WASHINGTON - The United States will provide additional support to the French military in its war against Al Qaeda-linked militants in Mali by conducting aerial refueling missions, the Pentagon has announced. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has told the French defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, that US Africa Command will provide the aerial refueling support, according to Pentagon spokesman George Little.
The move comes amid a debate within the Obama administration about how deeply it should engage in the French effort to prevent Mali fighters from wresting control of the West African nation, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
French requests for more robust support from Washington raised a legal dilemma because US law forbids foreign assistance funds to leaders that came to power through a coup, the report said. Mali’s military leaders, including some trained by US troops, seized power last year by force. “The French requested this support and we believe it was important to move ahead,” a senior defence official said Saturday night, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss policy deliberations, the Post said.
“The US has the most advanced refueling technology in the world and we wanted to provide this support.”