing on the capital Bamako raises the threat level for eight French hostages held by al Qaeda allies in the Sahara and for the 30,000 French expatriates living in neighbouring, mostly Muslim states.
It could also trigger an attack on French soil. But, in what could be the biggest foreign policy decision of his presidency, Hollande bet that inaction bore a greater peril of producing a jihadist state like Afghanistan under the Taliban.