FOR MONTHS, it has been evident to many global observers that a military intervention would be necessary in Mali, where Islamist radicals seized the northern half of the country last April. But planning for such an operation by African nations was prolonged, and though the U.N. Security Council approved an intervention, its deployment was not envisioned until this autumn. On Friday, French President Francois Hollande sent troops to Mali to confront the radicals, a decisive break in the international strategy and one that signals difficult choices to come.
Mr. Hollande’s action came in response to an assault by the Islamist fighters on Konna, a town about 375 miles northeast of the capital, Bamako. When the radicals marched into Konna, Mali’s weak military fled.
In April, Islamist radical groups linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb captured the huge, arid north and imposed a Taliban-style rule that was so brutal — featuring amputations as punishment — that hundreds of thousands of people have run for their lives. The fighters destroyed ancient landmarks in the north and now control an area larger than France.