African nations rushed on Sunday to deploy a 3,300-strong force aimed at helping Mali retake its Islamist-controlled north, but questions remained over how they aimed to succeed in the daunting task.
Despite the risks, some African analysts and officials said on Sunday there was no other choice but to act since the Al Qaeda-linked extremists and criminal gangs in Mali threatened to spread violence in the region and beyond.
The scramble to send troops came as French forces carried out air strikes in Mali for a third straight day and extended their bombing campaign to the northern strongholds of the Islamist forces.
A push by Islamists further south led to the French assault and resulted in an expedited plan for the African force, which has been approved by the UN Security Council but was not expected to deploy before September.
A clutch of regional nations have pledged nearly 3,000 troops so far for the mission with an expected total of four battalions.