Mali -- the next Afghanistan???
Al Qaeda/Taliban operate the same way in every country they subvert.
However, Mali is quite different from Afghanistan in geography. Afghanistan is a country made up of small cities/towns and homesteads in mountain valleys and at a few crossroads. Without aircraft, fighting the jihadists is a long slugfest.
However, in Mali, as in the Saharan fight between Morocco and the leftist Polisario, there were few major bases involved and attacks were made by truck convoys (Polisario). When they were caught in the open by the Moroccan (and/or French Air Force), they were decimated, and a hundreds of miles long bern wall stopped them from raiding Moroccan army camps and cities.
Mali looks like the place where airpower, by the French, will be the weapon with which to cripple AQIM armed convoys, and then hit their supply depots, communications and control centers, and to cut them off from reinforcements from other towns/bases. (Already happening according to new reports).
The only thing missing is, besides what one poster suggested, i.e. a Spectre gunship(s) is napalm. It is the best weapon for taking out a truck convoy which usually travels single-file across the desert. You can run but you can’t hide or even outrun a jet filled with the good stuff.
Helicopter gunships are good if you have enough, with rockets and heavy machineguns. Sending in a handful to a battle is not combat efficiency. If you are going to destroy the enemy in the field, you make sure that you have enough choppers and planes to do it right the first time.
You hit them “high and low”, high being bombers and mid-altitude strafing by jets and light bombers, while “low” means helicopters and/or an equivalent of the A10 Warthog.
Spectres are both mid-level and high level fighting machines, depending on whether you are using miniguns or the 105MM cannons.
I hope the French don’t have “rules of engagement” for desert fighting. You fight to win, not gain a draw.